Looking for a summer read? Try a non-fiction 'novel'
Summer vacation is a great time to delve into books that take a bit more time to read such as narrative non-fiction, which are sometimes called non-fiction novels. Narrative non-fiction books are available in just about any subject. While non-fiction, these books are written as stories and the best ones are both well-researched and well-told.
Here are some of my favourites:
97 Orchard: A Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman.
Through the stories of five immigrant families, all residents of 97 Orchard Street, Ziegelman explores the history of New York's Lower East Side and the impact that these immigrants have had on the foods we enjoy today.
Brunellschi's Dome: The Story of the Great Cathedral in Florence by Ross King.
An account of the design and construction of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy. In addition to describing the innovation required to build the dome, King places its construction in the context of the political and social world of that period - medieval Florence.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson.
This is the story of two men who were living and working in Chicago just miles from each other in the early 1890s. One was a famous architect who designed and built Chicago's World Fair. The other a charismatic young doctor who murdered many young women, using the success of the Fair to act undetected. Available in Large Print, Audiobook, eBook, and eAudiobook.
The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World by Steven Johnson.
The deadly cholera epidemic of 1854 decimated London's population in eight days. Johnson describes the two heroic figures battling the disease, Reverend Henry Whitehead and Dr. John Snow, whose combined efforts solved the mystery of how cholera spreads. This discovery had implications not only for medicine but for all future city planning. Available in Audiobook, eAudiobook, and Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled Patrons).
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an impoverished African American woman, had her cancer cells taken without her consent. They became known as HeLa cells – the ‘first immortal human cells’ - and have been the basis for a vast amount of medical research ever since, but with unintended impacts on her family. A fascinating, thought-provoking and sometimes heart-breaking, investigation into the unintentional consequences of medical research. Available in Large Print, Audiobook, eBook, eAudiobook, and Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled Patrons).
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach.
An examination of the lives of astronauts, their training, and the strange experiments that have been performed in the name of space science. Both informative and funny, this book will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to travel to space. Available in Audiobook, eAudiobook, and Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled Patrons).
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester
The catastrophic eruption of the volcano island of Krakatoa, located just off the coast of Java, was so huge that the effects of the waves were felt as far away as France and sound of the eruption was heard in Australia and India. The eruption also had unforseen regional political consequence as well. Available in Large Print, Audiobook, eAudiobook, and Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled Patrons).
Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan.
A fascinating exploration into food we eat. He follows the food chain on four different meals, following the trail to the original sources of the food. In the process, he investigates large agribusiness, sustainable agriculture as well hunting and foraging. You may never look at your dinner the same way again. Available in Large Print, Audiobook, and eBook.
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant.
This is a gripping tale about a man-eating tiger which is has attacked several people outside a remote village in Russia’s Far East. Tiger attacks were rare in this area of the world as humans and tigers have always had a mutually respectful, if somewhat tenuous relationship. However, the trackers soon discover that these attacks aren’t random: the tiger is engaged in a vendetta. Available in Audiobook, eAudiobook, Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled Patrons).
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Kraukauer.
Both a historical account of Mormon fundamentalism and a true crime story, Krakauer examines the double murders committed by Ron and Dan Lafferty, who claimed that they acted according to a revelation from God. It is an account of religious extremism and a demonstration of the power of faith. Available in Large Print, eBook, and Talking Book (restricted to Print Disabled Patrons).