Steven Knight: Non-fiction Books (to be read someday)

Last updated: 5 August 2000

This is one of several ongoing lists of books which pique my interest after reading or hearing about them. Notes and synopses in the table below, when not direct quotations, are based on third-hand impressions from reviews and other descriptions, so don't come crying to me if they aren't accurate. I do, however, welcome amendments and corrections.

Author Notes Book Reference Notes
Ball, Edward   Slaves in the Family (1998) NYTBR, 1 March 1998
Star Tribune, 19 April 1998
A descendant of slave owners tries to document and come to terms with the reality of his family history.
Beatty, Jack   The World According to Peter Drucker (1998) NYTBR, 11 January 1998 Known primarily as a management visionary, Drucker turns out to be an exceptionally broad intellect and surprisingly ambivalent about capitalism.
Berlinski, David   The Advent of the Algorithm: The Idea That Rules the World (2000) NYTBR, 21 May 2000 As it says.
Bobrick, Benson   Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution (1997) NYTBR, 6 July 1997 "What [the American Revolution] has needed in recent years is a storyteller fit to get it between two covers. Now it has found one."
Boyd, Brian Professor of English at the University of Auckland and the author of "an insightful two-volume biography of Nabokov." Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery (2000) NYTBR, 5 March 2000 It turns out Nabokov's masterpiece is an elaborate ghost story.
Brier, Bob An Egyptologist of note. The Murder of Tutankhamen: A True Story (1998) NYTBR, 6 May 1998 A reconstruction, from available evidence, of Brier's theory that Tutankhamen was murdered by his successor.
Brooks, David   Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (2000) NYTBR, 21 May 2000 Tracing the rise of success of the "bohemian bourgeois," the dominant social caste in early-21st-century America. Who'd have guessed that the winners would be a synthesis of 60's-era social consciousness with 80's-style go-go capitalism?
Bryson, Bill A mildly overweight, middle-aged, self-described "cupcake:" "...a lumbering, droll, neatnik intellectual who comes off as equal parts Garrison Keillor, Michael Kinsley and...Dave Barry." A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (1998) NYTBR, 31 May 1998 Bryson decides to tackle the Appalachian trail, dispensing with the expected analogies to journeys of self-discovery in favor of witty observation.
Chang, Iris   The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (1997) NYTBR, 14 December 1997 How the Japanese slaughtered 350,000 out of a city of 650,000 in a generally forgotten (and now politically sensitive) episode of the war.
Conover, Ted   Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing (2000) NYTBR, 14 May 2000 "Denied permission to write about the lives of correction officers, the author became one himself."
Foveaux, Jessie Lee Brown   Any Given Day: The Life and Times of Jessie Lee Brown Foveaux (1997) NYTBR, 26 October 1997 (advertisement) Memoirs by an older woman from Oklahoma written as part of a seniors' writing seminar. Her relatives passed around copies; publishers picked up and bid on the story after it was written up in The Wall Street Journal. Unsparing look at a hard life in mid-twentieth century middle America.
Fowles, John Novelist, author of The French Lieutenant's Woman and Daniel Martin. Wormholes: Essays and Occasional Writings (1998) NYTBR, 31 May 1998 As it says.
Gladwell, Malcolm   The Tipping Point (2000) NYTBR, 5 March 2000 "A journalist's study of social epidemics, otherwise known as fads."
Goldman, William   The Big Picture: Who Killed Hollywood? and Other Essays (2000) NYTBR, 9 April 2000  
Which Lie Did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade (2000) NYTBR, 9 April 2000  
Harris, Judith Rich   The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do (1998) NYTBR, 13 September 1998 The influence of peers on children's behavior is often overlooked in the psychological literature.
Kermode, Frank   Shakespeare's Language (2000) NYTBR, 25 June 2000 "...reminds us that Shakespeare was a poet and that his plays are not idelogical constructs."
Kutchins, Herb and Stuart A. Kirk   Making Us Crazy: DSM: The Psychiatric Bible and the Creation of Mental Disorders (1997) NYTBR, 16 November 1997  
Kelly, Thomas Forrest   First Nights: Five Musical Premieres (2000) NYTBR, 4 June 2000  
Komar, Vitaly and Alexander Melamid Expatriate Soviet dissident artists who came to U.S. in 1978. Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid's Scientific Guide to Art (1997; Ed. by JoAnn Wypijewski) NYTBR, 4 January 1998 Tongue only partly in cheek, Komar and Melamid poll people the world over on their artistic preferences (favorite color blue, landscapes preferred, &c), and focus groups confirm the poll's findings. They then create paintings that "scientifically" reflect each country's "favorite" qualities. A real-life controversy erupted in the art world as a result. ("I think that talking about what the people want is absurd." --Dore Ashton)
Leveridge, Brett " occasional essayist for the public radio programs 'This American Life' and 'All Things Considered'" Men My Mother Dated: And Other Mostly True Tales (2000) NYTBR, 23 July 2000 " aw-shucks portrait of small-town romance... [over] 20 chapters that range from Mom's first date at the age of 14 to a sneaky wager that required her to juggle (successfully) five men in a single day..." I love the idea.
Maier, Pauline Professor of American history at M.I.T. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (1997) NYTBR, 6 July 1997 It turns out the Declaration is a product of a culture which turned out many similar documents around the same time. Jefferson may have contributed more substance (actually declaring independence) than form (memorable verbiage).
Nasar, Sylivia   A Beautiful Mind (1998) NYTBR, 14 June 1998 Portrait of John Nash, who suffered from schizophrenia for thirty years after doing Nobel-prize-winning work laying the foundations of game theory.
Perkins, Maxwell and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings   Max and Marjorie (2000) NYTBR, 2 July 2000 The collected correspondence between the editor who discovered Fitzgerald and Hemingway and the author of "The Yearling" and "Cross Creek."
Posner, Gerald Author of Case Closed, a thoroughly masterful investigation of JFK assassination conspiracy theories. Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1998) NYTBR, 26 April 1998 James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King, Jr. Case closed.
Rosenfeld, Richard N.   American Aurora (1997) NYTBR, 20 July 1997 (advertisement) Apparently, a history of a 1790 Philadelphia newspaper that printed afoul of the government, by which it was suppressed, becoming a test-case for the new republic's newly-defined rights.
Shapiro, James   Oberammergau: The Troubling Story of the World's Most Famous Passion Play (2000) NYTBR, 9 July 2000 "A scholar examines art and anti-Semitism in the ancient play of Oberammergau."
Shesol, Jeff   Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud That Defined a Decade (1997) NYTBR, 26 October 1997  
Suskind, Ron   A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey From the Inner City to the Ivy League (1998) NYTBR, 2 August 1998 Suskind's circa-1994 reportage about " a deserving teen-ager from a ghetto school got into a brand-name college, and why it's not an inspirational story."
Vogel, Steven A professor at Duke University with an aptitude for good verbal explanation of biomechanics. Cats' Paws and Catapults (1998) NYTBR, 31 May 1998 An examination of natural and human engineering, how they influence each other, and how nature doesn't always hit on the best way of doing something.
Wills, Gary " eminent historian and one of the most intellectually distinguished members of Catholic laity in the United States." Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit (2000) NYTBR, 11 June 2000  
Wolfe, Alan A sociologist who teaches at Boston University and eschews quantitative sociological analysis for in-depth interviewing. One Nation, After All: What Middle-Class Americans Really Think About: God, Country, Family, Racism, Welfare, Immigration, Homosexuality, Work, the Right, the Left, and Each Other (1998) NYTBR, 8 March 1998 Wolfe interviews a great many mainstream, now rather conservative, middle-of-the-road families (avoiding skewing the results towards "godless liberal intellectuals") and finds that they have a healthy tolerance for diversity and don't like the Christian right's divisive political approach ("Them's the meanest people. They talk mean.").
Wolff, Michael Founder of Wolff New Media, a WWW content provider. Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet (1998) NYTBR, 26 July 1998 How Wolff's venture burned through a great deal of money before ultimately failing.

Abbreviation Index:
National Public Ratio / All Things Considered
The New York Times
The New York Times Book Review
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