As many of you know, I'm not a big reader of non-fiction. I think it's because I don't want to think any more than I have to. I do typically 2-4 non-fictions per year. Usually, they're recommended to me or someone hands me the book. If the latter happens, then I'm too guilt-ridden to ignore it. So, with that preamble, here are some that I would recommend and some not so much.
There are 2 (and only 2) that are in my top 25 all-time. They are:
The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls
My Losing Season, Pat Conroy
They are both amazing books. The first is written by a woman in her 30's who chronicles her childhood. It's unbelievable. After you read it, you will swear that it's fiction. The second is about Conroy's senior year in college at The Citadel as the captain of the basketball team. As much as I love all of Conroy's work, this one is right near the top. I think everybody would like both of these. Don't worry about the basketball theme, non-sports fans. It's only a small part of the story.
Here are some others of varying value (says me):
Ghost Soldiers, Hampton Sides - about a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Philippines during WWII - tough to read due to graphic descriptions but an excellent book
Three Weeks With My Brother - Nicholas Sparks - this was surprisingly good - Sparks and his brother travel around the world for 3 weeks - these chapters are interspersed with stories about their childhood - I really enjoyed it
Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert - everybody knows about this one - I liked it okay - I couldn't quite put it in my Chick Lit for the Macho Man post, but it was decent
Garlic and Sapphire - Ruth Reichl - she was the food critic for the NY Times - she described going to restaurants in disguise and always had a recipe at the end of each chapter - I enjoyed it - I'm not falling all over myself, but I would recommend it
Tuesdays with Morrie & Have a Little Faith - Mitch Albom - everybody knows the first one and fewer people the second - they're both good - they're short and fast reads, but still interesting - the second one is about Albom's relationship to a minister in a poor part of Detroit and an old and failing rabbi on the East Coast
Lute! The Season of My Life - Lute Olson - I typically don't do biographies - I did this one because Josh went to school there and gave it to me - I liked it a lot - if you like sports, then I would definitely say yes to reading about a coach who is considered one of the best of all time
War - Sebastian Junger - the guy who wrote The Perfect Storm this time writes about being attached to an army unit in the middle of Afghanistan - very interesting - it's not fun, but it's informative
End of America - Naomi Wolf - this is almost a Thomas Paine-like treatise (see, I'm not a cultural troglodyte) in which she compares the Bush administration to Nazi Germany - Joni and I saw her at a book-signing event - whatever your politics, she and her book are pretty interesting
Devil in the White City & In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson - The first one is about the World's Fair in Chicago in 1896 - it's pretty well known - the second one, which I'm reading now (I'm about 60% through it) is about the ambassador to Germany in 1933, his family, and the start of Hitler's regime - it's really good and gives great insight, through diaries, dispatches, and opinion papers, of what actually happened and how it happened - even though I'm not done, I would recommend this to anybody who likes history
As for upcoming events, besides Ann Patchett (which I'm sure you're tired of hearing about), Larson will be in the Bay Area on Tuesday, June 7. He will be at Book Passage in Corte Madera at 1:30 and at Booksmith in SF at 7:30. Joni and I are going to the evening event. By the way, this is the first time I've ever heard about Booksmith. In going on their website, it turns out that they host a lot of author events. I am now on their mailing list. Cool!
Finally, I read my final (her second) Ann Patchett novel - Taft. I'm now ready for her new one, which we'll get when we see her on June 15 (I mentioned it again even when I said I had already mentioned it too much). For those of you who have read Coming Soon, the Honk and Holler, by Billie Letts, Taft is very similar. The year that Honk and Holler came out, Bob and I basically considered it either our top novel of the year or close to the top. It's a good one, and Taft has the same feel to it. All of Patchett's novels are very good.
I have one other author event to report. Alex Kava, with Maggie O'Dell, FBI profiler, as her protagonist is coming back to "M." We saw her last year too. It was a really small crowd, so this time they're pairing her with a second author - Bobbie O'Keefe (never heard of her). The event is July 13 at 7:00.