Thursday, December 3, 2009

What should I read next?

When I was in grad school, I read hundreds, possibly even thousands, of works of nonfiction, with titles ranging from The Manly Eunuch to Wonderful Blood to The Sandman Papers. I read books that challenged me, and frustrated me, and made me think differently about things (the three books that were probably the most influential on my scholarly development, all of which I strongly recommend even to a nonacademic audience are: Holy Feast and Holy Fast, The Stripping of the Altars, and Hamlet in Purgatory.)

I want to dive into the wonderful strangeness of the real world again. I miss the feeling of learning about something. And sure, I've found some books on topics that interest me to put on my shelves, and yes, story research can lead you down strange pathways - there is, for example, a history of grimoires that I'll be looking at soon. But I don't just want to learn about things I'm already interested in. So what I'm hoping you'll do is recommend some of your favorite works of nonfiction - biographies, histories, collections of essays, scholarly or popular - things that will delight me, and make me see the world in a new way.

10 comments:

  1. I love Holy Feast Holy Fast!

    --CMV

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was a real touchstone for me, something I reread every time I felt like I needed to remind myself of why I was structuring the dissertation along the theoretical lines that I had chosen.

    Also, it's one of the few scholarly books I've read that doesn't make me feel like a backwards child for believing in miracles.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I found Veronica Franco an interesting person to read about: The Honest Courtesan (and I almost NEVER read nonfiction voluntarily)

    The idea that courtesan's were the only women (at the time) with access to Venice's libraries was very engaging to me...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, CindieLou, that sounds great. I'll definitely look for that one.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oddly, I'm just now reading THE DOUBLE HELIX by James Watson... It's not so much interesting for explanation of science, but for the feeling of being involved in science and in discovery at a particular point in time... I wouldn't say that I love it just yet though. Will report back.

    (Personally, I'm wanting to read THE BILLIONAIRE'S VINEGAR and THE DANCING PLAGUE.)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think I'm going to read Mary Roach's SPOOK, and Richard Holmes' THE AGE OF WONDER (science in the romantic age), and I think both of your secondary suggestions are going in the "maybe" pile in my brain.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I knew I forgot another one! Notorious Victoria by Mary Gabriel. In her childhood, Victoria Woodhall worked as a medium to support her family. She and her sister were the first women to open an office on Wall St.

    AND, she ran for president, almost 50 years before women had the vote.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks. I really like reading biographies, and particularly biographies of interesting women. I appreciate the recommendations.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Bit late to be recommending, maybe, but I thought I'd jump in and suggest THE DEVIL'S PICNIC by Taras Grescoe. It's ostensibly food lit, but it's also a really interesting look at the nature of taboo in various cultures and the ways people react to legal restrictions on what they consume. If you can handle a little disgusting food lore (and I think you can), it's definitely worth a read.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Never too late to be recommending - I'm pretty much constantly looking for new and interesting things to read. And THE DEVIL'S PICNIC sounds great, thank you.

    ReplyDelete