Non-Fiction from Jessica

Hello all! Long time no posting, huh? Let me tell you, summer was awesome and awesomely hard.  I had friends who were sick, my mental health took a nose dive for awhile, and I had 4+ kids to keep entertained.  I was so busy keeping my nose above water that I was lucky to be able to read.  And read I did!  Until September I averaged about 10 books a month!

Lately I have been enjoying nonfiction. It is a complete departure for me. I am loving a nonfiction podcast of Hardcore History with Dan Carlin and Radio Lab. I recently listened to an epic 19+ hours podcast about World War One.

I have read sad nonfiction, thrilling nonfiction, autobiographical nonfiction, spooky nonfiction,  and very scientific nonfiction.  It has been a ride! In fact I feel like my brain has woken up from a funk.  I love learning! I love reading and I am glad that I have found how much I love nonfiction.

Here are some of the books I have read.

hotzone  This book was recommended on one of those Buzzfeed articles for “The Creepiest Book You’ve Ever Read.”  I didn’t find this one to be one of the creepiest books I have ever read, however, this was a gripping history of the Ebola virus and how it spread from remote African villages around the world.  It was a pretty quick read and it left me curious about the origins of other diseases.  I am currently reading a book called Spillover that will discuss HIV and Aids.

The Hot Zone gets 5 Stars!

labgirl This was an autobiographical science book.  I’ll be honest, I am a Biology teacher, and before this book, plants kind of bored me silly.  I loved how the “Lab Girl” was able to tie her life in with different plants and their life events.   She made plants more interesting to me in a very real and humanizing way.  This  book was a little hard to get through at times due to her really odd decision making, but then she goes into her mental breakdown and her ongoing mental illness, and it all became clear.  Her bravery in sharing her story gave me hope.

Lab Girl gets 3 1/2 stars.

gulp Do you remember Stiff?  Stiff was one of the first books that we gave away as part of our free Friday! (Which has kind of died…) We hope you are enjoying your copy Abby! 🙂  Gulp is written by that same author, Mary Roach. Gulp discusses the Alimentary canal, or in common speak, your digestive track.  True story, this book had me cringing and gagging more than Stiff did, and Stiff was about dead bodies!!  Something about learning about the way spit smells and other various aspects of digestion works, was just grotesque.  I really enjoyed it though, despite the occasional gag reflex.  Roach brought her trademark good humor and indefatigable ability to ask the awkward questions.  My favorite tidbit was how Elvis died.  I won’t spoil it for you but it was much grosser and maybe less sad than what has been reported. It involves a toilet.

Gulp gets 4 1/2 stars.

breath Have you ever read something that you knew was going to make you cry but you also knew that the journey was going to be totally worth it?  That was this book for me.  Dr. Paul Kalanithi is almost finished with his residency as a neurosurgeon when he is diagnosed with cancer.  He takes us on his journey to discovering what a life is worth, even if it is one that ends “too soon.”  I was changed by this book. Paul’s bravery and acceptance to not only live a good life, but experience a good death, really put things into perspective for me.  I cried at the end, hard and ugly, because just like life, it ends abruptly and all at once, feeling like there are things that needed to be said.

When Breath Becomes Air gets 5 Stars!

And those are the books that I have completed.  I am currently reading 3 nonfiction books in various formats.  I have The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukerjee on audio.  So far (35% into it) I am really liking it.  It reminds me of a great college class where the professor knows how to mix the chemical, biological, and human elements into a rousing narrative.  I am reading Devil in the White City by Erik Larson on my kindle app.  I just started today, but it has been setting up a great history story so far.  Devil in the White City centers on America’s first serial killer (hey it’s Halloween), H.H. Holmes.  Lastly, in print I have Spillover: Animal Infection and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammon.  I’m really excited for this to hopefully be similar to The Hot Zone.

Non-fiction doesn’t have to be dry or boring.  Start with something you’re interested in (no matter how morbid) and you’ll be surprised how quickly real life will entertain just as much a fiction.  Or start with a podcast. When I’m not reading an audio book I listen to a plethora of podcasts.  One that kept me hooked for over a week was Hardcore History by Dan Carlin “Blueprint for Armageddon.”  This was a history of World War 1. What gripped my attention was that this was the war that started with armies, fielding block formation and cavalry, and ended with tanks and aircraft.  If you’re looking for less of a commitment try RadioLab  by NPR. They cover a variety of topics, and I haven’t found a single episode that hasn’t taught me something.

Until next time,


BookGeek (Jessica)


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