Friday, June 17, 2011

The Guardian helps you plan your summer "greatest non-fiction" reading

The editors of The Guardian this week published what they are calling “The 100 greatest non-fiction books . . . our list of the very best factual writing, organized by category, and then by date.” We were pleased to find quite a few Library of America offerings making the list—and perhaps joining you on the beach.

Biography
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein (1933)
“Stein’s groundbreaking biography, written in the guise of an autobiography of her lover. . . Audacious, sardonic and characteristically self-confident, this is a definitive account by the American in Paris.”

Journalism
Dispatches by Michael Herr (1977)
"The best book I have ever read on men and war in our time."—John Le Carre

Memoir
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845)
“This vivid first person account was one of the first times the voice of the slave was heard in mainstream society. . . how he endured the daily physical and spiritual brutalities of his owners and drivers, how he learned to read and write, and how he grew into a man who could only live free or die.”

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov (1951)
“Nabokov reflects on his life before moving to the US in 1940. Young love, butterflies, tutors and a multitude of other themes thread together to weave an autobiography, which is itself a work of art.”

Philosophy
Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
“An account of two years spent living in a log cabin, which examines ideas of independence and society . . . his refusal to play by the rules of hard work and the accumulation of wealth and above all the freedom it gave him to adapt his living to the natural world around him.”

Politics
The Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. Du Bois (1903)
“A series of essays makes the case for equality in the American south. With its singular combination of essays, memoir, and fiction, this book vaulted W.E.B. Du Bois to the forefront of American political commentary and civil rights activism.”

Religion
The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902)
“James argues that the value of religions should not be measured in terms of their origin or empirical accuracy.“

Society
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans (1941)
“Evans’s images and Agee’s words paint a stark picture of life among sharecroppers in the U.S. South. . . an extraordinary collaboration and a watershed literary event . . . one of the most influential books of the twentieth century.”

Travel
Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (1869)
“Twain’s tongue-in-cheek account of his European adventures is a burlesque of the sentimental travel books popular in the mid-nineteenth century.”

Previous Reader’s Almanac posts of interest:

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