Friday, November 13, 2009

Things I've Noticed: Non-Fiction is getting cooler to me

I use the library a lot, so much in fact that my wife often refers to the library as my "Girlfriend," but it is only lately that I've started getting into non-fiction books. For years I stuck to the fiction section and missed out on all sorts of great reads.

In the last couple of years I've begun to read about one non-fiction book a month and this morning I was noticing that a lot of them are beginning to be the kind of books I'd recommend to others. Here are three, just so you can get a taste of what I'm talking about.

Things We Think About Games, by Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball
This book is a list of rules for people who play games, almost like an etiquette book. They refer to every kind of game from board game, to Role Playing Game, to Console and online games. Advice ranges from good suggestions for first-time board-gamers, to better ways to play World of Warcraft. The whole book takes maybe an afternoon to read and basically asks gamers to think about their hobby and find ways to play more effectively.

The experience of reading this book, written by one of the creators of my favourite high school show (Freaks & Geeks), was shockingly like looking back at my own childhood. The author looks with a merciless and yet nostalgic eye at his own childhood in the late '70s/early '80s and shows us all the horrible and wonderful things we might not remember about growing up. It is really, really good and there is a sequel, Superstud: or how I became a 24-year-old virgin, that had me laughing so hard I cried.

This book starts with a pretty neat idea. A man wants to build a clock that will still be functional in 10,000 years. The clock has to be mechanical, as there would be no guarantee that electrical power could be consistent and maintained over such a massive amount of time. Maintenance of the clock must be described in such a way that virtually anyone (remember, in 10,000 years time we might not be reading in English) could fix it if any problems came up. The chapters switch from a discussion about how to make this clock work to discussions about long-term planning, a concept most people don't like to think about. This book is engaging, interesting, and the kind of thing you have to discuss with friends once you finish.

I love fiction, and will continue to read it for years to come, but as I've started looking at non-fiction, there are a lot of really cool titles out there that get me very interested in our world. Next up for me: The Radioactive Boy Scout: the true story of a boy and his backyard Nuclear Reactor, by Ken Silverstein.

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