I have always leaned alot more towards non-fiction books but you know they are not always success stories, sometimes they are stories of the most horrific things you could ever read and you cannot shrug it off as “just a book” because you know it’s true. You form a wierd bond the characters as the book unfolds you get to know real people and their lives.
Here are my top 5 nonfiction books that have made a lasting impact on me and I highly recommend.
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
In 1942, with the Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, the Franks and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and surprisingly humorous, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.
Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo — to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.
Spanning the globe and several centuries, The Gene is the story of the quest to decipher the master-code that makes and defines humans, that governs our form and function.
The story of the gene begins in an obscure Augustinian abbey in Moravia in 1856 where a monk stumbles on the idea of a ‘unit of heredity’. It intersects with Darwin’s theory of evolution, and collides with the horrors of Nazi eugenics in the 1940s. The gene transforms post-war biology. It reorganizes our understanding of sexuality, temperament, choice and free will. This is a story driven by human ingenuity and obsessive minds – from Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel to Francis Crick, James Watson and Rosalind Franklin, and the thousands of scientists still working to understand the code of codes.
This is an epic, moving history of a scientific idea coming to life, by the author of The Emperor of All Maladies. But woven through The Gene, like a red line, is also an intimate history – the story of Mukherjee’s own family and its recurring pattern of mental illness, reminding us that genetics is vitally relevant to everyday lives. These concerns reverberate even more urgently today as we learn to “read” and “write” the human genome – unleashing the potential to change the fates and identities of our children.
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, the son of a little-educated boat-owner in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, had an unparalleled career as a defence scientist, culminating in the highest civilian award of India, the Bharat Ratna. As chief of the country’s defence research and development programme, Kalam demonstrated the great potential for dynamism and innovation that existed in seemingly moribund research establishments. This is the story of Kalam’s rise from obscurity and his personal and professional struggles, as well as the story of Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul and Nag-missiles that have become household names in India and that have raised the nation to the level of a missile power of international reckoning. This is also the saga of independent India’s struggle for technological self-sufficiency and defensive autonomy-a story as much about politics, domestic and international, as it is about science.
Do let me know the books that have made a lasting impression on you! Luba geet