Friday, May 31, 2013

Armchair BEA 2013: Non-Fiction

You can find links to other blogs taking part here.

“Oh, crumbs!” I thought, “I don’t read non-fiction!” So, yet again, I turned to Goodreads for some inspiration – seriously, where would I ever be without it? A quick look through the Popular Non-Fiction shelf reminded me of a few titles that I thoroughly enjoyed. They are somewhat diverse, but that is just how my reading wanders about.

Please note: all descriptions are from Goodreads.

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

Full of spleen, this is a hilarious, invigorating and informative journey through the world of Bad Science. When Dr Ben Goldacre saw someone on daytime TV dipping her feet in an 'Aqua Detox' footbath, releasing her toxins into the water, turning it brown, he thought he'd try the same at home. 'Like some kind of Johnny Ball cum Witchfinder General', using his girlfriend's Barbie doll, he gently passed an electrical current through the warm salt water. It turned brown. In his words: 'before my very eyes, the world's first Detox Barbie was sat, with her feet in a pool of brown sludge, purged of a weekend's immorality.' Dr Ben Goldacre is the author of the Bad Science column in the Guardian. His book is about all the 'bad science' we are constantly bombarded with in the media and in advertising. At a time when science is used to prove everything and nothing, everyone has their own 'bad science' moments from the useless pie-chart on the back of cereal packets to the use of the word 'visibly' in cosmetics ads.

C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too by John Diamond

Shortly before his 44th birthday, John Diamond received a call from the doctor who had removed a lump from his neck. Having been assured for the previous 2 years that this was a benign cyst, Diamond was told that it was, in fact, cancerous. Suddenly, this man who'd until this point been one of the world's greatest hypochondriacs, was genuinely faced with mortality. And what he saw scared the wits out of him. Out of necessity, he wrote about his feelings in his TIMES column and the response was staggering. Mailbag followed Diamond's story of life with, and without, a lump - the humiliations, the ridiculous bits, the funny bits, the tearful bits.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

A deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain, laying out his more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine--now with all-new, never-before-published material

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Perhaps the most readable and accessible of the great works of scientific imagination, The Origin of Species sold out on the day it was published in 1859. Theologians quickly labeled Charles Darwin the most dangerous man in England, and, as the Saturday Review noted, the uproar over the book quickly "passed beyond the bounds of the study and lecture-room into the drawing-room and the public street." Yet, after reading it, Darwin's friend and colleague T. H. Huxley had a different reaction: "How extremely stupid not to have thought of that."

Based largely on Darwin's experience as a naturalist while on a five-year voyage aboard H.M.S. Beagle, The Origin of Species set forth a theory of evolution and natural selection that challenged contemporary beliefs about divine providence and the immutability of species. 


  1. In Cold Blood was a game changer. Oh my word, I loved that book. I think it was the first time that a nonfiction book was written like a novel. That's a popular style now, but it wasn't then.

    Wandering reading styles are fantastic :)

    1. Truman Capote was such a bizarre personality, but his book was an outstanding read and I loved both of the recent film inspired by it: I was amazed that Philip Seymour Hoffman managed to look so small! :D


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