During my spring semester of 2011, I took an “Introduction to Statistics” class. I am not 100% sure why, but in the state of California a statistics class has become required for the undergraduate lower division class requirements. It was through this class that I became familiar with the work of David McCandless, my statistics professor utilized the data that he would collect and we would learn how to analyze it statistically. All around, I found myself incredibly interested in the data which McCandless would collect – at first I would have suggested that he was just collecting random bits of data, but none of it is random at all because if it was then it wouldn’t be data.
Anyways, regardless of all of the statistics chatter I happened to run across a piece of McCandless’s work in the form on an infographic on the Huffington Post in an article called “Non-Fiction Books Everyone Should Read” written by Maddie Crum. McCandless pulled the information for this infographic from some places which many book bloggers will be familiar with, such as: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Man Booker Prize winners, Oprah’s book club, etc.
I am not overly familar with the articles written by Crum nor do I read the Huffington Post often (though it is my preferred “newspaper”), however, I am somewhat critical regarding the idea of labeling material as “should read.” I understand that there are a lot of books in the world – like, so many books in this world that I could probably read a book a day for life and never read them all, and I understand that there are some books which deal with subjects which are heavier and have more substance than others, but does that discount other books as less? I don’t think it does and if it does in your mind, then shame on you for discounting a book before giving it a proper chance. An issue I have also found is that there are individuals who will look down on others for reading fiction and say such things as, “Oh, well I only read non-fiction,” and then they will go on to list all of these non-fiction novels that they have read in some sort of attempt to make themselves seem above or better than you. I have had experiences like this where instead of celebrating a shared love of reading, it becomes some sort of contest of merit between us based upon literary choice and taste – I felt appalled by it and was made to feel ashamed for my reading choices. I eventually got over it and realized that they were the one with the problem, not me, and I returned to reading what I wanted to read – which is what I find to be the most important part of reading, reading what you want to read!
On the positive side of this denotation, it does bring attention to some very important pieces of literature. Let’s take a moment to examine a few of the titles listed in McCandless’s infographic, all synopses are provided by Goodreads:
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
From the time of the ancient Greeks through the present time, this historical overview of cosmology is told by one of the most famous and fascinating scientists today. In the ten years since its publication in 1988, Stephen Hawking’s book has become a landmark volume in scientific writing, with more than nine million copies sold worldwide. That edition was on the cutting edge of what was then known about the nature of the universe. But the last decade has seen extraordinary advances in the technology of observing both the micro- and the macrocosmic worlds, confirming many of Professor Hawking’s theoretical predictions. Eager to bring to his original text the new knowledge revealed by these observations, he has written a new introduction, updated the original chapters throughout, and added an entirely new chapter on the fascinating subject of wormholes and time travel.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Conflict is an inevitable part of life, according to this ancient Chinese classic of strategy, but everything necessary to deal with conflict wisely, honorably, victoriously, is already present within us. Compiled more than two thousand years ago by a mysterious warrior-philosopher, The Art of War is still perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world, as eagerly studied in Asia by modern politicians and executives as it has been by military leaders since ancient times. As a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict, The Art of War applies to competition and conflict in general, on every level from the interpersonal to the international. Its aim is invincibility, victory without battle, and unassailable strength through understanding the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict.
The Diary of Anne Frank
In this transcendently powerful new adaptation by Wendy Kesselman, Anne Frank emerges from history a living, lyrical, intensely gifted young girl, who confronts her rapidly changing life and the increasing horror of her time with astonishing honesty, wit and determination. An impassioned drama about the lives of eight people hiding from the Nazis in a concealed storage attic, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK captures the claustrophobic realities of their daily existence their fear, their hope, their laughter, their grief. Each day of these two dark years, Anne’s voice shines through: “When I write I shake off all my cares. But I want to achieve more than that. I want to be useful and bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death.” This is a new adaptation for a new generation.
What I find to be so fascinating about this infographic is that it brings attention to non-fiction titles from a broad array of subjects. Specifically, McCandless features: History, Philosophy, Science, Biography, Social, Political, and GuideBooks. I think it is very important for each of us as citizens of not just our nation, but the world to have a working knowledge and understanding of all things which impact it – History, Philosophy, Politics, and Science are some incredibly important subjects to focus on and here are my reasons for why:
History – As a citizen of this global world, you should have a working knowledge and understanding of how the world reached the state it is in. You need to have a working knowledge of its history and past, in order to understand the world today.
Philosophy – The beauty of philosophy is that it touches on such a broad array of subjects, and it helps you to form ideas and understanding based upon a set of moral guidelines and teaches you how to form those guidelines for yourself rather than blindly accepting ones which are given to you. I find this to be such a beautiful idea because it helps us to understand that there are multiple ways of thinking and that there is NO ONE RIGHT WAY.
Politics – I’ll be honest that I find politics to be incredibly boring, but what is important about this subject is that I have an understanding of it. I am going to point out a tumultuous subject of current events, many people like to blame President Barack Obama suggesting that he “hasn’t done anything” since he has entered into office. Now, what is important to realize and understand about the politics of the United States of America is that through our system of checks and balances it is impossible for the President to act without the approval of Congress. So, listening (mostly reading) to all of these negative things people have to say regarding President Obama’s administration due to his inaction makes me laugh because these are individuals who either don’t remember their “American Government” class from high school or just want to spout out their discontent while exhibiting their lack of understanding of how this country works. I am not saying that anyone is right or wrong in what they are saying, but I do think it is incredibly important to point out that everyone should have an understanding of how their own government works at the very least.
Science – In high school, I hated science. I found it to be an incredibly dull subject and never felt as if I was learning anything. Since leaving high school and having taken a couple of science classes at the college level, I don’t have as deep of a dislike of the subject. I have learned that I just don’t enjoy science in the classroom, rather, I find myself to be fascinated by the science around me and science that directly impacts me. I find myself absolutely amazed by the science of the human body, climate and the weather around us, physics, astronomy, etc. There are so many things that science explains and think it is incredibly important to have a working knowledge of these things, especially as we are moving forward and understanding how our inventions of the past could be impacting our future and how we can remedy it.
All of these are very important subjects for individuals of all ages and in all places.
What are some of your favorite non-fiction reads? What are some important non-fiction reads that aren’t listed? Do you disagree with any of the non-fiction novels listed? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments!
Hopefully this edition of “My Thoughts Monday” was able to bring attention to some excellent non-fiction reading choices for your further learning pursuits!