Booklist: Travel, Psychology, World history, Food, Anthropology, (Auto)biography, Religion

Preface. These are by no means all the books I’ve ever read. Books not worth reading aren’t listed, and most of the books I read before 1991 are missing because our house burned down in the Oakland firestorm.

More booklists

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

Travel & Science

  • A. Wulf.  The Invention of Nature: The adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the lost hero of science.
  • R. Conniff. The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth
  • R. Sapolsky. A Primate’s Memoir
  • M. Owens. Cry of the Kalahari
  • L. Stetson.  The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures
  • D. Grann. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
  • D. Preston. The lost city of the Monkey God: a true story
  • A. Lansing. Endurance. Shackleton’s incredible voyage.


  • 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
  • S. Orlean. The Orchid Thief. A true story of beauty and obsession.
  • J. Campbell. The Final Frontiersman. Heimo Korth & His Family
  • B.Braverman. Welcome to the goddamn ice cube: chasing fear and finding home in the great white north
  • E. Becker. Overbooked: the exploding business of travel and tourism
  • 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.
  • S. Mehta. Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found
  • D. King. Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival
  • 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
  • B. Bryson. I’m a stranger here myself: notes on returning to America after 20 years away
  • S. Huntington. Shadows on the Koyukuk. An Alaskan Native’s Life along the river
  • 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
  • C. Childs. Apocalyptic planet. Field guide to the future of earth.
  • N. Cobb. Arctic homestead. The true story of one family’s survival and courage in the Alaskan wilds
  • J. Campbell. Braving it. A father, a daughter, and an unforgettable journey into the Alaskan wild
  • P. Rivoli. The travels of a t-shirt in the global economy: an economist examines the markets, power, and politics of world trade


  • M. Shermer. The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule
  • 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
  • A. Raine. Anatomy of violence. The biological roots of crime.
  • S. Quartz. Cool. How the brain’s hidden quest for cool drives our economy and shapes our world
  • D. Adam. The man who couldn’t stop: OCD and the true story of a life lost in thought
  • A. Ansari. Modern romance
  • B. Brogaard. On romantic love: simple truths about a complex emotion

World History

  • K. Boo. Behind the beautiful forevers. Life, death, & hope in a Mumbai undercity
  • M. Carter. George, Nicholas and Wilhelm. Three royal cousins and the road to WW I
  • C. C. Mann. 1491. New revelations of the Americas before Columbus
  • C.C. Mann.  Uncovering the new world Columbus created
  • M. Gessen. The future is history. How totalitarianism reclaimed Russia
  • P. Pomerantsev. Nothing is true and everything is possible: the surreal heart of the new Russia
  • E. Lev. The Tigress of Forli. Renaissance Italy’s most courageous and notorious countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici
  • C. Fletcher. The black prince of Florence. The spectacular life and treacherous world of Allesandro de’ Medici
  • K. E. House. On Saudi Arabia: its people, past, religion, fault lines – and future
  • R. Winston. Life in the Middle Ages
  • J. Weatherford. The secret history of the Mongol queens: how the daughters of Genghis Khan rescued his empire
  • J. R. Gillis. The human shore: seacoasts in history
  • M. Forsyth. A short history of drunkenness: how, why, where, and when humankind has gotten Merry



  • N. Chagnon. Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes
  • 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
  • M. F. Brown. Upriver: the turbulent life and times of an Amazonian people


  • B. White. Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living
  • J. Walls. The Glass Castle: A Memoir.
  • M. Finkel. The stranger in the woods: the extraordinary story of the last true hermit
  • S. Schiff. Cleopatra. A life.
  • F. McCourt. Angela’s Ashes. A Memoir.
  • E. Gilbert. The Last American Man.
  • M. Twain. Life on the Mississippi.
  • B. Harris. Mississippi Solo.
  • D. Ackerman. 2013. The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story
  • J. Krakauer. Into Thin Air. A personal account of the Mt. Everest disaster.
  • D. Sedaris. Calypso & Let’s explore diabetes with owls
  • O. Sacks. On the move: A life
  • T. Westover. Educated: A memoir
  • K. Laymon. Heavy: an American memoir
  • H. Jahren. Lab Girl.
  • 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.
  • H. Macdonald. H is for Hawk.
  • 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.
  • R. Chernow. Grant.
  • 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.
  • C. Hoffman. Greetings from Utopia park. Surviving a transcendent childhood
  • A. Sethi. A free man. A true story of life and death in Delhi.
  • S. Stoll. Ramp hollow: the ordeal of Appalachia
  • J. D. Vance. Hillbilly elegy. A memory of a family and culture in crisis.
  • L. Hillenbrand Unbroken: a world war II story of survival, resilience, and redemption


  • K. Kruse.  One Nation Under God: How corporate America invented Christian America
  • T. Heaton. The gospel of self: How Jesus joined the GOP
  • C. Nixey. The darkening age. The Christian destruction of the classical world
  • 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
  • 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


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

I rarely read fiction anymore because there are so many better written, more interesting (auto)biographies, natural history, travel adventures, anthropology, history, science, and other books.  Usually I feel like I’ve wasted my time. I have read a lot of fiction because in college I didn’t have time to take English courses so in my free time I worked by way from A to Z through the world’s great literature, especially enjoying Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and finding Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” the least worthwhile of them all.  I prefer poetry because it takes you deep into the soul and world view of the poet, especially when spoken aloud.  My favorite book of poetry lately is Marianne Betterly’s  “The return of the bees”.


  • 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

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