15 votes

Any good non-fiction recommendations?

Hey everyone! Pretty new user here so forgive me if I make some tildes-quette mistakes (haha!). Anyway, my first paycheck from my time as a tutor will be coming in the next week and I want to buy a good non-fiction book to read. The topic can be anything, but I would like for the topic to be something relatively unknown about or fascinating in the least. None of the books like TSAoNGAF, Freakonomics or something of that sort (I sort of don't like books which have such titles). I just want a good book that has an interesting topic in hand to read about. A preference would be in the field of physics, social science or philosophy. So, what is such book that you have enjoyed reading recently?

P.S: I have been reading The Count of Monte Cristo which is outstanding to say the least. I am really enjoying it thus far. I plan to buy The Brothers Karamazov as my fiction book after getting my paycheck.

22 comments

  1. [3]
    autumn
    Link
    My favorite non-fiction book I’ve read in the past several years is Braiding Sweetgrass. It’s a series of stories and essays by a Native American woman who is a botanist. I will say it gets a bit...

    My favorite non-fiction book I’ve read in the past several years is Braiding Sweetgrass. It’s a series of stories and essays by a Native American woman who is a botanist. I will say it gets a bit slow in the middle, but I enjoyed it overall.

    6 votes
    1. monarda
      Link Parent
      Braiding Sweetgrass looks great. Thanks!

      Braiding Sweetgrass looks great. Thanks!

      3 votes
  2. [4]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. [2]
      Narcissistic_Pagoda
      Link Parent
      The latter one definitely looks more interesting but I'll have to check if that's available in my country (since I'm not from the US). Actually, many of the books recommended here will be hard to...

      The latter one definitely looks more interesting but I'll have to check if that's available in my country (since I'm not from the US). Actually, many of the books recommended here will be hard to find for me :')

      2 votes
      1. 118point3ml
        Link Parent
        If you have a way to read an ePub, the book is available on library genesis. It’s not my style, but maybe it’s yours.

        If you have a way to read an ePub, the book is available on library genesis. It’s not my style, but maybe it’s yours.

        1 vote
    2. 118point3ml
      Link Parent
      I’m a strictly fiction reader these days, but I’m into dinosaurs and ready to venture into more edifying waters. I picked up a copy of Brusatte’s book. Immediately, I was annoyed by the tone of...

      I’m a strictly fiction reader these days, but I’m into dinosaurs and ready to venture into more edifying waters. I picked up a copy of Brusatte’s book. Immediately, I was annoyed by the tone of the text. Here are some passages I find illustrative of what irks me:
      “Imagine a continent scorched with lava. It’s the apocalyptic disaster of a bad B movie. Suffice it to say, all of the pareiasaurs, dicynodonts, and gorgonopsians living anywhere near the Siberian area code were finished.”
      And
      “The previously dominant gorgonopsians, pareiasaurs, and their kin were never to stalk the lakesides of Poland or anywhere else while the plucky survivors had the whole Earth to themselves.”
      I closed the book with a sigh shortly after this passage and reluctantly returned to my same old. The cutesy turns of phrase combined with the Everyman vernacular in an attempt to make the subject interesting/accessible are a major turn-off for me. So, I’m here to say to say, “Ugh! The book is horrible! 😩 Where can I find a good book about dinosaurs??” I really want to read about the kinds of things this guy has to teach me, but I can’t get past his narrative voice. Any recommendations for less casual/more mature reading?

      2 votes
  3. [3]
    TemulentTeatotaler
    Link
    Great choice with The Brothers Karamazov! Philosophy can be a little tricky to make recommendations for without knowing more about you. Part of that is that there are wildly different styles...

    Great choice with The Brothers Karamazov!

    Philosophy can be a little tricky to make recommendations for without knowing more about you. Part of that is that there are wildly different styles (e.g., Kant vs Nietzsche), and part of it is that more contemporary philosophy tends to have more dependencies and narrower scope.

    If you want a pretty good survey of (Western) philosophy you could try Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy.

    If you want a short classic you could try Marcus Aurelius' Meditations on stoicism.

    For something more modern you could try Valerie Tiberius' The Reflective Life: Living Wisely With Our Limits.

    You might want to skim the catalogues of some of the philosophy podcasts below to find a philosopher or topic that you find interesting and start there?

    Podcasts
    Elucidations
    History of Philosophy
    Philosophical Disquisitions
    Philosophize This
    Philosophy Bites
    Rationally Speaking
    The Partially Examined Life
    The Philosopher's Zone

    Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow is a great look at certain cognitive biases we get from the brain's use of heuristics.

    Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a nice look at the use of shame in the past and a variety of instances in the present.

    Yuval Noah Harari has a pair of "how we got here"/"where we're going" books in Sapiens / Homo Deus. I preferred the latter, but both were worth reading.

    Dawkins' The Selfish Gene was a formative book for me (just don't follow him on Twitter). The game theory example of a species where there were pacifists and aggressors that would slide back into the same equilibrium regardless of the initial conditions got me thinking more often about systems/incentives that shape our present. The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature is another one I'd recommend from biology, well written and covers a lot of previous thoughts on evolution.

    The Dictator's Handbook was a look at the forces at play in dictatorships and it challenged a couple views I had. Thorough and worth reading.

    Reality is Broken probably hasn't aged well (like positive psychology as a field) but it was interesting. The main conceit is that game designers became unwitting experts on human motivation and that those lessons could be applied to the real world. Actionable Gamification by Yu-Kai Chou would be a more applied book on the topic.

    Afraid nothing comes to mind on physics. I read Hawkings' A Brief History of Time as a kid but I wouldn't trust my judgment from then.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      Narcissistic_Pagoda
      Link Parent
      This is a very comprehensive and thorough recommendation, thank you so much. I have also been meaning to read meditations but sadly, online reading doesn't really do it for me, I much more prefer...

      This is a very comprehensive and thorough recommendation, thank you so much. I have also been meaning to read meditations but sadly, online reading doesn't really do it for me, I much more prefer to be things in my hand. The Selfish Gene and The Dictator's Handbook definitely seem much more interesting so I'll have to check if those books are available. Thanks a lot!

      3 votes
      1. Adys
        Link Parent
        Seconding the Dictator's Handbook. That book changed the way I see the world. It's truly exceptional. Let me know what you thought once you read it :)

        Seconding the Dictator's Handbook. That book changed the way I see the world. It's truly exceptional. Let me know what you thought once you read it :)

        2 votes
  4. [2]
    lou
    (edited )
    Link
    You said you like philosophy. George Berkeley's A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) is surprisingly accessible. Berkeley basically sets out to demonstrate that the...

    You said you like philosophy.

    George Berkeley's A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) is surprisingly accessible.

    Berkeley basically sets out to demonstrate that the outside world is composed of ideas. Regardless of the truth of his claims, it's a joy to see how far he takes a seemingly bizarre premise, and how cogent and persuasive he can be. This reading might come in handy these days, with all the discussions surrounding culturalism, subjectivity, and post-truth.

    3 votes
    1. Narcissistic_Pagoda
      Link Parent
      I gotta admit, I'm not too familiar with philosophy so this definitely looks a lot more accessible than other 'philosophy' books.

      I gotta admit, I'm not too familiar with philosophy so this definitely looks a lot more accessible than other 'philosophy' books.

      1 vote
  5. [3]
    bkhl
    Link
    I nominate "Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast" by Jay Smith. It's about the supposed plague of wolf/werewolf attacks in a province of France in the 18th century. (The same events...

    I nominate "Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast" by Jay Smith. It's about the supposed plague of wolf/werewolf attacks in a province of France in the 18th century. (The same events that is the inspiration for the movie "The Brotherhood of the Wolf".)

    2 votes
    1. cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      LFTL: Brotherhood of the Wolf It's been a looong time since I last watched it, but I remember it being a pretty good movie. Mark Dacascos is a criminally underrated martial artist too, IMO, and...

      LFTL: Brotherhood of the Wolf

      It's been a looong time since I last watched it, but I remember it being a pretty good movie. Mark Dacascos is a criminally underrated martial artist too, IMO, and Only The Strong is cheesy AF but still one of my all-time favorites (Capoeira FTW). It was also awesome to see him finally get a chance to shine in a more mainstream movie recently in John Wick 3.

      1 vote
  6. 0d_billie
    Link
    It's an older book, but The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker is rather good i think

    It's an older book, but The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker is rather good i think

    2 votes
  7. elcuello
    Link
    Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle A surprising and amazing story about a missionary who with his family joins a tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil...

    Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

    A surprising and amazing story about a missionary who with his family joins a tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil to study their language. It's a bit heavy on the linguistics at times but make up for it in reflection of life itself. I can't recommend it enough.

    2 votes
  8. [2]
    UntouchedWagons
    Link
    I quite like The Iron Road by Christian Wolmar, it's about how the development of railroads affected the growth of various countries.

    I quite like The Iron Road by Christian Wolmar, it's about how the development of railroads affected the growth of various countries.

    1 vote
    1. Narcissistic_Pagoda
      Link Parent
      I'm also interested a lot in trains and rails and such. So, I think I'll like this book!

      I'm also interested a lot in trains and rails and such. So, I think I'll like this book!

  9. [2]
    space_cowboy
    Link
    I really enjoyed The Ancestors Tale which is a book about evolution. It traces the evolution of modern humans backward, all the way to some ideas about abiogenisis.

    I really enjoyed The Ancestors Tale which is a book about evolution. It traces the evolution of modern humans backward, all the way to some ideas about abiogenisis.

    1 vote
    1. Narcissistic_Pagoda
      Link Parent
      I will have to check if it's available. Thanks for the recommendation!

      I will have to check if it's available. Thanks for the recommendation!

  10. nukeman
    Link
    I recently finished Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage. It’s a really good book about the use of submarines for intelligence gathering during the Cold War. It’s...

    I recently finished Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage. It’s a really good book about the use of submarines for intelligence gathering during the Cold War. It’s non-fiction, but takes a narrative format with several stories. Really gripping, reads like a thriller novel. Highly recommend.

    1 vote