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Non-Fiction Summer Reads - Exploring Outside My Comfort Zone

2020 has been all about change, right? Everything is different now! It’s a “new normal!” (I am really getting tired of *that* phrase – usually because whenever I hear it, I want to cross my arms, stomp my foot and say in my best whiny voice: “But I want the OLD normal back!” But I digress…) So for this blog post, I decided to venture (safely) out of my comfort zone and do something a bit different: explore and discuss some new nonfiction reads for the summer.


I am a fiction reader. That’s it. I like to read fiction – reading is my ticket to another place, and I love to read about made up people, places, story and plot lines. That’s my jam. (Also occasionally poetry, or a funny memoir.) History? Science? Psychology? True crime? Nah, not for me…


But why not? I’ve got plenty of time, I’ve got a library card, and I need to keep my brain busy. I spent a bit of time perusing online articles and journals for new nonfiction that sparked an interest, and I PROMISE that I will have read at least 2 of the books that end up on this list by the end of the summer. And just like a real blog writer, I’ll be back with my thoughts.


Here we go:


24, by John Shea and Willie Mays


I miss baseball. I only began actively following baseball about 3 years ago. I’m not a sports person. In the past, if someone asked me what sport I follow, I always said, “Do the Olympics count?” But now, I watch baseball.

“Presented in 24 chapters to correspond with his universally recognized uniform number, Willie’s memoir provides more than the story of his role in America’s pastime. This is the story of a man who values family and community, engages in charitable causes especially involving children and follows a philosophy that encourages hope, hard work and the fulfillment of dreams.”


Pretty sure this one is going to make the list of one of the books I definitely read this summer. If I can’t watch it, might as well read about it, right?


The Shapeless Unease: A Year of Not Sleeping, by Samantha Harvey


Anyone who has been suffering from chronic insomnia since approximately March 13th raise your hand. Anyone *not* have a hand raised? Yeah, that’s what I figured.


The Shapeless Unease is Harvey’s darkly funny and deeply intelligent anatomy of her insomnia, an immersive interior monologue of a year without one of the most basic human needs. Original and profound, and narrated with a lucid breathlessness, this is a startlingly insightful exploration of memory, writing and influence, death and the will to survive.”

Ok, maybe not for me this summer. We’ll see.


In Praise of Walking, by Shane O’Mara


Exercise. I need to do some.


“Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara invites us to marvel at the benefits walking confers on our bodies and brains, and to appreciate the advantages of this uniquely human skill. O’Mara reveals how the brain and nervous system give us the ability to balance, weave through a crowded city, and run our “inner GPS” system. Walking is good for our muscles and posture; it helps to protect and repair organs, and can slow or turn back the aging of our brains. With our minds in motion we think more creatively, our mood improves, and stress levels fall.”

Improve my mood and reduce my stress? I’m there for that.


The Vapors, by David Hill


I admit, the first thing that drew me to look at this book was the title. I can’t explain it, I just think the phrase “the vapors” perfectly describes me in 2020: one long case of the vapors.


“Back in the days before Vegas was big, when the Mob was at its peak and neon lights were but a glimmer on the horizon, a little Southern town styled itself as a premier destination for the American leisure class. Hot Springs, Arkansas was home to healing waters, Art Deco splendor, and America’s original national park--as well as horse racing, nearly a dozen illegal casinos, countless backrooms and brothels, and some of the country’s most bald-faced criminals.”


So I guess my idea of what “the vapors” means is not what this book is about. But Hot Springs Arkansas?? Oh yeah, definitely reading this one.


A Very Punchable Face, by Colin Jost


I don’t watch SNL – didn’t really even watch it when I was in college. Therefore, I don’t know anything about Colin Jost. This just sounds light-hearted and also moving at the same time.


“You’ll also discover things about Jost that will surprise and confuse you, like how Jimmy Buffett saved his life, how Czech teenagers attacked him with potato salad, how an insect laid eggs inside his legs, and how he competed in a twenty-five-man match at WrestleMania (and almost won).”


He had me at “attached with potato salad”. This one is a solid maybe for me.


And lastly for this post, not a “new” read by any means:


Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow – published in 2004


I just watched Hamilton for the first time on Disney Plus – what can I say? Now I want to read the book that started it all.


“Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time.”


Did any of these books spark an interest for you? What nonfiction reads are you exploring this summer?


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