Well written Non-Fiction Books can offer something of both fantasy and fact. A good memoir like Lab Girl will entertain whilst educating you. Grunt will teach you science whilst you laugh.
Reading a few non-fiction books outside our field should be on everyone’s to do list. The best breakthroughs come from cross-subject insights. Learn something in a new field today with our choice of the Best Non-Fiction books of 2016 so far.
1. Lab Girl – Hope Jahren
Women in science are still rare, but those that don a lab coat every day are pretty amazing. Lab Girl follows the life and work of Hope Jahren, a scientist with a love of plants. This scientific memoir takes us across America from Jahren’s upbringing in Minnesota to her cross country adventures to find weird and wonderful plants. However, the real focus of this book is Jahren’s friendship with her lab partner. There are touching moments between the two of them, and it ultimately shows how science opened the doors of friendship, adventure and plants. Lab Girl is a best seller and will inspire you to look at nature anew.
2. Grunt: the Curious Science of Humans at War – Mary Roach
War is science; a tricky science filled with tactics, plans and cockroaches. Grunt is a comical but no less factual book on how scientific testing is used in warfare. There are experiments on wedding gowns, the importance of ducks to the defence force and “why zippers on uniforms are problematic for snipers”. This book is full of the strangest stories and scientific facts you couldn’t find anywhere else. You will never look at the army the same again, and while war is a serious thing, the science behind some of the biggest killing machines is a little crazy at times. Roach is the queen of comedic writing, and you will get a laugh a minute out of this book.
3. Evicted: Poverty and Profit – Matthew Desmond
We all deserve a home but in America, the cost of housing is increasing. Evicted follows the story of eight poor families in Milwaukee and their struggle to have a home and keep their homes. With economic statistics as well as stories of real people this nonfiction book looks at the housing market and what the cost of this “human right” really is. Evicted is a pivotal read reminding us that a good, stable home is a key foundation for achievement.
4. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
Neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi went from researching cures to fighting his inoperable lung cancer. When Breath Becomes Air is a sad but heart-warming story about what life means and how we can use the time we have to do something. Kalanithi looks at his role as a doctor, as a patient and as a new father. He challenges our concept of what a “good” life is and examines his life and loves. He died while writing this novel and what we are left with is an account of one man’s life and hope for the future and medicine.
5. Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel – Tom Wainright
Drug cartels are a business and just like any big corporation they have economic plans and strategies and dirty dealings. Wainright also looks at how McDonald’s, Apple and other big businesses inspired the working of the cartels and how these business models are not that different. He shares a first-hand experience of what it takes to join the big boys and the economics behind it all. A great read for anyone interested in economics or the underground.
6. Kill ’em and Leave – James McBride
James Brown is synonymous with soul music and his bigger than life personality. But, as with every story, there is always more. Kill ‘em and Leave is the real story of James Brown. It chronicles his music career, his family life as well as some lesser known stories about this very complicated and misunderstood man. The book tries to piece together the life of story of Brown while giving us a glimpse into the world he lived in. McBride provides a well written and researched book that shows us why Brown earned himself the nickname “The Godfather of Soul” and how he inspired a whole genre of music.
7. Girls and Sex – Peggy Orenstein
With Tinder, party drugs and issues of consent, the world that girls are maturing in is different from their parents. Girls and Sex examine how girls have sex, engage with their partners and what sex means to modern girls. Peggy Orenstein interviewed over seventy young women from high school age to college to get a first-hand experience of how they navigate and engage sex. There are important issues around rape, pregnancy, virginity and online dating. This book is a must-read for parents as well as anyone interested in the workings of the new ‘hook-up culture’.
8. The Gene– Siddhartha Mukherjee
Genetics is the future, yet we understand so little of it. Siddhartha Mukherjee gives us a very personal account of genetics in his family and how mental illness is still misunderstood. By looking back at the history of genetics and the scientist who pioneered the research Mukherjee tries to understand his family and in turn we learn things about our own. Are sexuality, sickness and weight affected by genetics? The Gene answers some of these questions and lets us look into the future. This bestselling novel is charming in the way that it combines science with heartfelt emotions.
9. Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution – Nathaniel Philbrick
The story of the Revolutionary War is well documented, but Valiant Ambition is not just a history book. It is about comradery and the relationship between George Washington and his commander Benedict Arnold. Written with two big personalities at the forefront it becomes clear that while the British were their enemy, there was already one within. Arnold, one of the most infamous names in America, is given a voice from beyond the grave as we learn about his motivation.This is a great read for anyone interested in riveting history or for anyone who likes a book full of better than fictional characters.