The Beautiful World of Non-Fiction

by Rachel on July 11, 2012

Today's blog post comes from Rebecca, one of Vroman's Bookstore's POS supervisors.  Here she offers a compelling selection of titles for all the non-fiction fans out there!

The Beautiful World of Non-Fiction

When you enter into a bookstore looking for some fun summer reading, you may normally head straight to fiction and pick up something like Fifty Shades of Grey, A Game of Thrones, or one of our other bestsellers. As creative and wonderful the world of fiction is, nonfiction also has a plethora of delicious titles for you to consume.

Here at Vroman’s, we don’t just have a standard section for all things nonfiction; we have dozens of nonfiction sections to choose from! Now, I’m a big fan of fiction too, but I have to intersperse my fiction with nonfiction from time to time. You see, this is because I’m a big nerd. I’m a trivia junkie. I need to constantly work at expanding my factual knowledge from a variety of topics, because I’m going to be on Jeopardy! someday. True story.

Along with all kinds of wonderful fiction I’ve read over the last year or so (which does include Fifty Shades of Grey and A Game of Thrones), I’ve read some great nonfiction books

Here are some of the titles that I have picked up over the past year:

1. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi.

If you’re at all interested in true crime or the law, this book is perfect. As the primary attorney prosecuting Charles Manson and his infamous Family in the early 1970s. This book delves into every possible aspect of the murder, and not just the gritty details of Sharon Tate’s murder, but also Bugliosi’s entire process of how he brought Charles Manson (along with several members of the Family)  to justice.

Obviously, Bugliosi’s involvement with the case should dictate that his book would be packed with details and facts surrounding the case. However, with extensive notes and research into the case from every possible aspect, Bugliosi put together the entire story, from the very beginning through to the end, and with such precision and attention to detail that you can’t help but be amazed.

This book was never dry, never uninteresting. WARNING: This book is definitely graphic, as it portrays true and truly gruesome events.

2. Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms by Carmela Ciuraru.

I just finished this book, and I’m still riding that “good book afterglow,” y’know what I’m talking about? That feeling you get after completing a book that is just so satisfying, you’ve gotta tell everyone about it? Well, I’ve got it bad. I’m at the point where I’m even talking about this book with small children and animals.

From the Bronte sisters and Lewis Carroll to authors you’ve likely never even heard of, this book covers what I feel like must be only the most interesting pseudonymous authors who ever lived. There must be more than she writes of. There must.

While Ciuraru seems to focus more on English language authors (and on the Brits in particular), she also delves into folks like Isak Dinesen, George Sand, and Fernando Pessoa. Everything she writes is clearly well-researched and very well composed. Ciuraru doesn’t read like just another dry, old history text (although, I do love those). GREAT READ.

3. Billions and Billions by Carl Sagan.

Really, I could recommend just about anything by Carl Sagan with confidence, but Billions and Billions just happens to be the one I’ve read most recently. Sagan knows that his average reader isn’t going to be educated as an astrophysicist, and so he makes everything easily accessible without coming across as patronizing.

If you have any interest in astronomy and haven’t read anything by Carl Sagan, even in part, I personally guarantee that you will love him upon reading this book. Seriously. If you don’t like it, just tell me, and I will get down on my knees here in the store and apologize profusely.

However, should you fall madly in platonic love with Mr. Sagan (like me), I would love to recommend you check out his television series, Cosmos.

4. Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings.

Remember that guy who won 74 episodes of Jeopardy? On the 75th episode, he should have answered “H & R Block,” but regrettably guessed “FedEx.” Yes, I remember this vividly.

Anyway, I’ve been keeping up with this guy ever since (I even follow his Twitter—really funny stuff!), and he has written this book on geography. I know this doesn’t sound incredibly thrilling, but trust me – it is. I have not yet read it myself, but I am ridiculously eager to do so. True, I am a nerd and enjoy nerdy texts especially when they pertain to things related to history, but Ken Jennings’ writing is accessible and peppered with a delightful sense of humor.

I have not yet read this book myself, but if any of you have, feel free to let me know how you like it! I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to spoil it for me.

5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

This book, as a concept, should blow your mind. Jean-Dominique Bauby, known to friends as Jean-Do, was the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine before a horrific stroke robbed him of just about all of his physical capabilities. He could not walk, talk, or even write. So how did he come to write this book? WITH HIS LEFT EYE.

With the assistance of a wonderfully persistent medical staff, Bauby wrote a short yet breathtakingly beautiful account of his physical and emotional condition following his stroke. Sounds depressing, right? Maybe a little bit, but this book is so well written and so well thought out – considering the circumstances – that it assists as an emotional release rather than as a depressant (this may give you insight in how I use books as self-medication).

Gorgeous, wonderful book. When talking about it with a friend, she was stunned to find out this is a memoir rather than a novel. And, should you like the book, there is also an excellent movie made very true to the book.

6. Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman

Folks like to talk a lot of smack about things they know absolutely nothing about, including Scientology.

Sure, it’s easy to dismiss Scientology as this weird cult of brainwashed followers who worship aliens. Personally, I find this assessment to be ridiculously unfair. Granted, Inside Scientology represents Scientology from the outside looking in with a number of expose-type anecdotes of former Scientologists, so this is all from a particular perspective. However, this book gives the average naysayer a fuller perspective on what exactly Scientologists believe, how they practice, and what the heck all that Xenu stuff is about.

If you wanted to get a better understanding of Scientology and all the myth and history and hype surrounding it, I couldn’t recommend a better text to read.

If you want a few more nonfiction suggestions, feel free to come on down to Vroman’s and browse our shelves! We’ve got oodles of excellent nonfiction books for you to pick up as your next summer reading pick!