best historical nonfiction books

Having interviewed more than 300 people over the course of 10 years, Solomon explores the experience of parenting a child fundamentally different from oneself. In Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Weschler spins the story of the Museum of Jurassic Technology’s unlikely creation into an entirely winning meditation on human ingenuity and creativity, a thought experiment about how the mind responds to being amazed. Gene Marks Contributor. The NYTimes Notable Nonfiction Books of 2020. His editors at Harper’s sent him to a state fair and on a holiday cruise, pastimes whose reputations for carefree, middle American fun seemed hopelessly alien to Wallace himself, a hyperactive observational machine desperate to shed his own self-consciousness but incapable of doing so. Except that it wasn’t: Even at the height of the epidemic, scientists worked feverishly to understand the virus and its effects—and just as importantly, activists battled to increase those scientists’ funding, to focus and target their research, and to erase the stigma of those who suffered from it. Yet what reader hasn’t had her mind expanded, her heart plucked, her conscience stirred by a nonfiction book? We are a culture intoxicated by apocalypse and ruin, forever telling one another stories about what we’d do to survive should civilization as we know it collapse. And while most academic conferences are pretty dull, she attends one in which an old lady turned to another guest and demanded, “I would like to know if it is TRUE THAT YOU DESPISE ME.” When it comes to eccentricity, Batuman holds up her end—her Ph.D. dissertation compared novels to double-entry bookkeeping, and she talked her way into a Tolstoy conference by proposing a paper arguing that the novelist was murdered. Lia had an unusual and severe form of epilepsy. But We Wish to Inform You is more than a masterpiece of war reportage. Add to Bag. Hollywood tycoons in particular sought to bring every aspect of moviemaking, from the talent to the theaters, under their sway, and only government action succeeded in breaking their stranglehold. Miodownik, a materials scientist with the soul of a poet, sings of the magic hidden within these ordinary substances. Everyone mourns in her own way, and for Macdonald, after her beloved father’s death, that way was by taming a goshawk, a process described in this scratched, muddy, glorious memoir. Also read TIME’s lists of the 10 best fiction books of 2020, the 100 must-read books of the year and the 10 best video games of the year . And in his propulsive, idiosyncratic style, Chang situates the revolution in the political and social context of 20th-century New York (and America): deeply racist, economically cruel, and ready to explode. The children of these parents are, as Solomon recounts, “deaf or dwarfs; they have Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia or multiple severe disabilities; they are prodigies; they are people conceived in rape or who commit crimes; they are transgender.” Far From the Tree is mammoth, but its oceanic scope is essential to convey the infinite variety in humanity’s ability to cope with the differences among us. From powerful memoirs to historical biographies to eclectic essay collections, these are the nonfiction books we're excited to read in 2020. Skloot’s impeccably reported book tells a remarkable story of scientific development but also makes an impassioned argument about the way medicine has always used black and poor bodies. One is too cacophonous; another is too tranquil. Grann—“nearly 40 years old, with a blossoming waistline”—resolves to tell Fawcett’s story and soon finds himself stuck in the jungle himself, captured, absurdly, by the same lust for discovery that killed his subject. It is a paean to the irreducible reality of stone and leaf and wave. The best history books of all time have proven to be truly galvanizing to the present since their publication. Beautifully written and nearly deranged in its comprehensiveness, Home Comforts holds what seems an entire culture’s collected wisdom on fabric selection, lighting design, clothes folding, waste disposal, dishwashing, food storage, table setting, closet organization, and piano tuning. Packer strives to transmit each subject’s narrative without editorializing or moralizing, an approach that feels radical a mere six years after the book’s publication, since today the imperative to opine never seems to let up. So instead of trying to reinvent yourself, why not read some nonfiction books to help yourself be the smartest, most interesting, well- A book’s total score is based on multiple factors, including the number of slanderous attacks on other members, By the end of the day, Deraniyagala had lost her parents, her husband, and their two young sons to the Boxing Day Tsunami. And you'll never see this message again. As a result, The Unwinding is almost disorienting, like coming inside after a day spent walking into a stiff wind. This memoir is less a narrative than a collage of mysteriously potent moments: a favorite teacher’s kitchen, a dead puppy, a new dress. Or, if you were painfully aware that so much of what fronts as sincere is in fact ungenuine or calculating sentimentality and otherwise bogus, you could come up with a new style. Eggers, of course, chose the latter, producing a book that was hugely influential—that still is hugely influential, to judge by, among other things, the prevalence of a certain exclamation mark–bedazzled school of journalism. “As a writer, I prefer to get bossed around by my notebook and the facts therein,” David Carr wrote in his reported memoir The Night of the Gun, one of Slate’s 50 best nonfiction books of the past 25 years. Want to Read. Historical nonfiction is so much more than the history books you read in school. He left a pretty good path behind him, too. Talk about low concept: Stuff Matters is about, among other things, concrete, glass, porcelain, paper, graphite, stainless steel, and plastic. Some revisit conflicts that have shaped the modern world, as … The ten authors here share wide and fascinating perspectives on myriad events and lives caught up in the horror, the devastation, and the inhumanity of a horrific time. Readers turned to her in droves, trying to understand what felt like a sudden, unanticipated, overwhelming menace. Batuman seems to attract Borgesian peculiarity like a magnet. Macfarlane cares passionately about two things: landscape and language. It’s a scenario both beautiful and terrifying, the original definition of the sublime, and executed with a methodical bravado that’s breathtaking. He is deeply curious about everything and everyone he meets. His travels aren’t without human interest, either; they always seem to include meetings with fascinating poets and artists, like a man who plans to suspend a life-size figure made of human bones and calf skin inside a boulder whose location only a handful of people will ever know. The result is a pocket history of the past half-century of musical theater, a crash course in the collaborative creative process, and a bottomless craft lecture for anyone who aspires to make something beautiful. Grant by Ron Chernow. Rebecca Traister, ... diaries, and land and financial records, Prairie Fires has all the essentials of a great history book. Every one of its 884 pages is an absolute joy to read, and no book is more deeply comforting to neat freaks—or inspirational to slobs. At least four and possibly as many as 14 murders have been attributed to a still-unknown individual who dumped his victims’ remains along a desolate beachside highway on Long Island. Many of these transplants behaved, as Wilkerson notes, more like refugees than anything else, fleeing Jim Crow laws to form enclaves united by their ties to the towns they’d left behind. Through his reporting of McCandless’ passionate and foolhardy journey into transcendence—and writing about his own, similar youthful experiences—Krakauer explores our modern relationship to the wilderness and the deep desire many young people feel to seek out unthinkable danger. Historian and Wolfson judge Richard Evans talks us through the six history books that made the 2020 shortlist. Hers is a lifelong quest for the grandiose, the melancholic, and—crucially—the absurd. Eventually, the son of a Korean-Japanese businessman was convicted, absurdly, of abducting and dismembering Blackman but not of killing her. These stories are well researched, thought provoking, and are just as riveting as fiction. Adrian Nicole LeBlanc spent 10 years reporting on a group of young men and women in the west Bronx as they paired off, grew up, escaped, returned, and tried to raise children of their own. Another is that the authorities did not take their disappearances seriously until four of them were found buried in the same place. Starting with her own journals, Bechdel uncovers dark treasures of her childhood and adolescence as the daughter of a closeted funeral home director in small town Pennsylvania; her clever narrative structure returns to crucial moments again and again, polishing them and holding them up to the light to reveal new facets of meaning. He is a well-read, brilliant contextualizer. “During mass extinction events,” Kolbert writes, “the usual rules of survival are suspended.” Once-dominant species are wiped out in the geologic snap of a finger. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. Students hiding from the shooters saw these reports on classroom TVs and echoed them back via their mobile phones. Carrying us through it all is Verghese’s voice: empathetic, rueful, honest to a fault, and always kind. If you were a semifeckless, amply flawed but eminently clever twentysomething Gen Xer at the turn of the 21st century, and you were writing a memoir about how your parents died within five months of each other when you were a senior in college, leaving you to care for your 8-year-old brother, you faced a choice. The result is funny, heart-wrenching, chilling, and absurd, as Weingarten chronicles a serial killer, a heart transplant, a tragic fire, an unlikely romance, a political miscalculation, a Grateful Dead concert—all of them expert portraits of American life in miniature. But the reader gradually realizes that Mabel, with all her difficulty and alien, nonmammalian ways, is exactly what Macdonald needs. ’Til the day that you die you will remember with squirming laughter Frazier’s descriptions of the nightmarish mosquitoes of Western Siberia, which “came at us as if shot from a fire hose”: “There are the majority, of course, who just bite you anywhere. But I’ve given it a try. As Erik Christiansen reasoned in his Channeling the Past: Politicizing History in Postwar America , post-World War II Americans were drawn to historical nonfiction as a means of grappling with the horrors they'd just endured on the world stage. Tell us in the comments below. One of her generation’s greatest memoirists (Fierce Attachments) and essayists, Gornick devotes this book to puzzling out how she became an “odd woman,” a single and childless urbanite, intoxicated by the street life of Manhattan. That is the irresistible premise of Weisman’s book, a thought experiment substantiated by deep research into what it takes to keep the built world functioning and what has happened in the few places (Chernobyl, the Korean Demilitarized Zone) where there has been no one around to prop it up. Good nonfiction books about history: Big History A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves by Walter Alvarez – The unlikely story of life on Earth The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection by Tamim Ansary— Understanding human history as an extraterrestrial might view it

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