Four amazing nonfiction books

 

 

Presenting a passionate rejection of pesticides, the book Silent Spring was dismissed by many as being the work of a hysterical woman when it was first published in 1962. Written by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring is now considered a pioneering text in the movement for environmental conservation.

This work is a classic of American advocacy. It not only brought about a nationwide condemnation against the use of pesticides but also inspired legislation that eventually undertook to put pollution under control. This sparked the modern environmental movement in the United States. Peter Matthiessen, himself was known as a great nature writer, singled out the book’s ‘fearless and succinct’ prose, defining it as ‘the cornerstone of the new environmentalism.’

Rachel Carson managed to describe in a few brilliantly-written chapters the burning of the soil, the death of the seas and rivers, the silencing of the country’s birds, the obliteration of forests and plant life, the dangers of crop spraying and the murder of humanity itself. She also brings us face to face with the genetic threats that result from all the tragedies mentioned above, particularly in their disease-causing materializations.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan is a direct result of the author’s discovery that many of her former classmates felt dissatisfaction with their lives. The simple project evolved into the book that Friedan felt was “…as powerful, indeed mystical, as the forces” that seemed to take her over as she was working on it.

The Feminine Mystique sparked a revolutionary phase that managed to affect the lives of numerous American men and women in one fell swoop. Even Alvin Toffler described the book as something “that pulled the trigger on history.” Selling 300,000 copies in its first year alone, The Feminine Mystique came with 13 language translations in all.

Only 24 years old when he decoded the ‘molecule of life,’ Jim Watson worked in collaboration with Francis Crick to provide the solution to one of life sciences’ greatest enigmas, which eventually revolutionized biochemistry, thereby ensuring nothing would ever be the same again. A brilliant and daring American, Jim Watson arrived at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory in the autumn of 1951.

Awash with fame, success and the love of women, Jim Watson was a graduate zoologist from the Midwest who had grand dreams of copping the Nobel prize. Francis Crick was the equally self-possessed yet somewhat overlooked older man at the Cavendish, who was a 35-year-old would-be biophysicist.

The two became virtually inseparable. The Double Helix describes their unlikely collaboration on a race for immortality. It is a unique, compelling and partisan picture by Jim Watson of a scientific community beset with feuds, hatred, rivalries and ambitions. It is Watson’s personal account of his quest with Crick, a story that is both extraordinarily exciting and is a relentlessly honest portrait of two young men winning against the odds when they take on the Anglo-American scientific establishment.

Dreams of My Father has an opening line that demonstrates how special it is, ““A few months after my twenty-first birthday, a stranger called to give me the news…”. Released in 1995, the book was authored by Barack Obama, who wrote the book some years before the run up to the 2008 presidential elections in the US.

It is an exceptionally candid memoir from the then-junior senator from Illinois, and that revealed not just his literary talent but also gave a glimpse of how he became the force to change the face of US politics for many generations.

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