Nonfiction, non-dental reads for the summer

Although it’s currently 45 degrees and rainy in Chicago, I can’t help but daydream about Summer’s arrival. Technically, Summer is still a month away, but anyone who spent a quarter of their life (or more) on an academic calendar knows that summer starts the minute classes end. Whether it’s raining by you or you’re far enough South to enjoy some sunshine and warmth, one thing is for sure: you need an escape from dentistry. Put down the NBDE reprints and the Dental Decks for a minute and pick up a good book, a good book that has nothing to do with dentistry.

I love to read and with a degree in English literature, I could recommend 20th Century American lit all day long, but that might not suit everyone’s taste. Fiction is always fun and easy to devour, but sometimes it’s the nonfiction reads that stay with me the longest. Reading a good piece of nonfiction is like watching the Discovery Channel–it’s absolutely riveting and when it’s over you’ve acquired an incredible amount of knowledge in a specific subject area. To lovers of learning, there’s nothing better.

Below are a few nonfiction reads that I really enjoyed as well as a few that are on my summer reading list. Although various subjects are represented, check out the paperback nonfiction section for more reviews and a list of the best selling reads.

The Accidental Masterpiece: On the art of life and vice versa by Michael Kimmelman

As chief art critic for the New York Times, Michael Kimmelman knows a thing or two about art. This book explores everything from the artist to the collector to the observer and finds that living an artful existence can enrich human life. Kimmelman’s voice is engaging and journalistic in that it keeps you turning the pages. I found that each chapter could stand alone which makes this the perfect read to pick up on an occasional rainy day or a day at the beach. Read a review here.

The Perfect Mile: Three athletes, one goal, and less than four minutes to achieve it by Neal Bascomb

In the 1950’s three athletes raced to be the first person to run a mile under four minutes. England’s Roger Bannister, Australia’s John Landy and the U.S.’s Wes Santee all raced toward this goal during a time when runners wore spiked cleats and often ran on gravel tracks. Bascomb does a fantastic job of recreating the races that led up to the record-breaking achievement. What I found so interesting was how far running and fitness has come in the last 50 years. At the time that Bannister, Landy and Santee were competing, many believed that a four minute mile was impossible, or even deadly. Not only were science and technology non-factors, these athletes were true amateurs. In fact, Bannister was in medical school while he was training. Whether you’re a runner or just a lover of a good competition, this book is a fascinating read. Find a full review here.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Journalist Elizabeth Gilbert chronicles her travels for one year while she hops from Italy to India to Indonesia. Depressed from a messy divorce, she tries to find herself in food, meditation and the beauty of Bali. Although this book may be better suited to women, it’s not your typical memoir of a wounded woman. Just when Gilbert finds herself getting too wrapped up in her thoughts or dwelling on romance and lost love, she brings herself and her reader back to reality with a clever and often hilarious voice. She’s incredibly honest and charming, yet she brings a journalistic eye to her book that is refreshing and easy to digest. Read a review here.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Who isn’t interested in social theories? A fascination in ourselves and why we do what we do makes us human. This book has been on my list for a while. A popular read since it hit the shelves, Gladwell explains the phenomena of fads and theorizes about their origins and repercussions. Read a full review here.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

The U.S. is obsessed with food. Whether it’s about eating, dieting or wondering where our food comes from, this country is talking about it. A professor of journalism at Berkley, Pollan is a liberal and according to the review on, draws predictable conclusions during his foray into the U.S.’s organic and non-organic food scene. But I’m not going to read this one to be shocked that there are preservatives in my nachos from Taco Bell. Reviews have praised Pollan for his attention to detail in reporting how exactly food makes it from the farm to your tummy and that’s what interests me. Recommendations abound for this book, so I’ll give it a try.

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