Generally, I don’t read many nonfiction books. I try to read the news (ugh), or the occasional random article that grabs my attention, but it’s not my habit to seek out full-length books that aren’t novels. However, I’ve tried to read more nonfiction books this year (whether not it’s been successful is yet to be determined), and in the last month or so I ended up reading three at basically the same time. Not sure why; I read depending on my mood, and apparently I’ve been in the mood for knowledge lately.
So here are the three nonfictions I’ve delved into this fall, with brief reviews of what I thought! (Spoilers, I really liked them!)
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
In this memoir by Stanley Tucci, the actor and foodie chronicles his life through the lens of the food he’s known, discovered, and loved, and how cooking has shaped the person he is now. He recalls stories from growing up with his Italian family, tells about getting into acting, about finding and losing love, then finding it again, and throughout food is a major player.
Tucci’s passion and wit really shines, and it’s a really entertaining book. I knew next to nothing about him before this, and I had a lot of fun. He reads the audiobook too, which was brilliant. I loved the recipes and funny stories, and was moved by the more melancholy moments he recollects. But by far the best part was when he’s momentarily reduced to expletives because of how delicious carbonara is.
Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive by Philipp Dettmer
The creator of the Youtube channel Kurzgesagt — In a Nutshell explores one of the most important and complex parts of the human body: the immune system. He explains how it works when an injury occurs, how it fights off bacteria and viruses, and how it can develop immunity. He delves into the ways autoimmune diseases operate, as well as the power and brilliance of vaccines. And it’s up to date, too, with a chapter about the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is a really fascinating subject, that I knew basically nothing about. Dettmer presents all this information in an accessible way, with some humor and plenty of brightly colored diagrams. Sometimes his tone reminds me of if Ryland Grace wrote a pop science book about immunology, which I loved. Certain sections are fairly dense and full of weird details, but Dettmer makes you feel as if he’s on this journey with you, never talking down to you, but not alienating you from the information either. It’s a really informative and surprisingly fun read, for what is still at its core a medical text. And even the parts that deal with current events are not without hope. If you read this, you’ll finish it not only more informed about how the immune system works, you’ll also be a little in awe. Science is just so cool.
Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras
This is one of the projects of some of the Atlas Obscura team, highlighting various places on every continent (even Antarctica!) that feature strange or innovative foods. Each dish’s description is accompanied with its history, cultural influences, and even how to try it in its home location. The book is divided into continents, then regions or countries.
The photos are vivid, the information wonderfully presented, and the focus pretty evenly divided across the globe. No region is neglected, and the darker history of certain foods—often affected by or even resulting from things like war and slavery—isn’t shied away from. It’s all history, and it affects us all. But this is also such a cool, joyous celebration of how creative people can be. This book emphasizes not our differences, but our similarities: we all need to eat, but we also love to make that an enjoyable experience. This is a global sojourn, sometimes delicious and sometimes bizarre, and it’s such a delight. In a time when we can’t necessarily travel, this is a wonderful book for anyone experiencing wanderlust. If you like history, or even just like to eat, flip through this book, and I guarantee you’ll find something cool to read (and crave).