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Off My Shelves: Fun Nonfiction

fun nonfiction

As I mentioned in my post on Sunday, I’ve struggling to find reading to fit my mood. As I thought about it a bit this week, I realized that my reading, especially in nonfiction, has been pretty serious lately… and, thanks to Alexander Hamilton, pretty dense.

So I took to my bookshelves (#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks) to find a few that seem to fit the general theme of Fun and Easy Nonfiction For My Tired Brain. Here’s what I found:

Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell – Who doesn’t love a good heist narrative?

The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting by Rachel Shteir – Cultural history many not seem like the most fun topic in the world, but I think it’s fascinating. Crime in general, especially crime that’s high-drama but low-stakes, always interests me.

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchman – I really have a dark sense of fun… but seriously, murder and mayhem! SO FUN (in books and in history, not in real life).

Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong, edited by Caroline Casey, Chris Fischbach and Sara Schultz – A collection of essays on our fascination with cat videos as well as what makes art and how we talk about taste. I’m up on the fence about whether this is going to be too dense to be fun… but gotta love that cover.

The Law of Superheroes by James Daily and Ryan Davidson – A look at how our legal system would work in the world of comic books.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach — Mary Roach is one of my go to authors when I want nonfiction that’s smart, funny and fun. This book is all about the digestive system… eew?

A couple of other recommendations in my previously read books include Stiff by Mary Roach (what happens to bodies donated to medical science) and The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac Bissonnette. Both of those were quite a lot of fun to read (but in the case of Mary Roach, only if you have a strong stomach).  

And with that, I would love to hear some of your recommendations. What are some of your favorite fun nonfiction reads?

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.

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  • Sarah's Book Shelves January 26, 2016, 6:59 am

    I second your recommendation of the Beanie Baby book! And I really want to read Careless People – it’s been on my list for awhile now…

  • Jeane January 26, 2016, 8:31 am

    I can’t believe I still haven’t read any Mary Roach- and every new book I hear about sounds just as fascinating as the others do! – still all languishing on my list…

    • Kim January 30, 2016, 8:01 pm

      She picks the best topics! She has one coming out later this spring about war, which also should be really good.

  • Amanda January 26, 2016, 11:18 am

    I haven’t tried any of Mary Roach’s books. I really need to get on that. And the Beanie Baby one! The Monopolists is on my list too. For a random nonfic I really enjoyed Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is one that I reread too.

    • Kim January 30, 2016, 8:01 pm

      Someone IRL mentioned that banana book to me — sounds so fun!

  • Alex (Sleepless Reader) January 27, 2016, 9:50 am

    Don’t know if the topics are up your alley, but I’d recommend (attention, really long titles!):
    – “Patience & Fortitude: Wherein a Colorful Cast of Determined Book Collectors, Dealers, and Librarians Go About the Quixotic Task of Preserving a Legacy”
    – “The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements”
    – “The Art Detective: Adventures of an Antiques Roadshow Appraiser”
    – “Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World”
    – “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming”

    • Kim January 30, 2016, 8:02 pm

      Nonfiction subtitles are my favorite — those all sound great!

  • Michelle January 27, 2016, 10:42 am

    I think the fun nonfiction books are what make them so appealing! I too like anything dark and twisted. One of my favorites was Monsters in America by W. Scott Poole. I also really loved What If by Randall Munroe. Two very different books but both excellent and not dense or serious at all.

    • Kim January 30, 2016, 8:03 pm

      Yes, Monsters in America was good. I have What If on audio, but haven’t gotten to it yet. I think it’s next on my list.

  • Andi January 27, 2016, 12:48 pm

    Oh I love this. There should be more fun nonfiction. Also, I’m starting an end-of-every-month #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks link-up, and this kind of post (or anything #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks-related) would be perfect for it! Going live the last day of the month!

    • Kim January 30, 2016, 8:03 pm

      That’s fun, I will do that!

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey January 27, 2016, 2:24 pm

    These do sound like fun reads! It’s hard to go wrong with Mary Roach and books about cats and heists are also something I’m always excited for 🙂

  • Beth F January 28, 2016, 5:23 am

    I really liked Flawless. And of course Roach. I’ve been meaning to read Careless People, but, well, you know how it goes.

  • Jennine G January 28, 2016, 7:32 am

    Gulp was the first Mary Roach book I read and I was reading it because I got it for free and I’d heard so many people praise her writing. Now I assume anything she writes is amazing, otherwise there’s no way a book about the digestive system could be so intriguing. I loved it.

    • Kim January 30, 2016, 8:04 pm

      That’s a good endorsement for a book!

  • Jenny @ Reading the End January 28, 2016, 2:39 pm

    Oh, what about Marilyn Nelson? Her most recent book, Lives in Ruins, was such a fun read — each chapter dealt with a different group of archaeologists and their work and their day-to-day lives. I loved it. Totally a fun nonfiction read.

    (I finished reading one of my own damn books yesterday! I was so proud of myself!)

    • Kim January 30, 2016, 8:04 pm

      Oh sure, I totally forgot about her. She’s wonderful as well — that book was very fun.

  • Jessica Howard (@quirkybookworm) January 28, 2016, 3:47 pm

    Lately my fun nonfiction has been pretty much all celebrity memoirs. (Thumbs down to Mindy Kaling’s second book and Drew Barrymore’s Wildflower. Thumbs WAY up to Alan Cumming’s Not My Father’s Son.)

    I’m going to check out a few of your recommendations to improve my NF stats for this year… and break myself out of this silly celebrity rut!

    • Kim January 30, 2016, 8:05 pm

      Thumbs down for Kaling? I liked her second book quite a bit! Did I miss a review, or did you not bother to write about it?

  • Catherine January 28, 2016, 6:09 pm

    I loved Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. He’s a really smart guy and did his research. Of course he’s hilarious and so that made it work too. Older but I liked Quiet by Susan Cain. Not silly but light and informative.

  • Christy January 29, 2016, 4:55 pm

    While not a guarantee, many travel memoirs fall into the fun nonfiction camp. Also, Game Change was so gossipy that it was delightful reading. Hope one of the titles you listed ends up clicking with you.

    • Kim January 30, 2016, 8:06 pm

      Game Change was super gossipy, that was really fun.

  • Kailana January 30, 2016, 7:53 am

    Two non-fiction authors I would recommend are Charlotte Gray and Kate Summerscale. I find both of them not too dense!

    • Kim January 30, 2016, 8:08 pm

      I have one of Summerscale’s books on my shelf as well, should have included it on my list!

  • Elizabeth January 31, 2016, 3:02 pm

    Mary Roach always does it for me. Every time I read one of her books I think about how NOT interesting this topic would be in the hands of a lesser writer. Careless People sounds like something I’d love – thanks for highlighting it.

    • Kim February 7, 2016, 2:25 pm

      Yes! That’s part of what is so great about her writing. She can take topics that seem dull and really infuse them with excitement and interest.

  • Anne Simonot February 1, 2016, 5:51 am

    One of my favourite non-fictions reads was The Lost City of Z. Author Davis Grann, I think? A window into another way of life, now long gone – the amateur explorer as a profession. Also a story of obsession, disappeared explorerers, would-be rescuers who also disappear in search of them. I loved this one.

  • Katie in MA February 2, 2016, 8:23 am

    Mary Roach is terrific – and I hadn’t heard yet that she had a new book coming out, so score!
    Gretchen Rubin’s THE HAPPINESS PROJECT was pretty light-hearted (if you’re including memoirs in your nf).
    Kim Cross’s WHAT STANDS IN A STORM follows the mega-outbreak of tornadoes in May 2011 (was it 2011? I might have the date wrong) and who doesn’t love storm chasing?
    Flight 232 looks at the moment by moment happenings of a passenger plane right before it crashed in Iowa.
    …yeah, I guess my “fun” non-fiction leanings are a bit dark, too. 😉

    • Kim February 7, 2016, 2:26 pm

      Ooo, storm chasing, that sounds super fascinating.

  • emma February 2, 2016, 7:20 pm

    I enjoyed a lot the last nonfiction I read. It’s not a hilarious book but it is easy to read and fascinating: http://wordsandpeace.com/2016/01/28/book-review-the-wright-brothers/