A non-fiction reading list

(I first wrote this in January 2011 and am periodically updating the list)

Last Friday, I grabbed a blue basket and headed up the stairs to the non-fiction/reference floor of the library, which also includes the teen section (interestingly). But as I browsed the non-fiction shelves in the just awakening library, I was stumped – what should I read? Non-fiction is such a broad category and I just didn’t know where to begin! I ended up picking Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, a book that has been on my radar for quite some time now. But as I headed downstairs to the fiction section, with just my one non-fiction selection (and three graphic novels from the teen section), I knew something had to change… I needed to rush home and make myself a non-fiction reading list! I’ve organised it according to Dewey Decimal number, in the hope that I’ll be able to read something from each section (and broaden my non-fiction reading). It’s currently favouring the 900-999 classification, so I hope to be able to add more to the other sections when I browse the shelves. It’s a pretty long list, and one which will likely be added to, so there isn’t a deadline for completing it – or even the need to complete it at all. Instead, it’s a reference for me so that I won’t be at a loss the next time I hit the library.
Here’s the link to my Google Docs version

000 – 099: Computer science, information & general works
Free for all : oddballs, geeks, and gangstas in the public library – Don Borchert
A history of reading – Alberto Manguel
Patience & fortitude : a roving chronicle of book people, book places, and book culture – Nicholas A. Basbanes
Library : an unquiet history – Matthew Battles
A mathematician reads the newspaper – John Allen Paulos
A gentle madness : bibliophiles, bibliomanes, and the eternal passion for books – Nicholas A. Basbanes
Al-Jazeera : the inside story of the Arab news channel that is challenging the West – Hugh Miles
Honeymoon in Tehran : two years of love and danger in Iran – Azadeh Moaveni

100 – 199: Philosophy and psychology
The consolations of philosophy – Alain de Botton
Watching the tree : a Chinese daughter reflects on happiness, tradition and spiritual wisdom – Adeline Yen Mah
Socrates café : a fresh taste of philosophy – Christopher Phillips
Wittgenstein’s poker : the story of a ten-minute argument between two great philosophers – David Edmonds and John Eidinow
The philosophical baby : what children’s minds tell us about truth, love, and the meaning of life – Alison Gopnik

200 -299: Religion
The religion of man : being the Hibbert Lectures for 1930- Rabrindranath Tagore
Beyond belief : Islamic excursions among the converted peoples – V.S. Naipaul
Memories of Muhammad : why the Prophet matters – Omid Safi
Coffinman : the journal of a Buddhist mortician – Shinman Aoki
A short history of myth – Karen Armstrong

300 -399: Social sciences

Country driving : a journey through China from farm to factory – Peter Hessler
A paradise built in hell : the extraordinary communities that arise in disaster – Rebecca Solnit
Chasing Goldman Sachs : how the masters of the universe melted Wall Street down– and why they’ll take us to the brink again Suzanne McGee
Garbage land : on the secret trail of trash – Elizabeth Royte
Queen of fashion : what Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution – Caroline Weber
A splendor of letters : the permanence of books in an impermanent world – Nicholas A. Basbanes
Why America’s children can’t think : creating independent minds for the 21st century – Peter Kline
Columbine – Dave Cullen
Hunger : an unnatural history – Sharman Apt Russell
Spell of the tiger : the man-eaters of Sundarbans –  Sy Montgomery
The reindeer people : living with animals and spirits in Siberia – Piers Vitebsky
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson
The girls of Murder City : fame, lust, and the beautiful killers who inspired Chicago – Douglas Perry
Well-behaved women seldom make history – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Green metropolis : why living smaller, living closer, and driving less are the keys to sustainability – David Owen
The price of motherhood : why the most important job in the world is still the least valued – Ann Crittenden
Field notes on democracy : listening to grasshoppers – Arundhati Roy
Behind the veil in Arabia : women in Oman – Unni Wikan
Sisters in war : a story of love, family, and survival in the new Iraq – Christina Asquith
Inside Iran : women’s lives – Jane Howard

400- 499: Language

The meaning of everything : the story of the Oxford English dictionary – Simon Winchester
Our magnificent bastard tongue : the untold history of English – John McWhorter
The language instinct – Steven Pinker
Bastard tongues : a trailblazing linguist finds clues to our common humanity in the world’s lowliest languages – Derek Bickerton
Reading the OED : one man, one year, 21,730 pages – Ammon Shea
Reading in the brain : the science and evolution of a human invention – Stanislas Dehaene


500 – 599: Science

The age of wonder : how the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science – Richard Holmes
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality – Manjit Kumar
The Grand Design – Stephen Hawking
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void – Mary Roach
Wicked plants : the weed that killed Lincoln’s mother & other botanical atrocities – Amy Stewart
On thin ice : the changing world of the polar bear – Richard Ellis
The bone woman : a forensic anthropologist’s search for truth in the mass graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo – Clea Koff
The sound of a wild snail eating – Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Where the wild things were : life, death, and ecological wreckage in a land of vanishing predators – William Stolzenburg
Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages – Mark Abley


600 – 699: Technology and applied science

How doctors think – Jerome Groopman
Long for this World: The Strange Science of Immortality – Jonathan Weiner
The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
The emperor of all maladies : a biography of cancer – Siddhartha Mukherjee
The United States of Arugula : how we became a gourmet nation –  David Kamp
The lobster chronicles : life on a very small island – Linda Greenlaw
Cheating death : the doctors and medical miracles that are saving lives against all odds – Sanjay Gupta
The checklist manifesto : how to get things right – Atul Gawande
Better : a surgeon’s notes on performance – Atul Gawande
Orchid fever : a horticultural tale of love, lust, and lunacy – Eric Hansen
Dead men do tell tales : the strange and fascinating cases of a forensic anthropologist – William R. Maples and Michael Browning
Every patient tells a story : medical mysteries and the art of diagnosis – Lisa Sanders

700 – 799: Arts
The lost painting – Jonathan Harr
Girls like us : Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon–and the journey of a generation – Sheila Weller
Seven days in the art world – Sarah Thornton
Sotheby’s : bidding for class – Robert Lacey
Heavy rotation : twenty writers on the albums that changed their lives – edited by Peter Terzian
Word freak : heartbreak, triumph, genius, and obsession in the world of competitive scrabble players – Stefan Fatsis
The secret lives of buildings : from the ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in thirteen stories – Edward Hollis


800 – 899: Literature

Yours ever : people and their letters -Thomas Mallon
Finding beauty in a broken world – Terry Tempest Williams
The Orientalist : solving the mystery of a strange and dangerous life – Tom Reiss
The genius of language : fifteen writers reflect on their mother tongues – edited and with an introduction by Wendy Lesser
Word : on being a [woman] writer –  edited by Jocelyn Burrell
Zen in the art of writing – Ray Bradbury
A jury of her peers : American women writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx – Elaine Showalter
Consider the lobster and other essays – David Foster Wallace
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favourite Fairy Tales – Kate Bernheimer (ed)


900 – 999: History, geography, (& biography)

The Fires Of Vesuvius : Pompeii Lost And Found – Mary Beard
Agent Zigzag : a true story of Nazi espionage, love, and betrayal – Ben MacIntyre
Temptations of the West : how to be modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and beyond Pankaj Mishra
Dancing in the dark : a cultural history of the Great Depression – Morris Dickstein
The irregulars : Roald Dahl and the British spy ring in wartime – Washington Jennet Conant
The Victorians – A.N. Wilson
After the Victorians : the decline of Britain in the world – A.N. Wilson
The ice museum : in search of the lost land of Thule – Joanna Kavenna
King Leopold’s ghost : a story of greed, terror, and heroism in Colonial Africa – Adam Hochschild
Finders keepers : a tale of archaeological plunder and obsession – Craig Childs
China witness : voices from a silent generation – Xinran
Red dust : a path through China – Ma Jian
West with the night – Beryl Markham
The last empress : Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and the birth of modern China – Hannah Pakula
Jane Goodall : the woman who redefined man – Dale Peterson
Blue arabesque : a search for the sublime – Patricia Hampl
Matisse the master : a life of Henri Matisse, the conquest of colour, 1909-1954  – Hilary Spurling
James Tiptree, Jr. : the double life of Alice B. Sheldon – Julie Phillips
Brother, I’m dying – Edwidge Danticat
Nothing to be frightened of – Julian Barnes
Motoring with Mohammed : journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea – Eric Hansen
Among the white moon faces : an Asian-American memoir of homelands – Shirley Geok-lin Lim
A crack in the edge of the world : America and the great California earthquake of 1906 – Simon Winchester
Well-behaved women seldom make history – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife – Francine Prose
The prince of the marshes : and other occupational hazards of a year in Iraq – Rory Stewart
The man who loved books too much : the true story of a thief, a detective, and a world of literary obsession – Allison Hoover Bartlett
The soloist : a lost dream, an unlikely friendship, and the redemptive power of music – Steve Lopez
Head above water -Buchi Emecheta
Chasing the sea : being the narrative of a journey through Uzbekistan, including descriptions of life therein, culminating with an arrival at the Aral Sea, the world’s worst man-made ecological catastrophe : in one volume – Tom Bissell
Apples are from Kazakhstan : the land that disappeared – Christopher Robbins
The lemon tree : an Arab, a Jew, and the heart of the Middle East – Sandy Tolan
The media relations department of Hizbollah wishes you a happy birthday : unexpected encounters in the changing Middle East – Neil MacFarquhar
Tea with Hezbollah : sitting at the enemies’ table, our journey through the Middle East – Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis
Growing up Palestinian : Israeli occupation and the Intifada generation – Laetitia Bucaille
The story of a life – Aharon Appelfeld
Crossing Mandelbaum Gate : coming of age between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978 – Kai Bird
The White Nile- Alan Moorehead
Sisters in war : a story of love, family, and survival in the new Iraq – Christina Asquith
Memories of a lost Egypt : a memoir with recipes – Colette Rossant
Cleopatra : last queen of Egypt -Joyce Tyldesley
Beneath the sands of Egypt : adventures of an unconventional archaeologist – Donald P. Ryan
The new Turkey : the quiet revolution on the edge of Europe – Chris Morris
A short walk in the Hindu Kush – Eric Newby
Kabul in winter : life without peace in Afghanistan – Ann Jones
The silenced cry : one woman’s diary of a journey to Afghanistan – Ana Tortajada
Shadow of the Silk Road – Colin Thubron
Finding George Orwell in Burma-Emma Larkin.
Everything is broken : a tale of catastrophe in Burma – Emma Larkin
From the land of green ghosts : a Burmese odyssey – Pascal Khoo Thwe
A river’s tale : a year on the Mekong – Edward A. Gargan
The river of lost footsteps : histories of Burma – Thant Myint-U
First they killed my father : a daughter of Cambodia remembers- Loung Ung
Lucky child : a daughter of Cambodia reunites with the sister she left behind – Loung Ung
Vanished kingdoms : a woman explorer in Tibet, China, & Mongolia 1921-1925 – Mabel H. Cabot
The secret history of the Mongol queens : how the daughters of Genghis Khan rescued his empire – Jack Weatherford
Seven years in Tibet – Heinrich Harrer
Born in Lhasa – Namgyal Lhamo Taklha
Japan : a reinterpretation – Patrick Smith
China underground – Zachary Mexico
The man who loved China : the fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the Middle Kingdom – Simon Winchester
The English governess at the Siamese court : being recollections of six years in the royal palace at Bangkok – Anna Harriette Leonowens
The Mute’s soliloquy : a memoir – Pramoedya Ananta Toer

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