Underrated Non-Fiction Books: Ten More Picks

As promised, here are ten more rather underrated non-fiction books, which I am very much looking forward to getting my hands on.

1. On My Own: The Art of Being a Woman Alone by Florence Falk 9781400098118
‘At some point over the course of the average American woman’s life, she will find herself alone, whether she is divorced, widowed, single, or in a loveless, isolating relationship. And when that time comes, it is likely that she will be at a loss as to how to handle it. As a society, we have an unspoken but omnipresent belief that a woman alone is an outcast, inherently flawed in some way. In this invigorating, supportive book, psychotherapist Florence Falk aims to take the fear, doubt, confusion, and helplessness out of being a woman alone. Falk invites all women to find their own paths toward an authentic selfhood, to discover the pleasures and riches of solitude, and to reconnect with others through a newfound sense of self-confidence.  Like so many women before her, Florence Falk found herself divorced, alone, and unsure of herself. Soon she realized that by embracing her solitude for what it was—a potentially enriching and life-altering experience—she could turn what once would have felt like “loneliness” into a far more positive and empowered “aloneness.” Falk notes that each of us has two opposing drives: one causes us to yearn to make close connections with others, and the other pulls us back into ourselves, into the need for selfhood and certainty that can only be shaped through solitude. In order to be whole, she says, we must heed both of those impulses. But in our modern culture, the former is stressed while the latter is neglected, even vilified. On My Own boldly shifts that paradigm.  With inspiring, intimate stories of women from all backgrounds, Falk illuminates the essential role that being alone plays in women’s lives. Whether she is in a stable relationship or on her own, every woman must learn to be by herself; for if she can be fully free, unfettered by society’s stigmas about being alone, life and all its possibilities will open up for her. And as Falk demonstrates, once a woman has discovered the richness of solitude, she is not likely to give it up so easily.’

2. The Loony-Bin Trip by Kate Millett
‘In this intensely personal account of mental illness, Kate Millett, icon of the women’s movement, tells the gripping story of her struggle to regain her freedom after years of being diagnosed as a manic-depressive dependent on prolonged drug “maintenance”.’

3. Plaintext: Essays by Nancy Mairs
‘”These striking essays by Nancy Mairs are so touching and heartbreakingly honest that one often has to put the book down and rest emotionally before reading on. . . . Readable and compelling, written with intimacy . . . and a swagger.” —San Francisco Chronicle

97800617269414. The Weather of the Future by Heidi Cullen
‘Let’s assume we do nothing about climate change. Imagine that we just continue to emit carbon at our current levels or even exceed those levels. How would our weather change? What would our forecast be? Welcome to The Weather of the Future.  In this groundbreaking work, Dr. Heidi Cullen, one of the world’s foremost climatologists and environmental journalists, puts a vivid face on climate change, offering a new way of seeing this phenomenon not just as an event set to happen in the distant future but as something happening right now in our own backyards. Arguing that we must connect the weather of today with the climate change of tomorrow, Cullen combines the latest research from scientists on the ground with state-of-the-art climate-model projections to create climate-change scenarios for seven of the most at-risk locations around the world.’

5. Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret McMillan
‘For six months in 1919, after the end of “the war to end all wars,” the Big Three—President Woodrow Wilson, British prime minister David Lloyd George, and French premier Georges Clemenceau—met in Paris to shape a lasting peace. In this landmark work of narrative history, Margaret MacMillan gives a dramatic and intimate view of those fateful days, which saw new political entities—Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Palestine, among them—born out of the ruins of bankrupt empires, and the borders of the modern world redrawn.’

6. Pompeii: The Living City by Alex Butterworth
‘The ash of Mt. Vesuvius preserves a living record of the complex and exhilarating society it instantly obliterated two thousand years ago. In this highly readable, lavishly illustrated book, Butterworth and Laurence marshall cutting-edge archaeological reconstructions and a vibrant historical tradition dating to Pliny and Tacitus; they present a richly textured portrait of a society not altogether unlike ours, composed of individuals ordinary and extraordinary who pursued commerce, politics, family and pleasure in the shadow of a killer volcano.  Deeply resonant in a world still at the mercy of natural disaster, Pompeii recreates life as experienced in the city, and those frantic, awful hours in AD 79 that wiped the bustling city from the face of the earth.’

7. The Men With the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps by Heinz Heger 9781555830069
‘It has only been since the mid-1970s that any attention has been paid to the persecution and interment of gay men by the Nazis during the Third Reich. Since that time, books such as Richard Plant’s The Pink Triangle (and Martin Sherman’s play Bent) have illuminated this nearly lost history. Heinz Heger’s first-person account, The Men with the Pink Triangle, was one of the first books on the topic and remains one of the most important.’

8. Inside the Aquarium by Victor Suvorov
‘Viktor Suvorov takes us inside the Aquarium, Moscow headquarters of the GRU, the super-secret Russian military intelligence organization and rival of the KGB. It is here that agents are brought to be trained, disciplined, and when necessary, broken.  In shocking fashion, Suvorov recounts the first day of training when he is forced to watch a film that shows a disaffected GRU agent being burned alive. This is how the GRU reveals to its trainees that there is only one way out of the organization – death. Other GRU methods are as physically torturous as the viewing of that film is terrifying: electric shocks used to punish a failure of memory; being pushed off a speeding train; hand-to-hand combat with death row prisoners recruited for their viciousness. All are employed in the training of a top agent.’

9. The Pregnancy Project by Gabi Rodriguez
‘Growing up, Gaby Rodriguez was often told she would end up a teen mom. After all, her mother and her older sisters had gotten pregnant as teenagers; from an outsider’s perspective, it was practically a family tradition. Gaby had ambitions that didn’t include teen motherhood. But she wondered: how would she be treated if she “lived down” to others’ expectations? Would everyone ignore the years she put into being a good student and see her as just another pregnant teen statistic with no future? These questions sparked Gaby’s school project: faking her own pregnancy as a high school senior to see how her family, friends, and community would react. What she learned changed her life forever, and made international headlines in the process.  In The Pregnancy Project, Gaby details how she was able to fake her own pregnancy—hiding the truth from even her siblings and boyfriend’s parents—and reveals all that she learned from the experience. But more than that, Gaby’s story is about fighting stereotypes, and how one girl found the strength to come out from the shadow of low expectations to forge a bright future for herself.’

978155597671210. The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison
‘From personal loss to phantom diseases, The Empathy Exams is a bold and brilliant collection; winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize.  Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison’s visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another’s pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain—real and imagined, her own and others’—Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory—from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration—in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.’

Purchase from The Book Depository

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