Michael’s Summer Nonfiction Picks


Summer reading doesn’t just have to be murder mysteries and easy distractions. Nonfiction material like memoirs, current events, and even humour, can be so absorbing you might forget to roll over to even out your tan. So pour yourself an icy mojito, settle into an Adirondack, and get lost in one of the new, hot, nonfiction offerings of the summer. Check out:

Love in the Elephant Tent, by Kathleen Cremonesi

A young American woman, determined to make her own way in the world, finds herself at loose ends in Italy. Naturally she takes a job as a dancer in a circus, eventually becoming the shark-tamer and ostrich-rider(!) In this setting, she meets Stefano, the sexy elephant trainer, and they embark on a seriously cross-cultural romance. It’s a memoir with just about everything and it’s getting great reviews.

The Ingenious Mr. Pyke, by Henry Hemming

What could be better beach reading than a novelistic biography of a proto-nerd who escaped from a German WWI prison camp, reorganized early childhood education in Britain, made a fortune on the stock market, was responsible for the joint US/Canadian Special Forces in WWII (the Devil’s Brigade) and talked Winston Churchill into building an aircraft carrier out of ice? Oh, and he may have been a Soviet spy….

Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari (Parks and Rec) has long had his sights on the quirks of modern romance, but in this book, he’s done something a bit unexpected. Ansari teamed up with a sociologist (Klinenberg) to embark on a massive research project. The result is a hilarious and irreverent analysis of modern behaviour on the dating front.

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair, translator Carolin Sommer

File under “truth is stranger than fiction.” Teege, a German-Nigerian woman, discovers that her grandfather was the vicious Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant played by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. As a mixed race German, Teege would definitely have been a target of this man. The book is an exploration of her haunted past, cultural trauma, and personal identity. Booklist calls it a “stunning memoir.”

The Ghost in My Brain, by Clark Elliott

For readers of Oliver Sacks and Norman Doidge – this is the story of Clark Elliott, who after suffering a brain trauma in a car accident, loses the ability to cope. His doctors advise him to learn to live with his deficits but he eventually finds relief in the new field of neuroplasticity. Elliott recorded his experiences throughout this ordeal and his observations give real insight into what it is like to live with a brain injury.

North Korea Confidential, by Daniel Tudor and James Pearson

So what is life actually like in North Korea? After the 1990s famine brought about by the dictator’s absurd policies, the people of North Korea began to take their economic lives into their own hands. Economist writer Daniel Tudor draws on many sources to give a picture of life in this fascinating country – in an age of illegal street markets, k-pop, and western movies on USB drives.

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

Not for the squeamish, this is the memoir of a long-serving brain surgeon who describes what it’s like to be the guy behind the mask. Marsh’s compassion and candor elevate this book, revealing the triumphs, regrets, disasters, and black humour that are the stuff of a neurosurgeon’s career. A humanizing perspective of a profession we tend to think of as cool and detached – it just may be anything but.

The Canning Kitchen, by Amy Bronee

Summer is the time to preserve fruits and vegetables while they’re at the peak of their flavour, and Victoria-based food blogger Amy Bronee (FamilyFeedbag.com) has just the book to get you going. Great photos, advice about safe preservation, classic recipes for pickles, jellies and jams, and mouth-watering new ideas like Bing Cherry BBQ Sauce. Put down your mojito and dig out those wide-mouth jars.


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