Cry of the Kalahari by Delia Owens, 1984- The authors, a husband –and-wife team of naturalists, spent seven years in the Kalahari Desert on a shoestring budget, studying jackals, hyenas, lions, and other wild animals around them- getting to know their individual personalities, and witnessing the shifting balance of interdependence and rivalry within the different species.
Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey, 1983-Before Fossey went to central Africa to study mountain gorillas in the wild, not much was known about these animals. She fell in love with them and devoted her life to researching them and tiring to protect them from poachers, who may have been responsible for her murder in 1985. Her book describes gorillas’ surprisingly peaceful societies, and communicates why she was willing to risk her own life for them.
Hunting With Moon: the Lions of Savuti by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, 1997- Another husband-and-wife team, the Jouberts spent over two decades living in a national park in Botswana, observing and photographing the lions that live there. They followed the lions at night, and include more than a hundred full-color photos in the book. In words and pictures, the couple document the relationship of pride members the lions’ conflicts with the hyenas and elephants, and much more in fascinating detail.
In The Shadow of the Man by Jane Goodall, 1971- One of the world’s most famous naturalist, Jane Goodall shares her pioneering research on a group of chimpanzees, mankind’s closest relative. She focuses in particular on one matriarch, “Flo”, and her family. If you fall in love with this chimp family- which is very likely- you can find out its next generation in Goodall’s 1990 followed-up, Through the Window.
Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us by Alexandra Morton, 2002- Inspired by John Lilly’s work on dolphin communication, the author decided to record and analyze the noises made by orcas, also known as killer whales. She began with a pair in captivity and then set out to listen to wild orcas off the coast of British Columbia, learning their ways of life and how they “talk” to each other, using different frequencies. It’s also an impressive story of the joys and sacrifices of doing research in such a rugged environment.
Never Cry Wolf: The Amazing Story Life Among Artic Wolves by Farley Mowat, 1963- Originally, the author was sent to the tundra of northern Canada to study the wolves reportedly menacing the caribou population. When he observed them firsthand, however, Mowat realized that the wolves were much less of a threat than had been thought. His account describes how he documented the wolves’ behavior- and participated in some of it.
The Shark Chronicles: A Scientist Tracks the Consummative Predator by John Musick and Beverly McMillan, 2002- Sharks are frightening, but also awe-inspiring. This book takes readers across the globe, sharing the drama of shark research. Along with discussing sharks’ evolution and ecological issues affection them, the authors cover sharks’ special physiology, their reproductive lives, and some of the remarkable things that been discovered in their stomachs.
In Touch a Wild Dolphin: A Journey of Discovery with the Sea’s Most Intelligent Creatures by Rachel Smolker, 2001-This is a delightful account of fifteen years wit the wild dolphins off the coast of western Australia. Playful, clever, and friendly dolphins communicate using whistles and clicks. Smolker also observed them using tools- one of the many, amazing discoveries you’ll find in the pages of this book.
Degas by Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge, 1988- The composition, palette and psychology of Degas’ work were boldly experimental, yet he never lost his exquisite sense. If draftsmanship or his connection to the classical art of the past. This volume showcases his early figure studies, portraits, dancers, and bathers – plus his poetry, working me6thids, and prickly personality.
Frida Kahlo, 1907-1954: Pain and Passion by Andrea Kettenmann, 1993- The author discusses the most salient aspects of Kahlo’s life and work- how she used her self-portraits to explore her identity; her experience of physical suffering; and relationship with the controversial, larger- than- life muralist Diego Rivera.
Leonardo da Vinci by Kenneth Clark, 1939- See the Mona Lisa with fresh eyes! Curiosity, inventiveness, subtlety, and grace were just few of the many qualities of Leonardo da Vinci, the exemplary “Renaissance man.” Clark’s text is wonderfully readable, and the current edition has good reproductions.
Michelangelo by Howard Hibbard, 1974- A versatile and profound
Renaissance genius, Michelangelo- the creator of David and the Sistine Chapel frescoes- deserves monumental appreciation. This book goes into detail about the artist’s life and his work as a sculptor, painter, architect, and even poet.
Monet: Nature into Art by John House, 1986- This book reveals how hard work and careful thought went into the Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s landscapes, which were often developed in the studio as well as in the open air. The end result, of course, was a feeling of spontaneity and naturalness that has appealed to generations since.
Rembrandt’s Eyes by Simon Schama 1999- Centuries after they were painted, Rembrandt’s portraits and other works are still amazingly touching. Schama’s lively book portraits the artist’s life of intense joys and troubles in a fascinating time and place- the “Dutch Golden Age.”
The Ultimate Picasso by Brigitte Leal, et al, 2000- Picasso was an extraordinary prolific and influential artist. This book reproduces many works from his different phases and discusses his traditional academic training, his muses, and much more.
Van Gogh by Rainer Metzger and Ingo F. Walther, 1996- Vincent Van Gogh was a much more complex person than simple the madman who cut off his ear. This book details his early life, his stunning artistic achievements, his important relationships with his brother Theo and his fellow painter Paul Gauguin, and his tragic death.
Cole Porter by William McBrien, 1988- “Swellegant” biography of the most urbane and Sophisticated of tunesmiths, who ran in high society’s most glittering circles.
Dazzler: The Life and Times of Moss Hart by Stephen Bach, 2001- Although Hart’s widow, Kitty Carlisle refused to cooperate, Bach has nonetheless written an engrossing and scrupulously researched biography of the multi-talented Hart, the 1930s-era Broadway “Golden Boy” playwright/director.
Elia Kazan: A Life by Elia Kazan, 1988- Exceptionally frank autobiography from the Broadway/Hollywood icon, whose brilliant string of successes has been forever overshadowed by his decision to “name names” to the House Un-American Activities Committee during the “Red Scare”.
Eugene O’Neill: Beyond Mourning and Tragedy by Stephen A. Black, 1999- Taking a Psychoanalytic approach to the Nobel Prize winning playwright, Black persuasively argues that O’Neill exorcised his family demons in such plays as Long Day’s Journey Into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten.
Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance by Deborah Jowitt, 2004- In stark contrast to his exuberant, joyous choreography, Robbins was reputed to be a sour, even hateful man widely despised in the theater and dance world. In this thorough and skillfully written biography, Jowitt reveals the vulnerability and insecurity beneath Robbins’ temperamental façade.
The Kindness of Strangers: A Life of Tennessee Williams by Donald Spoto, 1985- Respectful and intelligent biography of Williams, who tragically fell from critical and popular grace in the 1960s, when he plunged into alcohol and drugs-fueled despair.
Stephen Sondhem: A Life by Meryle Secrest, 1998- Written with Sondheim’s full cooperation, Secrest’s, illuminating biography examined how the composer’s troubled childhood informs some of his greatest scores.
Timebends by Arthur Miller, 1989- An intelligent and nuanced memoir from the playwright of Death of a Salesman and the Crucible.
Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy by Joseph A. Schumpeter, 1942- This book discusses the links between economics, politics, and social values, suggesting that they cannot be fully understood in isolation from one another. Fortune suggests skipping right to chapter 7.
Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets by Robert Kuttner, 1996- Kuttner outlines the dangers and pitfalls—both internationally and here in the United States—of blind faith in the benevolence of free markets.
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes, 1936- One of the most influential works on economics ever written, this book argues for measured government intervention to ward off violent booms and slumps. Fortune suggests that you focus on Chapter 12, “a timeless, witty, crystalline account of why financial markets confound and bewitch us.”
Pop Internationalism by Paul Krugman, 1996- “Pop internationalism” is the author’s term for the conventional wisdom about international trade, which he believes has little to do with reality. A controversial approach to globalization that may inspire you to take the pundits’ rhetoric with a heaping grain of salt.
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, 1776- In this pioneering work on the value of free markets, Smith lays out the fundamental assumptions of his vision of how economics function, offers clear, concrete examples to illustrate his arguments, and discusses what he sees as the proper role of government and taxation.
The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America compiled by Lawrence Conningham, 1997- Learn from one of the most successful investors of all time in this selection of Warren Buffett’s annual letters to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. He shares principles learned from his teacher and mentor, Benjamin Graham, and from years on his own experience and decision-making.
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden role of Chance in the Markets and in Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2001- Taleb is both a hedge fund manager and a professor of mathematics. His book is less an enumeration of strategies than a broad perspective on the nature of the stock market—and many other aspects of life in which dumb luck plays a bigger role than you might have thought.
The Intelligent Investor: A Book of Practical Counsel by Benjamin Graham, 1949- The author is the teacher and mentor of Warren Buffett. The fact that this book remains so well respected by successful investors over fifty years after Graham wrote it is a testament to the soundness of “value investment.”
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, 2003- This is the story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, and his success, based on creative thinking, hard study of statistics and a willingness to stray from the proverbial beaten path.
Civil War Nonfiction
April 1965: The Month That Saved America by Jay Winik, 2001- Winik’s panoramic and briskly paced look at the last month of the war from a variety of perspectives was praised by Publishers Weekly as “popular history at its best.”
Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James T. McPherson, 1988- Mc Person’s Pulitzer Price winner is, hands, hands-down, the best, one-volume history of the Civil War.
Bruce Cotton’s Civil War by Bruce Cotton, 1984-A compendium of three books- Mr. Lincoln’s Army, Glory Road, and the Pulitzer Prize winning A Stillness at Appomattox – form one of America’s most revered Civil War historians.
Chancellorsville by Stephen W. Sears, 1996 – Was Lee’s victory at Chancellorsville due to his military strategy of just plan luck? That’s the provocative question Sears considers in his skillfully written and researched account of this pivotal battle.
The Civil War: A Narrativeby Selby Foote, 1958-1974 – If you read only one book about the Civil War, go with Foote’s masterpiece, written with novelistic flair.
The Negro’s Civil War: How America Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union by James T. McPherson, 1965 – A necessary and eye-opening book, vigorously written, that smashes racist preconceptions about African-Americans during the Civil War.
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, 1885 – Completed one week prior to his death from throat cancer, Grant’s two-volume memoir was hailed by one less than Mark Twain as “the most remarkable work of its kind since the Commentaries of Julius Caesar.”
Robert E, Lee: A biography by Emory M. Thomas, 1995 – Both lionized and demonized in other biographies, Lee emerges as an admirable, life-sized figure with his share of foibles in this terrific biography.
And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts, 1987 – Chilling infuriating and heartbreaking, Shilts’ edxhaustive account of the early days of the AIDS crises weaves disparate storylines into a masterly narrative. Tragically, Shilts would die of AIDS in 1994.
Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer, 1968 – Mailer scored a one two punch, winning both National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for his nonfiction novel about the anti-Vietnam War movement. Such real-life figures as Abbie Hoffman, Dr. Benjamin Spock, and Mailer himself play prominent roles in Armies of the Night.
Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden, 1999 – Grueling and unforgettable, Bowden’s pulse-pounding chronicle of the U.S. Army’s disastrous, 1993 mission in the steers of Mogadishu, Somalia thrusts you headlong into the eighteen-hour firefight between U.S. soldiers and Somalis.
The Children by David Halberstam, 1998 – A giant of post-war American journalism, Halberstam has written classic books on the Vietnam War, media tycoons, and baseball. With The Children, Halberstam immerses readers in the early days of the civil rights movement in the Jim Crow-era South. An exceptional achievement from the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, 1968 – Wolfe’s indelible record of his psychedelic bus ride with Ken Kesey and his LSD-swilling Merry Pranksters into hippiedom is a superlative example of creative nonfiction.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hinter S. Thompson, 1971 – Fueled by alcohol and copious amounts drugs, Thompson and his lawyer zoomed off to Las Vegas to attend a narcotic officers’ convention. The father of “gonzo journalism” later transformed their experiences into the freewheeling acid trip of book that’s a surreal meditation on the American dream.
Mountains Beyond Mountains: the Quest of Dr. Pail Farmer, A Mon Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder, 2003 – The Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Soul of a New Machine and Housechronicles the astonishing story of Farmer, a idiosyncratic, fiercely dedicated physical who’s been compared to Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa for his treatment of the poor in Haiti, Peru, and Russia. The New York Times pronounced Mountain Beyond Mountains “inspiring, disturbing, daring and completely absorbing.”
Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrien Nicole LeBlanc, 2003-For ten years, LeBalnc followed the lives of two, working-class Latina women and their ex-tended families in the Bronx. The result is a stunning and empathetic chronicle of resilience in the midst of squalor, rampant crime, and lives gone to drugs. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Bittersweet: the Story of Sugar by Peter MacInnis, 2002
The Empire of Tea by Alan and Iris MacFarlane, 2004
Robbing the Bees: A biography of Honey The Sweet Liquid Gold the Seduced the World by Holley Bishop, 2005
Salt: A World history by Mark Kurlansky, 2002
Spice: the History of a Temptation by Jack Turner, 2004
The Story of Wine by Hugh Johnson,1989
Sweets: The History of Candy by Tim Richardson, 2002
The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, 1996
Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast , 1999
The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself by Daniel J. Boorstin. 1983- This is actually a history of science, but it provides insight into many of the most important breakthroughs in history, from the development of solar timekeeping to the birth of the modern world. As sweeping as the scope of the book is, it depicts individuals and societies with a wonderful vividness, explaining the hindrances to innovation and the ways people gave overcome them.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. 1997- Why did Westerners, rather than New Guineans, Africans, or Native Americans, came to dominate much of the rest of the world? Diamond aims to answer this question by examining the geographical and environmental circumstances that allowed people of the West to domesticate plats and animals and become angle on the development of civilizations, although it has been criticized for implying that explanations are either environmental or racist, while ignoring cultural factors that change over time and have nothing to do with skin color.
Heroes of History: A Brief History of Civilization from Ancient Times to the Dawn of the Modern Age by Will Durant, 2001- Durant is most famous for the multi-volume Story of Civilization, which he wrote with his wife, Ariel Durant. This single volume, published after his death, is a more compact exploration of thinkers and leaders, from Buddha to Leonardo da Vinci. It’s an engrossing overview of changing philosophies, religions, and world views,
The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey by Spencer Wells, 2002- Historians are mot the only people who can tell us about our common history. Both the fossil record and the genetic record that lives on in all of us have much to reveal about our common history. Wells explains what studying the relatively stable male Y chromosome has taught us about our origins and migrations, confirming that we all developed in Africa and that our racial differences are superficial.
The New History of the World by John M. Roberts, 2002- This revision of an earlier work covers the history of mankind from its earliest civilizations to the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11. Remarkably thorough, it can by considered a one-book survey course.
Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screening by William Goldman, 1983 – Goldman’s collection of essays, reminiscences, and screenwriting tips is a bracingly funny and whip-mart book that spawned an equally good sequel, Which Lie Did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade.
City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s by Otto Friedrich, 1986 – A monumental social history of Hollywood that reads like a vivid, epic novel. Although the film industry is covered extensively in Friedrich’s book, he widens his gaze to write about everything from the zoot suit riots to mobster Bugsy Siegel.
The Devil’s Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco by Julie Salamon, 1991 – No doubt filmmaker Brian De Palma still rues the day he agreed to let Wall Street Journal reporter Julie Salamon shadow him 24/7 during the making of The Bonfire of the Vanities. What was supposed o be De Palmon’s lively and fascinating account of how mot to make a hit firm, only Tom Hanks emerges unscathed from the wreckage of The Bonfire of the Vanities.
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll Generation
Changed Hollywood by Peter Biskind, 1998 – Truth is far stranger than fiction in Biskind’s jaw-dropping overview of Hollywood in the 1970s, when wunderkinds Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg forever transformed the movie business. While it’s packed with juicy, often embarrassing anecdotes about stars and filming running wild, Easy Riders, raging Bulls is an informative and insightful analysis of an industry in crisis.
An Empire of Their Own: How Jews Invented Hollywood by Neal Gabler, 1988 – In his vigorously written and thoroughly researched book about the early movie moguls, Gabler examines the cultural and political forces that inspired Harry Cohn, Louis B. Mayer, and Samuel Goldwyn, among others, to find their niche in Hollywood.
Final Cut: Art, Money and Ego in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, the Film That Sank United Artist by Stephen Bach, 1985 – Given creative and financial carte blanche after the success of The Deer Hunter, director Michael Cimino let his bloated ego get the better of him – and everyone involved in the making of his dream project, Heaven’s Gate. One of the biggest disasters in Hollywood history, Heaven’s Gate effectively rendered Cimino persona non grata in Hollywood and forced United Artists to close. A United Artists executive at the time, Bach chronicles the film’s ill-fated production in the book that veteran producer David Brown called “compulsively readable.”
Picture by Lillian Ross, 1952 – A regular contributor to the New Yorker, Ross got permission form director John Huston to watch him direct The Red Badge of Courage in 1950. First Published in serial form in the New Yorker, Picture is widely considered the best book ever written about Hollywood—a revealing, a warts-and-all portrait of movie studio politics, hubris, and Machiavellian intrigue.
The Studio by John Gregory Dunne, 1969- Granted unlimited access to observe the corporate and production divisions of Twentieth Century Fox for one year i.e., 1967, Dunne wrote this meticulously detailed and wonderfully engaging account of glitzy excess, bad behavior, and ego-driven studio politics that’s a classic of Hollywood journalism.