My year of Non Fiction

Canary friends! Remember when I posted about how great it would be to diversify my own reading, dip my toes into some non fiction, try some new stuff out?* The dip turned out to be an all inclusive two-year stay.

But I’m back now. Fantasy and sci-fi, here I come.

2015-2016 Books Read List:

 The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson Under and Alone by William Queen Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn Everything is Obvious by Duncan J. Watts The Immortal Game by David ShenkAll the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister Ghettoside by Jill Leovy Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny LawsonCathedral of the Wild by Boyd Varty Animal Wise by Virginia Morell Being Mortal by Atul Gawande Pandemic by Sonia Shah The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami Rising Strong by Brené BrownThe Big Short by Michael Lewis I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling Bad Feminist by Roxane GayThe Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling Originals by Adam M. GrantWaste-Free Kitchen Handbook by Dana Gunders Spinster by Kate BolickDark Money by Jane Mayer Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari Never Broken by JewelSounds Like Me by Sara BareillesEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery America Again by Stephen Colbert Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss Kitchen Confidential by Anthony BourdainDaring Greatly by Brené Brown Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson Yes Please by Amy Poehler You're Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day First Bite by Bee WilsonMy Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem A Brief History of Creation by Bill Mesler Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell Grain Brain by David PerlmutterDays of Rage by Bryan Burrough When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt Born with Teeth by Kate Mulgrew  Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim Working Stiff by Judy Melinek Kill Chain by Andrew CockburnThe Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee Endurance by Alfred Lansing Surprise by Tania Luna Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey Moody Bitches by Julie HollandThe Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee The Mormon People by Matthew Bowman Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Zetter Future Crimes by Marc GoodmanIt Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell Made to Stick by Chip Heath It's What I Do by Lynsey Addario The Powerhouse by Steve Levine Fields of Blood by Karen Armstrong The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill LeporeHow Google Works by Eric Schmidt Angry Optimist by Lisa Rogak Now I See You by Nicole C. Kear Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo Switch by Chip Heath The $100 Startup by Chris GuillebeauBehind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel Drive by Daniel H. Pink Blink by Malcolm Gladwell Born to Run by Christopher McDougall How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters by Andrew Shaffer


*This is why I am not allowed to have reasonable sounding goals anymore. These things escalate quite quickly.

Chirp, where has the summer gone?

Summer is for the non-fiction birds.

This canary has gone off the reservation. Over the last few months, I’ve been off the radar, munching my way through the nonfiction selection of my local library. It’s been a bit of an adventure, but, as the summer winds down, I’m finding myself drifting back to my usual reading roosts in fantasy and science fiction.

But here are some of the highlights from my nonfiction adventures:

 Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog   Hallucinations Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the MindDrunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave
The Mind's Eye Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality The Woman Who Fell from the Sky The Snake Charmer: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety  Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty  Salt: A World History The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
 The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People  Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything Radiation: What It Is, What You Need to Know The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

My favorites of the bunch:

  The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of "Unadoptables" Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailArgo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
 Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus Design Basics Index: A Graphic Designer's Guide to Designing Effective Compositions, Selecting Dynamic Components & Developing Creative Concepts

And onward! Keep an eye out for some advance reviews and book-chatter goodness.

Canaries, what have you been reading?

[ Small Chirp ] Literary Whiplash

The week started so normal: Sunday spent cuddled on the couch watching a football game, yelling at the cat to stop pulling out his fur (“You’ll look silly naked!”), reading The Power of Six and marveling at the sheer badness of the book.

Then I got an email. An emergency request to review a book for the science magazine I regularly freelance for. Sure, I wrote back before even looking at the title. I love to read science things!

So from The Power of Six I went directly into How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser, a delightful narrative that follows a group of counterculture physics gurus as they investigate the kooky realms of quantum mechanics and parapsychology. And while the physics major in me absolutely adored the sentiment of the book—the exploration of the philosophy of physics—to go from rather crappy YA novel to an intense discussion on the non-locality of quantum particles was a bit of a headspinner.

But it was okay. I was making great progress with Physics when my mom called to ask how I was getting along with the book club novel for the month. Fuck, I thought. Not again.  So I grabbed Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan on my Nook, promising myself that someday I would get a head start on these damn book club selections. I was in for another jarring experience—from YA to Quantum Mechanics to the fluffiest lit fic I’ve ever had the mild disgruntlement to read.  The sentence structure is terrible and the story is very so-so. But at least it has a plot that does not involve aliens or any discussion of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

At this point, I’m suffering from some pretty major Literary Whipslash.  What say you, Canary readers? What’s the most mind-bending genre leap you’ve made in back-to-back readings?

This Week’s Mine Shaft

Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan

Four semesters of economics in college convinced me of one unshakable truth: economics is irredeemably boring. So when I saw the tagline to this book included the phrase “dismal science”, I approved.

I approved even more when I read the intro and the authors promise of no-graphs and no-math. So I dove in. I’m roughly half-way through, and it’s kept its promise. The narrator is witty and engaging, and I’m surprised to find myself calling it a fun read. Let’s see where that goes.

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

I’d like to say that I picked this book up out of some kind of noble sentiment. Perhaps I picked it up because I heard the NPR program about the book in March (April? May?), or perhaps being a literate lover of history, I couldn’t walk past the chance to get an in-depth look at this ancient Egyptian celebrity. Oh, who am I kidding?

I got the book because when I was 15, in a flash of teen genius, I named my darling cat Cleopatra. It took about a week for sanity to reassert myself and I downgraded the name to “Clea”.

Reading this book shall be a kind of penance. Learn from my misdeeds, canaries. Ye Shall Not Call Your Cat Cleopatra.

Infidel by Kameron Hurley

And lest you think that I have completely converted to the dark side, here’s a bit of the fantastic to my reading list.

I’m finding myself drawn in more and more into the world Hurley has created, despite the main character’s name (Nyx, if you must know. Nyx the ex-assassin.) and the discomfiting realization, courtesy of, that this is apparently the second book of a series, not the first.

Still, I hadn’t noticed from the story itself, and that bodes really good things.

And really, any book with a cover like this one will have to work really hard to put me off.

Now over to theothercanary…

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

theothercanary’s mom on the phone: “Hey, Meggie. Don’t forget we have book club this week.”

theothercanary: “Yep. All done with that book.”

theothercanary’s mom: “Great, see you there!”

theothercanary, after hanging up the phone: Fuck.

Ten pages into “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” and I’m already miffed. The sentence structure does not allow for speed reading, and this little canary has a deadline!

What’s on your reading list?