Boing Boing Gift Guide 2009: nonfiction! (part 4/6)

Mark and I have rounded up some of our favorite items from our 2009 Boing Boing reviews for the second-annual Boing Boing gift guide. We'll do one a day for the next six days, covering media (music/games/DVDs), gadgets and stuff, kids' books, novels, nonfiction, and comics/graphic novels/art books. Today, it's nonfiction!

If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay: How to Know if Your Child's Injury or Illness Is Really an Emergency (Lara Zibners): Apart from a terrific title, the book has plenty going for it. Basically, Even if Your Kid Eats This Book is a detailed guide to everything you don't have to worry about. It has an orifice-by-orifice guide to detecting and removing Lego! A list of things under the sink that won't poison your kid! Sensible advice about how to get rid of dry skin! (Hot bath, then anything greasy from Crisco to Vaseline, then time). Full review | Purchase

Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America In 96 pages, Kurt Andersen describes the United States' previous boom and bust cycles and explains why the bust cycles are essential for innovation and improvement of living standards for everyone. Times of crisis, he says, open new opportunities for making positive changes. Full review | Purchase

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (David Kessler): Kessler delves into the psychology and neuroscience of our junk-food cravings, seeking an explanation to the conundrum of the person whose "will-power" is strong on many fronts, but who finds it hard to resist unhealthy foods (I class myself among those people). He concludes that we're extremely susceptible to reward-conditioning when the reward consists of foods that combine fat, sugar and salt, and that the food industry has evolved to deliver extremely efficient, super-sized portions of fat-sugar-salt bombs in a variety of satisfying textures and presentations. Full review | Purchase

The Masonic Myth: Unlocking the Truth About the Symbols, the Secret Rites, and the History of Freemasonry In the introduction to The Mason Myth, Kinney (a Mason himself) wrote that he wanted his book to be an antidote to both the "imaginative speculations of 'alternative historians,'" and to those Masonic histories that "succumb to the tyranny of minutiae, where a never-ending stream of names, dates, jargon, and organizational details numb the brains of all but the most dedicated reader." In my opinion, he succeeds in both counts, having written a book that's both highly-readable and down-to-earth. Full review | Purchase

Twelve Hours' Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old: A Step-by-Step Plan for Baby Sleep Success (Suzy Giordano): It takes about an hour to read and does not involve doing anything horrible to your kid like letting her cry all night. Basic method: for the first 8 weeks, keep track of when the kid feeds and sleeps. At 8 weeks, use this to come up with a sleep and feed schedule that more or less fits the rhythm she's falling into. Gently encourage her to stick to it (e.g., if she's hungry before mealtime, see if you can distract her for a few minutes [the first day], then a few minutes more [the next].)

Full review | Purchase

Get High Now Without Drugs : Over 175 sensory trips and tricks for visual stimulation, compressing time, lucid dreaming, mediation, and more examines hypnagogic induction, theta wave brain synchronization tapes, isolation tanks, ingesting the blood of schizophrenics, Transcendental meditation, lucid dreaming, Yucatecan trance induction beats, binaural beats, isolation tanks, kundalina transcendent, chanting, lucid dreaming, mud sleep induction, risset rhythm, shepard tones, Sudarshan Kriya, thalassotherapy, and more Full review | Purchase

The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business (Tara Hunt): Hunt's book is a lot shorter on theory and manifesto than Cluetrain and a lot longer on practicalities, devoting a lot of space to explaining how all these tools work and citing examples of different commercial and charitable organizations that have used them to good effect (as well as citing cautionary examples of companies that bungled things badly, usually by being caught out in deceit of one kind or another). Because of this, Whuffie Factor is probably easier to put into effect as soon as you crack the cover, but it's also likely to go stale more quickly, as the specific technologies cited wane (Cluetrain may have pre-dated blogging, but it had enough theory-stuff that it's still worth reading today, ten years later). On the other hand, if Hunt's book does well, she'll have a nice side-line in producing annual updated editions. Full review | Purchase

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope A 14-year-old boy in Africa builds an electricity generating windmill out of scrap. With so many tales of bloody hopelessness coming out of Africa, this reads like a novel with a happy ending, even though it's just the beginning for this remarkable young man, now 21 years old. I have no doubt that William--who is rapidly becoming a symbol of promise and possibility for the people of Africa--will be leading the way. Full review | Purchase

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip (Nevin Martell): For ten years, between 1985 and 1995, Calvin and Hobbes was one the world's most beloved comic strips. And then, on the last day of 1995, the strip ended. Its mercurial and reclusive creator, Bill Watterson, not only finished the strip but withdrew entirely from public life.

Full review | Purchase

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities "It's an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend. You'll learn which plants to avoid (like exploding shrubs), which plants make themselves exceedingly unwelcome (like the vine that ate the South), and which ones have been killing for centuries (like the weed that killed Abraham Lincoln's mother)." Full review | Purchase

How We Decide (Jonah Lehrer): Lehrer, author of the celebrated Proust Was a Neuroscientist, lays out the current state of the neuroscientific research into decision-making with a series of gripping anaecdotes followed by reviews of the literature and interviews with the researchers responsible for it. Full review | Purchase

Depression 2.0: Creative Strategies for Tough Economic Times is a practical, empowering, hands-on guide to persevering and even thriving in the event of an economic crisis. Placing particular emphasis on self-sufficiency and personal resilience, this timely, informative book offers a hopeful way forward in a time of great uncertainty. Bankruptcy, barter, and survival investing are just a few of the important topics explored. Full review | Purchase

Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry (Lenore Skenazy): David Finkelhor, the head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, has discovered pedophiles don't want to waste their time just flipping through MySpace pages or Facebook pages. It's as futile as trying to call up random numbers from the phonebook and trying to get a date. It's just a waste of time. Full review | Purchase

Best iPhone Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders I had a blast browsing through this full-color, 228-page book about the very best iPhone applications. I only knew about 25% of the titles recommended by author Josh Clark, who tested thousand of apps to pick his 200 favorite work and leisure related titles. Full review | Purchase

Junky Styling: Wardrobe Surgery (Annika Sanders and Kerry Seager): The second section is a detailed HOWTO for recreating several of their basic garments: a suit-sleeve scarf, a "shirt wrap halter top," a "fly top" and others, with copious notes about shopping for clothes to rescue and repurpose, instructions for unpicking seams, a glossary of textile types and strategies for working with each and so on. Full review | Purchase

Astonish Yourself: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life 101 mental and perceptual exercises you can perform on yourself. In his introduction, Droit says the purpose of the experiments is to "provoke tiny moments of awareness," and to "shake a certainty we had taken for granted: our own identity, say, or the stability of the outside world, or even the meanings of words." Most of the experiments require about 20 minutes to complete, and often involve nothing more than merely thinking about something. Full review | Purchase

Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin (Kenny Shopsin): Kenny Shopsin's restaurant began life as a grocery store, purchased for $25,000 by his father for his peripatetic son (Shopsin describes himself then as a neurotic who saw a therapist five days a week). In the grocery store, Shopsin found a kind of frenetic peace in cultivating and deepening his relationship with his customers (one of whom, Eve, he married). Gradually, he added prepared food to the grocery lineup, then more and more, as the satisfaction of cooking for others seized his interest, until the grocery store became a restaurant.

Shopsin's memoir is like the man: loud, opinionated, warm, exuberant and absolutely delightful. He had me when he revealed that he'd named one of his dishes solely to piss off Andrea Dworkin ("she's probably never heard of this dish"). Full review | Purchase

The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics Mathematics, as presented by Clifford Pickover, is a palace filled with awe-inspiring curiosities. His latest is a 500-page, full-color tour of mathematical highlights from 150 Million B.C. to 2007. Full review | Purchase

World of Warcraft and Philosophy (Luke Cuddy and John Nordlinger): This collection of essays and short fiction addresses the ethics, economics, and metaphysics of Azeroth and its inhabitants. Full review | Purchase

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture FoodsThis book shows you how to make a wide variety of fermented foods: beer, wine, mead, miso, tempeh, sourdough bread, yogurt, cheese, and other more exotic foods. Full review | Purchase
Getting Started with Arduino Written by Massimo Banzi, the co-founder of Arduino. It's only 116-pages long and uses attractive hand-drawn illustrations to get even the most clueless newbie up to speed. Filled with easy-to-understand examples and projects Full review | Purchase

Sew Darn Cute: 30 Sweet & Simple Projects to Sew & Embellish Jenny's whimsical aesthetic sensibility really resonates with me: surprising and appealing color combinations, rounded simple geometry, mixing patterns with solids, pleasing textures, and designs that reveal their process of construction. Her creations are the masterful result of many years of dedication, study, experimentation, and creativity. Full review | Purchase

iPhone Fully Loaded shows you how to load (hence the title) your phone with songs, podcasts, videos, comic books, blogs, applications, photos, spreadsheets, databases and other types of media. I learned something new in every chapter. The way author Andy Ihnatko uses smart playlists in iTunes is pure genius, and it's the first thing I put into practice. His advice on ripping DVDs into movies is the best I've read, and I'm looking forward to trying his method of converting web sites, email, and documents into spoken text. Full review | Purchase

The Best of Sexology: Kinky and Kooky Excerpts from America's First Sex Magazine collects the wackiest and most unintentionally funny articles from America's first sex magazine, Sexology, The Illustrated Magazine of Sex Science. "Homosexual Chickens", "Adolph Hitler's Sex Life", "Sex and Satan", "Twin Beds or Single?", "Sexual Tattooing", "When Midgets Marry" are just a few of the subjects covered...or should I say uncovered? Full review | Purchase

Show Me How: 500 Things You Should Know Instructions for Life From the Everyday to the Exotic My 5-year-old daughter and I quickly paged through this book filled with cartoon-like project ideas and made a list of things to do: grow an avocado tree from a seed, invent clay oddities, assemble a super slingshot, tell time with a potato clock, blow a humongous bubble, make a delicious s'more, and about 20 other things. Full review | Purchase

The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People This 600-page illicit encyclopedia of the private lives of writers, politicians, athletes, popes, rabble-rousers, composers, rock stars and sex symbols has been revised and enlarged, with a dozen new entries, including ones on Kurt Cobain, Malcolm X, Wilt Chamberlain, Ayn Rand, Jim Morrison, Nico, Aleister Crowley, and more. Full review | Purchase

FreeDarko presents The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac: Styles, Stats, and Stars in Today's Game An idiosyncratic, highly personal take on professional basketball. The illustrations and overall design are stunning. Full review | Purchase

Annie Leibovitz at Work is not only a gossip lover's delight (she tells fun stories about all the famous people she'd photographed, like Hunter S. Thompson, The Rolling Stones, Queen Elizabeth, and Al Sharpton), its also an inspiration for anyone who does creative work and wants to continuously challenge themselves to become better at their craft. Full review | Purchase

Kick Litter: Nine-Step Program for Recovering Litter Addicts The training method is so simple that it is explained in two pages. The rest of the book consists of photos of the author's cats and cutesy captions of what the cats "think" about the method. The book's cover jacket is an instructional poster you can remove and unfold, and contains everything you need to know to try this method. Full review | Purchase

The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, is a delightfully readable and very useful guide to front- and back-yard vegetable gardening, food foraging, food preserving, chicken keeping, and other useful skills for anyone interested in taking a more active role in growing and preparing the food they eat. I learned a great deal about composting, self-watering containers, mulching, raised bed gardens, vermiculture (worm composting), and raising chickens by reading this info-dense book. Full review | Purchase

iPhone Hacks: Pushing the iPhone and iPod touch Beyond Their Limits "You can make your iPhone do all you'd expect of a smartphone -- and more. Learn tips and techniques to unleash little-known features, find and create innovative applications for both the iPhone and iPod touch, and unshackle these devices to run everything from network utilities to video game emulators." Full review | Purchase

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work Matthew B. Crawford's book is about the the importance of using your hands to make and repair things. He compares the kind of life many people in developed countries lead -- inside cubicles, working on things that are several levels removed from the physical world -- to a life of skilled labor that requires ingenuity and experience, and provides the kinds of challenges that human beings were made to relish. Full review | Purchase

Other installments:

Part One: Kids
Part Two: Media
Part Three: Gadgets
Part Four: Nonfiction
Part Five: Fiction
Part Six: Comix, Art Books, etc


  1. I just read Nurtureshock, and thought maybe it deserves a mention. It’s a good overview of the up-to-date research on child development. A few things I picked up:

    * Praise specific behavior, not intelligence.
    * Kids don’t handle sleep deprivation nearly as well as adults.
    * Talk to your kids about race and racism in a clear, direct way.
    * Your kids are lying to you. No, you’re not the exception. No, it’s not the end of the world.
    * When your teenager argues with you, it’s a sign of respect.
    * How to improve your baby’s language skills in 10 minutes.
    * In case you missed the news, language videos for babies don’t work.

    There’s a lot of wonderful stuff in there.

  2. Oh, last one:

    * Your kids aren’t fighting for your love and affection. They’re just fighting. Bonus: some ideas for teaching siblings to play nice with each other.

  3. Funny that you have both the 12-hour sleep baby book and a toilet-train your cat book — when I first saw the 12-hour sleep book it reminded me of toilet training cats without even seeing the other book listed — they’re both about subverting natural instincts of small creatures for one’s own convenience…

  4. I read half of Reset today (the first 30 pages, and the last 4), and found it wanting. It struck me as just a long introduction, with no climax. I don’t need to be told that we’re at a crossroads. I know that already. I don’t need to be told that we can use this as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. (“Shock Doctrine” for the left, as one commenter put it.) What I want to know is how I can seize this opportunity. How can I help remake my neighborhood, and thus the country. That’s what I want to know.

  5. Check out this one- ReAction! Chemistry in the Movies (2009) It’s about movies, chemistry, and chemistry in the movies. Written by Chemistry Professor Mark Griep and Artist Marjorie Mikasen, it’s the result of years of obsession, and there’s nothing like it.

  6. Don’t forget about LIFE INC. by fellow BB guestblogger and all-around big thinker, Douglas Rushkoff — it’s easily the headiest non-fiction book you could pick up this year.

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