Monday, September 5, 2011

Annie's top 5 nonfiction for interested amateurs

List by Annie

"His theory was that non-fiction could be as artful as fiction."
- Gerald Clarke

I like reading non-fiction. On almost any subject. Memoirs. Science. History. Forensics. I’m a complete documentary-watching addict.

Over the years I’ve read quite a lot of non-fiction. And these are my fav non-fiction reads for interested amateurs.

Like me, the selection is eccentric and eclectic. Feel more than welcome to shout me down. Or discuss in an enthusiastic manner. Mind you, my top 5 might be different next month.
~ Annie



Alice Cooper, golf monster: a rock 'n' roller's 12 steps to becoming a golf addict by Alice Cooper with Keith and Kent Zimmerman
The man who invented shock rock tells how he slayed his demons--with a golf club. One day between concerts, when Cooper was bored and drunk on a quart-of-whiskey-a-day habit, a friend dragged the rocker out of his room and suggested a round of golf. Cooper has been a golf addict ever since. This is his tell-all memoir; he talks candidly about his life and career, his struggles with alcohol, how he fell in love with golf, how he dried out at a sanitarium back in the late '70s, and how he put the last nails in his addiction's coffin by getting up daily at 7 a.m. to play 36 holes. Alice has hilarious, touching, and sometimes surprising stories about his friends: Led Zeppelin and the Doors, George Burns and Groucho Marx, golf legends like John Daly and Tiger Woods--everyone from Dalâi to Elvis to Arnold Palmer. -- From publisher description.

Annie's comment: Why is this on my list?
* 5. It’s Alice Cooper.
* 4. It’s a really good read for those who don’t know / aren’t that into Alice and/or golf.
* 3. It’s Alice Cooper.
* 2. It’s a really good read for those who DO know / are into Alice and/or golf.
* 1. It’s Alice Cooper.


Making faces: using forensic and archaeological evidence by John Prag and Richard Neave
"First-hand accounts of the exciting search for evidence to recreate a likeness and explain the historical circumstances surrounding each body" -- Jacket.

Annie's comment: Fascinating, absorbing, and still slightly creepy. Richard Neave is one of Britain’s leading face-makers – ie recreating a face based on a skull for criminal or archaeological investigations. There’s just enough science to make you think you’re reading something serious, but not so much that you don’t understand.

Honourable mention:
  • Napoleon's buttons: how 17 molecules changed history by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson - Fascinating. A history of some little things and what they caused. The spice trade. Slavery. The fall of Napoleon. You know, little insignificant things like that.


  • Britain B.C.: life in Britain and Ireland before the Romans by Francis Pryor
    Based on new archaeological finds, this book introduces a novel rethinking of British history before the coming of the Romans. Aided by aerial photography, coastal erosion and new planning laws, archaeologists have found a more complex life among the Ancient Britons than previously thought.

    Annie's comment: A huge tome – but so readable. Francis Pryor often appears in Time Team (see above). See his other works, too, and follow the history through to the present day.

    Honourable mention:
  • The Time Team guide to the history of Britain : everything you need to know about Britain's past since 650,000 BC by general editor, Tim Taylor - One of those doco series I’m addicted to… Time Team!


  • Who murdered Chaucer?: a medieval mystery by Terry Jones and others
    In this work of historical speculation Terry Jones investigates the mystery surrounding the death of Geoffrey Chaucer over 600 years ago. A diplomat and brother-in-law to John of Gaunt, Chaucer was celebrated as his country's finest living poet, rhetorician and scholar: the preeminent intellectual of his time. And yet nothing is known of his death. In 1400 his name simply disappears from the record. We don't know how he died, where or when; there is no official confirmation of his death and no chronicle mentions it; no notice of his funeral or burial. He left no will and there's nothing to tell us what happened to his estate. He didn't even leave any manuscripts. How could this be? What if he was murdered? Terry Jones' hypothesis is the introduction to a reading of Chaucer's writings as evidence that might be held against him, interwoven with a portrait of one of the most turbulent periods in English history, its politics and its personalities.

    Annie's comment:Why did Geoffrey Chaucer suddenly vanish from the historical record? This group of scholars posit that he was done away with, by someone quite high up in the world. Sort-of true crime, set in the Middle Ages, and featuring one of my favourite authors.

    Honourable mentions:
  • Galileo's daughter: a drama of science, faith, and love by Dava Sobel
  • Leonardo da Vinci: the flights of the mind by Charles Nicholl

    At home: a short history of private life by Bill Bryson
    It struck Bill Bryson one day that we devote a lot more time to the Wars of the Roses or the Normandy Landings than considering what most of history really consists of: centuries upon centuries of people quietly going about their daily business - eating, sleeping, having sex, endeavouring to be amused.

    Annie's comment: I do love Bill Bryson’s writing style. Chatty, personable, and shot-through with facts, all presented in an easily digestible manner.

    This title has the added bonus of being about things we are very familiar with, things we possibly use every day, but never really thought about. Things like hallways. And bathrooms.

    Everything else he’s written that I’ve read, I’ve enjoyed, but particularly
    A short history of nearly everything. This book is one of the few my only-very-rarely-reading nephew has bought and devoured.

    Honourable mention:
  • Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed by Jared Diamond
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