Non-Fiction November is in full swing. This second week is hosted by Leslie of Regular Rumination, and the topic is Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert. When it comes to non-fiction, I read very widely, and I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on anything. But after staring at my pile of books for a while, I finally came up with a way to bundle some of them for this post. While my list doesn’t exactly fit into one of the three Expert categories, these books will probably help you put your everyday problems into perspective.
Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum
Nearly 30 million prisoners passed through the Soviet Union’s gulags in their more than 60 years of operation. During its peak in the early 1950s, there were camps in every part of the country, and the slave labor provided by prisoners was important to every aspect of the USSR’s economy. Applebaum provides ample details about life in a gulag, from strategies for survival and the experience of children to the relationships between prisoners and attempts at rebellion and escapes.
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
In 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail on a naval expedition financed by the owner of The New York Herald. Its mission: Explore the unmapped areas around the North Pole. When the ship became trapped in pack ice and sank, the crew was faced with marching across Siberia, with only minimum supplies.
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
This book focuses on the chaotic period in North Korea’s history that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population. It chronicles the lives of six people as they navigate everyday life until they realize that their government has betrayed them.
The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang
In December 1937, the Japanese army invaded the ancient city of Nanking. Within weeks, they had looted and burned the city, raped and tortured its citizens, and murdered more than 300,000 Chinese civilians. This book tells the story from three perspectives: of the Japanese soldiers who performed it, of the Chinese civilians who endured it, and of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city.
Desperate Passage: The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick
In October 1846, a wagon train heading west got trapped by a fearsome storm in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In order to survive the brutal winter, members of the Donner Party have to make heartbreaking decisions. Ethan Rarick offers a fresh look at the harsh realities people had to face in their search for the American dream.