10 Fascinating Non-Fiction Books

In Praise of ShadowsI. In Praise of Shadows [1933] by Junichiro Tanizaki  

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki first wrote his essay In Praise of Shadows in 1933, demonstrating how the Japanese penchant for darkness and imperfection not only has a right to be, but should be appreciated since its eerie beauty can be distilled. From the charm of lacquerware illuminated by candles to toilet meditation, Tanizaki touches on many aspects of the Japanese society slowly vanishing to make his point that there is a certain delight to be found for those not afraid to crouch in darkness and for those who are open to experience the imperfect.    

QuietII. Quiet [2012] by Susan Cain  

Susan Cain’s Quiet is revolutionary in some profound way, and for the first time ever introverts can feel good about being themselves. In her book, Cain not only dispels some of the myths about introversion, such as that introverts are shy, but also points out that introversion and leadership are not antonyms, and, in fact, introverts can take better decision because of the time and research they put in beforehand. This is just one of the chapters in this amazing book designed to free introverts from their mental prisons, enabling them to take their rightful place in the world “that does not stop talking”. 

The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a HatIII. The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat [1985] by Oliver Sacks

His eyes would dart from one thing to another, picking up tiny features, individual features…he failed to see the whole, seeing only details” [1985:11], writes Dr Sacks who documents the wondrous illness which is visual agnosia, whereby a patient is unable to perceive objects or faces as a whole resulting in him mistaking things or faces for other objects. In some way the book is mind-blowing because it details such incredible brain abnormalities as aphasia and a savant syndrome. Other books by this author are as fascinating, so also check out Awakenings [1973], Seeing Voices [1989], Hallucinations [2012].   

The Lost City of Z Book CoverIV. The Lost City of Z [2009] by David Grann

In this book, David Grann embarks on his own investigative quest to discover what might have happened with the eminent explorer of the 20th century – Percy Fawcett, who disappeared with his son and his friend in 1925 while on his journey to find his “City of Z” deep in the Amazon rainforest. Apart from being an absolute page-turner, the book is also fascinating in the way it presents the jungle as being more dangerous than first meets the eye, as well as in the way it unveils the character of Fawcett. There is also a movie of 2017 based on this book, but it is not as good as its source material.

Tulipomania Book CoverV. Tulipomania [1999] by Mike Dash 

Tulipomania is an insightful book that traces the journey of a tulip from the fields of Asia to Holland, where the obsession with the flower reached an unimaginable degree of insanity in 1637. Families were financially ruined when a few dozen of bulbs of tulips were sold for the price of a house. Fiction? Hardly. The writing is so engrossing that, by the end of the book, it is not unlikely that readers will find themselves taken over by this marvellous and once exotic flower. 

This is Going to Hurt Book CoverVI. This is Going to Hurt [2017] by Adam Kay

Adam Kay was a junior doctor when he wrote his book between 2004 and 2010. In it, he documents his activities while working for the NHS as a junior doctor on call. Filled with humorous observations, the book is to be applauded for its effort to bring to attention the stressful and often underappreciated work of doctors on call in the UK. 

Democracy in AmericaVII. Democracy in America [1835] by Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville’s treatise On Democracy in America has been hailed as one of the most important books written by a foreigner on a nation state. It is an insightful commentary on the ways of the American politics and society, and discusses American ideas on freedom of speech, equality, slavery, education of women, as well as on judicial power and religion. 

Another Kyoto Book CoverVIII. Another Kyoto [2016] by Alex Kerr and Kathy Arlyn Sokol 

In this book, Alex Kerr and Kathy Arlyn Sokol turns their attention to seemingly mundane objects of the Japanese society, such as walls, gates tatami and screens, to open to us a whole new way of perceiving aspects of the Japanese culture. The result is a staggering book in which the author introduces a concept of Shin Gyo So, while also, relying on hearsays and scripts of others, telling of one particular Kyoto people unjustly pass by. 

A Brief History of Time Book CoverIX. A Brief History of Time [1988] by Stephen Hawking 

This book by Stephen Hawking is probably the most popular book on space and time ever. Clear and to the point, this book makes hard-to-grasp concepts of relativity and quantum mechanics easier to understand, while posing thought-provoking questions on black holes and the origin of the universe. This book is yet another evidence that Stephen Hawking’s mind was one of a kind and whose genius is to be treasured.

The Cosmic SerpentX. The Cosmic Serpent [1998] by Jeremy Narby

A Great Invisible Serpent…is causal and timeless, a master of the vital principle and of all the forces of nature” [1998:66], so says an expert on occult mythology, but can such fantastical description find foundations in reality? This question asks Jeremy Narby, who is determined to show in his book that what indigenous people in South America called “a serpent”, a prominent vision in dreams and hallucinations, can be equated with our knowledge and understanding of the double helix of a DNA molecule. Despite its unbelievable claims, the book is well-researched, fascinating and strangely persuasive. 

7 thoughts on “10 Fascinating Non-Fiction Books

  1. The Lost City of Z is one of my favorites too. I also liked David Grann’s most recent book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. Fascinating, but serious book. Though I still need to read some de Tocqueville. He’s just so wordy, I keep meaning to read his book, but it’s so long. Democracy in America is nearly a thousand pages. Great post! All of these sound like great books!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad to know you also liked The Lost City of Z. I have heard about Killers of the Flower Moon, a shocking story, too, but I am yet to buy and read it, thanks for the suggestion. I have also heard that there will be a movie based on this book some time in future directed by Scorsese and starring DiCaprio, so this may be also something to look forward to.

      Liked by 1 person

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