A Few Great Non-Fiction Reading Recommendations

One of my favorite things to read online are book lists. Historical fiction, science picks, author favorites... anything really. 

How to be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life  by Ruth Goodman

This is one I'm in the middle of right now and am thoroughly enjoying! The book delves into what it was like be a Briton in Victorian Era  England (roughly 1830-1901). Everything from what Victorian Era citizenry wore (Corsets! Petticoats! Lamb chops and top hats, oh my!) to the way food was distributed between men, women and children (hint, men got the bacon and little girls were taught self-denial was a virture... oh wait, nothing's changed) to what work meant to each part of the population. The book is well researched and written by someone who has spent time as a Victorian Era re-enacter and has a special kind of insight into what it means to live as a Victorian (Ex: harvesting wheat wearing a bustle and corset) and that helps make the sometimes totally foreign ideas the Victorians lived with more relevant and interesting. I'm finding this really easy and fun to read. Goodman injects humor into the sometimes overly serious subject matter and uses just enough detail to allow the mind to build an image without sinking into minutiae that ruins the text. If you love history, you'll love this. 

Three Words: Fascinating, Informative, Illuminating
Rating: 4.5/5 (so far) - Really fun and facilitating. Victorians were REALLY weird birds, this allows for tasteful historical oggling. 
Best for: Anyone who loves the history of seemingly esoteric things (Example: The virtues of the morning "Stand up wash") and anyone looking for a fun read that is constructed to walk you through the average day-in-the-life of a Victorian Briton. 

 

Adulting: How to Become an Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps  by Kelly Williams Brown

This was an incredibly fun read. Based on the blog of the same name, writer Kelly Williams Brown outlines 468 easy steps to becoming and adult. The book is broken up into rules that Brown writes with wit and self-deprecation. She makes a point to use as much sarcasm as possible (as we all should strive to do) while still providing valuable information that the reader can actually use. She subtly pokes fun at the tendency for our older generations to arbitrarily decide what is "adult" and what isn't and makes it clear the adult is more a state of mind than a goal that can be achieved.

Three Words: Informative, Fun, Authentic
Rating: 5 / 5 - A joy to read, quick to move through and fun to graft onto your own life. 
Best for: Anyone who loves a fun and funny self-help book that isn't too caught up in itself. Refreshingly honest advice from someone in their late 20's that isn't trying to impress you with her togetherness. 


 

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin

I first noticed this gem on a booksellers choice table when I was working at Barnes & Noble. It had been out for a bit and was getting a bit of face time after the Pope Francis starting making waves in the news (thank the LORD above for you, Your Grace!) and we had included it along with a few other books based on current topics. I've been a big fan of the Jesuit Order for quite some time. Being a Buddhist with Catholic tendencies has sent me down some weird tangents in my reading and I'd been a fan of Father Martins articles in various publications. The book is wonderful. Chock full of excellent advice and doesn't make judgements on what the reader believes or doesn't. Father Martin offers practical advice for just about everything you can't think of, from sex and relationships to what it means to be contemplative. I found his writing to be refreshing and enlightening, without judgment or pretense.

Three Words: Enlightening, Refreshing, Real
Rating: 5 / 5 - Thoroughly wonderful. Quickly gains your trust and settles into the feeling of a heartfelt discussion with a great friend. 
Best for: Anyone looking for a little encouragement from someone who has spent his life serving others. 

 

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

There's nothing quite like diving into a book that deals with a subject that normal people steer clear of. Mary Roach has gained a reputation for her wit and weird curiosity and this book doesn't disappoint. Roach delves into the ways that human cadavers have been used for the advancement of science, how the process works and what it feels like to work with them. The book is funny, interesting and informative while still being respectful. A great book to cleanse the palate after reading something a deep

Three Words: Hilarious, Curious, Fascinating 
Rating: 4.5 / 5 - So fantastic, my favorite of her books so far. Wonderful dark and funny without being a downer. Extra points for diving into a subject nearly everyone else is scared to write about. 
Best for: Those looking for a funny, enlightening read on a curious topic. 

 

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

Last but CERTAINLY not least, I had to include this read on this list. This book was a entrancing journey into the past that weaves together the stories of the terrifying  Dr. H. H. Holmes, America's first serial killer who built the horrific murder palace in the shadow of the glory of the famed 'White City' erected for the 1893 World's Fair. In the span of a few years, Holmes confessed to murdering 30 people (thought to be more) for the purpose of collecting life insurance payouts. His murder castle is a sadistic supporting character in the text and is filled with gas chambers, ovens, doors to nowhere and the belongings of tenants that seemingly vanished into thin air. Set against the story for he epic construction project that brought Chicago great fame and glory, this read is an excellent journey into turn-of-the-century America and the dawn of the American horror story. 

Three Words: Riveting, Dark, Fascinating
Rating: 4 / 5 - A riveting journey into turn of the century Chicago featuring a heroic Architect trying to pull off one of the greatest (and fastest) engineering feats of all-time and a sadistic serial killer preying on the innocent coming to enjoy the fair. 
Best for: Those looking for a real-life mystery filled with horror and intrigue. 

 

How about you? Any non-fiction books you've loved? I'm always up for new books to add to my reading list