Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Best Non-fiction Books

I am not in line to the throne of the Solomon Islands. Sorry. But between the ages of 13 and 15 I convinced my classmates that I was. (This was, obviously, pre-internet.) It became 'that kooky thing about Joe', alongside my fear of bananas (true) and my ability to hypnotise people (false at the time - I learned later).

So my relationship with the truth is like that between a vulnerable, young hero in a Hitchcock movie and the mysterious stranger who comes to stay, claiming to be an uncle who's been 'travelling' for the last few years. It might start with the thrill of a new friendship but it usually ends in murder.

Well handled truth can become, for me, like any other good story. So I love great non-fiction books. In writing fiction I can make up whatever I like. Non-fiction authors can only deal with what the world has given them, yet some of them still manage to put it all together to create a thriller.

Eventually the world threw up a picture of the people of the Solomon Islands. Someone in my class noticed that I was not black and my regal lineage withered.

Here are my top 8 non-fiction books so far:

The Prize, by Daniel Yergin
It turns out the story of the oil industry is the real story of 20th century - and it's a twist-packed gut-wrencher.

Quantum, by Manjit Kumar
The battles between the greatest brains over the nature of the very tiniest particles in existence. Fascinating, complex and mind-bending stuff made human and relatable.

Agent Zigzag, by Ben Macintrye
If you made this up, you'd be called insane. A dodgy character stumbles into WWII, double-crosses everybody and comes out a hero. Probably.

Rubicon, by Tom Holland
Nobody spills the guts and glory of Ancient Rome like Tom Holland.

Monte Cassino, by Matthew Parker
The drama and heartbreak of the bloodiest battle of WWII.

The Education of a Poker Player, by Herbert O. Yardley
Everything you need to know about poker is everything you need to know about life - whether you play or not.

The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov, by Andrea Pitzer
A Russian genius escapes European tyranny (twice), encodes his nation's calamities and his indictment of American society in great novels - but nobody notices until 30 years after he dies. You'll love it.

Stealing the Mystic Lamb, by Noah Charney
400 years of European power-struggles boiled down to a series of audacious art-heists, with a riveting unsolved mystery at its heart.

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