Please recommend happy, uplifting narrative non fiction
September 27, 2017 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I like true stories, but don't want to read about the murders, politics, traitors, base behaviors and negativity in the world--There's too much of that in life and I don't want more access to it by reading about it. I want instead, the happy, uplifting, positive, cheerful, perhaps funny non fiction narratives out there. Stuff that just makes you glad to be alive and appreciate the goodness in mankind. We need more of that. I want to read about that. Please recommend.

While I haven't yet read The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow, I'm thinking that is one example only of the kind of "cheerful optimism" that I am looking for.
posted by luvmywife to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Bill Bryson is tailor-made for this. Give him a try.
posted by Ginesthoi at 10:38 AM on September 27, 2017 [13 favorites]

I loved The Boys In The Boat by Daniel Brown--a very "feel good" story even if you're not into sports in general or rowing in particular.
posted by bookmammal at 10:48 AM on September 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, "Seabiscuit" by Laura Hildebrand. I never knew there was so much to horse racing.
posted by Ginesthoi at 11:20 AM on September 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

The Third Plate by Dan Barber made me feel that way about food and ethical cuisine!
posted by lydhre at 11:45 AM on September 27, 2017

James Herriot, the pen name of a British veterinarian, used to own this corner of the market. (It's since been noted his Yorkshire stories are only semi-autobiographical).
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:07 PM on September 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

I really enjoy books like Joshua Foer's Moonwalking with Einstein.
Guy decides he wants to learn how to have a memory as good as people who compete in memory competitions, so he takes a year to do it. fun, interesting read, can be inspirational in that it's surprising what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Three men in a boat perhaps? Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other animals ticks all of the boxes too! I love reading both of those.

Seconding James Herriot and Bill Bryson, especially A Walk in the Woods, though all his travel books are great.
posted by Lucy_32 at 3:12 PM on September 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Gerald Durrell's Corfu Trilogy (especially My Family & Other Animals) was the first thing I thought of. Hilarious and (semi-) autobiographical.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:44 PM on September 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman. There is some sadness (his first wife died), but lots of good stories of Richard Feynman's life.
posted by fings at 6:33 PM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tracy Kidder's House, and his Hometown.
posted by kerf at 8:09 PM on September 27, 2017

Bill Bryson's science book "A Short History Of Nearly Everything" is just so much fun. I recommend the Audible edition because I love to be read to, but Bryson is great in whatever form or format, and this book gives him plenty of room to move around, so much ground to be covered, so much fun taking this ride with Bryson.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:24 PM on September 27, 2017

Bill Bryson generally is great, but I want to red-flag his book about small-town America (The Lost Continent, i think is the title), which I remember as being mean-spirited, in his well-crafted writerly way, towards fat people. Others probably find it amusing. Bryson's books that I did enjoy include A Short History Of Nearly Everything, A Walk In The Woods, and At Home.

Nthing Herriot, Foer, and Feynman.

Mary Roach's books, Packing For Mars (about the practical day-to-day science of space travel, like zero gravity toilets, which I find hilarious), Bonk (sex), and Gulp (digestive system) -- possibly not your idea of "cheerful optimism," but I include them because personally I find her description of the science, and the scientists, uplifting and restorative of my faith in humanity.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, is an autobiography about teenage Kamkwamba reading about windmill electricity generation in a library book, and building a windmill out of bicycle parts and other junkyard scraps for his village's electricity needs.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:34 PM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Alice, Let's Eat by Calvin Trillan. CT`s two big topics have been crime, which you don`t want, and food/family which you do.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:53 AM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest Jack de Crow! It's wonderful :)
posted by The otter lady at 6:01 PM on September 29, 2017

In case you're interested in a previously, here's my question on feel-good non-fiction.

Looks like no one's mentioned John McPhee yet, so I'll recommend

A Sense of Where You Are, about Bill Bradley
The Headmaster
Levels of the Game, about Arthur Ashe

(Note that two of those are about athletes, and I have pretty much no interest in sports at all, but those are GREAT books about fascinating and admirable people.)

His collections (like Giving Good Weight) are terrific, too.

I utterly, utterly loved Black Hole Blues. It's about the decades-long work to build LIGO, to listen for gravitational waves, and all the people involved.

I also highly recommend Sue Hubbell, especially A Book of Bees.
posted by kristi at 1:57 PM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

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