Looking for a new 31 Days series?

I hated doing it, but I decided not to write a new 31 Days series this year. The timing just wasn’t working out with the baby and her impact on my reading and writing time.

But! Jessica at Quirky Bookworm is having a fun series – themed daily book pictures. I’ll join in with her as I’m able (I’m hoping to do it all 31 Days, but am not promising anything.) Those pictures will be going on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #31bookpics, and then on Fridays I’ll share one or more of them here.

And if you’re in the mood to read my previous 31 Days series, they’re all about nonfiction – 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads in 2012, and more 31 Days of Great Nonfiction in 2013.

31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads31 Days of Great Nonfiction

Wrapping Up 31 Days of Great Nonfiction

31 Days of Great NonfictionI hope you’ve enjoyed the “31 Days of Great Nonfiction” series that just wrapped up, and that you’ve found some books you’re interested in reading.

I’d love to know what books sounded most appealing to you, and your thoughts on a series for 2014. Want more nonfiction? Fiction? Young adult titles? Let me know if you’ve got preferences…

Finally, as an easy-to-peruse list, here are all 39 books that were featured in the series:

  1. My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss
  2. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  3. Casting with a Fragile Thread by Wendy Kann
  4. No Way Down by Graham Bowley
  5. Ungarnished Truth by Ellie Mathews
  6. Deeply Loved by Keri Wyatt Kent
  7. A Jump for Life by Ruth Altbeker Cyprys
  8. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
  9. The Grand Tour by Agatha Christie
  10. All the Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam
  11. Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat by Caroline Burau
  12. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  13. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
  14. Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure by F. A. Worsley
  15. 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, Twitterature-Style – 9 fantastic books reviewed earlier this year:
  16. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  17. Code Talker by Chester Nez
  18. Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt
  19. Sounds Like Home by Mary Herring Wright
  20. Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic
  21. The Flamboya Tree: Memories of a Mother’s Wartime Courage by Clara Olink Kelly
  22. Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched by Amy Sutherland
  23. Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen by Donia Bijan
  24. The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz
  25. Little by Little: A Writer’s Education by Jean Little
  26. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
  27. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist
  28. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
  29. Teasing Secrets from the Dead by Emily Craig
  30. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
  31. Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life by Eugene O’Kelly

If the posts have been helpful, I’d love it if you’d subscribe to continue receiving my posts: you can subscribe via email, or you can subscribe to the RSS feed.

31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Chasing Daylight

Chasing DaylightChasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My LifeChasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life by Eugene O'Kelly by Eugene O’Kelly

Sound like a fun read, doesn’t it? Someone finds out they’re terminal, and writes a memoir about their quickly approaching death – it’s gotta be hugely depressing.

It’s sad, yes, but ultimately it’s not depressing – it’s thoughtful and motivating and really makes you think about how you’re spending your time. What would you do if you had only three months left to live? How would you make the most of the time you had to spend with your friends and loved ones?

For a longer review of the book, see my friend Catherine’s post. It’s a hard one for me to write about, and she’s how I found out about the book originally.

I picked this book to feature today, because today would have been my brother’s birthday. It seemed appropriate to highlight the book that I most associate with his early death on this day that I’m especially missing him. Not only did he survive only about six months after discovering he had cancer, his original diagnosis came about a month after I’d finished this book – I immediately thought of it when I got his news, and continued to reflect upon it as he went through chemo and other treatments. However, I’m not featuring it just because of the connection to my brother – it really is a great book.

Publisher’s Description:
Chasing Daylight is the honest, touching, and ultimately inspirational memoir of former KPMG CEO Eugene O’Kelley, completed in the three-and-a-half months between his diagnosis with brain cancer and his death in September 2005. Its haunting yet extraordinarily hopeful voice reminds us to embrace the fragile, fleeting moments of our lives-the brief time we have with our family, our friends, and even ourselves.

31 Days of Great Nonfiction

I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard some great things about Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book ClubThe End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, about the books he and his mother read and discussed after her diagnosis with terminal cancer. I’d like to read it someday, but I’m not quite ready to dive into that topic yet.

To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

31 Days of Great Nonfiction: In a Sunburned Country

In a Sunburned CountryIn a Sunburned CountryIn a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson by Bill Bryson

Last year I featured Bryson’s Appalachian Trail travelogue A Walk in the Woods, and mentioned his Australia travel book. This year it gets its own featured spot in the series.

It’s been 10 years since I read this book, and I still remember large chunks of it clearly. The disappearing politician. The snakes and other hazardous wildlife. The hazardous marine life. The longest stretch of straight train tracks in the world. Did I mention the hazardous wildlife?

Bryson has such an appealing writing style – bringing you along as he treks across Australia, sharing interesting tidbits of information about the history, geography, geology, and, yes, hazardous wildlife. His book is the closest I’ve ever come to traveling there, but his stories make the country enormously appealing for a visit. Just not appealing to go communing with nature. 🙂

Publisher’s Description:
Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out. His previous excursion along the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the Woods. In A Sunburned Country is his report on what he found in an entirely different place: Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiousity.

Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book. Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide.

31 Days of Great NonfictionIf you haven’t read it, of course I recommend A Walk in the Woods. Bryson has written other books, but I’ve never read any of the others (something I really do need to rectify soon.) For a similar feel in travel books, I’d recommend Polly Evans. She’s got a similar humorous style in her writing – check out It’s Not About the Tapas to start and see if she appeals to you.

To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Teasing Secrets from the Dead

Teasing Secrets from the DeadTeasing Secrets from the Dead: My Investigations at America’s Most Infamous Crime ScenesEmily Craig's Teasing Secrets from the Dead: My Investigations at America's Most Infamous Crime Scenes by Emily Craig

Forensics and forensic anthropology fascinates me – I’ve already written about the book Death’s Acre, and I debated with myself quite a bit about which book to include in this series, and which one would get left out. I ended up including Craig’s book in the series because it’s a bit more personal.

I was especially intrigued by her career prior to going into forensic anthropology. She was a medical illustrator, and her art background ended up serving her well in her new career. Craig has worked at some of the most famous crime scenes the US, but her stories from not-so-famous cases were just as interesting as the well-known ones.

And, the no-surprises-here disclaimer: if you’re squeamish, don’t read this. There are some gruesome details included (kind of hard not to when you’re writing about this topic, so nothing is extraneous, but it’s still there.)

Publisher’s Description:
Teasing Secrets from the Dead is a front-lines story of crime scene investigation at some of the most infamous sites in recent history. In this absorbing, surprising, and undeniably compelling book, forensics expert Emily Craig tells her own story of a life spent teasing secrets from the dead.

Emily Craig has been a witness to history, helping to seek justice for thousands of murder victims, both famous and unknown. It’s a personal story that you won’t soon forget.

Emily first became intrigued by forensics work when, as a respected medical illustrator, she was called in by the local police to create a model of a murder victim’s face. Her fascination with that case led to a dramatic midlife career change: She would go back to school to become a forensic anthropologist——and one of the most respected and best-known “bone hunters” in the nation.

As a student working with the FBI in Waco, Emily helped uncover definitive proof that many of the Branch Davidians had been shot to death before the fire, including their leader, David Koresh, whose bullet-pierced skull she reconstructed with her own hands. Upon graduation, Emily landed a prestigious full-time job as forensic anthropologist for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, a state with an alarmingly high murder rate and thousands of square miles of rural backcountry, where bodies are dumped and discovered on a regular basis. But even with her work there, Emily has been regularly called to investigations across the country, including the site of terrorist attack on the the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, where a mysterious body part——a dismembered leg——was found at the scene and did not match any of the known victims. Through careful scientific analysis, Emily was able to help identify the leg’s owner, a pivotal piece of evidence that helped convict Timothy McVeigh.

In September 2001, Emily recieved a phone call summoning her to New York City, where she directed the night-shift triage at the World Trade Centre’s body identification site, collaborating with forensics experts from all over the country to collect and identify the remains of September 11 victims.

From the biggest new stories of our time to stranger-than-true local mysteries, these are unforgettable stories from the case files of Emily Craig’s remarkable career.

31 Days of Great Nonfiction

No surprises here, since I debated about which one to include, but if you like this one, please read Death’s Acre by Bill Bass as well. He even mentions her in his book (although I don’t remember if he uses her name, or if you can just recognize a story they both tell from their own perspectives).

To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

31 Days of Great Nonfiction: The Girls of Atomic City

The Girls of Atomic CityThe Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War IIThe Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan by Denise Kiernan

Well-researched and -written history of the community at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, from the perspective of the women who worked there. I was fascinated by how they built the facility and town to support it in such a short amount of time, and how they managed to keep what they were doing there a secret. Workers knew the tasks to do their job, and that was it – why they were doing what they were doing was kept hidden, and anything beyond what they had to know was also a secret. Curiosity was not welcome.

By featuring women who performed many different jobs, Kiernan is able to touch on how different the experience was depending on what you did (and especially depending on what race you were). I also appreciated how she gave a brief follow up on the women she featured prominently – telling what they did after the war and a brief glimpse at what happened with the rest of their lives.

I have almost zero interest in the background of the atomic program, and appreciated how Kiernan worked it into the book – most of the more technical details were kept in small sections inbetween the main chapters, and it was easy to skim them without missing any crucial information for the rest of the story. It’s there for anyone who wants it, but if the background information doesn’t interest you, it’s simple to skip.

If you’re interested in World War II and the American homefront, women’s history, or the development of the atomic bomb this book should contain material of interest. [Read more…]

31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Bittersweet

BittersweetBittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard WayBittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist by Shauna Niequist

While reading Bittersweet I was torn between racing through the pages, as it was just so good, and trying to force myself to slow down and savor it.

There are some sections where it was all I could do to not highlight ever paragraph. The chapter on what we ate and why it matters read like a summary of her next book Bread & Wine, and it was fun seeing the seeds for the future book in this one. The chapter on the importance of friendship and prioritizing spending time with good friends was especially fantastic, and it seemed so appropriate that I read it while on a retreat with my book club friends!

I’m categorizing it as a memoir, because it is, sort of – the chapters are short vignettes telling pieces of her story, using her stories to illustrate the concept. It’s so hard to categorize it though, because it’s a book about growth, and parenting, and writing, and identity, and faith, and change, and grace, and really, just go read this book.

A warning though: if you can make it through the entire book without at least tearing up, you’re stronger than I am. The chapters “What Might Have Been” and “Crying in the Bathroom” both had me sobbing. You will probably want to keep that possibility in mind as you decide when and where to read this one.

Publisher’s Description:
In her follow-up book to Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday LifeCold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist, author Shauna Niequist shifts her gaze to the challenges and blessings of change in Bittersweet. Drawing from her own experiences in a recent season of pain and chaos, she explores the bits of wisdom and growth we earn the hard way, through change, loss, and transition, and offers her own reflections on what brought her hope along the way.

31 Days of Great NonfictionIf you’ve read my blog any length of time, you’ve likely heard me gush over Niequist’s newest book, Bread & Wine. If you’ve missed it so far, please go and read it. It’s very like BittersweetBittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist, with the reflective essays, but the food connections are stronger, and the included recipes (at least the ones I’ve tried) are fabulous. I haven’t read her first book Cold TangerinesCold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist, mostly because I’m trying to hold off so I don’t read all three of her books in one year and then have to impatiently wait for something else from her.

To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Wired for Story

Wired for StoryWired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First SentenceWired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron by Lisa Cron

My usual tactic when I’m trying to learn something new to is read a mountain of books about a topic, and then attempt it. I’m currently in the stage of “read a mountain of books” about writing, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one, and how much I learned.

Cron does a fabulous job of explaining the latest brain science research and how it relates to writing. Why are stories so captivating? What makes a book so compelling that a reader is completely unable to put it down?

I was concerned that the book would be formulaic, and over-the-top, emphasizing over-the-top action à la a Hollywood blockbuster. Instead Cron explains why some of those blockbusters work, and how writers can use that knowledge for their own stories. No explosions, alien invasions, or other special effects extravaganzas required.

You don’t need to be a screenwriter or novelist to learn from Cron’s book. Any sort of writing should be interesting and compelling enough to make the reader want to turn the pages and continue with the book. [Read more…]

31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Little By Little

Little by LittleLittle by Little: A Writer’s EducationLittle by Little: A Writer's Education by Jean Little by Jean Little

Targeted at the children for whom she typically writes, Little’s autobiography is still a compelling read for adults. Her strength and perseverance is developed at a young age as she was bullied by other children because of her severely impaired vision.

The book could easily be maudlin or depressing, but instead it’s encouraging and inspiring. She raises important themes that everyone needs to discover, but unlike didactic books that tackle ideas like “being part of the popular crowd” in an eye-rolling way, it’s a natural extension of her experiences and is integrated into her overall story in a smooth way.

I’d recommend this to anyone who wants to become a writer – the encouraging aspects of her book especially shine from that angle. [Read more…]

31 Days of Great Nonfiction: The Joy of X

The Joy of xThe Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to InfinitySteven Strogatz's The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz

Yes, it’s a book about math, in a series about great books. Those are not mutually exclusive, although I understand the skepticism. No, I’m not a math geek or anyone who you’d think would be excited about a book about math. Trust me, you don’t have to be. Strogatz has written an engaging and accessible book about math, and about why you should care. Think math doesn’t have much to do with your life? Oh, how wrong you are – math is connected to everything.

You don’t need to be a math whiz to appreciate it. You won’t really learn mathematics from the book, but you’ll discover lots of interesting facts about mathematics, and why we should all care about it.

His methods of explaining concepts were so understandable, I wish every math teacher I’d ever had had been half as engaging. [Read more…]