Some non-fiction

>> Sunday, August 29, 2010

TITLE: At Home: A Short History of Private Life
AUTHOR: Bill Bryson

Bryson is one of my favourite writers ever. He writes in several subgenres, and my favourite book of his is Made in America, which deals with the evolution of American English. At Home does something similar, but with the evolution over the centuries of houses and their contents.

The idea was apparently that he'd move around different rooms of the house and write about them and what is and used to be in each, but that really was only a starting point, as Bryson immediately goes off on tangent after tangent. They were really delicious, fascinating and often amusing tangents, though, so I didn't mind in the least that the book ended up being a bit of a hodge-podge, jumping from one thing to another without much structure. The criterion for inclusion of a particular story clearly wasn't relevance but whether it was interesting, and that was fine by me!


TITLE: The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right
AUTHOR: Atul Gawande

I read this for work, in my quest to come up with ways to use behavioural economics in our area. It's about tasks involving so much information that our fallible brains might easily make mistakes, with the author proposing a deceptively simple way of dealing with this. It was a bit dry in spots, but in the end I found it extremely convincing. Alas, no useful ideas for my work, but if I were a hospital administrator, I'd be running around making changes as we speak!


TITLE: In Defence of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
AUTHOR: Michael Pollan

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants". That's the first line, and it's an excellent summary of the book's advice. As the title indicates, most of the meat (heh!) of the book is in the first two words, and in his dissection of the differences between real food and the "food products" that have become so prevalent in supermarkets. There's a fair bit of repetition, even though it's a relatively short book, but it was interesting and useful (especially some of the rules of thumb i.e. don't eat food that makes health claims).



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