Top 3 Non-Fiction Books
Confronted with choosing the top books for nonfiction, I struggled a bit. I thought of history books but often, the past is recorded by winners so it really is fiction. I looked at the list on contemporary nonfiction writing and I thought, observation of the present based on partial and personal data, it, too, is fiction.
Finally, there is speculative nonfiction and as the future has not happened yet, this, too, is fiction. So, perhaps, I'll have to refer to these choices as serious writing appealing more to our minds rather than claim these as factual. Creative nonfiction maybe.
From my struggle, I finally settled on 3 nonfiction books that I enjoyed reading lately: The Post American World, The One World Schoolhouse and the 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Nonfiction, The Swerve.
1. The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction, this provocative book engages us in the story of Poggio Bracciolini, a book hunter, who found the only surviving copy of the manuscript of the philosopher Lucretius' poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things).
The Swerve tells us that this work of Lucretius which civilization almost lost changed the direction of human thought and that Western civilization would have been poorer without it. Lucretius, at a time when the sensibilities of the time centered around the Church, anticipated the science of today.
As one reads this book, it feels like listening to a very engaging lecture on humanities and how the world swerved away from the shackles of theocracy towards modern thinking or that which closely resembled Greek thought. It is fascinating. My husband is reading this now and he claims it is the clearest philosophy of life he has ever read. This book challenges our own philosophy in life.
2. The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria
Social political economic observers and commentators are a dime a dozen. Most have an angle or a bias or a posture that they order what they see around to reinforce the message they think they have discovered. The Fox News mafia see a hammer and sickle in a concerned earthworm.
The flaccid flurry of dilettante talking heads that burble their inane insights into spit filled microphones each night only helps us to listen carefully to the one or two real journalists who has something to say. Fareed Zakaria is one of these.
He is a solid interviewer. He listens. He is smart enough to not have to prove that he's smart. He treats people with respect. He processes information brilliantly and brings it together into an intelligent commentary that sparkles. If he is like this on television, imagine what he's like when he has time to think to create a wider perspective and to lay out his tentative conclusion in a book.
Fareed's key point in this book is that the price of other people's success is not our failure. The growth of the rest is not the failure of the West.
The world doesn't have to be a collection of monkeys with one 800 pound gorilla policing the whole mess. There's room and there's need for a multipolar world and Zakaria has the imagination and the talent to portray this in a way that doesn't scare us.
3. The One World Schoolhouse by Zalman Khan
What do you think is the main job of schools? Warehousing kids while parents work or maybe it is about learning things like Math, English or Italian? Or is it helping kids work together, letting young people learn about order, rules and how to behave in society.
If you're really caught up in the idea that the main job of schools is to help kids learn stuff subject by subject, you'll love the Khan Academy.
In fact, Khan can. Read from his book how he created over 3,400 videos that help kids explore. It is this decade's version of the old fashioned child centered learning that makes every child a classroom instead of every child fitting into a classroom.
It's built around helping young people get out of the 2 by 4 world (what's between two covers, what's inside 4 walls) of the classical model and become explorers instead of map readers.
Before your go, please share in the Comments below your top non-fiction book.
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