I have to force myself through nonfiction sometimes which is why I have added it to my 2016 and 2017 reading challenges. If I don’t make it a point it simply won’t happen. To make myself more excited about it I started thinking about some of my favorite nonfiction in the past. I’m not including David Icke or any of my numerous weird stuff nonfiction picks because most of that is just people telling tall tales anyways. Here are some I have enjoyed in the past though.

nonfic3You Are Not a Gadget- Jaron Lanier

Years ago I was a late teenager fucking around online with some forums and blogs. This guy stopped by my blog and started helping me with a few tech things and eventually started supporting my internet endeavors financially. We became close friends. I later found out he had made big money during the dotcom boom of the 90’s, and I started calling him my ‘internet guru’. Jaron Lanier (not my guru) helped design the web as we know it. This book touches on so many aspects of online interaction. This is an important read for anyone trying to make a living online. But also for anyone who might spend a few too many hours online. This shows the beginnings of internet socializing, why it was set up to be anonymous (sorry to those of you who say in the early days ppl used their real names; you’re wrong; most people didn’t and it was designed to be anonymous…from creator of the internet you are now using), early networking sites, and how the internet has changed our social lives. A lot of people joke about how the internet isn’t the ‘real world’ and I understand that, but people are living more and more online. I have some friendships online that have spanned 10+ years; those are friends. A few I have met in the real world, but most I have not. They are still friends. I took a few of my classes online, I shop online if I can avoid going to a store and do it online; I will. I learn online, I get my entertainment online as do most people, and when I can find my few remaining people I socialize online. It is becoming the real world. What is interesting to me is that people like Jaron Lanier who again pretty much created the world of online socializing have really backed off the monster they helped create. People like my internet guru who also did a lot in the realm of early internet forums and site creations have kinda run for the hills.

Back to my early internet creations….I was doing my thing, gaining a bit of an audience and getting some support slowly but surely over the years and it just became tiresome to me. I had to keep doing more. More networking, more marketing, more sites….and I found out I’m not cut out for it. I’m not. I never could get on the twitter thing. I don’t understand it. I don’t like facebook. I’ve never taken a selfie, I don’t remember to take pictures of most things. I can’t ask people to follow me everywhere because I don’t want them to unless they want to. I was starting to feel uneasy about being center of attention. I didn’t know who I was dealing with when it came to advertisers and whatnot. I started to resent it. So I told my guru I couldn’t be a creator anymore and he sent me this book. It confirmed that I’m not cut out for a lot of it. I’m too soft and I don’t want that to change. I like myself how I am. But like most people my age; I grew up partially online, back in the early days of AOL chat rooms and image boards. It’s a part of who I am, I’m an internet dweller. I’m a complete normie by day, but an internet dweller by night.

I think this is a fascinating read for anyone who is an internet dweller or an online creator or making a living online. This also touches on the idea of the internet middle class. The idea that a lot of people could lead a middle class lifestyle creating or selling products online if people were willing to trade with each other and pay for services. Most of us will go see a movie in a theater every now and then; that can be up to a $20 trip for one movie. But if you were to pay a creator that you watch or read or listen to two or three times a week….if you were to pay them 5/mo you’d still be paying them way less than what you got out of a 2 hour movie, and you’d be participating in the internet middle class. If that creator made sure to buy artwork for his or her blog or show or podcast from another smaller internet creator…see? The money would begin to flow. For some reason people will happily dish out money for a movie or netflix but will scoff at the idea of paying an internet creator even as little as a dollar a month. The internet middle class is absolutely a possibility, but it’s the middle class who will stop that from happening.

This book came to me at a time that I needed to read it, but it’s still pretty fascinating to those really interested in internet culture; past, present, and future. Also it was given to me by my guru who I don’t get to talk to much these days so it does have a special place in my overly soft heart.

Jaron Lanier, a Silicon Valley visionary since the 1980s, was among the first to predict the revolutionary changes the World Wide Web would bring to commerce and culture. Now, in his first book, written more than two decades after the web was created, Lanier offers this provocative and cautionary look at the way it is transforming our lives for better and for worse.

The current design and function of the web have become so familiar that it is easy to forget that they grew out of programming decisions made decades ago. The web’s first designers made crucial choices (such as making one’s presence anonymous) that have had enormous—and often unintended—consequences. What’s more, these designs quickly became “locked in,” a permanent part of the web’s very structure.

Lanier discusses the technical and cultural problems that can grow out of poorly considered digital design and warns that our financial markets and sites like Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter are elevating the “wisdom” of mobs and computer algorithms over the intelligence and judgment of individuals.

Lanier also shows:
How 1960s antigovernment paranoia influenced the design of the online world and enabled trolling and trivialization in online discourse
How file sharing is killing the artistic middle class;
How a belief in a technological “rapture” motivates some of the most influential technologists
Why a new humanistic technology is necessary.

Controversial and fascinating, You Are Not a Gadget is a deeply felt defense of the individual from an author uniquely qualified to comment on the way technology interacts with our culture.

nonfic2The Tao of Pooh- Benjamin Hoff

My friend Veebs gave this to me when she dropped me off at the airport in New Orleans years ago. Her and I were two extremely different people, but we got along so well.  We had ended up in New Orleans living together by complete happenstance.  It wasn’t long after Hurricane Katrina and we were down there working for different nonprofits. Early twenties, living in Musicians Village in New Orleans surrounded by tons of other early twenty somethings from around the country doing the same thing; helping with the rebuilding process. Her and I just kinda got thrown into a living situation together. We had a lot of fun, but it was when I started realizing how much I suck at loud crowded social situations. I started realizing even then in my early twenties how very little I had in common with most people in my age range. Veebs is the one who made me realize that because it all just came so naturally to her. I didn’t resent her for it, I kinda envied her, and it’s impossible for me to talk to someone for more than 5 minutes and not like them and I was living with her so of course I loved her dearly, but I felt so out of place in so many situations. Anyways, she dropped me off at the airport, handed me the book, gave me a huge hug, and we parted ways. I was reading it on the plane when I realized she had left me little notes in it. It was a personalized version, she had annotated it for me. It was such a cool surprise. We keep in very casual contact these days and I was at her very normal very how it’s supposed to be done type wedding a few years ago, but mostly this is what remains of her in my world. She said so much of Pooh’s wisdom reminded her of me. Idk how much of that would ring true to others, I’m not even sure how much of that rings true with me, but it is an endearing book, a quick read, and the only thing anyone needs to know about philosophy.

The Wisdom of Pooh.

Is there such thing as a Western Taoist? Benjamin Hoff says there is, and this Taoist’s favorite food is honey. Through brilliant and witty dialogue with the beloved Pooh-bear and his companions, the author of this smash bestseller explains with ease and aplomb that rather than being a distant and mysterious concept, Taoism is as near and practical to us as our morning breakfast bowl.

Romp through the enchanting world of Winnie-the-Pooh while soaking up invaluable lessons on simplicity and natural living.

 

nonfic4Bob Dylan Chronicles Vol 1 – Bob Dylan

I just love his voice so much. If I could bottle Dylan’s voice, and Durante’s voice, and Cohen’s voice, and Waits’ voice I would be happy. An internet friend sent this to me completely out of the blue one day. He knew how much I love Dylan, he knew I was getting ready to make a long haul drive, he knew I hated driving, and the day before my trip it showed up in my mailbox with a personalized little note and everything. It was such an endearing gesture. I took a lot of breaks on that road trip and sat for a while in diners or parks if i could find them reading this. What can I say? I just love Dylan.

Through Dylan’s eyes and open mind, we see Greenwich Village, circa 1961, when he first arrives in Manhattan. Dylan’s New York is a magical city of possibilities — smoky, nightlong parties; literary awakenings; transient loves and unbreakable friendships. Elegiac observations are punctuated by jabs of memories, penetrating and tough. With the book’s side trips to New Orleans, Woodstock, Minnesota and points west, Chronicles: Volume One is an intimate and intensely personal recollection of extraordinary times.

By turns revealing, poetical, passionate and witty, Chronicles: Volume One is a mesmerizing window on Bob Dylan’s thoughts and influences. Dylan’s voice is distinctively American: generous of spirit, engaged, fanciful and rhythmic. Utilizing his unparalleled gifts of storytelling and the exquisite expressiveness that are the hallmarks of his music, Bob Dylan turns Chronicles: Volume One into a poignant reflection on life, and the people and places that helped shape the man and the art

nonfic1Planet Walker: 22 Years of Walking 17 Years of Silence- John Francis

This is just simply an interesting story. I have no anecdote for it other than I found it to be extremely interesting.

Francis decided to take a more fundamental and personal stand—he stopped using all forms of motorized transportation. Soon after embarking on this quest that would span two decades and two continents, the young man took a vow of silence that endured for 17 years. It began as a silent environmental protest, but as a young African-American man, walking across the country in the early 1970s, his idea of “the environment” expanded beyond concern about pollution and loss of habitat to include how we humans treat each other and how we can better communicate and work together to benefit the earth.

Through his silence and walking, he learned to listen, and along the way, earned college and graduate degrees in science and environmental studies. The United Nations appointed him goodwill ambassador to the world’s grassroots communities and the U.S. government recruited him to help address the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Was he crazy? How did he live and earn all those degrees without talking? An amazing human-interest story, with a vital message, Planetwalker is also a deeply personal and engaging coming-of-age odyssey—the positive experiences, the challenging times, the characters encountered, and the learning gained along the way.

nonficMy First Summer in the Sierra – John Muir

I have had the great fortune of traveling quite a bit. Our country (the USA) has thee most beautiful national parks out there. I guarantee it. You can get deep forest, mountains, swamp lands, deserts, shores, prairies, canyons, trees as old as the bible…we do a good job with our national parks and our . John Muir played a role in a lot of environmental protection that has occurred in our country’s history. He spent time exploring all the nature this country has to offer and there is a lot of it. I still haven’t made it to Yosemite, but it’s high on my list. This is his account of his time in the Sierra Nevada Mountains which I have been to and they are gorgeous.

In the summer of 1869, John Muir, a young Scottish immigrant, joined a crew of shepherds in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. The diary he kept while tending sheep formed the heart of this book and eventually lured thousands of Americans to visit Yosemite country. First published in 1911, My First Summer in the Sierra incorporates the lyrical accounts and sketches he produced during his four-month stay in the Yosemite River Valley and the High Sierra. His record tracks that memorable experience, describing in picturesque terms the majestic vistas, flora and fauna, and other breathtaking natural wonders of the area.Today Muir is recognized as one of the most important and influential naturalists and nature writers in America. This book, the most popular of the author’s works, will delight environmentalists and nature lovers with its exuberant observations.

nonfic5Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond

This wasn’t the most riveting or exciting while I was reading it, but I have found myself referencing it in my head a lot since I read it so I guess Mr. Diamond did something right. And it has a Pulitzer; I imagine that is for a reason.

A global account of the rise of civilization that is also a stunning refutation of ideas of human development based on race.
Until around 11,000 b.c., all peoples were still Stone Age hunter/gatherers. At that point, a great divide occurred in the rates that human societies evolved. In Eurasia, parts of the Americas, and Africa, farming became the prevailing mode of existence when indigenous wild plants and animals were domesticated by prehistoric planters and herders. As Jared Diamond vividly reveals, the very people who gained a head start in producing food would collide with preliterate cultures, shaping the modern world through conquest, displacement, and genocide.

The paths that lead from scattered centers of food to broad bands of settlement had a great deal to do with climate and geography. But how did differences in societies arise? Why weren’t native Australians, Americans, or Africans the ones to colonize Europe? Diamond dismantles pernicious racial theories tracing societal differences to biological differences.

He assembles convincing evidence linking germs to domestication of animals, germs that Eurasians then spread in epidemic proportions in their voyages of discovery. In its sweep, Guns, Germs and Steel encompasses the rise of agriculture, technology, writing, government, and religion, providing a unifying theory of human history as intriguing as the histories of dinosaurs and glaciers.

 

Yes, Mr. Selznick: Recollections of Hollywood’s Golden Era Marcella Rabwin

nonfic6I should have been alive for this time period in history. Actually I’d go just a touch further back than this to the 20’s where everything was classy and beautiful and black and white. But these decades would have been fine as well.

For fifteen years, Marcella Rabwin was in regular association with the most legendary actors and actresses in the history of film. She assisted them, went to parties with them, and even developed lifelong friendships with some. Her nostalgic memoir Yes, Mr. Selznick: Recollections of Hollywood’s Golden Era is an endearing reminiscence about her employment as executive assistant to Hollywood producer david O. Selznick who is best known for producing the renowned classic, Gone With the Wind. In this intriguing and charming work, Rabwin candidly describes private moments shared with such stars from Hollywood’s premier Golden Era as Lucille Ball, Carole Lombard, Judy Garland, Desi Arnez, and Marilyn Monroe. In her many years working in Hollywood in the 1930’s and 40’s, Rabwin saw some fascinating off-screen spectacles, witnessed exclusive feuds between the stars, and found herself part of some of the most devastating human tragedies. Rabwin collected memories of ! ! this Hollywood era privy to few and is bound to captivate-even shock-readers with her revealing recollections.

 

nonfic7The Greatest Shows on Earth: The History of the Circus

I do love theatrics and nothing beats theatrics like a circus.

“Step right up!” and buy a ticket to the Greatest Show on Earth—the Big Top, containing death-defying stunts, dancing bears, roaring tigers, and trumpeting elephants. The circus has always been home to the dazzling and the exotic, the improbable and the impossible—a place of myth and romance, of reinvention, rebirth, second acts, and new identities. Asking why we long to soar on flying trapezes, ride bareback on spangled horses, and parade through the streets in costumes of glitter and gold, this captivating book illuminates the history of the circus and the claim it has on the imaginations of artists, writers, and people around the world.
           
Traveling back to the circus’s early days, Linda Simon takes us to eighteenth-century hippodromes in Great Britain and intimate one-ring circuses in nineteenth-century Paris, where Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso became enchanted with aerialists and clowns. She introduces us to P. T. Barnum, James Bailey, and the enterprising Ringling Brothers and reveals how they created the golden age of American circuses. Moving forward to the whimsical Circus Oz in Australia and to New York City’s Big Apple Circus and the grand spectacle of Cirque du Soleil, she shows how the circus has transformed in recent years. At the center of the story are the people—trick riders and tightrope walkers, sword swallowers and animal trainers, contortionists and clowns—that created the sensational, raucous, and sometimes titillating world of the circus.
           
Beautifully illustrated and filled with rich historical detail and colorful anecdotes, The Greatest Shows on Earth is a vibrant history for all those who have ever dreamed of running away to the circus.

nonfic8The Day the Laughter Stopped – Fatty Arbuckle

Once again; I love the Hollywood of this time period. This is an interesting story, it’s hard to really understand everything that happened here, but there is a lot of history in this.

In The Day The Laughter Stopped David Yallop uncovers the incredible true story behind the Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle scandal of 1921, when the fat film comedian stood accused of the rape and murder of a pretty screen actress.

Arbuckle’s is the story of a man born in extreme poverty who was destined to rise to the heights of a multi-million dollar career, only to have it snatched from him by a wave of hysteria and bigotry that swept the globe. It is the story of Hollywood and what really happened in the corridors of power; the political corruption of San Francisco: the immorality of a President. How Charlie Chaplin’s career was saved. How Buster Keaton’s was begun. Both of Arbuckle. It is a life story that ranges from comic heights to tragic depths.

 

nonfic9One Dead in the Attic- Chris Rose

As I explained earlier I spent a lot of time in New Orleans and the gulf coast in general after Hurricane Katrina. This book just chronicles a lot of that for me.

1 Dead in Attic is a collection of stories by Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose, recounting the first four harrowing months of life in New Orleans after Katrina. It is a roller coaster ride of observations, commentary, emotions, tragedy and even humor – in a way that only Rose could find in a devastated wasteland.

They are stories of the dead and the living, stories of survivors and believers, stories of hope and despair. And stories about refrigerators.

With photographs by British photojournalist Charlie Varley, 1 Dead in Attic freeze frames New Orleans caught between an old era and a new, New Orleans in its most desperate time, as it struggled out of floodwaters and willed itself back to life in the autumn and early winter of 2005.

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