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 Post subject: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 30, 2013 7:45 pm 
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I know this overlaps with the other thread, but since there seems to be a number of us who enjoy reading non-fiction, I thought maybe we could have a thread devoted to discussing non-fiction more in depth.

I'm always looking for new books on the most random topics I can find. But, the main reason I thought a new thread might be fun is we could talk more about the subjects without dragging the other thread totally off topic (I'm thinking of the Scientology book discussion, for example).

I'm still reading Scientology/creepy cult books. I'm almost finished with Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakama. I've been wanting to read his fiction, so this seemed a good place to start. I'm astounded by how unprepared Japan seems to have been. I'm so used to thinking of Japan as the standard for natural disaster preparedness that things like people being turned away from hospitals is just unfathomable. Also astounding to me is that the cult still exists, just under a different name. Has anybody else read this?

Next up is a book on the Kremlin.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 30, 2013 8:58 pm 
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I moved this to the living room because it's where the other "what are you reading" thread is.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:01 pm 
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I said in the other thread I'm reading The Emperor of All Maladies, about the history and present state of cancer research and treatment. It's amazing. I really want to read more about this and other science topics but it's hard to find such books that are as well written and for laymen, so if anyone has suggestions?

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 30, 2013 10:35 pm 
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brian wrote:
I moved this to the living room because it's where the other "what are you reading" thread is.


Oops. Sorry about that! Have a cookie. It was Molly's fault.

I was hoping you would post about that Randi. I've been eying that, but figured it would be too depressing to read given current events. I'm woefully ignorant about the biological sciences.

What type of science books? Anything by Neil Tyson Degrasse is amazing. Simon Winchester is a bit of a pedant sometimes, but The Map that Changed the World or Crack in the Edge of the World were great. He combines history of science with a lot of random history and trivia. His style can border on pretentious, but I usually find that charming once I'm used to his voice. At anything ate, his geology is generally pretty sound.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:11 pm 
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This book about Tesla is next on my list. It was picked by Amazon editors as one of the best science books of the year. My favorite pop-Sci books are usually the ones that combine biography and history around one invention or idea, like Dava Sobel's Longitude or Mauve.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:15 am 
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I read Underground and felt the same way you did LW. The most amazing part was reading how the hospitals had no idea how to respond and were turning people away.

I am reading and re-reading Atul Gawande's books (Complications, Better), which are composed of essays that he wrote for the New Yorker. He is a medical doctor and writes really well about different challenges facing the medical field. I find him amazing. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/bios/ ... %20gawande

I can't wait to get the Checklist, because I think the idea is so simple as to be genius and its hard to even imagine the amount of pushback they are getting for the program. This was the basis for the program to put checklists into all ICUs because the idea is that in an emergency situation having a list of things that need to get done can save lives. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007 ... ct_gawande

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:43 am 
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At first, I thought I was just reacting through a post-9/11 lens, then got to the part where he talks about how Aum S. had left a bomb (thankfully did not detonate) on a subway train not long before the sarin attack. These guys were known threats, and the Tokyo subway a known target.

Part of it probably is reading post-9/11, but it took them so long to stop the trains. And people left the scene and went on to work as if nothing had happened. Even before 9/11, weren't suspicious packages still cause for alarm? Obviously in many parts of the world that wouldn't have been the case. I can't imagine anywhere in Ireland or the UK having a slow response, but I wonder how it would have been somewhere like DC. Marukami didn't really address how likely a scenario this was to the Japanese people. You don't grow up Irish and not have the possibility of bombs in the back of your mind when you see odd things in public places.

I think what stuck with me most is the subway employee who disposed of one of the sarin bags who probably lived because he didn't wear gloves (that would have soaked up the sarin and continued to expose him).

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:28 am 
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i'm in canada and i think one of the scariest 5 seconds that have ever happened to me were on the subway when this nondescript looking man sitting in front of me got up and exited the train, but left a duffel bag under the seat. my mind went from bored to bomb in a split second, especially because as soon as he was on the platform he turned around and looked at the bag. then he just got back on the train and sat down because more likely, he was looking for whatever made the doors stay open 10 seconds longer.

anyways, the last book i read that was non-fiction was the immortal life of henrietta lacks, by rebecca skloot. the story of a woman whose cancer cells were taken for research without her or her family's knowledge. usually cell cultures die off after they divide x many times, but that lineage of cells is still going strong today (50-60 years later) and became incredibly important in research and development of a lot of medical treatments. her family never saw a dime of the profits, and for a while, didn't even know her cells were being propagated. it's a really good combination of personal history, science and ethics, plus there's a radiolab episode on her too.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 8:29 am 
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I mentioned Paleofantasy in the other thread. I'm also reading Craig Ferguson's "american on purpose". It started with "whenever i see a german man, I think he's a nazi" and a long america-is-wonderful rant so I'll see whether it will get better.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:23 am 
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Right before I saw this thread I was thinking I'd like to read more non-fiction, especially about religion and theology.

What's the Scientology book you mentioned, LW?

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 11:26 am 
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RandiJM wrote:
I said in the other thread I'm reading The Emperor of All Maladies, about the history and present state of cancer research and treatment. It's amazing. I really want to read more about this and other science topics but it's hard to find such books that are as well written and for laymen, so if anyone has suggestions?

Have you read any Ben Goldacre? I found his books (Bad Science and Bad Pharma) really interesting and accessible (I have no science background). If you read and like Bad Science, you can skip the chapter about pharma and read Bad Pharma (which is just an extension of that chapter). Also, the book postnothing mentioned is fantastic.

I mentioned this in the other thread, but I'm reading Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop. It's pretty thorough - I've been reading it for about 2 weeks and I'm only 30% through (according to my Kindle) at the start of the 70s.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 11:46 am 
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I'm reading The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton. He's a research psychologist at Oxford University and the book basically considers what constitutes psychopathy, and whether some "psychopathic" traits can actually be beneficial in some professions/situations.

It's really interesting, although a little hard to follow in places (though that might just be me).

And I agree with rachell, Ben Goldacre is well worth a read.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 11:55 am 
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rachell37 wrote:
Have you read any Ben Goldacre? I found his books (Bad Science and Bad Pharma) really interesting and accessible (I have no science background). If you read and like Bad Science, you can skip the chapter about pharma and read Bad Pharma (which is just an extension of that chapter). Also, the book postnothing mentioned is fantastic.


I really liked Bad Science but haven't had a read of Bad Pharma yet. Another one going on the library reserve list!

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:15 pm 
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I'm reading The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe by Stephen Harding.

It's about a castle in Austria that was used as sort of a luxury prison for French government prisoners during the last year or so of WW2. It has all sorts of exciting things-- a sadistic thug of a prison commandant, some of the Austrian resistance to the Nazi government, an Austrian Wehrmacht officer who had fought his was across Russia but managed to get back to Austria to join the Austrian resistance, bringing with him most of his men and equipment, artillery and rocket launchers, and a cheerful cavalry-officer type US tank commander. As the war wraps up and word of Hitler's suicide starts trickling in, the Austrians hole up in the castle with a bunch of French anti-Vichy/anti-Nazi government officials (which is why they were imprisoned) and their mistresses and wives and some sports heroes (like a famous tennis player!) and attempt to defend the castle against a bunch of murderous SS troops coming to clean up loose ends and kill off the French prisoners for long enough for the tank cavalry to arrive and save them.

It's a true story, and it should probably be made into a movie, because it's pretty fantastic-- turncoat Nazi soldiers and resistance fighters and French mistresses and a brave Czech mechanic riding his bicycle through Nazi-infested Austria to find the advancing US front and somebody to come help. Pretty great stuff.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:25 pm 
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I love Ben Goldacre! I liked Bad Pharma a bit less because I already knew so much but still def worth a read!

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:46 pm 
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im in the middle of reading a Margaret Atwood (fiction) book but i just finished several non-fiction books. like LW i really like reading different books on random subjects.

i apparently went through a bit of an adventure phase.
i read:

Wild-Cheryl Strayed a book about a woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo

Endurance-Alfred Lansing probably the most famous book on the Shackleton adventure
the Ice Master-Jennifer Niven similar to Endurance, about a team stranded on the ice this time in the North

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:23 pm 
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how did you like "wild"?

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ashley wrote:
I have never thought "This coffee is okay, but it would be better if it were oily."


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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:24 pm 
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I've been wanting to read Wild. But part of me is worried it will be a well-off woman complaining more than a woman in the wilderness. Do you like it?

Right now, reading:
The Fall of the House of Dixie by Bruce Levine, about US South before, during, and after the Civil War, so far I really like it
Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns, biography of Ayn Rand that manages to treat her as a fascinating person without seeming like a piece of propaganda

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:38 pm 
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I couldn't finish Wild because it felt like every other sentence was about how transformative it was.

I'm finally starting Reasons to be Cheerful. I'm looking forward to reading for the next couple of months. Must get some holds in at the library.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:22 pm 
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Wild was one of my favorites from the past few years. I thought is was gritty and honest and funny and sad, and I love Strayed's writing.

Right now I'm reading The Revolution Was Televised, in which Alan Sepinwall analyzes twelves dramas that he claims transformed the landscape of television forever. I love television and TV criticism, so it's right up my alley.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief is next on my list for nonfiction.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:34 pm 
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I love Cheryl Strayed's "Dear Sugar" column and so was really excited for Wild. I just couldn't do it. It felt like a slog so I gave up about halfway through.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:54 pm 
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I just finished Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem. It was an excellent read on what we mean when we talk about wild animals and saving the environment in our modern times, when every ecosystem is impacted, if not doomed, by human activity. It was darkly optimistic in a way that I loved.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:22 pm 
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Also, just about done with Field Notes on Science and Nature by Michael Canfield. It's a wonderful collection of essays on how different scientists keep field notebooks and journals, with many facsimile pages from their actual journals. There are essays from all different fields, including birding, field biology, paleontology, scientific illustration, anthropology, and a few others. It's a wonderful read. Because it's a current book, there's some discussion on how to integrate modern technology into the field journal as well.

There's a nice review of this book here: http://thelongestchapter.com/tag/field- ... ce-nature/


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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:39 pm 
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i liked Wild ok. i didnt love it i didnt hate it.
i put it on my to read list awhile ago and then forgot about it then i needed to find something to read on my phone when i discovered nursing a baby and holding a big library book isnt easy to do at the same time and this was one of the books i could find in ebook format from the library so i got it and didnt bother to reread what it was about. i just knew it was about a woman hiking the PCT solo and i was thinking it would be like A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

sooooo i was not prepared for some of the really heavy subject matter. i dont recommend reading about someone's mom dying when you're all hormonal because you had a baby in the not too distant past.
other than that it was an interesting read.
Panda is right though she does go on and on and on about the transformative power of her hike.

i never got the impression she was a well off woman being all complainy. for most of it she doesnt have any money and has gone through some really heavy shiitake. i wish it was more about her in the wilderness and less about TRANSFORMATION! but overall i enjoyed the read. it was an easy/quick read too

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 Post subject: Re: What are you reading? (Non-Fiction Edition)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:50 pm 
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Moon wrote:
Right before I saw this thread I was thinking I'd like to read more non-fiction, especially about religion and theology.

What's the Scientology book you mentioned, LW?


One of LW's recommendations was Inside Scientology by Reitman, which I read and really liked.

I started reading Unbroken by Hillenbrand. My mom highly recommended it, like nagging "have you read it yet omigod it sticks with you just like 'Kevin'" recommended it, so I'll give it a whirl. ("Kevin" is "We need to talk about Kevin.")


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