Popular Nonfiction Authors Pick Summer Reads


Summer Reading is sponsored by Audible.

The work of a great nonfiction author can expand your world, make you smarter, and maybe even make you think about yourself a bit differently (not to mention strengthen your cocktail party conversations). So, we asked three of our favorite nonfiction authors to recommend some summer reading, and to explain their picks.

You’ll hear from Mary Roach (whose fascinating, funny, and addictive science books should surely be added to your Want to Read list), one of today’s most popular historians Nathaniel Philbrick (who makes American history as riveting as a thriller), as well as a guy who will make you ‘better and faster,’ New York Times columnist Charles Duhigg. Did we also mention that all three were 2016 Goodreads Choice Award nominees as well? Yeah, these writers know what they’re talking about!

Mary Roach
Author Mary Roach loves to ask the questions we’re dying to know the answers to…sometimes literally (she wrote an entire book on what happens to our postmortem selves in Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers). She’s also explored what our lives would look like off of Earth in Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.

Her other highly entertaining books include close looks at sex (Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex), war (Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War), and the afterlife (Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife).

The science writer selected three works of fiction for her perfect summer reading, including tales of a a cramped road trip, a crackling read about a boozy lawyer, and a struggling poet who bumbles into a series of mishaps.


Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers

“Should you find yourself crammed in a crappy rented RV with your family this summer, here is fitting, delicious escape. Endearingly verblunget protagonist Josie grabs her kids, ditches her husband, and heads to Alaska on a fraught, hilarious, random, ultimately redemptive road trip. Unlike Josie’s children, I did not want it to end. Eggers’ genius for fully fleshed, emotionally 3-D characters is much in evidence here. Does your RV have a heater under the sewage tank to keep the contents liquid in cold climes? Do not let your children play with the switch.”


I Take You by Eliza Kennedy

“An unapologetically promiscuous, joyously well-boozed lawyer named Lily finds herself on the brink of marriage with the shit hitting the summer breezes off the Key West resort where her nuptials may or may not transpire. Kennedy also gets hired for screenplays and you will understand why after two pages. I want to quote you a dozen cracking lines of dialog but they won’t make sense out of context. Trust me. Funny, funny novel, masterfully executed.”


The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter

“Matt quits his day job for the ludicrous prospect of a website that delivers financial news in verse. Bills pile up. Foreclosure looms. Marriage is imploding. Late one night, still in his slippers, he drives to the 7-Eleven for milk and more or less doesn’t comes back. “Slippers”—as the drug dealers he meets and drives to a party that night call him—blunders into a series of crimes as creatively misguided as his poetry scheme. As with all Walter’s books (or anyway, the ones I’ve read: Beautiful Ruins, Citizen Vince), the writing is witty, well-paced, and just generally amazing.”

Charles Duhigg
Do you ever wish you could change your bad habits or create healthy routines? Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Charles Duhigg has done the research into why you do the things you do, and how you can start changing your patterns. His The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list. And his followup to that bestseller, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business researches the latest science of productivity, and how managing your thoughts can change your life.

Duhigg is currently writing the Adventures in Capitalism column for The New York Times. His perfect summer books include a dark western, a sci-fi beach read, and a book he loves to read with his boys.


The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

“This is a great, dark western that is funny and strange and exciting and, mostly, just kind of weird. It’s a western, but totally unlike what you expect a western to be. And, I hear it’s getting made into a movie. So if you read it now, you’ll seem really smart when you eventually tell your friends that the book is much better.”


The Hike: A Novel by Drew Magary

“This is really fun escapism, and it’s pretty inventive and well written, to boot. If you are on a beach, and want a book that is kind of sci-fi but also kind of not-into-robots-or-aliens-or-spaceships, and you like books that make you think (but not too hard), this is a great choice.”


Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

“I have 2 sons, both under 10 years old, and—literally—there will never be enough Diary of a Wimpy Kid books for us to read together. This is like family magic between two covers.”

Nathaniel Philbrick
Nathaniel Philbrick has written extensively on United States history in books that make historical figures leap from the page. His In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, that explored the real-life events that inspired Moby Dick, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction. Mayflower: A Story of Community, Courage, and War was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History. And last year, Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for history & biography.

So what does the historian consider great summer reading? How about out an explorer’s biography, a YA trilogy on the American Revolution, and a Dickens classic?


A Man for All Oceans: Joshua Slocum and the First Solo Voyage Around the World by Stan Grayson

“Part character study, part adventure story—as close to the definitive word on the enigmatic Joshua Slocum as we’ll probably ever have.”


Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

“The first in an amazing trilogy about the American Revolution for young adults. I don’t care what age you are, this is a terrific read.”


Little Dorritt by Charles Dickens

“I’m reading this for the first time and can’t put it down—gritty, sad, uplifting, and so very real.”

What books are you adding to your summer reading list? Want more inspiration? Check out more of our summer reading coverage here.


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posted by Cybil
on May, 26

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