Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Nonfiction Books to Sink Your Teeth Into


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by the awesome ladies at The Broke and the Bookish.


I think it’s fairly easy to find good fiction books. There are so many out there, covering every topic and genre, and there are more all the time. But sometimes you want a book based on facts, not just one that reveals truths (as I believe fiction does). Sometimes it’s difficult to find good nonfiction. Not because there aren’t plenty of books, but because many books are published because of the author’s credentials and less because of an engaging writing style. They can be some of the most rewarding or some of the most disappointing  books, and finding one you like cis made even more important because nonfiction usually takes longer to read.

I’ve written some posts on nonfiction books for my reading challenge, but I wanted to share some of the nonfiction books I enjoyed before I started blogging. Some, well most, of these books have very specific topics, and I find that the more specific and narrow the book’s focus is, the more interesting details you get. Maybe you’ll find something that sparks your interest.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet try Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert by Michael Krondl.

This book takes you through the origins of desserts by geographic area. It talks about the origins of specific dishes as well as the development of new techniques and increasing availability of ingredients. There are some recipes hidden in there as well. On the whole, an engaging and informative book if you think dessert should come before dinner (and lunch and breakfast).

If you’re in the mood for a book about the kitchen, but have less of a sweet tooth try Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson.

A treatise on all things kitchen, this book talks about the evolution and invention of kitchen mainstays. If you’ve ever been interested of the development of the fork or any kind of cookware, this is the book for you.

If you’re in the mood for learning about another culture, try Dreams of Trespass by Fatima Mernissi.

This memoir about growing up in a Moroccan harem is both challenging and rewarding. It has a lot of insightful, beautiful moments.

It you’re in the mood for a book about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of evil, read From the Ashes of Sobibor by Thoms Tovi Blatt.

A survivor memoir about one of the deadliest WWII concentration camps, this book is a difficult but amazing story that will make you feel so much. I came away from this book feeling awed, inspired, and saddened. It has a lot to say about what humanity is capable of, both good and evil.

If you’re in the mood to learn more about a particular decade try Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion.

Didion’s masterful collection of essays on various aspects of life in the 1960s is my favorite of the 8 books I’ve read by her. She has a gift for nonfiction (if you like this, read The White Album), and she transports you into worlds you could never have entered otherwise.

If you’re in the mood for a forbidden romance try A Venetian Affair by Andrea di Robilant.

This author and his father find a collection of letters from the 18th century and piece together a great family scandal. It’s a veritable Romeo & Juliet tale, but it really happened. Too bad all our attics can’t yield fruit this juicy. I’ve read three books by di Robilant and also highly recommend his book Chasing the Rose, which is all about trying to identify a particular unknown species of rose on his property and the people he meets and the meandering Italian sort of adventure it takes him on. It sounds really weirdly specific, but I know nothing about flowers at all, and I read the book in one sitting.

If you’re in the mood for a more fashionable book, try Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber.

You may think that clothes are of little importance, but this book shows that they can ultimately cost you your head. This book delves into the ways that Marie Antoinette shaped French fashion and how her morning’s choices influenced politics. I’ve never read anything like this fashion analysis, which brings a whole new layer to anyone’s study of the French Revolution and French culture of that time or Marie Antoinette specifically. You’ll never look at clothes the same way again.

If you’re in the mood for something to read after watching Downton Abbey, try Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnavron or To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace

These two books talk about the real women from America who took their money to Europe at the turn of the twentieth century and bought titles.

If you’re in the mood for reading about an author try Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde by Thomas Weight or The Real Wizard of Oz  by Rebecca Loncraine.

This first is a look at the books that Oscar Wilde read, which is a fascinating way to learn about an author. His personal library, reading habits, and relationship to the written word are all discussed. Another interesting author biography is one on L. Frank Baum. Rebecca Loncraine makes plenty of assumptions about details that *may* have influenced Baum’s ultimate creation, but her treatment of the man behind the curtain is still interesting and engaging, even if it has to be taken with a grain (or two) of salt. For a more scholarly treatment on Baum and the Oz books, try L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz by Katharine M. Rogers. Her book delves further into literary analysis, if that’s interesting to you.

I hope if nothing else this list encourages you to give a nonfiction book a chance. Memoirs, biography, and creative nonfiction are great ways to learn about things that interest us and they give us new perspectives.

Has there been a nonfiction book you’ve found particularly inspiring? Let me know in the comments.



Baking for Bookworms: Cheese Soufflé from Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

Souffle in a loaf pan. So wrong, and yet, so right.
Souffle in a loaf pan. So wrong, and yet, so right.

I’ve already talked a little about this book in my last post, but today we’re focused on food. I may or may not have said that I wouldn’t be cooking from non-fiction about food, but if I did so, I lied. I read a lot of cooking memoirs and they have really delightful recipe ideas in them, which I would be remiss not to share. But I won’t cook from cookbooks. That just seems like cheating.

Anyway, Margaret Powell writes about her experiences in service as first a kitchen maid and then a cook (in a feisty memoir that inspired Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs), so naturally she has a lot to say about not only what was prepared, but the way it was prepared. Her memoir treats food both as a job and chore and also as an experience, one associated with memory and even class struggles. Her adaptation of her cooking for different households (including, in the end, her own) was really interesting, and her story shows that flexibility and a willingness to learn are just as important in the kitchen as knowledge and experience.

She talks about soufflés as a more positive experience than some of the ones in the book with a household that inspired her to develop her skills.

“And it was so pleasant when Lady Downfall came down in the mornings; she’d say, ‘Good morning, Margaret. Have you any suggestions for lunch?’ in a pleasant tone of voice. Or, ‘Oh Margaret, as there’ll be such a large dinner party we’ll have a cold lunch today. That’ll give you more time for preparation tonight.’ Consideration, you see. A rare quality.

This gave me the incentive to cook as well and better than I had done. One of my specialties was soufflés. I used to make marvellous soufflés, I had a light hand in those days. Either savoury ones, or sweet ones.”                                                                                           (157)

This cheese soufflé is probably much simpler than the ones Margaret prepared, but that just makes it easier for the rest of us without professional culinary skills. This could be eaten for any meal. Paul and I had it for dinner, but you could easily make it for breakfast. It looks pretty impressive, so you could certainly serve it to company.

Serves four. Recipe adapted from Steamy Kitchen.

You’ll need:

  • 7 large eggs
  • 4 ounces sour cream
  • 1/3 cup milk (I think anything but skim would work–I used 1%)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground mustard
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I used sriracha)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 ounce each grated sharp cheddar, muenster, and gruyere cheeses (you can really use any cheese blend you wish–but these are absolutely delicious)

Preheat oven to 350. Put a metal rimmed baking sheet into the oven (to catch drips).

In a bowl combine the eggs, sour cream, and milk. Beat with an electric beater until combined (about 30 seconds). Add spices and beat again.

Melt butter in round soufflé dish and wiggle it around until it covers the bottom and sides. If you don’t have a soufflé dish, don’t despair. You can do what I did and use a loaf pan. It won’t get the same dramatic height, but it’ll still taste delicious, and that’s what counts.

Mix the three cheeses together and press all the cheese into the bottom of the dish/pan. Gently pour in the egg mixture, until it’s about an inch from the top. If you’re using a loaf pan, there won’t be any more, but there will be if you use the correct dish. Put it in the oven now to prevent spilling on the way.

Put the dish on top of the tray and add the rest of the egg mixture (if needed). Bake 55-60 minutes until puffy and golden brown on top. Revel in its glory quickly, as it deflates in less than a minute. Serve with a salad or fruit.


Ever made a soufflé before? What was your most memorable experience? Let me know in the comments.