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Aster's avatar

What is the best non-fiction book you've ever read ?

Asked by Aster (18947points) September 17th, 2010

I can’t bring myself to read fiction. OK: I’ve read The Great Gatsby and Communion by Whitley Streiber but 99% of what I read is non-fiction. List some great books for me that are not TOO involved, ok? Not War and Peace stuff.

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32 Answers

cockswain's avatar

Does philosophy count? If so I love the Tao te Ching.

gasman's avatar

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter. (

cockswain's avatar

@gasman I forgot about that one. A classic.

“Euclid’s Window” is also great.

RomanExpert's avatar

A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer

Aster's avatar


Blackberry's avatar

I hate fiction also. From my most recent memory is a book about all the people that tried to kill hitler, The God Delusion, and Letter to a christian Nation by Sam Harris.

Seek's avatar

Oh wow…

Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, by Barbara Tuchman
Fingerprints of the Gods, by Graham Hancock
Mythologies, by Edith Hamilton
A History of the Wife, by Marilyn Yalom
The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins
Why I Am Not A Christian, by Bertrand Russell

and just for fun, both by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, M.D.
“Why Do Men Have Nipples: Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask Your Doctor After Your Third Martini”
“Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex: Even More Questions You’d Only Ask Your Doctor After Your Third Whiskey Sour”

aprilsimnel's avatar

A Short History of Nearly Everything – BiIl Bryson

Blackberry's avatar

I am so going to the library tomorrow….

UScitizen's avatar

The Great Escape, – Paul Brickhill

Aster's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I at least bought the Russell book and read it. I feel like I could argue with him on most points but I may be flattering myself.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

Chinese Cinderella
Diary of A Young Girl

I can’t remember all the nonfiction books I’ve read

JilltheTooth's avatar

A Walk In The Woods Bill Bryson

Actually, pretty much anything by him is enjoyable.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

I forgot to add Three Cups of Tea

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

On Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau
Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana
Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
and many many more.

kenmc's avatar

@hawaii_jake Running With Scissors was great.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

heresjohnny's avatar

I just finished reading Fair Game by Valerie Plame (the former CIA officer whose name was published in the paper). Great read.

BluRhino's avatar

Batavia’s Graveyard by MIke Dash. An extensively researched true story of mutiny, shipwreck, inhumanity and survival on the high seas in the 1600s. Reminds me of Micheners’ novels.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’ll probably be checking these out of my local library myself, soon:

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes
The Geography of Bliss
Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire (She was Princess Diana’s great^4 aunt. And a gambler. Uh-oh.)

Mamradpivo's avatar

Surprised I’m the first to list “Guns Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond. This is one of those books that absolutely changes the way you think about the world

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

This is the first time I’ve come into a book question on Fluther and haven’t been beat to this answer.

Tuesdays With Morrie.

Seek's avatar


I’m usually not really into modern exploration stories, but for some reason Shackleton just fascinates me. Something about how everyone made it out alive, I suppose.

jaytkay's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Yeah, I think the fact that everyone escaped* makes it one-of-a-kind.

*Except for Mrs. Chippy. RIP Mrs. Chippy. You were a good man.

Adagio's avatar

An Unquiet Mind Kay Redfield Jamieson
A remarkably intelligent autobiography by a Professor of Psychiatry who also happens to have manic depressive illness. I have had no dealings with manic depression but happened upon this book at the library, once I began reading I could not put the book down, it is exceptionally well-written and totally engaging.

Gamrz360's avatar

Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson

Blackberry's avatar

So much knowledge….so little time… am I supposed to read all of this, keep a girlfriend, party with my friends, and do my job lol?

gasman's avatar

@Mamradpivo I agree, Jared’s masterpiece changes our Europe-centric view of how modern civilization emerged.

@TheOnlyNeffie I just read Tuesdays with Morrie last month—a short read that changed my outlook on life!

If I may be permitted to post additional answers:

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Best textbook on any subject: Lectures on Physics by Richard Feynman (1964)

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Another vote for Three Cups of Tea.

I also enjoyed The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough. it’s about one of the worst disasters in U.S. history that occurred in 1889. Here is a bit of the history, in case you are interested.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I just read your post regarding working at a crisis center hotline. You might enjoy A Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. She is a true crime writer who, while crafting the story of a serial killer, discovered it was Ted Bundy. She had worked with him at a crisis center, and finding out that he was the person found guilty, slightly restructured the book to include her personal experiences with the person she had befriended.

krrazypassions's avatar

All of them are quite good!
a new kind of science- stephen wolfram
at home- bill bryson
the 4% universe- richard panek
musicophilia- oliver sacks
the human mind- robert winston

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