Reading list – travel, history, science, food, (auto)biography, cults/religion, psychology

[Just a few of the books I read walking 8-10 miles (round-trip) a day to work and back, reading all the way. Alice Friedemann at]


R. Sapolsky. A Primate’s Memoir

W. Ferguson. Hokkaido Highway Blues

A. Frater. Chasing the Monsoon: A Modern Pilgrimage through India

J. Troost. Sex Lives of Cannibals. Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

N. Chagnon. Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes

M. Owens. Cry of the Kalahari

S. Orlean. The Orchid Thief. A true story of beauty and obsession.

K. House. On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – and Future.

J. Campbell. The Final Frontiersman. Heimo Korth & His Family

L. Stetson.  The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures

F. Hatfield. North of the sun. A memoir of the Alaskan Wilderness.

T. Horwitz. Confederates in the Attic. Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

E. Becker. Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism.

S. Gallaher. Sisters. Coming of Age and living dangerously in the Wild Copper river

J. Kane. Savages.

D. Grann. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

S. Mehta. Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

D. King. Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival

R. Conniff. The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth

R. O’Hanlon. In Trouble Again: A Journey Between Orinoco and the Amazon.

M. Tidwell. The Ponds of Kalambayi: An African Sojourn

S. Erdman. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village

J. McPhee. Coming into the Country

S. Huntington. Shadows on the Koyukuk. An Alaskan Native’s Life along the river

A. Lansing. Endurance. Shackleton’s incredible voyage.

W. Heat-Moon. Blue Highways. A Journey into America.

P. Allison. Don’t Run whatever you do. My adventures as a Safari Guide

G. Packer. The Village of Waiting

Natural History & Science 

R. Conniff.  The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide

J. Sterba. Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds

S. McCarthy. Becoming a Tiger: How baby animals learn to live in the wild

J. Burger. The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship

J. Tresl. Who Ever Heard Of A Horse In The House

B. Krause. Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the origins of music in the world’s wild places

J. McPhee. The Control of Nature.

C. Safina. Eye of the Albatross. Views of the Endangered Sea

A. Weisman. Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

P. Ward. Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe

C. Slobodchikoff. Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals

D. Haskell. The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature

D. Bodanis. The Secret House.

C. Combes. The Art of Being a Parasite

M. Roach. Stiff. The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

M. Roach. Gulp. Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.

M. Roach.  Packing for Mars. The Curious Science of Life in the Void.

N. Jablonski. Skin, A Natural History

D. Wolfe. Tales from the Underground: A Natural History of Subterranean

C. Tudge. The Bird: A natural history of who birds are, where they came from, & how they live

M. Derr.  A Dog’s History of America

S. Ellis. The Man who lives with wolves

C. Zimmer. Parasite Rex. Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures

J. Smith. Nature Noir A Park Ranger’s Patrol in the Sierra

B. Heinrich. Mind of the Raven. Investigations & adventures with Wolf-birds.

C. Mooney. The Republican Brain. The Science of why they Deny Science–and Reality

Psychology / Self-help

J. Harris. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do

J. Harris.  No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality

B. Ehrenreich. Bright-sided: How relentless promotion of positive thinking undermined America

R. Baumeister. Willpower: rediscovering the greatest human strength

C. Duhigg. The Power of Habit. Why we do what we do in life and business.

J. Baraz. Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness

J. Wise. Extreme Fear. The Science of Your Mind in Danger.

B. Kipper. 14,000 things to be happy about

P. Orenstein. Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture


J. Perlin. A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization

J. Weatherford. Genghis Kahn and the Making of the Modern World

E. Lev. The Tigress of Forli. Renaissance Italy’s most courageous and notorious countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici

M. Levinson. The box: how the shipping container made the world smaller

S. LeBlanc.  Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage

D. Landes.  Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor

J. Weatherford. Secret History of the Mongol Queens

B. Bryson. A Short History of Nearly Everything.

R. Ekirch. At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past

D. Cordingly. Under the Black Flag. The Romance & the reality of life among the Pirates

B. Tuchman. Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century

D. Berreby. Us and Them. Understanding Your Tribal Mind.

M. Maren. The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid International Charity

B. Ward-Perkins.  The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization.

American History

C. Johnson. The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic

D. Priest. Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State

L. Lessig. Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It

N. Reding.  Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

T. Wolfe. The Right Stuff.

J. Barry. The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

M. Kalish. Little Heathens. Hard times, high spirits on Iowa Farm during great depression

J. Stratton. Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier

W. Rorabaugh. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition

R. White. It’s Your Misfortune & None of My Own. A new history of the American west

S. Ambrose. Undaunted Courage. Merriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson

S. Pyne. Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire

P. Fussell. Product Details Class: A Guide Through the American Status System

V. Jenkins. The Lawn. A history of an American Obsession


E.O. Wilson. The social conquest of earth

P. Corning. Nature’s Magic. Synergy in Evolution and the Fate of Humankind

G. Miller. The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature

R. Wrangham. Catching Fire: How cooking made us human

M. Zuk. Paleofantasy: what evolution really tells us about sex, diet, and how we live

G. Cochran. The 10,000 Year Explosion. How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution

S. B. Hrdy. Mothers and Others

M. Shermer. The Science of Good & Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share

J. Weiner. Beak of the Finch.


E. Agnew. Back from the Land: How Young Americans Went to Nature in the 1970s

J. Guthman. Agrarian Dreams.  The Paradox of Organic Farming in California

J. Hightower.  Hard Tomatoes, hard Times

K. Eichenwald. The Informant: A True Story

M. Montgomery. A Cow’s Life  The Surprising History of Cattle

J. Opie. Ogallala: Water for a Dry Land

E. Brady. Humboldt: Life on America’s marijuana frontier

S. Vogel. Prime Mover. A natural history of Muscle.

A. Greene. Horses at Work: Harnessing Power in Industrial America


M. Moss. Salt, Sugar, Fat. . How the Food Giants Hooked Us

D. Kessler. The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite

A. Bourdain. Kitchen Confidential. Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

E. Schlosser. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

B. Wilson. Swindled from poison sweets to counterfeit coffee: dark history of food cheats

M. Pollan. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. A natural history of four meals.

A. Sutherland. Cookoff. Recipe fever in America.


J. Toth. The Mole People. Life in the Tunnels beneath New York city

T. Flannery. Throwim’ Way Leg: Tree-Kangaroos, Possums, and Penis Gourds

B. Chatwin. The Songlines.

C. Boehm. Blood Revenge: Conflict in Montenegro & other Tribal Societies


B. White. Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living

J. Walls. The Glass Castle: A Memoir.

F. McCourt. Angela’s Ashes. A Memoir.

E. Gilbert. The Last American Man.

M. Twain. Life on the Mississippi.

B. Harris. Mississippi Solo.

J. Krakauer. Into Thin Air. A personal account of the Mt. Everest disaster.

D. Eggers. A heartbreaking work of staggering genius

J. Berendt. Midnight in the garden of good & evil. A Savannah Story.

H. Hickam. Rocket Boys

W. Whitman. Leaves of Grass.

T. Wolfe. The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test.

J. Harr. A Civil Action.

J. Browne. Charles Darwin. Voyaging.

G. Grandin. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City

O. Gentile. Life List: A Woman’s Quest for the World’s Most Amazing Birds

H. Pearson. Shadow Of The Panther: Huey Newton & the price of black power in America

R. Massie. Peter the Great. His life and world

R. Massie. Catherine the Great. Portrait of a woman.

J. Herriot. All Creatures Great and Small.

E. Abbey. Desert Solitaire.

D. McCullough. Truman.

D. Goodwin. No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: Home Front in WW II

D. Donald. Lincoln.

R. Rhodes. John James Audubon: The Making of an American

M. Farmanfarmaian. Blood and Oil: memoirs of a Persian Prince

R. Hine. Second Sight.

M. Swearingen. FBI Secrets. An Agents Expose.

J. Chang. Wild Swans. Three daughters of China

H. Thompson. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

E. Saks. The center cannot hold: my journey through madness

I. Beah. A Long Way Gone. Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

F. Mayes. Under the Tuscan Sun.

H. Jacobs. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

M. Karr. The Liars’ club. A memoir.

N. Evans. The Horse Whisperer.

P. Read. Alive.


Merrill Goozner. The $800 Million Pill. The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs

S. Glantz. Tobacco War.

J. Bennett. Unhealthy Charities: Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth

Cults, Religion, Communes, etc.

J. Sharlet. The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

T. Kizzia. Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A true story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

J. Kirsch. God Against the Gods: History of the War Between Monotheism & Polytheism

D. Kimbrough. Taking Up Serpents: Snake Handlers of Eastern Kentucky

J. Hill. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape

R. Hine. California’s Utopian Colonies.

L. De Camp. The Great Monkey Trial.

V. Bugliosi. Helter Skelter. The true story of the Manson murders.

D. Eagleman. Sum. Forty Tales from the Afterlives [fiction].

T. Kizzia. Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

Politics & Economics & Miscellaneous

J. Bageant. Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War.

J. Bakan. The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

F. Pearce. The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the Earth

B. Ehrenreich. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

D. Rushkoff. Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back

C. Mooney. The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality

N. Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death.

A. Stewart. Flower Confidential: The Good, Bad, & the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers

T. Wolfe. The Painted Word.

M. Naim. Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, & Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy

D. Dorsey. The Force.

40 books in this list at Amazon (the max allowed, many good ones missing)

Fraud & Greed:  Wall Street, Banks, & Insurance book list

Too serious for many, but if your main quest in life is to get a big picture view and connect the dots, then perhaps you’ll enjoy these

B. Demick. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

R. Rosenbaum. How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III

M. Sperber. Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Education

J. Ryan. Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: Making and Breaking of elite gymnasts & figure skaters

D. Ackerman. The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story

R. Courland. Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story

T. Thwaites. The Toaster Project: Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch

C. Mooney. Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future

J. Diamond. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

E. Gibbon. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

L. Garrett. Betrayal of Trust. The collapse of global health

J. Hogshire. You Are Going To Prison.


I rarely read fiction anymore because there are so many better written, and more interesting biographies, natural history, travel adventures, anthropology, history, science, and other books.  Usually I feel like I’ve wasted my time.  But I love poetry, a joy in so many ways, the vivid language, the deep insights into the minds and worlds of other people.  The best poetry is what you hear live, at cafes, poetry readings, or writing groups.


T. Wolfe. The Bonfire of the Vanities.

S. Rushdie. Midnight’s Children.

L. Serafini. Codex Seraphinianus.

F. Warren. All the Kings Men.

J. Smiley. A Thousand Acres.

C. Hiaasen. Tourist Season.

I. Doig. This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind

L. Tolstoy. War and Peace.

T. Pynchon. Gravity’s Rainbow

Book Reviews: Why I Write Them, How I Find Them

Believe it or not, the books above are what I consider to be light reading.  If you’re interested in the energy crisis, war & violence, collapse of civilization, and more, then you’ll want to see my other lists at:

book list: energy, ecology, evolution, extinction, war, natural resources, carrying capacity, infrastructure, agriculture, politics and more

Alice Friedemann

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