Category: nonfiction

A Fighting Chance

I recently read Elizabeth Warren’s autobiography A Fighting Chance which came out in March. Although at times it’s intensely personal, its historical and political aspects are really what make it an engaging read. It presents a compelling history of bankruptcy law in America, an overview of how financial deregulation since the 1980s has fuelled political corruption, and her often ill-fated attempts to fight these trends. It’s not quite Steinbeck, but as an epic on inequality it’s not a million miles away either, and it is definitely worth a read.
Continue reading

Basin and Range

I’ve just read John McPhee’s Basin and Range for my book club. It’s not an easy book to summarize. Part itinerant tour of America’s geology, part history of geological theories, part dreamlike, hypnotic reflection on the formation of the world, it’s a mixture of nonfiction and beautiful prose that’s reminiscent of Carl Sagan. Continue reading

Cooked

Cooked is the first Michael Pollan book I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. Loosely, it’s a history of cooking through Pollan’s personal experience of learning to cook. Alongside this journey he develops theories about how cooking fits into human evolution, and what it means that modern humans are spending an ever-diminishing amount of time in the kitchen. Continue reading

Notes from a Small Island

Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island, a humorous travelogue from two months of taking public transport around the United Kingdom, is worth a read, particularly if you are a foreigner living here. From the reviews on Amazon UK it appears to be even more entertaining to Brits as a keen view from the outside. Bryson’s style is engaging, and the book alternates between amusing (occasionally hilarious) anecdotes, and rants about the apparently insufferable clash of architectural styles he encounters in various cities—which were lengthy enough to weary, as I personally find the jumble to be part of the place’s charm. Amidst his comical observations there’s a fair bit of history, which gave me a moderate interest in visiting far-flung parts of the country. On the whole, though, it’s inferior to his more serious (if no less scatterbrained) undertaking At Home, which, although not specifically about Britain, manages a better proportion of quirky British historical facts to amusing but inconsequential fluff. ★★★☆☆