narrative nonfiction

The Drug Hunters: The Improbable Quest to Discover New Medicines

By Donald R. Kirsch
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Rated by Brian O.
Apr 6, 2020

From Ötzi the Ice Age hunter-gatherer to billion-dollar pharmaceutical research and development labs people have been looking for substances to ease pain, cure disease and prolong a healthy life.

In The Drug Hunters we follow along the circuitous paths drugs can take on their way to the pharmacy shelf. One antifungal drug that was researched as a cure for athlete’s foot is now used in anti-rejection therapies. The birth control pill started with Swiss dairy farmers' efforts to keep their cows producing milk. We also learn how the earliest synthetic dye companies transformed into modern-day

The Wild Trees

By Richard Preston
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Rated by Maryana K.
Oct 1, 2017

Richard Preston’s work of narrative nonfiction transported me to a place rarely seen by humans. Invisible from the ground, in the canopy of giant redwoods, exists a forest within a forest. Until recently the canopy was thought to be desert like, but thanks to the ecologists, botanists and naturalists depicted in Wild Trees, we now know, in the criss-crossed branches and burned out voids, the redwood nourishes many forms of life -- smaller trees and ferns grow in collected pockets of earth, a rainbow of lichen drip from the trunks and branches, and a particular type of salamander spends its

Jun 30, 2015

In the latter half of the 19th century, many scientists believed that there was an Open Polar Sea that could be reached by ship once they had pushed past the outer ring of ice.  A race between many of the wealthier countries began to see who could claim the route for both trade purposes and bragging rights.  The U.S.S. Jeannette expedition was a joint venture between eccentric newspaper publisher James Gordon Bennett Jr. and the U.S. Navy.  Consisting of 31 officers and crew, the Jeannette aimed for the North Pole but was quickly locked in shifting ice floes, dragging them far off course for

Jul 5, 2014

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital is a much longer and expanded version of the Pulitzer Prize winning article Sheri Fink wrote about the suspicious deaths in a New Orleans hospital following hurricane Katrina. The author has collected the accounts of surviving doctors, patients, and rescuers, as they tried to save patients when the hospital was flooded, then lost power, and finally lost almost all access to communication to the outside world.  The book can be divided into two sections: the first, stronger half is about the storm and immediate aftermath.  The

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

By Mary Roach
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Rated by Brian O.
Sep 24, 2013

Mary Roach is the author of several books of science journalism that cover the spectrum of sex, space travel, and cadavers. In Gulp we follow our food from mastication to, well here is an excerpt from the book, “Yes, men and women eat meals. But they also ingest nutrients. They grind and sculpt them into a moistened bolus that is delivered into a self-kneading sack of hydrochloric acid and then dumped into a tubular leach field, where it is converted into the most powerful taboo in history.”

On the way through the digestive system Roach takes detours like how dog food is "tested" and how