Which must-read non-fiction books can I tackle in a single sitting?
January 5, 2015 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I loved Buzzfeed's 46 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read In A Day last year. I've just started reading the very short, very good Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway and it made me wonder...what other classic non-fiction books can be read in a single sitting/day? Are there any non-fiction lists like that Buzzfeed one?

Don't worry too much about exact subject matter - Feel The Fear is self-help, but I'm sure anything deemed "classic non-fiction" by the good people of MeFi would be up my street.
posted by Junebug79 to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 160 users marked this as a favorite
I just read Without You, There is no Us. I found it interesting but frustrating because I wanted to know more, but we could only know what Ms. Kim could tell us.

I find North Korea fascinating and this book was a quick and easy read.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:49 PM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Do essays count? Because Rebecca Solnit's brilliant book of essays "Men Explain Things To Me" is a short read.
posted by janey47 at 12:53 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

John Hersey's Hiroshima.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:54 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I read Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test and Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air in a day (each). GoodReads tells me they're 275 and 333 pages, respectively, but that surprises me because they were such quick reads. I couldn't put them down. (I love Ronson's other books, but I don't think I read any as quickly as The Psychopath Test.)
posted by neushoorn at 12:55 PM on January 5, 2015

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard.
posted by holborne at 1:08 PM on January 5, 2015

I recently enjoyed Eula Biss's On Immunity: An Inoculation, which is (too) short. An excerpt was posted here in September.
posted by theodolite at 1:12 PM on January 5, 2015

I give my highest recommendation to In Defense of Flogging. it's super short but hugely thought-provoking.
posted by isaacq at 1:18 PM on January 5, 2015

This is one of my favorite kinds of book (my other favorite is super epic novels! Go figure). Seconding Ruthless Bunny's recommendation, which I read in an evening recently. Geoff Dyer's Zona should and can be read in one sitting (after you read the book and become a Dyer completist, you can also read his most recent book, Another Great Day at Sea, which is not his best but still better than most other people's best, in an afternoon). I read David Grann's The Lost City of Z in a weekend, which is close enough (also, run, don't walk to the book Factory Girls by Leslie Chang - it is worth any extra length). It's controversial, but I love Lauren Slater's book Lying, which is quiet brief. Most Janet Malcolm could probably be read in a day - start with The Journalist and the Murderer. Maggie Nelson's Bluets and The Art of Cruelty are both short and great. You can't do shorter better than Sarah Manguso's The Two Kinds of Decay (her book Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape is hard to get a hold of but even shorter and also great). Nicholson Baker's U and I is lovely and tiny.
posted by raisindebt at 1:19 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, most John McPhee in book form is too long, but The Curve of Binding Energy isn't and is great.
posted by raisindebt at 1:20 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Three excellent, and rather varied, pieces of short fiction under 250 pages:

Manhunts: A Philosophical History
, Grégoire Chamayou
Salvador, by Joan Didion
Demon Camp, by Jennifer Percy
The Science of Hitting, Ted Williams
posted by .kobayashi. at 1:39 PM on January 5, 2015

Yeah, John McPhee has a lot of short-ish nonfiction. Both The Control of Nature and Encounters with the Archdruid are split into three sections, each of which is a self-contained read-in-one-sitting narrative that ties in to the book's greater theme (and the each book could easily be read in one day, too). I consider The Control of Nature to be some of the best non-fiction writing, period.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:40 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Pretty much anything by Lewis Thomas.

Gore Vidal's Screening History features Vidal being Vidal in his usual autobiographical mode. For those with no interest in Hollywood or GV's take on US politics, Vidal in Venice is a lot of fun. (The documentary on which it is based is at least in part available on youtube and worth a look. Venice is always worth a look.)
posted by BWA at 1:48 PM on January 5, 2015

From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolf.

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
posted by vapidave at 1:57 PM on January 5, 2015

Darkness Visible by William Styron.

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 2:37 PM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Mind of a Mnemonist.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:58 PM on January 5, 2015

Pema Chodron's books on Buddhism for laypeople, particularly "Start Where You Are"; also "The Places That Scare You".
posted by mmiddle at 5:54 PM on January 5, 2015

I just read Foucault: Philosophy in an Hour, which was more fun than expected. I wanted to read it because I know Foucault is difficult and I may not have the patience to get through much of his actual writing. Strathern is a good enough writer, but there are some editing issues that remind one not to take it too seriously.
posted by sneebler at 6:43 PM on January 5, 2015

It's been a long time but I remember plowing through Longitude in about a day.
posted by usonian at 6:54 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

84, Charing Cross Road: an hour or so to read, and you'll feel in charity with humanity again.
posted by sciapod at 9:36 AM on January 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Elements of Style (a.k.a. "Strunk and White")
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:09 PM on January 6, 2015

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut (at least, I remember it being short).

On Bullshit is interesting and short, but more like an essay than a book.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 4:49 AM on January 8, 2015

Mother Night is fiction. Vonnegut did write a good bit of non-fiction, though, which might qualify, although it's mainly essays collected in book form.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:20 AM on January 8, 2015

The Medusa and the Snail is an excellent single-day nonfiction read.

If you like it, I'd suggest all the James Burke works and similar ones (which themselves may not be single-day books, but each section stands alone and so can be divided up nicely).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:06 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you enjoy personal essays, there are two short books of them that I enjoyed: Sarah Vowell's Take the Cannoli: Stories From the New World (219 pages) and Samantha Irby's Meaty (250 pages). Irby is the author of the hilarious blog Bitches Gotta Eat.
posted by neushoorn at 6:55 AM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just finished, and adored, Cake: a Global History by Nicola Humble.

It's about cake.
posted by exceptinsects at 5:37 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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