Non-Fiction Beach Reads – Part 3 – Non-Fiction

This is part 3 of my series on potential beach reads for this summer.  Part One and Two are fiction books and part Four (tomorrow) is summer releases.

My summer beach reads tend to be fiction.  But when I read non-fiction I tend to read biography, memoir or ‘light non-fiction’.  Here are my picks of books that I have read that are worth reading.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs – Bookwi.se Review

171 pages, 16 of 18 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled 

What could be better than reading about reading?  Alan Jacobs has a book about finding the joys of reading.  This is not fluff, this is about seeking joy in reading, while thinking seriously about what reading is all about.

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow PriorBooked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior – Bookwi.se Review

220 pages, 22 of 23 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled 

Booked is a memoir about how reading helped a girl (and then a woman) grow and learn.  Each chapter focuses on a single book and a main point about what she learned from that book.  My only complaint about the book is that it is focused exclusively on the classics.

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn WeberSurprised in Oxford: A Memoir by Carolyn Webber – Bookwi.se Review (Second Reading)

474 pages, 146 of 167 reviews are 4 or 5-star

This is probably is my favorite memoir ever.  Carolyn writes about her year studying Literature at Oxford.  During that year she finds Christian faith and maybe a something more.

This is not only a book about conversion, it is one of the most beautifully written memoirs I have ever read.

COMMITTED a Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth GilbertCommitted: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert – Bookwi.se Review

305 pages, 190 of 334 reviews are 4 or 5-star

This is not the book that Elizabeth Gilbert is known for, but I think it is the better book.  After the events of Eat, Pray, Love, but before the fame of the book, Elizabeth Gilbert has to work through her love of a man, but her repulsion of the concept of marriage (after a very messy divorce).  This is complicated by the fact that she is in love with a man that is not a US citizen and the legal problems (post 9/11) in getting that relationship recognized so they could find a place where they could both live together.

It is those that are most opposed to marriage, but still get married that can be the most interesting description of what marriage is about.

I am married and strongly in favor of marriage and this is one of the most interesting explorations of what marriage is all about that I have read.  Gilbert is coming at this from a purely secular perspective, but as a Christian I find the book very interesting.

Dad is Fat by Jim GaffiganDad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan – Bookwi.se Review

290 pages, 54 of 60 reviews are 4 or 5-star

If you are going to read non-fiction at the beach, you might as well read funny non-fiction.  Standup Comic Jim Gaffigan’s latest book is about parenting.  As a soon to be parent I really enjoyed this book.  Gaffigan loves his wife and loves his kids but wrings them for the best in humor.  The only negative of the book is that he uses some of the same material from his shows. So if you have seen his TV specials or a show you may have seen 20-25 percent of the material in the book.  But it is still well worth reading if you are a parent or soon to be parent.

Other books that I include as funny non-fiction are almost anything by Sarah Vowell.  One of the best is Assassination Vacation (where she visits the sites of presidential assassinations.)

CS Lewis: A Life - Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrathCS Lewis: A Life – Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrathBookwi.se Review

449 pages, 30 of 34 reviews are 4 or 5-star

CS Lewis is one of the great 20th Century Christian Writers but there have not been many good biographies of this great writer.  McGrath has written the best.  Using a wealth of previously unreleased letters and documents, McGrath writes a biography that is both well documented and readable.

Whether you are a fan of the Chronicle of Narnia or Lewis’ more academic or theological works this is a biography worth reading.

The God of the Mundane: Reflections on Ordinary Life for Ordinary People by Matt RedmondThe God of the Mundane by Matt Redmond – Bookwi.se Review

92 pages, 49 of 50 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled 

This is the cheapest, shortest and probably most important book I am recommending in this post.  Much of what we read and pay attention to in the Christian world is either about or written by famous Christians.  Well this book is written to encourage those that are not famous.  The stay at home moms, the people that work dull jobs, those that struggle.

This is a book about the God that loves (and has a plan that concentrates) on the mundane of the world.  It is not the great people of the world that really accomplish the most.  It is the mundane, unknown people of the world that never get recognized for their hard work.

The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest ReligionBookwi.se Review

515 pages, 30 of 35 reviews are 4 or 5-star

This is the most academic book of the post.  But it is not dry, it is telling a story of why Christianity made such a difference in the world.  This is not a standard telling.  Stark is breaking a few molds from the standard historical perspective.  But this is a readable book and one that emphasizes the important of understanding the history of Christianity.

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with RecipesBread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist

I have finished this book, but I have not published my review of it.  But is you are a person that loves to cook and loves to host people then this is a book of essays you should read.

It is a bit too meandering, but Neiquist is an author I love to read.  She is real, she knows how to write and she know how to write about what is important in this world.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary RoachBonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

It has been a few years since I have read this (so I don’t have a posted review), but I still regularly recommend it.

Summer is the time when a lot of romance novels come out.  Last summer it was 50 Shades and I am sure there will be a new ‘it book’ this summer.

Roach is not writing the summer steamy romance.  She is writing the book about the science of sex.  And frankly it may be just as good for your sex life as 50 Shades.  Roach is a non-fiction writer that believes in putting herself in the middle of her writing.  So she participates in sex studies, talks about where science is at and discusses her own sex life.  This is decidedly not a Christian perspective on sex.  But it is funny, well written and interesting.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts – Bookwi.se Review

309 pages, 155 of 176 reviews are 4 or 5-star

For some people, reading is not reading if you are not learning something. If you skipped the last book (which has all kinds of learning), this one might be for you.  There are only a handful of books that I stil l recommend regularly several years after I read it, but this is one.

Social science has lots to say about why we make mistakes, lie and cover up our ‘errors’.  And skipping the research about those problems does not help us to solve them.

This is both a social science book and a practical book about why we make mistakes and how we can do better and avoid the problems that are so common.

Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of Our World by Bradley WrightUpside: The Surprising Good News About the State of Our World by Bradley Wright – Bookwi.se Review

255 pages, 26 of 27 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled 

Every day we hear bad news.  Some tragedy has occurred  some war or act of violence is horrifying, some issue is really important and needs our attention.  Bradley Wright does not minimize those things. But he does bring corrective to our 24/7 world of cable news and scandal.

The reality is that we are living in one of the best times in history.  There is less poverty, less violence, more education, etc now than ever before in history.

And he is not just saying that, Wright is a statistician and he is bringing his skills to show why we should be encouraged about the state of our world.  What could be a better beach read than that?

(Also this is a lendable book on kindle and no one has borrowed it from me yet.  So if you leave a comment below you could read the book for free.)

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