metro mama

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nonfiction Feast

Now that I’m on mat leave, and reading up a storm before baby comes, I’m trying to renew my vow to read more nonfiction. That’s not to say I don’t think reading fiction is very, very valuable: I think we learn a lot from reading fiction, and it makes us more empathetic people. In fact, there was a recent study (can’t find it to link to right now) suggesting that folks who read a lot of fiction have better social skills. But I do feel that I need to be more knowledgeable about what’s happening in the world. McHotty puts me to shame in this department: he reads the Economist and Macleans cover to cover each week, as well as browsing the newspaper online daily. I do try, but I always get distracted by the latest novel.

I have read three excellent nonfiction books recently. This week I devoured Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War. I bought this book for McHotty, but being a fan of fictional war stories (The Wars and Three Day Road are two of my favourites) I thought I should give this a try. Filkins is a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, and the book bears witness the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, the aftermath of the attack on New York on September 11th, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Eloquent and fierce, I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

Another book McHotty raved about, and I found fascinating too is Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. This book has been on the bestseller list forever, and now I know why. What is an Outlier? Someone who is extraordinarily accomplished. We usually attribute success to factors like IQ and hard work, but it isn’t that simple. While a high IQ is of some importance, it’s not everything (you just need to smart enough, not the smartest). You do need to work hard (it takes about 10,000 hours of doing something to be best in your field) but there’s more to it than that. Things like upbringing, cultural factors and dumb luck play a large role too. This is a book I never would have chosen on my own, and I’m glad it found its way to my pile.

Speaking of bestsellers, another great read (and not something I would usually pick up) is Jeff Rubin’s Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller. Rubin’s thesis is that despite the current recession oil will never be cheap again, and the global economy is going to change. The age of globalization is coming to an end, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing—we’ll be shopping locally, revitalizing our neighbourhoods; manufacturing jobs will return to empty factories, revitalizing entire communities. I’ve seen Rubin speak in person, and he’s dynamic, smart and has very interesting things to say: all the ingredients to write a book about the economy that is accessible and readable as well as thought provoking.

Now, do you have any nonfiction recommendations for me?

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6 Comments:

Blogger No Mother Earth said...

I keep meaning to read Outliers.

I don't really do non-fiction all that much, but T would recommend Freakonomics hands down. I loved Einstein Never Used Flashcards. It's a bit too "thinky" for my taste, but still has excellent info.

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