Monday, January 26, 2015

from the bookshelf: non-fiction

I have already compiled (some) of my favorite fiction books in two previous posts, but I decided to do another book-centric post focusing on some of my favorite non-fiction books. I'm going to do a bit of a grab-bag here since "non-fiction" is such a wide umbrella term for anything from history books, essays, academic articles, how-to books, and so on. So here are a few of my favorite non-fiction reads from my bookshelf!

Bomb Power by Gary Wills
One of my side interests includes the communities that pop up around the creation of the atomic bomb, along with the emotional resonance the a-bomb has as a cultural symbol. Gary Wills does a fantastic job of breaking down how the atomic bomb has a profound cultural, social, and psychological impact on those who created the bomb in the first place. Although the bomb is sent to demolish an enemy, no one on either end of the bomb remains unscathed. Fun fact: The Manhattan Project (the group charged to create the atomic bomb during WWII) was heavily tied to the University of Chicago, so I was able to go through the archives and read through actual documents from the Manhattan Project while I was working on my thesis! Nearly all documents including memos, letters, notebooks, and actual physicis...stuff, are in UChicago's archives. The nerd in me was OVERJOYED. 

The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson is the stuff of high school English classes and I am guessing that at some point (especially if you attended school in the United States) you have already read a few of these essays - does the idea of turning into a giant transparent eyeball sound familiar? I believe that I read Emerson's essays when I first began attending college at the age of sixteen and something about his style of writing really caught my attention right away. In fact, it was such an obsession that one of my friends bought me a hard copy of Emerson's essays which remains with me to this day (see above photo!).

Empathic Vision by Jill Bennett
This book played a huge role in my Master's thesis and continues to be a text I repeatedly go back to. I will admit that it is a very dense book, because it delves deeply into both affect theory and trauma studies. However, what I like about it is the way that Bennett focuses on how art (visual art) can become a means through which trauma and affect can be discussed. A really fascinating read for anyone who is interested in art, theory, and socio-political issues.

Japan's Total Empire by Louisa Young
I am continually surprised how little many people in the West really know about what went on in the Pacific during WWII. As someone who is Japanese and as someone who studies texts from the WWI/WWII era, I make it a point to read up on as much history as I can. So when a friend of mine suggested this book to me, I decided to give it a shot. As terrible as it is to read about atrocities that one's country has committed, it is even more terrible to ignore what happened in the past. This book addresses the political and economic relationship between Manchuria and Japan, as well as the historical events that led up to Japan's involvement in Manchuria. It was a very insightful and eye-opening book.

Fair Isle Knitting by Alice Starmore
Now for something very different - a knitting book! Knitting is one of my favorite hobbies and the fair isle style is my absolute favorite style. I have done quite a bit of stranded knitting in my time, but I am nowhere near skilled enough to pull off many of these designs. My favorite part of this book (aside from all the great patterns) is how the colors and features of the natural landscape inspire certain patterns - there are a lot of great side-by-side shots showing the colors of nature alongside a knitted pattern that was inspired by the landscape. It's a great book to page through for inspiration!

This is a great reminder to reread some of these favorites!

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