Donald Knuth:nontechnical books

Of course I like to read nontechnical books, although I read very slowly. Here are some that I heartily recommend:

  • Life A Users Manual by Georges Perec (perhaps the greatest 20th century novel) (see Willy Wauquaire's superb webpages about it)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers (captures Oxford high-table small-talk wonderfully)
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (also Oxford but in the 1660s)
  • Death of a Salesperson by Robert Barnard (who is at his best in short stories like these)
  • The Haj by Leon Uris (great to read on a trip to Israel)
  • Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk (in-depth characters plus a whole philosophy)
  • On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee (applied biochemistry in the kitchen)
  • Food by Waverley Root (his magnum opus, a wonderful history of everything delicious)
  • The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth (the Great California Novel, entirely in 14-line sonnets)
  • The Age of Faith by Will Durant (volume 4 of his series, covers the years 325--1300)
  • Efronia by Stina Katchadourian (diaries and letters of a remarkable Armenian woman)
  • The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel (biographies of Ramanujan and Hardy)
  • Hackers by Steven Levy (incredibly well written tale of our times)
  • The Abominable Man by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (one of their brilliantly Swedish detective novels)
  • Blasphemy by Douglas Preston (the best novel to deal with "science versus religion" that I've ever encountered)
  • Blacklist by Sara Paretsky (a brilliant characterization of the tragic state of politics and class relations in America that also happens to be an action-packed murder mystery)
  • The Travels of Ibn Battutah edited by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (fascinating and eye-opening journal by a 14th-century Muslim scholar)
  • Murder in the Museum of Man by Alfred Alcorn (delicious caricature of academic follies)
  • America (The Book): Teacher's Edition "A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction" by Jon Stewart et al (has graffiti even better than the marginal notes in Concrete Mathematics)
  • Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick (vivid, witty, hilarious, poignant: I laughed, I cried, I learned; demonstrates the unreasonable effectiveness of a graphic novel)
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (about how Paul Farmer's local and global life combines theory and practice)
  • A Dual Autobiography by Will and Ariel Durant (superbly written, a great story about how a man and woman can work creatively and sustainably together despite the mysteries of the human sex drive)
  • The Hornet's Nest by Jimmy Carter (a revolutionary novel about the Revolutionary War at all levels)
  • Lifeline Rule by Doug Nufer (the rule: parity to vowel; an awesome conovowel opus)
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