Top Ten Tuesday: favorite nonfiction authors

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the wonderful book blog, The Broke And the Bookish. Our directions this week state: “This week’s Top Ten Tuesday lets you choose your favorite authors in a specific genre, be it sci-fi, romance, nonfiction….anything that strikes your fancy!” I chose nonfiction authors. I’ll also admit that at first I thought top ten nonfiction authors WAS the theme for everybody, since I saw that topic pop up on my Twitter feed this morning from The Avid Reader’s Musings blog. “there’s one I could do,” I thought. So here goes – and for once these actually ARE in ranking order, with #1 being my favorite.

10. Sam Kean (author of The Disappearing Spoon)

I still haven’t posted about this great book I read last year. Now he has a newer book out that I’ve also heard great things about, “The Violinist’s Thumb – and Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius as Written by our Genetic Code.”‘ The book I read, The Disappearing Spoon is about tales related to the discovery and refinement of the Period Table of Elements. Fascinating Stuff!

9. Isaac Asimov (for his Guide to Shakespeare)

More known for his prowess in the sci-fi genre, Asimov was a tremendously prolific writer of non-fiction as well. I also own a book of his on astronomy and his autobiography, “I, Asimov.” It was his guide to Shakespeare, though, which influenced me the most, helping me through my “Project: Shakespeare” in 2008, where I was able to work my way through two-thirds of The Bard’s plays. Thank you, Mr. Asimov.

8. Timothy Ferris (for his “Coming of Age in The Milky Way)

One of several books that opened me up to the vast wonders and especially the history of scientific exploration. “Coming of Age…” deals for the most part with astronomy, and is now somewhat dated, but also recounts the early, stumbling growth of scientific knowledge.

7. Jonathan Rowson (primarily for “The Seven Deadly Chess Sins”)

I spent twenty-five years on “the circuit” playing chess tournaments, and Rowson’s books were the ones that I identified with the most. Rowson, though a talented grandmaster, is not the stereotypical, monomaniacal chess genius who thinks of nothing else. Though I was a serious player, I always tried to stay well-rounded too.

6. Bill Bryson (for several books)

Consistently witty, Bryson’s writing always serves as a great pick-me-up if I get into a reading rut and am bogged down with heavier material. Probably his “A Walk in the Woods” is my favorite since I’m a chronic walker and woods-wanderer too.

5. Plutarch (for his “Parallel Lives”)

A great influence on my love of history (I even became a history major in college) Plutarch’s “Lives” of the Noble Romans and Greeks have also been great influences to other historians up to the present time. (And yes, I had to get a classical author in here 🙂 Herodotus was the runner-up)

4. Benjamin Franklin (for his Autobiography)

I’ve read through this book so many times. It’s almost a manual for self-improvement. Maybe this could be considered the first “self-help” book, but it’s so much more that that classification feels insulting. Everyone should read it. This includes you. 🙂

3. Ray Kurzweil (for several different books)

My friends in the skeptical community will be rolling their eyes at this one. A famous “futurist,” Kurzweil’s books are nothing if not fascinating. His “Fantastic Voyage” explores the possibilities of technology-aided life extension while his books “The Age of Spiritual Machines” and “The Singularity is Near” deal with artificial intelligence. Irresistibly compelling topics for this reader.

(below: Ray Kurzweil, appropriately pictured with a rack of TomSwift books)

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2. Carl Sagan (for ALL his books)

Sagan was a great “populizer” of science, as evidenced by his frequent appearances on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” and his landmark PBS series, Cosmos. I’ve read almost all of his (mainstream anyway) books. Some favorites are Pale Blue Dot, Broca’s Brain, and The Demon Haunted World. His transparent love of learning and knowledge is highly contagious.

(below: Carl Sagan)

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1. Daniel Boorstin (primarily for “The Creators” and “The Discoverers”)

It was a tough decision on who would be my #1, and Boorstin wins by a hair. His “joy of the amateur” that guided his inquiry into the history and stories that fill his books was a tremendous influence on me, allowing me to realize that one doesn’t necessarily need to channel all his focus in one direction but can pursue many interests and fields of study. “The Creators” is perhaps my favorite nonfiction book of all time.

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That’s my list. Anyone else do non-fiction? I’ll be checking the roster at The Broke and The Bookish to find out…