Off the Charts – a third Muster of Mini-Reviews of Non-Fiction for Non-Fiction November

Ahoy there me mateys!  For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes.  Occasionally I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were.  So today I bring ye a muster of non-fiction reviews.  What be a muster?

Well the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:

  1. assemble (troops) especially for inspection or for battle;
  2. collect or assemble (a number or amount); or
  3. a group of peacocks.

I have been reading a lot of non-fiction books and don’t have enough information to give full reviews because many of the facts fail to muster and fall out of me noggin.  Yet they be enjoyable and so methinks it be good to spread the word.  Here be three such recent reads.

Side note: the book covers come from Goodreads and ye can click on them to add the books to yer Goodreads’ Ports for Plunder List.

the lost city of the monkey god (Douglas Preston)

I have a fascination with archaeology and with lost cities of treasure (Arrr!).  This book discusses the trials and tribulations of finding the legendary White City in Honduras.  The book kinda had three parts.  The first was a look into the history and legends regarding trying to find the lost city.  The use of satellite technology to find archaeological sites of interest is absolutely fascinating.  The second part was the search for the physical city itself.  Surprisingly, this was me least favorite part of the book.  It seemed quick and incomplete.  I wanted specifics about the sites and specific findings about those people who lived there.  Unfortunately the data and research are in the very early stages.  So the look at the cultural significance of the sites was mild though intriguing.  The last part dealt with a specific tropical disease that the research group caught.  This was surprising, scary, and weirdly awesome.  A quick read that I recommend.

One might say that modern Honduran history began in 1873, when Jules Verne introduced Americans to the banana in his novel Around the World in 80 Days, where he praised it as being “as healthy as bread and as succulent as cream.
― Douglas Preston, The Lost City of the Monkey God

the invention of nature: alexander von humboldt’s new world (Andrea Wulf)

For a man who “in North America, his name still graces four counties, thirteen towns, a river, parks, bays, lakes, and mountains,” I had never heard of him. Alexander von Humbolt (1769–1859) was an explorer who is responsible for how we look at nature today.  His work directly influenced folks like Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Goethe. Humbolt is one of the pioneers of discussing man-made climate change.  He helped promote the idea that all of nature is connected.  He abhorred slavery.  His take on nature was inspiring.  This book was fascinating and I loved it!  His name should never have been forgotten.  Much thanks to Kristin @ kristinkravesbooks for adding this book to the ports for plunder list.  Arrr!

Nature is the domain of liberty,’ Humboldt said, because nature’s balance was created by diversity which might in turn be taken as a blueprint for political and moral truth. Everything, from the most unassuming moss or insect to elephants or towering oak trees, had its role, and together they made the whole. Humankind was just one small part. Nature itself was a republic of freedom.
― Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World

Side note: I do wish the audiobook I listened to had a woman narrator since the book was written by a woman.

stuff matters: exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world (Mark Miodownik)

This book was freakin’ awesome!  The first mate read this one and then told me I had to follow suit.  Read this and ye will never look at billiard balls, jam, or an eating utensil in the same way ever again.  The saddest part of this book is that it feels too short.  I was completely mesmerized.  I can’t really explain this one more than that because I can’t do it justice and I also can’t explain science phenomena well at all.  But just trust me when I say this is a must read.

. . . studies of “crispness” have shown that the sound created by certain foods is as important to our enjoyment of them as their taste. This has inspired some chefs to create dishes with added sound effects. Some potato chip manufacturers, meanwhile, have increased not just the crunchiness of their chips but the noisiness of the chip bag itself.
― Mark Miodownik, Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World

So there ye have it.  Three excellent non-fiction reads that I highly recommend.  Arrrr!!

18 thoughts on “Off the Charts – a third Muster of Mini-Reviews of Non-Fiction for Non-Fiction November

    1. That book is so good that the first mate and I still talk about the ramifications of material science. Cause well, science be awesome! I just don’t have the patience to do the science part meself. But I love reading about the hard work others put into it.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I wondered about Lost City of the Monkey God, I really liked some of Douglas Preston’s other nonfiction but just wasn’t sure about the topic of that one. Sounds like some parts are better than others. Invention of Nature sounds so good too!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s been on my radar since Kristin wrote so positively about it!

        I loved Dinosaurs in the Attic, which I think was Preston’s first book, about the collections and archives at the American Museum of Natural History – how they got there, little stories about their collectors, and just showing how they’re meaningful to the world. And parts are like an armchair tour through the museum, it’s just so good! I also liked The Monster of Florence, a true crime about an unsolved series of murders in Italy. He collaborated with an Italian journalist for it and they end up even drawing suspicion in the case in Italy’s weird justice system. It’s been awhile since I read it but it was really curious and compelling!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh I didn’t know he wrote the monster of florence! I have a copy of that somewhere in the hold. I will have to dig it out. And the natural history museum book sounds amazing! I love museums of that nature. Thanks for the recommendations matey!
        x The Captain

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Dinosaurs in the Attic is so good, I think you’ll like it a lot! And yes, he did Monster of Florence with an Italian journalist, I can’t remember if they wrote separate sections or collaborated on the whole thing. I might reread it, it’s been awhile..but it was really compelling and I love his writing style. Glad I could give you some ideas! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I just wish those questions had answers! It was so fascinating to read about the spread of disease and how this population of people may have been affected. I need to do some online research about the site. I want to see photos and such. Aye, it was fun. Thanks for readin’!
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t read a lot of non-fiction because I would lose focus. Audiobooks have changed that. Plus libraries have lots of non-fiction without long holds. Also other bloggers write such good reviews of nonfiction that I keep adding more and more titles to me list. Fact is stranger than fiction sometimes. I think it be a great goal for 2019. Arrr!
      x The Captain


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