Great Non-Fiction Books

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This a list of non-fiction books that I think are great for a variety of reasons, sorted by the author’s last name.  I am not being paid or compensated in any way for my opinions on these books or resources.

  • Martha Washington: An American Life by: Patricia Brady
    • This book is an engaging read that really brought to life a historical figure that most people think of as “George Washington’s wife.”  Without her contributions, I think the American Revolution and George Washington’s presidency would have been very different.  It was especially interesting for its passage about false news published during Washington’s presidency and published by Benjamin Franklin’s nephew.
  • McMafia by: Misha Glenny
    • If you’re looking for a very comprehensive, almost textbook level, analysis of criminal networks across the world, you’ve found the right resource.  A mix of case studies by country, punctuated by stories of specific people, make this an interesting read, despite the complexity of the subjects discussed.  If you are looking for more information about how various illegal industries survive, thrive, and connect throughout the world, this the book for you.
  • In the Skin of a Jihadist: A Young Journalist Enters the ISIS Recruitment Network by: Anna Erelle
    • This book took me about three hours to read–it was a very fast and riveting account of one French journalist’s attempt to penetrate an ISIS recruiting ring almost by accident.  Her account of one major ISIS fighter’s attempt to brainwash and manipulate her online alter-ego “Melodie” is like watching a sociopath hypnotize a person right in front of you.  The most important element of this book in my opinion is how it shows ISIS as cult-like organization that preys on people with low self-esteem and/or who are looking for higher meaning in their own lives.  In reading this book, I began to consider how we should consider ISIS as a cult and maybe change our tactics in treating them as a purely terrorist organization.
  • The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency by: Annie Jacobsen
    • For anyone who is interested in the how our government has expanded and prioritized it’s research from WWII to present day, this book delves deeply into the relationships between world events and the USA’s technological innovations.  A very dense read–the technology and world events are not light topics–but the author has written it in an approachable and engaging style.
  • Call The Midwife by: Jennifer Lee
    • This book is one of the best books I have read in some time.  My family and I started watching this show on BBC and it prompted me to look up the books on Amazon.  I read this book and her other two memoirs in a week, they were that good.  Anyone interested in London history, Women’s history, Social history and issues would love this book.
  • Farewell to the East End by: Jennifer Lee
    • A continuation of the life stories of the people introduced in Call the Midwife and Shadows of the Workhouse, this book was a fitting end to the series and gave even more food for thought about why social programs are both necessary and painful for those who are in need of them.
  • Shadows of the Workhouse by: Jennifer Lee
    • If anyone has doubted the use of social programs and the progress that has been made in medical care and the care of our poor and elderly, this book should be required reading.  This book is one of the most heart-wrenching reads I have ever experienced.  There is so much joy and so much sorrow juxtaposition-ed in the stories of the people in this book and it is a moving tribute to the poor and forgotten over the past few centuries.
  • In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by: Nathaniel Philbrick
    • After the publicity around the Heart of the Sea movie that came out recently, I learned that the movie was based on this book.  The author was able to bring this disaster into clear focus through his prose.  It was also quite an accomplishment that he was able to use a great deal of nautical language and terms critical to understanding the events without boring the reader.  Because of how strongly I enjoyed this book, I have started his work The Mayflower which has so far proven to be fascinating.
  • Mayflower by: Nathaniel Philbrick
    • This book is one of the best books I have read in a long time.  He captured the Pilgrim’s journey from their start in England, through the Netherlands, and to their eventual settlement in Plymouth.  The book spends a great deal of time explaining what happened during King Phillip’s War, a Native American uprising that encompassed thousands of warriors and burned multiple English settlers’ entire towns to the ground.  He is adept at showing the Native Americans and the English settlers as people; he does not downplay the savagry of what happened to the Native Americans, but he also does not paint the Puritains as purely evil people.  This book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in colonial history and Native American history.
  • Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party by: George R. Stewart
    • While the subject matter is difficult to read, this book does an excellent job of explaining what did happen as well as what could have happned had other choices been made.  It also gives information about what happened to the survivors later in their lives, which is a detail not often shared when this topic is discussed.  A very poignant reminder of the challenges the pioneers risked to travel on foot between the Eastern US states and the Western Territories in the mid-nineteenth century
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by: Jack Weatherford
    • I had no idea how extensive Genghis Khan’s influence was until reading this book.  Weatherford’s writing is very engaging and his source list is extensive for further reading as well.  The expanse of his empire and the way that his actions 800 years ago still impact today’s world made this a fascinating read.
  • 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by: Mitchell Zuckoff and Annex Security Team
    • If you want to read about Benghazi and what happened without a Hollywood or partisan slant, this is the book to read.  It was a factual recounting of the events of that day while still allowing the reader to think about the players as people.  A timely book given the discourse during the election and the great deal of blame being cast against Hillary Clinton and others in the State Department.
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