Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books To Read If You Are In The Mood For Learning

My original plan with this blog was to do just one post per week: my 500 books, in the order I'm reading them. But with the Book Blogger Love-A-Thon, I got a little inspired to do more. I'm not going to go bonkers here, but there's a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish called Top Ten Tuesday that I read a lot on other people's blogs that I follow, and I want to get in on the fun! The prompt this week was Ten Books To Read If You're In The Mood For X. I kind of waffled back and forth about what exactly I wanted X to be, and then finally hit on my topic. That’s right, y’all: non-fiction. I feel like non-fiction doesn’t get a lot of love on the book blogosphere, so I’m highlighting ten of my favorite non-fiction books to read if you're in the mood to learn about something new! 


The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: This is the book that made me become a psychology major in college, and I’m exaggerating only slightly. It’s a collection of short case studies about people whose brains aren’t working the way they should. I read the title story in my Introduction to Psychology class and was fascinated, and when I picked up the whole book, I devoured the entire thing in short measure. How and why the brain goes wrong is just incredibly interesting, and Oliver Sacks (one of my favorite authors) always makes sure that it’s not just the biology and chemistry, but that these things happen to actual people and the impact it has on their lives.
 

The Nine: As a law-and-politics person, I’m inclined to be interested in those sorts of books for pleasure reading, so there are going to be a few on this list. This one is about the Supreme Court and how it operates: a behind-the-scenes look at the then-sitting justices and how they go about getting the business of the Court done. With the death of Justice Scalia and a confirmation fight almost certainly upcoming, this is a timely read about what actually goes on with those nine judges that make up the highest court in the land. 

The Hot Zone: I first read this book in high school…and then again and again and again. It seems like something that should be a mystery thriller: an Ebola virus outbreak on the east coast of the United States. But it’s real! It happened! This is a must-read and will drive home even further how very scary that recent outbreak was and how bad it could have gotten. 

Under the Banner of Heaven: I picked this up at the airport flying back and forth between Alabama and Michigan during law school on a whim and I was totally sucked in to this story about Warren Jeffs and fundamentalist Mormonism. Nevada has a lot of Mormons, and the ones I know (mostly through work) are some of the nicest, hardest working people I know. But religious fundamentalism isn't exclusive to any one faith, and this book sheds light on the evil that can be perpetuated in the name of God and heaven.


Devil in the Grove: Speaking of evil, I think a lot of people don't appreciate how bad things really were in the Jim Crow-era South. We know, but we don't know. This book brings it to horrifying life by telling the story of one of Thurgood Marshall's pre-SCOTUS cases, in which four young black men go on trial for raping a young white woman in Florida and the depths of depravity they are subjected to are just beyond imagination. I tend to be a little defensive of the South after my time in Alabama for law school, because there are so many amazing people down there that get tarred with ugly stereotypes just because of where they grew up. But, in the interests of honesty and fairness, there are a lot of people who are racist and zero embarrassed about it and pretending it ain't so isn't helping anyone. 


In Cold Blood: This is one of my all-time favorite books, which I recommend across the board to everyone. It tends to be considered the first non-fiction novel, so its structure appeals to people who are usually all fiction all the time, while also appealing to people who actually enjoy reading non-fiction. It's a true crime story about the brutal murder of a four family members in rural Kansas. The whodunit isn't the point, you find that out pretty quickly. But the why and the what happens next...that's the good stuff.


The Anointed One: This one is REALLY specific to my interests, but I think it's a fascinating story regardless of where you live. Veteran Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston tells the story of the gubernatorial election of 1998 and how it was effectively decided by the powers that be long before the first voter cast the first ballot, recounting how each step drew Kenny Guinn's inevitable election even closer. Nevada is a small state in terms of politics, so many of the players are still active and still at it.


A People’s History of the United States: Social justice is a HUGE area of discussion right now, what with Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and the Black Lives Matter movement. It seems like there are a lot of people who want to shout loudly about the American Dream and how incredible it is while happily ignoring the reality that the pretty much our entire history consists of things being really pretty awful for anyone who isn't an upper-class WASP. This is what they didn't teach you in history class. Because it seems inevitable that it will come up, no, I don't hate America. I think America's a good country and I like living here and don't want to leave. Being critical of our own history, especially how it deviates from the preferred narrative about boundless opportunity for everyone ever, is something I don't think constitutes anti-Americanism. I think it's necessary for us to keep getting better and better.


Game Change: For the story of an election that more people might be familiar with, this book covers the presidential race in 2008. Spoiler alert: Obama wins. But unlike the smoothly orchestrated machinations of the election depicted in The Anointed One, this one got messy. This book lifts the curtain on the slugfest to the Democratic nomination and the hurried scramble to find a solid vice presidential contender on the Republican side that gave us Sarah Palin. What we see on the news is just the tiniest fragment of what goes into a presidential campaign, and this is a fascinating look at something much closer to the whole story.


Deluxe: Have you ever coveted a Louis Vuitton bag? Or sighed longingly after a designer gown? Once upon a time, luxury goods were, well, luxurious, crafted with the highest quality materials and attention to detail. But the rise of corporate monolithic ownership of luxury brands presaged the decline of the artisans who established them in the first place and cost-cutting has made what was once deluxe a shadow of what it used to be. I'm a devoted reader of my lady mags, and this really made me think about the business behind the pretty pictures. 

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