Salt, Fat, Acid Heat: Some Final Recommendations
Welcome to the final lesson of our course on 100 Nonfiction books everyone should read!
Last lesson, we explored the art, music, literature, and language category. Put together with the previous eight categories, we have now covered almost every possible type of nonfiction book that exists.
But there’s one more domain for us to complete our nonfiction map! Welcome to lesson 10, where we will finish our quest to build a top 100 list that also covers the full spectrum of nonfiction.
Get ready to add the final 10 books to our must-read shelf!
Leisure, Hobby, and Casual
Top recommendation: Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat.
This final category touches on the final leisure, hobby, and casual aspects of the real world. These include topics like DIY, gardening, crafting, photography, humor, and cooking.
There are many great cookbooks, but most focus on recipes and aren’t meant to be read cover-to-cover. My top pick for this final category is a book about cooking that manages to share recipes in the process of explaining the principles of cooking. Salt Fat Acid Heat is by master chef Samin Nosrat, who presents recipes in a new light.
I found this book helped me understand the basic principles of cooking, as well as some history. When I do have to cook, I can improvise around the four main principles taught in this book, or when I am trying a new recipe, I can appreciate the underlying principles.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan is another great book in the leisure and casual category. Once more I come back to food, but this book is just so great, as it takes more of a look at the history of food and its place in our society. I found it a fascinating read!
How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Your Home by Charles Wing is a great book that gets at the heart of DIY. Whereas most DIY is instruction-based, and like a recipe book, meant to be consulted as needed, Wing’s book walks you through every component of your home and explains what it is, how it works, and with great illustrations, what it looks like. It gave me a new perspective on the parts of my house, and a renewed interest in looking after it.
The Science of Gardening by Dr. Stuart Farrimond is also an excellent way to touch on the gardening aspect of this last category. This book gets to the heart of what gardening is, how it works, and regardless of your aspirations, will let you appreciate how plants grow and thrive. I have consulted many gardening books, but this one stands out for its clear and straightforward explanations. Even if you have no intention of gardening, it’s a fascinating exposé on this hobby that captivates many who enjoy connecting to nature through it.
Understanding Photography: Master Your Digital Camera and Capture That Perfect Photo by Sean T. McHugh touches on a casual activity almost everyone has in common: taking photographs. This book will explain the principles of photography for those interested in going all out and buying special lenses and equipment, but it also presents the principles in a way that will make you appreciate how to take better pictures, even if it’s just with your phone. Additionally, I found it gave me a new appreciation when I study photographs, such as those I find in a great issue of National Geographic.
To close this course, though there are the 10 major categories of nonfiction, and great riches to be found in each, some books are just so great they’re worth mentioning, regardless of their category.
So, to this effect, to close the course, I want to list 5 honorable mentions for the whole nonfiction genre. These are books that I wanted to include in some of the categories, but didn’t quite make it:
• The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr., otherwise known by writers as “Strunk and White,” this book presents E.B. White’s revision of his writing rule-book, given to him by his teacher William Strunk. Whether you’re a writer, or just wanting to learn to write better in your regular communication, this is a valuable breakdown of the rules of clear and effective writing.
• The Bible, New International Version, a book most people know about, and know parts of, but few have read all the way through. This book interested me so much I’ve read it cover-to-cover 3 times, and have read about 15 commentary books to better understand its context. Whether you are religious or not, this book has influenced most of our Western literature, art, music, and culture, and so for this reason, I can’t leave it out of this course!
• The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, a great book that explains how the scientific discovery process works, with great examples from history.
• The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman, about the events prior to World War I, which helped me understand the wars and politics that led up to it, and even some insight to the wars that followed and continue to the present day.
• The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist’s reflection on the history of cancer, told in a powerful way that reveals the story of medical innovation. It really presented me with a new appreciation for how this particular illness has shaped the human narrative.
And that’s a wrap for this course!
I hope you’re now excited to dive into your nonfiction to-read list. I love hearing from my students, so if you want to share your thoughts about any of these books, or if you have any requests for future courses, please let me know. Many of my best course ideas have come from email conversations with students!
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Other courses by John Robin
Boiling Point (2021), with Stephen Graham, showing the realities of life in the food industry
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