nonfiction

Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History

Thumbs up for Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson. Science/nature.

It showed up as five stars on the Goodreads feed of someone I know, and I had just happened, the day before, to see a copy lounging around at the bookstore where I work. I was in the mood for nonfiction, so it was a happy confluence of events.… >> Read more

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

Thumbs up for SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Science/nature.

Okay, okay, pop statistics books are a weakness of mine. I admit it. But Freakonomics was just so dang much fun. And so was this one. Though it should all be taken with a grain of salt – it is statistics, right?… >> Read more

The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy That Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease

Thumbs up for The Cholesterol Myth by Uffe Ravnskov, MD. Science/nature.

Perhaps the fact that my dad gave me a copy of How to Lie With Statistics at a tender age explains why I laughed when reading this book, which is definitely not funny. While technically about cholesterol, it is in fact a brilliant explication of all the ways people lie with statistics.… >> Read more

Miss Manners' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children

Thumbs up to Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children by Judith Martin. Humor/Etiquette.

It is no closely held secret that I do not like children enough to ever have one myself. I do, however, like Miss Manners – very much indeed. She is that special combination of wise and hilarious. Her classic work, Miss Manners’ Guide To Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, is a staple of my bookshelf; and even if I do not live up to it, at least her wit makes me bellylaugh when I am down.… >> Read more

Everyday Life in Ancient Rome

Thumbs up for Everyday Life in Ancient Rome by Lionel Casson. History.

It takes real skill to write a work of nonfiction that glides by as rapidly as a good novel; Casson has accomplished that. If you want to get a sense of what it would be like to live in Roman times, this book is a good place to start – easy to read, yet detailed and evocative.… >> Read more

Rules for Aging: Resist Normal Impulses, Live Longer, Attain Perfection

Thumbs up to Rules for Aging: Resist Normal Impulses, Live Longer, Attain Perfection  by Roger Rosenblatt. Humor.

I hesitated whether to categorize this book as “self-help” or “humor.” It’s very funny, but like most humor, it’s funny because it’s true. By all means, read it to laugh, which is what I did; that it’s good advice is just gravy. Such as my favorite, Rule #42, which I always try to live by: “The unexamined life lasts longer”:

“People have been living for over a hundred post-Freudian years with the idea that prolonged and continuous introspection is good for one’s mental health, thus they fail to remember how miserable doing this makes them.

>> Read more
Working IX to V: Orgy Planners, Funeral Clowns, and Other Prized Professions of the Ancient World

Thumbs up for Working IX to V: Orgy Planners, Funeral Clowns, and Other Prized Professions of the Ancient World by Vickie Leon. History.

In clearing out a shelf of books-that-have-sat-too-long-with-bookmarkers-almost-to-the-end, I came across this. Why didn’t I finish this before? Perhaps so I’d have the pleasure of reading it now. This is a hilarious, informative and illuminating book, describing ancient Greece and Rome through the ins and outs of the jobs people had.… >> Read more

Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond (Merloyd Lawrence Books)

Thumbs up for Made For Each Other by Meg Daley Olmert. Science/nature.

Supposedly about the man-animal bond, at times it reads more like the author’s love affair with oxytocin. No, not the stuff Rush Limbaugh was famously hooked on (that’s OxyContin), but the “feel-good” neurochemical that is activated in social interactions both between people and people, and people and animals. The book could have been trimmed from 244 pages (not including notes) to about 100 without suffering, but it reads quickly enough, and has enough of value, that skimming through the “ra-ra oxytocin is great” repetition is tolerable.… >> Read more