Monday, June 10, 2019

Ultramarathons, Marriage, SpaceX, and Cadavers: 10 Nonfiction Reads

                    person holding pile of books
I've tried to make a concerted effort to read some popular non-fiction in the last few months. I'd love to share some highlights with you!

1.  Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Five Stars

There’s nothing like the interlocking stories of ultramarathon runners--young, old, first world, third world, male, female, larger than life and regular Joe--to get you seriously hyped for running. McDougall’s narrative style is engaging and energetic. It just thrills with the awe he clearly feels for these runners as he embarks on his own ultra training journey. Highly recommend.

2. Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Three Stars

A piece of feminist literature documenting undercover, immersive research and engagement with the issues lower class women face in the workplace and in their struggles to keep their heads above water with a tiny paycheck. While the flow of arguments isn’t entirely logical, I found it compassionate and moving, and it made me take an honest, hard look at the way I think about low-wage workers of both genders. I do recommend with that small reservation.

3. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

Four Stars

This thoughtful book, well-researched and rooted in church history on the topic of marriage, as well as its lighter, more romantic counterpart Cherish by the same author (also four stars) served as the bulk of Jon and I's pre-marital counseling. Like most general marriage books, these titles cover a wide variety of marriage-central topics. The former focuses on the spiritual aspects of marriage: the lovely and the difficult. The latter is all about intentionally cherishing your spouse, and speaks against complacency and stagnancy in relationship. Recommend.

4. Sheet Music by Kevin Leman

Five Stars

Clever Title, AMIRIGHT? It’s a book about sex, and it’s awesome. Highly Recommend. But only if you’re prepared to get a very detailed, but lighthearted, sex education. Alternative Title: A Christian Psychologist Tells You Everything Your Parents Were Too Embarrassed To Teach You About Sex.

5. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

Five Stars

A fascinating and incredibly-compassionate medical casebook of some of the strangest mental cases Dr. Sacks encountered in his practice. Includes instances of visual agnosia, Korsakoff’s syndrome, proprioception, somatoparaphrenia, hemispacial neglect, and several lovely studies of retarded or autistic savants. Highly Recommend.

6. What if?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe 

Five Stars

If you’ve ever wanted to tickle the science side of your brain without learning anything useful at all, then this is the book for you. Find out, among other things, what would happen, exactly, if you tried to build a wall of elements with bricks directly corresponding to the periodic table. Hint: you would destroy the planet. Highly Recommend.

6 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Three Stars

I was so disappointed by this book. I was like: I’m in a hurry, and I want to learn astrophysics. And I did learn some astrophysics, but I also got an earful of Tyson’s “we came from nowhere and we’re going everywhere” schtick, which sounded super religious in its nonreligious religiosity. It felt the same way Carl Sagan’s Cosmos did: a book that was supposedly about science but read far more like a spiritually-sciencey religious-but-definitely-not manifesto. Honestly the three stars are for the title and the excitement and good writing that is Tyson, but I don't actually recommend.

7 Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Five Stars

This one is everything it claimed to be and more. So morbid. The textbook definition of morbid. But so, so fascinating. Everything you never thought you wanted to know about cadaver research, cannibalism, cremation, and more. Highly recommend. But like, know what you’re getting into: Deaaaadddd Bodddddiiiieeesss.

8 The Space Barons by Christian Davenport

Two Stars

I picked this up because it’s about Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and all the private entities making a concerted effort to get into space without NASA’s help. I only gave it two stars because the writing is weak, and I honestly think it’s too soon to tell this story. It’d be like writing the moon landing saga before the Apollo 11 launch. There was no climax to this book, only a promise or rather a hope of a promise of great things to come. Still it fascinated me to no end.
Honestly I just recommend you read up on Blue Origin and SpaceX on the web. But if you really want to, go for it! I do not regret the information gained.

The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher 

Four Stars

It’s the classic show, don’t tell. Want the nation to be a utopia of Christian values? Build those values up into strong, moral communities that so well exemplify the good life that people can’t help but be attracted to the philosophy and theology behind them. Spend less time tearing down bad things, and more time growing up good things. The bad things will pale in comparison and crumble with disuse. I don't entirely agree, but I do recommend the read, even just to get you thinking.

10 I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh

Five Stars

A Muslim woman’s daring conversion story. True, but reads like a fairy tale. Highly Recommend.
Sorry I don’t have any more to say about this one; you’ve just got to read it! A really nice audio version is available on Hoopla through the Loudoun County Public Library system. Most of the above titles are available on Hoopla, in fact.

That's All Everyone! Which of these titles have you read? What did you think? Any nonfiction recommendations for me?


  1. I've heard quite a bit on The Benedict Option and it's on my to-read list. Lots of intriguing titles. Thanks for the recommendations!

    1. In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado. It's sort of a walk through Romans. I'm sure I could dredge up some more non-fiction if I really tried, but that's the latest one I read.