I read a lot of books, but somehow very little nonfiction crosses my desk. Case in point: Goodreads tells me I’ve read 57 books so far this year, but only two of them have been nonfiction. Yikes.
There are definitely gems in the nonfiction I’ve read in the past few years (My Year of the Racehorse and After Visiting Friends spring to mind), so it’s not that I don’t enjoy nonfiction… there’s just something in me that balks at picking it up.
But here are three that are on my to-read list – a reminder that reading nonfiction doesn’t mean returning to those unwieldy Eyewitness volumes stocking shelves on public school shelves everywhere.
I downloaded the first chapter of Brain on Fire to my Kindle, oh, three years ago. It follows the journey of journalist Susannah Cahalan through, well, a month of madness. “Maybe it all began with a bug bite, from a bedbug that doesn’t exist,” she begins. A small-scale paranoia about bedbugs quickly twines into something more malignant. I’m not sure what, exactly, but I do know it ends relatively well – after all, she survives to write a critically acclaimed book about it.
The Sun and the Moon also has ties to journalism, because apparently I enjoy reading books about journalists. This one seems to be a cross between the classic tale of hungry-young-journalist-must-break-big-story-or bust and a con worthy of Leo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can. In a series of six articles, The Sun convinced its New York readership that there was life on the moon – including “man bats”. This obviously didn’t win The Sun any points with its rival papers, and a the result was basically a war between rival gangs of journalists. (I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.)
Finally, Steven Johnson has been on my radar for a few years – I picked up a copy of Everything Bad is Good For You while in the throes of media and communications classes during my undergrad. It seemed like it would be a good read and possibly a good source to use in a paper, but to this day it sits on my shelf unread. Poor darling. The Ghost Map strikes out in a completely different direction, tackling the spread of the the bubonic plague, and has a pretty cover to boot. Maybe I’ll get to it before Everything Bad, but there’s also a distinct possibility that I’ll continue avoiding nonfiction… like the plague.