Category: Non-Fiction

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City (2013) by Russell Shorto

When I was in high school and even when I was in university we learned liberalism like this: The Magna Carta invented “responsible government” Thomas Hobbes invented the liberal constitution but his king had too much power John Locke took the Hobbesian constitution and paired it with better institutions and gave us liberalism Then the …

2016, Books, Non-Fiction

A Natural History of Human Morality (2016) by Michael Tomasello

For the vast majority of recorded human history, we humans have believed that morality comes from somewhere outside of us; from “above,” from the ether, from some kind of benevolent creator, etc. Even as we have learned more and more about how humans evolved from apes who evolved from “lower” animals who evolved from “lower” …

2001, Books, Non-Fiction

Fooled by Randomness (2001) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This is an important, valuable book. It’s basically a must-read. It would go on my list of essential non-fiction only I have a few reservations (all of them stylistic). Still, very, very important stuff.

1994, Books, Non-Fiction

Jung: A Very Short Introduction (1994) by Anthony Stevens

When I was a teenager, some adult told me about Jung’s collective unconscious. I didn’t read a thing about it, but took whatever they told me and created my own elaborate theory about our thoughts influencing others (which has nothing to do with Jung). Ultimately, that theory was a responsible for a lot of mental …

2016, Non-Fiction, Podcasts

Accused: The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Andes (2016)

This podcast covers the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Andes, at a university in Ohio in the 70s. It’s a new take on the rash of podcasts that are out there as, in this case, the crime is unsolved. (However, when In the Dark started recording, that crime was also unsolved.)

2016, Non-Fiction, Podcasts

In the Dark (2016)

I forgot to review this when I finished listening to it (and I presume I have forgotten to review a bunch of other podcasts I finished). This is a frustrating, devastating and infuriating portrait of a child kidnapping in the 80s, the near-absolute power of country Sheriffs in the US (and their general incompetence) and …

2002, Books, Non-Fiction

Fast Food Nation (2022) by Eric Schlosser

Much of what Schlosser covers in this boo I was already familiar with, thanks to things like Food, Inc. But I’ve never read a book about the industrialization of food before and, as books are wont to do, Schlosser covers this in much more detail than any documentary you’re going to watch. For the most …

2015, Books, Non-Fiction

The 15-Minute Mathematician (2015) by Anne Rooney

I took math through university, being so silly as to think I could minor in it (I couldn’t…not quite). But since I graduated I have forgotten so much of the more advanced math that I did understand, and everything I partially understood has utterly vanished – over a decade later, it’s as if I didn’t …

2000, Books, Non-Fiction

The Storyteller (2000) by Anna Porter

This is a memoir by a Hungarian-Canadian about her Grandfather and her early life in Hungary. Her Grandfather was full of stories about their family and Hungary. Though these stories are probably quite compelling for some people, particularly Hungarians but also anyone who enjoys a good yarn, I had trouble caring. I am somebody who …

2012, Books, Non-Fiction, Personal

Turning Pro (2012) by Steven Pressfield

At this point, Pressfield has made a second writing career out of inspiring others to write. This is the third book of his I’ve read, and they get less effective each time I read a new one. Why? Because basically they are all the same book. Pressfield is passionate about writing something that compels us …

2007, Books, Non-Fiction

Younger Next Year (2007) by Chris Crowley, Henry S. Lodge

This is a book about exercise, nutrition and mental health, geared towards retired American men. I did not actually finish the book; I read it until it was due back at the library. I made it most of the way through, though, and I don’t fee like I missed much.

2011, Books, Non-Fiction

The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) by Steven Pinker

If you watch the news today, you will be told the world is awful. Even if, like me, you do not have cable, you can still get enough news of the awfulness of the world from your antenna or the internet. The news is an endless barrage of controversy and tragedy; controversy over the supposedly …

2013, Books, Journalism, Non-Fiction, Society

Informing the News (2013) by Thomas E. Patterson

This book was written to make the case for “knowledge-based” journalism. It was sponsored by an initiative that is trying to establish that kind of journalism. The author believes strongly in the cause ans has been a crucial part of the initiative that sponsored his work here. But despite the fact that this is very …

2009, Books, Journalism, Non-Fiction, Psychology, Society

The Peep Diaries (2009) by Hal Niedzviecki

This is a relatively interesting and amusing book about how modern technology and modern culture have created a brave new world that we don’t really understand how to navigate (and which could have all sorts of unintended consequences for us. However, the book suffers from a number of problems which make it not among the …

2006, Books, Non-Fiction

Thomas Paine (2006) by Craig Nelson

I have only ever read The Rights of Man many years ago. I loved Paine’s wit (there are many classic one-liners, including my favourite anti-monarchist barb of all time: “a hereditary monarch makes as much sense as a hereditary poet laureate”) but found his philosophy superficial, probably because I had just left grad school. This …

2011, Books, Non-Fiction

The Violence of Financial Capitalism (2011) by Christian Marazzi

It has been a long time since I’ve read a book this dense. A long time. Maybe grad school, maybe in the years after grad school when I tried to re-read or finish lots of books that I felt I hadn’t spent enough time with in school. Either way, I don’t think my brain is …

2014, Books, Non-Fiction

The Quest for a Moral Compass (2014) by Kenan Malik

I have been reading Malik’s blog for more than a few years at this point (I think), in part because I feel like he has much greater insight into the issues around jihadism than most of the people writing in North America (who I’ve had a chance to read). I find his approach not only …

1991, 1994, 1996, 2001, Books, Non-Fiction

A History of Rome – Second Edition (1991, 1994, 1996, 2001) by Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec, David Cherry

This is a general history of Rome meant, I believe, for use in schools as a textbook. It’s written that way anyway, so it’s rather dry. The strength of the book is in the early going when it provides a great deal of pre-history to the empire, pretty much all of which I was unfamiliar …

1962, Books, Non-Fiction

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1962) edited by Donald Kagan

This is an old sampler of theories about the decline of the Roman Empire that I think was part of a class my father took in university. It was assembled in 1962, but the first issue with it is that many of the books and articles it draws on were published significantly earlier. And though …

1988, 2013, Books, Non-Fiction

How to Work a Room (1988, 2013) by Susan RoAne

There are parts of this book that are helpful if you are shy (the author claims that most of us are shy…) or if you don’t know how to go about networking. But… Like most self-help books, it is awfully repetitive.And that’s hard to take.Also, the author doesn’t understand proper emphasis, despite teaching English herself. …

1989, Books, Non-Fiction

Summer of 49 (1989) by David Halberstam

I am not a Yankees fan or a Sox fan but I am a fan of The Breaks of the Game, probably the best book I have ever read about sports. This book is not on that level, but, for someone like me who was not alive during the summer of 1949, and who was …

1994, Books, Non-Fiction

The Creature from Jekyll Island (1994) by G. Edward Griffin

A necessary critique utterly ruined by conspiratorial nonsense. I have finished nearly every book I have ever started but I will not be finishing this one. I apologize for the slipshod nature of what follows. This has been a trying experience for me.

2002, Books, Non-Fiction

The War of Art (2002) by Steven Pressfield

I don’t for a minute believe anything Pressfield says about the universe or inspiration. Like so many “self help” books, Pressfield’s advice is founded on a completely unsupportable metaphysic – I find myself utterly disagreeing and rejecting his metaphysics while finding his practical advise utterly useful and inspirational. (I have this experience so many times …

2012, Books, Non-Fiction

Remembering Glenn Gould (2012) by Colin Eaton

This is a very unusual biography in that it is told by the people who knew Gould instead of by an author who tries to create a narrative of his life. The approach is interesting and, if you don’t like false narratives, it’s refreshing. And certainly there is a lot of information for Gould obsessives …

2010, Books, Non-Fiction

Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont (2010) by Joseph Boyden

At first, I found the style fairly jarring. This was not what I was expecting. And I am not sure it’s entirely appropriate, certainly if you are looking for a rigourous historical study. But, as I read it, I found it worked well enough. Well enough that it triggered my own creative ambitions, much like …

1986, Books, Non-Fiction

Uncoupling (1986) by Diane Vaughan

I interrupted my normal reading schedule to read this book specifically because I was going through a breakup – a relationship of nearly five years, the longest romantic relationship of my life, had ended. I chose Uncoupling of the books recommended to me because I found it the easiest but also because it appeared to …

1999, Books, Non-Fiction

Millioniare (1999, Janet Gleeson)

This is a brief, cursory biography as these things go. It’s certainly interesting but the predominant feeling I am left with after finishing is “I want to know more.” Gleeson says she didn’t want to get bogged down in financial details to make this accessible to the general reader but the problem is that her …