book review

Favorite Books A - Z: Non-Fiction by Todd Henson

Some of my favorite books, from A to Z. Missing books were borrowed or read as ebooks.

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

I recently shared a list of favorite fiction books from A to Z, trying to find a book for each letter of the alphabet. This time I tackled non-fiction books, and found it just as challenging to build the list, but also just as fun. Some of these books I read long ago, so it was great pulling them back out and flipping through them again.

A - The Arrow of Time by Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield

Science, astronomy, and astrophysics have always interested me, so we begin the list with several science books, the first of which is about the nature of time and what we know about it.


B - Black Holes & Time Warps by Kip Thorne

Black holes, wormholes, time warps, all things seemingly possible because of the extreme warping of space. Kip Thorne has been one of the leading black hole researchers and this book is an in-depth coverage of them and other topics. It is an older book, as many of my science books are, but still worth reading.


C - Cosmos by Carl Sagan

Cosmos is a classic. It’s such a great introductory book to science and the universe around us. I do miss Carl Sagan.


D - The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav

This is one of my older physics books. I don’t know how well it has aged, but I remember it as a great introduction to what was then a newer topic: quantum physics.


E - The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene

I’ve read several of Brian Greene’s books, all dealing in one way or another with string theories and the hope they would one day lead to a unified theory of everything. That day seems just as far away, if not further, now than it did when I read the books, but I still enjoyed them.


F - The Fugitive Game by Jonathan Littman

Another topic that has always interested me is the history of hackers, crackers and phreakers, the people who know how to navigate the world of computer and telecommunications networks, sometimes out of curiosity and sometimes with nefarious goals. The Fugitive Game is one of the books about the pursuit and capture of Kevin Mitnick, at the time one of the FBI’s most wanted hackers.


G - Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick

After Kevin Mitnick served his time he became a security consultant and has written a number of books. In Ghost in the Wires he tells his own story of hacking and being on the run. It’s interesting to compare Ghost in the Wires to The Fugitive Game.


H - The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

The Hot Zone was the first book I was aware of to tell the story of the early outbreaks of ebola, an incredibly infectious and deadly virus that we are finally beginning to come up with treatments against. Fascinating read.


I - Imagined Worlds by Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson is a theoretical physicist and professor who has written a number of fantastic books for non-scientists, one of which is Imagined Worlds. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of his. If you’re into theoretical physics, or science fiction, you may have heard of Dyson spheres, the idea of an advanced civilization building an immense structure around a star to satisfy its energy needs. It gets its name from Freeman Dyson who wrote a paper about it in 1960.


J - A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison by James E. Seaver

And now finally a book that has nothing to do with science or technology. I didn’t have one that began with J, but there’s a J in Jemison, so there you go. This is an early American Indian captivity story. Mary Jemison and her family were captured in 1758. Her family was killed and she ended up being adopted by a Seneca family.


K - Kingpin by Kevin Poulsen

I listened to the audio version of Kingpin, the story of Max Butler and his criminal enterprises. This is another story of computer hackers, interestingly told by Kevin Poulsen, who in his day was also a well know hacker.


L - The Little Book of Trading by Michael Covel

The Little Book of Trading is an investment book about a number of professionals who use trend following strategies. I felt it was similar in some ways to Market Wizards (see below), but not written in a Q&A fashion. Interesting read if you’re into investing strategies.


M - Market Wizards by Jack Schwager

I really enjoyed this investing book. It is an older book so some ideas may be a bit dated, but I still feel it’s worth reading. Jack Schwager interviewed a number of successful investors and published these interviews as Q&A. Great insights from some very successful investors in their day.


N - Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

You may have seen the movie based on this book. This is Farley Mowat’s story of living among some wolves in the Arctic, studying them up close, trying to learn whether they were the killing machines some feared. This was a beautiful book.


O - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing is almost two books in one. It could be thought of as Stephen King’s autobiography, telling how he got started (and how it almost didn’t work out). But it’s also a book about writing, providing any would be writer invaluable knowledge about King’s writing process.


P - Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

This is a fascinating book about how we all behave irrationally, and yet do so in very predictable ways. Ariely is a professor of economics who conducted a whole range of experiments to study these topics, and this book is the result.


Q - Never Quit by Jimmy Settle

I wasn’t able to find any non-fiction books I’d read that start with Q, but this one at least came close. Never Quit is the story of Jimmy Settle’s life, from growing up in Alaska to becoming a PJ (parajumper/pararescue), who flies into enemy territory to rescue downed personnel.


R - The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler

This book might be for you if you’re interested in how athletes are sometimes able to achieve such amazing feats, breaking through any resistance, sometimes doing things folks say are impossible until proven wrong.


S - Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks

Sometimes the Magic Works is another book about writing, and the lessons learned by one author over their lifetime. In this case the author is Terry Brooks, who’s The Elfstones of Shannara appeared as the letter E in my list of favorite fiction books A-Z.


T - The Tunnels of Cu Chi by Tom Mangold and John Penycate

The Tunnels of Cu Chi is about a lesser know part of the Vietnam War. It tells of the “Tunnel Rats,” the soldiers who entered the tunnel networks built by the Viet Cong. These were small, cramped, dirt tunnels occupied by enemy soldiers.


U - The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai

The Urban Monk is a self-help sort of book trying to bring some Eastern philosophy to the Western world.


V - Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC by Joseph McCormick and Susan Fisher-Hoch

Similar in topic to The Hot Zone, but about more than ebola, this book is written by two of the medical professionals who have spent their lives studying and looking for ways to treat or prevent some of the most contagious and lethal viruses in the world.


W - A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A humorous and entertaining tale of Bill Bryson’s attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. I really enjoyed Bryson’s writing style. Later I watched the movie, and though I enjoyed it, I would more highly recommend the book.


X - . . .

X may mark the spot, but I can’t find anything there!

Y - You Only Have to be Right Once by Randall Lane

A look at some of the recent tech billionaires and how it took just one great idea at the right time to make their fortune. Looks at some of the people behind companies like Facebook, Dropbox, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, GoPro, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and more.


Z - Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is a joy to read, and in this book we get to read about his take on writing. Similar to King’s On Writing, Zen in the Art of Writing has plenty of useful content if you are an aspiring writer, but also shares insights into the life and stories of Ray Bradbury.


Well, that’s it. What did you think? Have you read any of these? Do you have an A-Z list of your own? If not, give it a try. You might just enjoy looking back on all the books you’ve read.

Stay tuned for more, as I’ll soon be sharing my Favorite Books A-Z of Photography.

Favorite Books A - Z: Fiction by Todd Henson

Some of my favorite books, from A to Z. Missing books were borrowed or read as ebooks.

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

From time to time I like to talk about things that aren’t directly related to photography, especially when they involve passion and inspiration. And I feel very passionate about and gain inspiration from reading, whether it be prose, poetry, graphic works, or non-fiction.

With this in mind, a couple fiction blogs I frequent recently posted lists with a favorite book for each letter of the alphabet. I thought this was a great idea and loved reading through their selections. It got me wondering whether I’ve even read a book for each letter, so I started going through my goodreads lists and my physical book shelves, and below is what I was able to come up with.

If you enjoy this then try to create a list of your own. It’s not easy, but it can be a lot of fun. And check out the lists that inspired my own:

A - Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds

I’ve loved Alastair Reynolds’ work since I read his first book, Revelation Space. These are far future stories often set in space but sometimes set on planets. Perhaps the fact he used to work as a space scientist helps him create stories that just blow me away.


B - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief was such a moving story. I couldn’t put this book down. Set in Nazi Germany, about a young girl who finds herself drawn to books. Very touching.


C - City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

This is the second book of a series, and I’ve still not read the first. But this didn’t stop me enjoying this fascinating fantasy story that felt very different from most others I’ve read.


D - Dracula by Bram Stoker

I grew up absolutely loving, and being terrified of, vampires. And for me Dracula is still one of the most compelling stories about them.


E - The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks

This was one of the very first fantasy books I read, and after I finished I couldn’t wait to find and read more. I’ve always had a soft spot for Terry Brooks’ writing, and it all began with the Elfstones.


F - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Sometimes you can’t beat the classics. Frankenstein, the book, was so very different from the movie versions I’d seen, and in my opinion, a much more compelling story.


G - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

What drew me to this book was the title. I was fascinated to learn what it was all about. And once I started reading I soon found myself reading the second and third books in the series. Very engaging and hard hitting.


H - The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

How could I possibly leave out Douglas Adams? Such a funny, fascinating, and strange story, it will likely always remain a favorite.


I - It by Stephen King

It may be my favorite Stephen King novel. He does such a great job writing kids, I just find myself being sucked into their lives and all the troubles they find. Granted, I was a little disappointed with the ending, but overall It still remains a favorite.


J - Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Recreating dinosaurs. What could possibly go wrong? The movies were fun, but as is almost always the case, I find myself much preferring the book.


K - Kabuki by David Mack

This is the only graphic work I chose to include in my list. I wanted to keep it just prose works, but Kabuki had such an impact on me I had to include it. David Mack has written a fascinating set of stories, but I’m also drawn to his incredible art, which is very different from anything I’d ever seen in comics. If I were to choose a prose novel instead of these graphic ones it would likely be The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan.


L - The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m treating this as a single novel instead of a trilogy. This is another work that had a tremendous impact on me growing up. After reading Terry Brooks I’d heard about Tolkien so I gave him a try. And I’ve been reading him ever sense, sometimes rereading this series, and sometimes reading from his other works.


M - The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian was a very personal story with a protagonist I immediately liked. How do you survive on Mars when you’re left there alone with limited resources? Great story.


N - The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss has a way with words, and this is one of my favorite books both for the story and the way in which he tells the story. I look forward to rereading it before the final book in the trilogy is released.


O - The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Such a short and beautiful story. Neil Gaiman is another who has a way with words, and whose works really draw me in. I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully magical modern fantasy.


P - Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Pawn of Prophecy is the first book in a longer series, the first I’d read by David Eddings. I don’t recall much about them now, other than knowing I thoroughly enjoyed them when I was younger.


Q - Quarantine by Greg Egan

Quarantine was the first book I read by Greg Egan, and I loved it. He took science fiction in directions that were new to me. His stories can be very cerebral and full of ideas.


R - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I was the perfect audience for Ready Player One, having grown up with the games and movies referenced in the story. A fast paced and fun read. I had a hard time picking just one book for R, and so I’ll also mention Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds, the first book of his I’d read.


S - The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I was entranced by The Shadow of the Wind and would very much like to reread it soon. I love books about books, and so a book about a hidden library of forgotten books was right up my alley. A magical story. As with R, I had a very difficult time choosing just one book, so I want to mention The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, a very different and personal sort of tale that has really stayed with me. Both beautiful books.


T - Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein

I had to include Heinlein somewhere in the list. I’ve not read one of his books in quite some time, but growing up I loved them, and Time Enough for Love was one of my favorites.


U - The Unreasoning Mask by Philip Jose Farmer

A strange but fascinating story, possibly the first I read by Farmer. I certainly hope it isn’t the last I read by him.


V - The Vagrant by Peter Newman

This book differs from most of the other speculative fiction I read, and it really drew me in. A main protagonist who never speaks? I wouldn’t have thought it would work, but it did. This was the strongest book of the series.


W - A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

I had to include Ursula K. Le Guin in my list somewhere, and where better than A Wizard of Earthsea. Long before Harry Potter, this was my introduction to a school of wizards and the problems kids can cause, both for themselves and others.


X - Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler

I read Xenogenesis as a single book instead of the originally published series. This was my introduction to Butler, and it left me wanting to read more of her works.


Y - A Bad Spell in Yurt by C. Dale Brittain

I didn’t have anything that started with Y so I had to get a little creative. A Bad Spell in Yurt is a simple, fun, fantasy read. It’s perfect when you want an entertaining story that doesn’t take itself too seriously.


Z - . . .

I have nothing yet to fill the slot for Z, so I wasn’t quite able to finish the list. I do, however, own a couple Z books that may one day let me complete this. The most likely book to one day fill this spot is Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi. I have, so far, enjoyed everything I’ve read by Scalzi.

And, of course, this being a website mostly about photography, I’m also working on a list of photography books, as well as non-fiction books. I’ll post those in the coming weeks, though they may have more missing letters than did this list.

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America by Todd Henson

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America is one hefty birding resource. I’m not entirely sure what it weighs, but I wouldn’t want to drop it on my foot. It contains over 740 pages and measures approximately 7” x 10” and is about 1 3/4” thick.

You could think of this as a field guide on steroids, or perhaps a small birding encyclopedia. It has a layout and content very similar to most fields guides, but contains more information about each species. Some of the illustrations are smaller than in my Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, but with much more text about each species, providing descriptions, guides to identification, geographic ranges and variations, similar species, characteristics of voice, status & distribution, and breeding information. It contains maps, photographs, and illustrations.

Pages 200-201 of  National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

Pages 200-201 of National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

Pages 322-323 of  National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

Pages 322-323 of National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

Pages 354-355 of  National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

Pages 354-355 of National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

Many folks these days might not need a resource such as this, what with all the information freely available online. But I’ve always been a bit of a book lover, and I think this book would appeal to those of you who love holding a resource in your hands and flipping through the pages reading about different species. I’ll look up a specific species and end up spending much longer than anticipated flipping through reading about other species.

I have far too many field guides and bird books, but I’m still pleased to have added National Geographic Complete Birds of North America to my library. It’s the sort of large resource you keep at home where you can study and learn at your leisure, then head into the field to seek out first hand what you’d just read about and studied in the book.