I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but when I come across something from that genre that I like, I tend to get really attached to it. Usually, if I’m going the nonfiction route, I read memoirs, but sometimes I enjoy reading informational books if the topic is one I’m interested in and the writer’s style is approachable. So this Friday, I present my Top Five Nonfiction Favorites.
|1. My Life in France by Julia Child. I didn’t know anything much about Julia Child until I read Julie and Julia and watched the movie. I thought Meryl Streep did such a great job in that movie that I decided to give My Life in France a try, and I am SO glad I did. I can see why Julie Powell, after spending a year cooking and immersing herself in Julia-lore, started thinking of Julia child as her own personal fairy godmother. In her memoirs, Julia’s voice is friendly and conversational, and she spends lots of time talking about one of my favorite things – food! Reading this book made me wish I could go to France with Julia as my tour guide. She would have known the best restaurants, the best markets, and the best places for sightseeing. Her life with Paul Child was fascinating, and you get a good look at their years in one of the many places they lived abroad in this memoir.|
|2. Stiff by Mary Roach. For someone who does not enjoy blood and guts books, this seems like a surprising choice for my list. This book is all about human cadavers – Roach takes a good look at what happens to our bodies after we die and the various ways that human cadavers find a new life in death. To research her book, Roach gets up close and personal with cadavers who are being used as crash-test dummies, test subjects for experimenting with new types of body armor, or practice models for plastic surgery seminars. Roach talks about grave robbers and cannibals and, in her search for the different ways that our bodies keep going once we’ve left them behind, she explores some of the philosophical reasons why people feel the way they do about what happens to their earthly remains. I was really surprised by how funny this book was – it’s an interesting topic for sure.|
|3. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. People have been telling me for months that I’ve got to watch this series on Netflix. Well, I finished the book last week and started the series afterward. I’ve got to say, keeping in mind I’ve only seen three episodes, I like the book better than the show. This is Kerman’s story about her year in federal prison following her conviction on drug charges. She goes to jail over a decade after committing her crime, and her story is a really interesting mix of coming to terms with her culpability, forging relationships with her fellow inmates, and trying to survive life in prison without getting left behind by her family and friends outside. The Los Angeles Times did a great job of pinpointing one of the most interesting things about it: “This book is impossible to put down because Kerman could be you. Or your best friend. Or your daughter.”|
|4. Part of the Pride by Kevin Richardson. I have a fascination with big cats, so I thought this was a great book! Kevin Richardson grew up in South Africa, and even from childhood, he knew he would work with animals. He talks about his unsettled years as a teenager and how he transitioned into working with some of Africa’s biggest predators. He is extremely controversial among animal behaviorists because he breaks almost all of the established rules about working with wild animals, but his book is not intended to be a how-to guide to owning a pet lion. He freely admits that he doesn’t recommend his methods to anyone else, and he includes one particularly frightening story about what happened to him once when he forgot himself and tried to make a particularly fierce lion he calls Tsavo do something that the lion did not want to do. His experience with Tsavo is scary, but incidents like that are outnumbered by the truly amazing stories of interacting with his lion “brothers” Napoleon and Tau, teaching the lioness Meg to swim, and raising the hyena Bongo from a cub. He currently owns a Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa, where he educates visitors about wild species preservation and fundraises to help prevent habitat loss, hunting, and illegal trade. It’s a really interesting read, and the pictures are incredible.|
|5. Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown. I’ve already written all about this book, but it really was a fun read. I felt like I picked up several helpful tips, and I laughed a lot. I particularly loved her charts and illustrations.|
Beth, it just occurred to me that you loaned me 3 out of these five books. You have excellent taste. Xo.