I’ve been thinking about some of my other favorite books recently, and there’s a particular class of books that comes to mind. I don’t even know if this is officially a genre, or if all of these belong in the same genre, but these are all titles that occupy the “Books I Read When I Want To Know More About Something From Someone Who Writes Very Well” category in my head. So again, listed in no particular order, are some of my favorite “Pop Non-Fiction” books.
1) Blink, Malcolm Gladwell- Gladwell is an engaging and informative writer, and Blink is one of his best works. It explores the power of the sub-concious brain to make decisions and value judgements, drawing on a large body of research and anecdotal evidence. An excellent book.
2) The Shallows, Nicholas Carr- Nick Carr (His friends call him “Nicky”) presents some compelling evidence for the idea that the very technology we use shapes not only how we work, but how we think. Carr argues that all throughout history, technology has come with benefits and drawbacks, and the internet is no different. He also gives a balanced approach for how we should think about the technology we use so as to maximize benefits and limit the negative effects. I highly recommend reading this book side by side with Why Johnny Can’t Preach from my previous post.
3) Stiff, Mary Roach- This is not a book for the faint of heart, but it is nevertheless incredibly informative and thought-provoking, and strangely entertaining. Mary Roach is a talented writer with a strong stomach, and she tackles the science and history of cadavers with compassion and wit, making Stiff a worthwhile and lively read.
4) Born To Run, Christopher McDougall- It doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself a runner or not- this book is so engaging and insightful, you won’t be able to put it down. In Born To Run, McDougall explores the topics of barefoot running, ultra-marathons, the Tarahumara Indians, the anatomy of running, and much more. Great book.
5) Freakonomics, Steven Levitt- This book is just cool. If you like to see strange connections between seemingly random trends, then you’ll love Freakonomics. Levitt writes about everything from real estate to sumo wrestlers in this book, and somehow he makes it all fit together.
6) The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson- Bryson is such a clever writer, it doesn’t matter what his subject is- he could write a book about C++ and I would read it (Editor’s note: not true. I’m not even sure what C++ is, but it sounds horrible. Why else would someone add two plus signs? Who are they trying to convince?). In this book Bryson digs into the history of English, telling stories and interspersing little nuggets of trivia that will inspire in the reader a newfound love for this strange, eclectic language of ours.
There are plenty of other books that belong in this category, but I don’t see any on my shelves that I want to write about. We’ll talk more later, but this ought to be a good start.