Occasionally, I read real books. Most of my non-fandom leisure reading is non-fiction of some variety, which might explain a lot about the sort of things I write. Fiction recs are at the bottom, but otherwise in no particular order.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage | Alfred Lansing
Very interesting account of Ernest Shackleton’s hilariously failed attempt to reach the South Pole. The voyage was one disaster after the next, with a surprisingly upbeat conclusion.
Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks | Andrea Lankford
A very direct personal account of a park ranger, who worked in a variety of America’s National Parks. Includes her own recollections, as well as a few stories of some of her close friends and colleagues. As the title suggests, there are some fairly heavy subjects occasionally at play.
Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language | Gretchen McCulloch
Fans of Tom Scott might recognise this book, or at least some of the concepts in it. McCulloch deconstructs the evolution of English (as well as several other languages) as the internet has fundamentally changed and altered the way we speak.
Midnight in Chernobyl | Adam Higginbotham
A chilling, poignant, and very direct account of the 1986 nuclear disaster at Pripyat, Ukraine, and the political aftermath that followed.
Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park | Lee H Whittlesey
A shocking, disturbing, and sometimes ironically humorous account of ways in which people have met their end across Yellowstone’s entire history of Western occupation. It does leave out accounts of the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake, as the event was large enough to take up a book all on its own.
Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals | Caitlin Doughty
The author, a funeral director on Los Angeles, compiled questions kids ask about death, and answers them in a very frank and direct manner. It gives a certain weight and respect to questions that are often glossed over or ignored, as being too morbid or grotesque to discuss with children.
The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt | Toby Wilkinson
Dry, enormous, and packed with information from Egypt’s first pharaohs to its Hellenistic end. This one won’t be for everyone, but I found it utterly fascinating.
Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest | Beck Weathers
The author of this book makes an appearance as a character in another book on this list. Weathers’ (ghostwritten) first hand account of the disastrous 1996 Everest climbing season, and how his deteriorating mental health and obsession led him there in the first place.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster | Jon Krakauer
An alternate account of the same Everest disaster, which paints a very different picture of how and why the disaster happened in the first place. Another first hand account by someone who was there, with very different memories of what happened.
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death | Caitlin Doughty
Founder of the Order of the Good Death, Doughty devotes much of her time challenging Western approaches to death, mourning, and grief. In this book, the author travels the world to look at death culture through a different lens.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory | Caitlin Doughty
Doughty’s account of life as a worker within the American funeral industry, and how it had effected her mental health and who she is today as a person. This book takes an uncomfortable but candid look at ways in which Western funerary practises are often more harmful than helpful to those in grief.
The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story | Richard Preston
A visceral, frightening, and often graphic look at what the ebola virus is, where it comes from, and that time in 1989 when a suburb of Washington DC had a minor ebola crisis.
Into the Wild | Jon Krakauer
The true account, cobbled together from interviews and diary pages of Alexander Supertramp, AKA Christopher McCandless, and his disappearance into the Alaskan bush.
How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker: The Wisdom of Dickie Richard | Penn Jillette, Mickey D Lynn
What was supposed to be a ghost-written guide book for the unscrupulous poker player turned into something much bigger when Jillette realised he would have to do most of the work himself. This book explains in great detail not only how to cheat your friends at poker, but why you should not do it.
High-Rise | JG Ballard
Horrifying, grotesque, and delirious. High-Rise is a heavily-allegorical piece about Thatcher’s England, and the savage ruthlessness of the human condition.
Jurassic Park: A Novel | Michael Crichton
Before Sam Neill and Laura Dern brought these characters to the screen, Jurassic Park was a scathing, cynical tear-down of for-profit science, wrapped in a psychologically thrilling narrative about dinosaurs and cloning.
The Old Man and the Sea | Ernest Hemingway
This brief novella is a trying and poignant tale of the human spirit to endure against all odds. Santiago, an old fisherman in the throes of an unlucky streak, finds himself fighting for his life after pushing what luck he had left just a little too far.