William likes to think of himself as a guy with eclectic tastes, but that mostly means his to-be-read pile grows much faster than his ability to keep pace. He is primarily drawn to non-fiction (world history, the medieval era, and writing about the environment to be particular), but leavens it with a healthy dose of science and general fiction. If you remember only one thing about him, let it be that he can eat an entire frozen pizza in one sitting.
It’s not often you come across a book that is equal parts riveting and thought-provoking, but to cast this book purely as a page-turner (though it was just that for me) would be to damn it with faint praise: this an utterly fantastic work of narrative history, among the best I’ve ever read. It is a highly readable, meticulously researched, and even-handed reflection on the costs of political violence. I can’t recommend it enough.
Hochschild’s account of one of history’s most egregious, murderous frauds is, frankly, a feat of narrative history - it’s exceptionally well-researched, reads like a novel, and lets its unvarnished depiction of colonialism do all the work of indicting it without the need for polemics. It’s also got a lovely new paperback edition, so it’s a great time to pick up a copy.
A briskly paced, eminently readable introduction to the crusades that is both sweeping in its ambition and granular when it chooses to be. If you're at all interested in the middle ages, you're in safe hands with Jones - he knows how to spin a yarn, but he also has clearly done his research, and it shows in his choice of vivid anecdotes and illustrative profiles of people both great and small. He understands the importance of the crusades not only as a discrete set of conflicts, but as a surprisingly wide-ranging institution with a lasting influence.
This book is absolutely loaded with forgotten puzzle pieces of American history, from the astonishing to the absurd - it’s as insightful (and morbidly fascinating) as any non-fiction I’ve ever read. As a history of American imperialism, it strikes a good balance between readability and detail - Immerwahr largely forgoes sanctimony in favor of a matter-of-fact approach, leavened with wry, often morbid humor when it’s fitting.
Structured like a mystery (that also shows the process by which our understanding of history has evolved), this portrait of Polynesian settlers’ bewildering, ingenious feat isn’t just informative, it’s downright stirring. By the time you finish this book you’ll be hard pressed not to be moved by the heights humans can achieve through collective effort and dedication.