Although I am a Fiction writer, Fantasy mostly, I do occasionally enjoy a non-fiction book. And I’m not necessarily talking: text books, How to’s, or autobiographies but books that will actually take you on an adventure. As we head into Autumn, I thought I’d share with you a group of non-fiction books that I’ve read, most recently, and give you something to chew on and enjoy as the days become cooler.
Non-fictional reads that take you on an adventure!
The Man Who Killed Houdini by Don Bell This is mostly for History Buffs or those who are interested in the world of magic. Mr. Bell is an investigative reporter and decides to find out exactly how magician, Harry Houdini died. History tells us that it was a punch thrown by a boxer who caught Houdini off guard (Houdini was known to withstand any blow to the midsection). Because he wasn’t ready, Harry’s appendix ruptured and he died shortly thereafter.
The book begins in 1982 and follows the trail of surviving members that were connected to J. Gordon Whitehead, the boxer from Montreal, and attempts to answer the question of whether the body blow was intentional or accidental. Whitehead was never arrested or even considered a suspect in Houdini’s death.
My comments: I’ve been a longtime fan of Houdini and the subject of magic itself. I knew about the accidental punch and Houdini’s death but never gave it a second thought. When I came across this book, I just had to read it. It peaked my curiosity as to what really happened that fateful day in 1926.
102 Minutes: The untold story of the fight to survive inside the Twin Towers. Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. Everyone knows about the events of September 11, 2001 with the demise of the two towers of the World Trade Center. What a lot of people may not know is the number of people who tried to contact the “outside world” from within the towers during that event. This book accumulates every text, phone call, message, and conversation that took place on that day.
In addition, the book outlines the initial construction of the towers, the building fire codes, the previous attempt to blow up the building in 1993, and where all of the people who work in the building were prior to and after the attack.
My Comments: This is a wonderful book! You really feel like you’re actually at the scene of the attack on that fateful day. The Prologue sets up where everyone was located in both towers before the attack commenced and from then on, it gives you a play by play from the first plane hitting all the way through to the end when both towers collapsed. You can feel the frustration in the police officers and firefighters as they watch the events unfold and are unsure as to how to proceed. I would also recommend the docudrama, Flight 93: The Fight that Fought Back. This DVD gives you an idea of what the passengers aboard that flight did to prevent that plane from reaching it’s final destination.
The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes inside Biosphere 2 by Jane Poynter. This is a first hand account of the behind-the-scenes inside Biosphere 2 by a surviving member of the eight (four men, four women) who lived inside for two years. One of the reasons for developing this project was to see if an Earthlike atmosphere could be duplicated by man so that people could inhabit other planets like Mars.
My Comments: Since moving to Arizona in 1991, I’ve always wanted to see the Biosphere 2 project. My family and I went down to Tucson in 2009 where it is located and had the opportunity to tour through the facility and get an understanding of what the project was all about. The book was a fabulous read and gave me a first hand look of what day-to-day living was like inside the Biosphere 2. I picked up a copy in the gift shop but it is available for purchase on Amazon.com!
Life on Foot: A Walk Across America by Nate Damm. Bitten by the travel bug, Nate decides to literally walk from one side of the country to the other. He begins in Delware and, 3500 miles later, reaches the Pacific Ocean and California. Along the way, Nate meets a variety of different types of people who help him in his travels. Anything from handing a few dollars to giving him a room to crash in for the night. His trek is full of wonder and terror as he encounters many obstacles on his journey.
My Comments: This is one excellent read and the author captures the spirit of America fully in his descriptions. You get the sense of walking right along side of Nate as he treks his way from one city to the next and from one state to the next. There are times when he wants to chuck it all away and return to his home and family, but keeps pressing on to the end to accomplish this little challenge in his life. It also shows that people, in general, are friendly and helpful to one another in a lot of different ways and the human spirit is not yet dead.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the initial trek to the ruins of Peru by Hiram Bingham, Writer Mark Adams decides to travel the same trail and rediscover those ruins himself.
My Comments: One of the things I love about this book is that the writer follows Hiram Bingham’s trek both physically and in the story. He bounces back and forth between Hiram’s journey and his own in such a way that it appears that both men are traveling side by side but 100 years apart. I’ve been a fan of Machu Picchu ruins for a long time and I too would love to travel to the ruins myself someday.
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson. This heavily research book takes the reader on the pathway that John Wilkes Booth used after leaving Ford’s Theater the night he assassinated the president. The other portion of the book follows the dying president who is physically removed from the theater and across the street to a back room which eventually became his deathbed.
My Comments: Like the books before this one, the writer draws you into the story and you feel that you are traveling alongside Booth as he makes his escape to the South. At the same time, you are place inside the room where the president lay dying and witness the various people that attend to him.
Swanson’s followup is a book called, Bloody Crimes which follows the trail of Jefferson Davis and his escape to the South while, at the same time, we follow the body of President Lincoln aboard his funeral train as it makes it trek across the various states, making stops along the way for mourners to pay their respects until he laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois.
There you have it! Just a few non-fiction books which I have read that take the reader on an amazing adventure. Do you have a similar book that you have read or know of that is not listed here? Please feel free to share it in the comments. Or if you have any questions or comments, please post them as well!