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Totally OT: Anybody read any good non-investing books

edited February 2012 in Off-Topic
I just a couple of pretty good short books.

Orientation by Daniel Orozco -
This guy writes some pretty good short-stories. The review contrasts him to David Foster Wallace who I think was probably the best essayist ever.

Another good book - unique in the way it is written

The Curfew By Jesse Ball

Don't expect I'll get much feedback, but if I did get some other ideas for some new good books I'd be pleasantly surprised

edit: I am pleasantly surprised.


  • Depends on what floats your boat.

    The Clumsiest People in Europe, a collection of travel writing by a crazed Victorian woman, made me laugh until I cried. She never traveled five miles from her house, and educated her thousands of readers based on equal parts hearsay and fantasy.

    The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction started slow but really grew on me. The author has a fundamentally healthy take on reading for pleasure, on how young folks (the iPhone-addled) should be taught to read, and on the way a Kindle might reconnect folks to the act of deep reading.

    The Importance of Being Idle: A Little Book of Lazy Inspiration is just a collection of quotes and reflections on the importance of rushing less. It's kinda liberating.

    The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug convinced me that caffeine is the coolest molecule in your body, and also got me to thinking about finding and trying coffee cherries. That is, the fruit that grows around the coffee bean, which is edible, by some lights tasty, and caffeinated.

    At Day's Close: Night in Times Past was fascinating because it explored a phenomenon so universal that I'm surprised anyone wrote about it. (People don't write books about breathing for the same reason; everybody does it, nothing special, move on). I never had cause to think about how very, very different life was before universal lighting - from the poor families who needed to get by with one or two smoking, stinking rush lights (no candles, way too expensive) to the middle-class families who knew that once night fell, they were on their own against felons and fire. Really got me to rethink the experience of folks living in places where winter's light might persist for only 8 or 10 hours a day, following by 14-16 hours of virtual hour arrest.

    Any of that call to you?

    Curious, as ever,

  • Here are a few of my favorites:

    "The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World" by David Abram: I've read this book twice. My few words here cannot adequately convey how this book will change your perception of the earth and your relationship to it. Abram is an ecologist and philosopher. One of the things he does is show how the evolution of the written word and thus our capability of abstract, logical thought has contributed to our estrangement from nonhuman nature and our inability to relate to it in a sustainable way.

    "Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel" by Jeannette Walls: A novel based on the life of the author's maternal grandmother who grew up in rural west Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in the first half of the 20th century. Fascinating story (history, biography) where it's hard to tell where the biography ends and fiction is filling in the blanks and the dialog. An inspiring tale of a hardscrabble existence enriched by a love of hard work and determination that makes modern-day city dwellers look like pansies.

    "The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel" by Nicole Mones: Wonderful book. Classical Chinese cooking is sensuous and social. Cooking cannot be separated from eating, and it involves the mind and all the senses. After reading this book, you'll never be satisfied with the typical Chinese restaurants you find in every American strip mall. In fact, you'll probably never relate to western cooking in the same way, either.
  • I really enjoyed the Steve Jobs bio by Isaacson. Not an Apple fan, but thought it was a fascinating and detailed (5-600 pages) history of Apple and Jobs from the start.
  • Am about to reread The Outermost House, about living in a tiny, improved shack on Cape Cod, which was destroyed by a hurricane in the 1970s. The author had 320 sq ft, only slightly less than my 400 sq ft, but the whole outdoors - land and sea - as his living space.
    Over the winter I read, and gave, Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud. The author, Martin Gayford, is a curator and art critique in London and provides an intense scrutiny, in diaristic snippets suitable for train reading, of the bilateral regard of artist and subject for each other. Each sitting was followed by dinner together at a restaurant, so we also get interesting factoids about L. Freud's life. He worked on a day picture and a night picture at the same time; the day picture paired with the portrait of Martin Gayford was the hindquarters of a horse, which Freud visited early each morning. He never took a day off painting for fear his hand and eye would lapse.
    Current train reading is the life of Washburn, mountaineer and photographer of many wonderful, unvisited, icy landscapes.
  • Reply to @David_Snowball:
    The French have a saying, "the hour between dog and wolf" (l'heur entre chien et loup, or summat). If you visit "colonial villages" in the Midwest, you get a strong idea of life before - just before - electricity. Not fun. And the beds are all short (this is mid-1800s) because of stunted growth from poor nutrition.
    Interesting to conjecture that Kindle might be returning folks to deep reading. I see a lot of Kindles on public transit.
  • edited February 2012
    Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Louis Carroll - Some favorite quotes: "Sentence first -- verdict afterwards" ... "When I use a means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less" ... "The time has come the Walrus said, to talk of many things -- Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax. Of cabbages and kings. And why the sea is boiling hot. And whether pigs have wings." ..... "Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense." ---

    Also, Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin gives an inside look at the '08 election. Since my mind's usually in the gutter, found some of the stuff re Sen Edwards' dalliance with a young gal hanging around the campaign amusing - in an odd sorta way. Course, we learned later what that was all about. But, mostly this is a serious book and got good reviews at the time.

    You said books - but saw an unusual film recently on DVD called "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid." Solid performance by 36 year old Kris Kristoferson as Billy. Bob Dylan provides music soundtrack & also has a acting role. Besides being a pretty good film, there's a interesting story goes along with it. Best to read up on it first. ("Turner Preview Edition" is what you want to watch.) Link to Wikipedia article:

    Ah, had some other books listed, but knocked em out re-writing. Like Old Joe, I often go back and revise original. (-:

  • "Blue Zones" - lessons for living longer from the people who have lived the longest.
    "Life" - Keith Richards biography
    "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
    "The Shack"
    "Paddle North - Canoeing the Boundary Waters-Quetico Wilderness"
    "Goodnight iPad" and "Go the f**k To Sleep" along with my 2-yr old grandson. We both think they're hilarious.
  • edited February 2012
    Reply to @tgeno:

    you might like these:

    great book on how china changed in the last 10 years. All of Hessler's books are quite good.
    Country Driving: A journey through China from farm to Factory Peter Hessler

    Troost has a few books out that provide insights on other cultures in his travelogue comedies..
    Lost on planet China: The straight and true story of one man's attempt to understand the world's most mystifying nation/
    J Maarten Troost

    Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A sweetsour memoir of eating in china / Fuchsia Dunlop

    why did so many people pick the right number in the lottery ...
    The fortune cookie chronicles: Adventures in the world of chinese food/ Jennifer 8. Lee

    some jobs you never considered:
    The corpse walker: Real-life stories, China from the bottom up / Liao Yiwu

    Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love and Language /Deborah Fallows

    trials and tribulations of a startup:
    My Korean Deli: Risking it all for a convenience store/ Ben Ryder Howe

    what can I say - the title says it all:
    Mr. Ding's chicken feet : on a slow boat from Shanghai to Texas/ Gillian Kendall
  • edited February 2012
    Reply to @Mark:

    I want to read Life.

    Dylan's book was excellent
    Chronicles:volume one / Bob Dylan

    have you seen this (pretty good a follow-up on the author nd some background)
    Zen and Now:On the trail of robert Pirsig and the art of motorcycle maintenance/Mark Richardson

    and for an extreme adventure - this was quite good
    The horizontal Everest : extreme journeys on Ellesmere Island / Jerry Kobalenko
  • edited February 2012
    Reply to @hank:

    If I were to pick my one favorite book (it's quite weird and fantastical, so you have to like that and you have to get beyond the first 100 pages which are tough)

    The Master and Margarita/ Mikhail Bulgakov
    there is also a 6-8 hour dvd of this put out bt a russian film council.
  • Reply to @Accipiter: Thanks. Will check it out sometime.
  • Reply to @David_Snowball:

    Thanks for validating this ot thread. I'll check out some of your recs.
    I read "How to be Idle / Tom Hodgkinson ", I'll have to see the companion book:)

    The pleasures of reading sounds good as does the The Clumsiest People in Europe.

    I recommend this book to you ( nature, history, culture, adventure, and digressions all meet up in this book - taking place in Russia's Far East).
    The Tiger : The True Story of Vengenance and Survival John Vaillant

  • edited February 2012
    to Accipiter
    Zen and Now - I have not. Should I? I suppose I can look it up on Amazon just as easily and I will. I will also check out your extreme adventure recommendation. I neglected to mention that I have recently finished "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" by Aron Ralston the story of the young man who cut off his arm in the Utah wilderness in order to save himself. Gripping! to say the least.
  • edited February 2012
    Reply to @Mark:

    I saw the movie about him. Got my fill of the ordeal.

    Zen and Now - not great - but if you want the back-story, gossip and a big fan of the original. The only reason I read it was to refresh my mind on the book I read 2 decades earlier and had a bit of a tough time with.

    this is an old book but fascinating adventure about 2 german geologists trying not to get mixed up in ww2
    and living in the desert for about 2 years.
    The Sheltering Desert: Robinson Crusoes of the Namib Martin Henno

    free here -

    If you like adventure and adventure-historical books I can recommend millions:)

    these were pretty good too

    A voyage long and strange: rediscovering the new world Tony Horwitz
    Blue latitudes : boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before Tony Horwitz

    Arabian Sands Wilfred Thesiger

    The White Nile Alan Moorehead
    Cooper's creek Alan Moorehead

    The Long Walk Slavomir Rawicz
    Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Laura Hillenbrand
    The river of doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey Candice Millard

  • Reply to @Accipiter: Thanks. I will check some of those out.
  • Reply to @tgeno:

    forgot this one: :) very good

    The ramen king and I: How the inventor of instant noodles fixed my love life Andy Raskin
  • Reply to @Accipiter: Thanks for this thread!
    I'll look for The Horizontal Everest, as I like reading about high, cold places (minimal density of the human race; Hudson Bay [or Ellsemere Island] sounds like an idyllic vacation spot).
    Read The Master and Margarita years ago, and am trying to read it again.
    Read Nabokov's Russian translation of Alice in Wonderland. It's equally wonderful.
  • edited February 2012
    Reply to @InformalEconomist:

    After Horizontal Everest

    you might try these
    Fatal mountaineer : the high-altitude life and death of Willi Unsoeld, American Himalayan legend / Robert Roper

    True summit : what really happened on the legendary ascent of Annapurna /David Roberts
    about this classic
    Annapurna / Maurice Herzog ("Maurice, what happened to your hands")

    I don't think Krakauer can write any book less than superb.
    Into thin air / Jon Krakauer (don't forget "Into The Wild" and "Under the banner of heaven : a story of violent faith " )

    this guy was also a character - met him and his son. I liked the Amazon book better - he paddled from Winnipeg down the mississippi, rio negro, and down the Amazon..
    Paddle to the Arctic / Don Starkell
    Paddle to the Amazon / Don Starkel
  • How about considering "Flatland" by Edwin Abbott Abbott. Its an oldie (1884) that I read in high school over 60 years ago. It's a short (only 100 pages) novella that examines worlds with different dimensions. It remains popular among scientists, mathematicians and computer experts. It is inspired writing satire. Try it,

    Happy reading and good learning.
  • edited February 2012
    Not sure if this qualifies as "non investing". Am reading "End The Fed" by Ron Paul right now.

    Last month I read "Life Expectancy" by Dean Koontz for a second time. I simply love it.
  • "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" By Harry Browne.
  • Holy War--The back story about the rise of Portugal and Vasco Da Gama's travels to India to open up the spice trade and to spread Christianity and the inevitable clash with the Arab world--fascinating read so far.

    Dogs of Riga--an international thriller set in Sweden.

  • "Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why" By Laurence Gonzales. Although it is an outdoor survival book, it deals with how survivors confront disasters and engage, as opposed to those who fail and die.
    As an added interest, I happened to be reading it in between sessions with Jason Zweig's "Your Money and Your Brain", which has often been recommended on FA/MFO, and I found the juxtaposition both useful and insightful.

    Having a lifelong fascination with the Arctic, I recently reread one of my most favorites "Top of the World" by Hans Ruesch. I have read it at least 4-5 times and can still be fascinated anew -- this time for another reason: (spoiler) If you read this book -- but ONLY AFTERWARDS -- google on Hans Ruesch and read his biography.

    Finally "Oh Beulah Land" by Mary Settle. I have run the New River Gorge numerous times and am pretty familiar with it and the surrounding area, so when I read this book the introductory chapter struck me as a great adventure story, but obviously not realistic. In actuality, it is a nearly factual true account of one of the great epics of the early settlement of the New River valley. Altho fiction, the entire novel is heavily based on historic fact, written by a gifted novelist who grew up in the state. (And can lead you to the entire Beulah Quartet.)

    BTW, I strongly second "The Horizontal Everest", and also Tony Horwitz.

    @David Snowball: "At Day's Close" was on my must read-list for a long time & somehow got lost, thanks for bringing it back to mind. Will definitely re-list it. This thread has so many good suggestions already that maybe we should consider a permanent OT "reading" subtopic...???
  • edited February 2012
    Reply to @icyone: The remarkable Chip, our redoubtable tech director, is one step ahead of us already. She's recreated most of this list as part of our Amazon store. Folks can click on Resources-> Books-> good reads: non-investing or try this link:


  • edited February 2012
    Nice work Chip.

    Thanks everybody for giving me some new ideas. I've added a few of your suggestions to my reading list. Keep'em coming.

    I'm going to do overdo this and add some more books I really enjoyed just in case it will give some of you some other ideas. (but after this I will try to refrain for a while:).

    one more great adventure in the cold - fantastic:
    The worst journey in the world / Apsley Cherry-Garrard

    If you like reading and don't want to put the book down till you finish:
    two of these were made into popular movies

    Bringing down the house : the inside story of six MIT students who took Vegas for millions /Ben Mezrich
    The Accidental Billionaires: The founding of facebook: a tale of sex money, genius and betrayal /Ben Mezrich
    Sex on the Moon: The Amazing story behind the most audacious Heist in History /Ben Mezrich

    Science - Related

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks /Rebecca Skloot
    Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything / Joshua Foer
    The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse / Steven C. Schlozman, MD
    Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void /Mary Roach
    Fixing My Gaze: A scientist's journey into seeing in three dimensions / Susan R Bailey

    Competition (all much better than the titles sound)

    Word freak : heartbreak, triumph, genius, and obsession in the world of competitive Scrabble players / Stefan Fatsis
    Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and all - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the edge of madness / Frank Brady
    American Shaolin / Matthew Polly


    The last lecture / Randy Pausch (you don't want to miss this or the video)
    Status Anxiety / Alain de Botton (all of his philosophical books quite good)

    Nature - Science (a bit more of esoterica)
    What ever you do, Don't run: True tales of a Botswana Safari Guide /Peter Allison
    Monster of God : the man-eating predator in the jungles of history and the mind / David Quammen
    On the wing: to the edge of the earth with the peregrine falcon / Alan Tennant

    the best essayist you will ever read...
    Consider the Lobster and other Essays / David Foster Wallace

    other excellent authors

    you may think you have a good vocabulary only to find out there are so many more words..
    The Butt: an exit strategy/ Will Self

    figured I'd throw in these authors who each have a niche
    In a sunburned country /Bryson, Bill (comical travelogues)
    Scoop / Evelyn Waugh
    A fan's notes / Frederick Exley
    A Dead Hand: A crime in Calcutta /Paul Theroux
    Sick Puppy / Carl Hiaasen (Beach reads)
    Post Office / Charles Bukowski
    The sacred book of the werewolf / Victor Pelevin (if you liked master and margarita)
  • Great job Chip!! Tack så mycket!

    Couple of points -- in addition to supporting MFO (don't forget to have your bookmark set up to take you in through the MFO portal!), I have found the Amazon "browse" option to be surprisingly helpful in getting the flavor of a book that I am totally unfamiliar with.

    And a plug for another great source for readers: CSPAN2 Booknotes (on weekends) and also often "In Depth" carried on weekend CSPAN as well. Sometimes an anticipated author can be a flop as a speaker, but even then the discussions will draw them out, and I've run across books I never would have discovered.
  • Grab any of Chris Hedges' books. Here's a link to an interview:
  • "1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created", by Charles C. Mann
  • edited February 2012
    The Islandman (Oxford Paperbacks Series) [Paperback]
    Tomas O'Crohan (Author), Robin Flower (Translator)

    A series of tales describing life on the Blasket Islands, a fairly desolate group of islands located just off the west coast of Ireland. Fascinating because the author realized that his stories would be the last record of the lives of these people, whose culture had been virtually isolated and unchanged for hundreds of years, despite the march of time and civilization just a short distance away on the mainland.

    This isolated group of people knew a bit about the "other world" out there, as there had been immigrants from their "village" (just a tiny group of huts, really) to Europe and the Americas, but the islanders continued to live just as they always had, uninfluenced by outside changes. The author, Tomas O'Crohan, knew that his world was coming to an end, and set down it's story, in the island dialect of Gaelic, just before that world ended. The narrative style reminded me very much of many stories I heard as a small child from my Irish relations.

    Highly recommended, available from Amazon.

    Also, I must suggest that you read "The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession", by Peter L. Bernstein. This book was recommended to me by Investor, as I was very curious to understand how the world functioned on the gold standard, and in fact, how the gold standard came into existence. Not really an "investing" book, thus meeting the thread requirement, but a fascinating overview of finance generally, and the evolution of financial dealings and exchanges between nations and individuals, from the very beginning (barter) to now (paper or electronic transfer). May come as a bit of a surprise to anyone thinking that a "gold standard" is the answer to all of our problems today.

    Also highly recommended, also available from Amazon. Remember to use the MFO link to Amazon!
  • "On China" by Henry Super K (aka Henry Kissinger)

    "And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life" by Charles Shields

    Don't know how I managed to squeeze those in, but I did... : )
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