7 Summer Reads: Non-Fiction

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From intimate Picasso to historic and scientific breakthroughs, these hot new books are on our must-read list.



Pablo Picasso dubbed her “the woman who says no” when, in 1955, Francoise Gilot left him, ending a relationship spanning ten years (and two children). Following the break-up, Gilot moved to New York and established her own career as an artist — and today at 94, she continues to paint. In the same vein as Tuesdays with Morrie, the book by German journalist Malte Herwig is set up as a series of life lessons learned from Gilot as well as her reflections on former lovers Picasso and Matisse, and her second husband, Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine. (In 1964 Gilot penned, with the help of Carlton Lake, a memoir Life With Picasso, which eventually became the go-to resource for intimate Picasso.)

THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS (William Morrow) by Neil Gaman

From British award-winning author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Sandman comes this amusing collection of non-fiction essays on a range of topics from art and artists to ghosts and fairytales. The ‘cheap seats’ in the title, in case you were wondering, relates to the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.




The second installment in Laxer’s North American history trilogy covers the turbulent 1860s when three political leaders – Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and John A. MacDonald – competed to create a country and reshape a continent.

BOBBY RYDELL: Teen Idol on the Rocks: A Tale of Second Chances (Cadence) by Bobby Rydell with Allan Slutsky

As one of rock and roll’s earliest, and most celebrated teen idols, Bobby Rydell kept company with some of the biggest show biz giants of 20th century —  Frank Sinatra, Ann-Margret, The Beatles, Red Skelton, Jack Benny and Dick Clark, whose American Bandstand helped launch Rydell into stardom. In the book, Rydell chronicles his early successes but also his struggles with alcohol abuse and the last-ditch transplant surgery that saved his life.

THE GENE: AN INTIMATE HISTORY (Scribner) by Siddhartha Mukherjee

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies comes this biography of the human gene. Part social history, part science, part detective story, the story probes the essence of life from a scientific viewpoint, but also asks philosophical and ethical questions introduced by our ability to create or write a genome and thereby, determine human fate.

A SECRET VICE (Harper Collins) by J.R.R. Tolkien; edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins

This study of Tolkien’s little-known essay reveals how his construction of imaginary languages was a key part of his artistic output and the creation of Middle-earth and beyond, including his popular works of fantasy literature, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion.

MIND OVER MONEY (Anansi) by Claudia Hammond

Money makes the world go round – and maybe in more ways than we realize. We need it, we want more of it, but we don’t always understand how it affects the way we see the world. Hammond, from the BBC’s Radio 4, writes about why we often make poor financial decisions and how our psychological relationship with the almighty dollar is more complicated than we think.