ABC’s Spectacular Summer Reading Extravaganza: The Non-Fiction Titles

So much time, and so many books…

Ah, the summer holidays are here, or just around the corner at least, for the vast majority of us.  Time to enjoy the sun and the knowledge you have absolutely no deadlines or appointments to make, apart from the one around twilight with a bottle of rosé and a few tapas.

And a good book, of course.  Nothing quite enhances a lazy summer day like a good book.

I asked my colleagues to recommend books from the sections they buy for, and, my word, they rallied! Below you will see their handpicked books – both new and classic – guaranteed to improve your summer in any area you want.

Since they came up with so many books, I’ve been forced to split this Extravaganza in two – the first part (posted yesterday) with fiction titles, and this second part with non-fiction titles.

As ever, the categories are completely arbitrary, but that shouldn’t spoil the fun, right?  We hope you’ll be inspired by one or two or maybe even ten of them.

Reference & Language

Indie Publishing – Ellen Lupton
The book all aspiring self-publishers should be reading this summer, in hot anticipation of a very cool machine that will be making its way to ABC Amsterdam this September!

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much – Allison Hoover Bartlett
While most thieves steal for profit, rare-book thief John Charles Gilkey steals purely for the love of books. With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much” immerses the reader in the world of literary obsession and reveals how dangerous it can be.

The Book of General Ignorance – QI
The indispensable compendium of popular misconceptions, misunderstandings and common mistakes culled from the hit BBC show, QI. The noticeably stouter QI Book of General Ignorance sets out to show you that a lot of what you think you know is wrong. If, like Alan Davies, you still think the Henry VIII had six wives, the earth has only one moon, that George Washington was the first president of the USA, that Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, that the largest living thing is a blue whale, that Alexander Graeme Bell invented the telephone, that whisky and bagpipes come from Scotland or that Mount Everest is the world’s tallest mountain, then there are at least 200 reasons why this is the book for you.

The Ring of Words – Peter Gilliver & Jeremy Marshall
The Ring of Words describes the unique relationship between Tolkien’s creative use of the English language in his fiction and his work on the Oxford English Dictionary. In ‘word studies’ the authors, themselves editors of the OED, explore individual words Tolkien used in terms of their origins, development, and significance in his fictional world.

Mother Tongue – Bill Bryson
Presenting a tour of English from its mongrel origins to its status as the world’s most-spoken tongue; its apparent simplicity to its deceptive complexity; its vibrant swearing to its uncertain spelling and pronunciation, this book covers curious eccentricities that make it as maddening to learn and as flexible to use.


Experience Your Good Now!: Learning to Use Affirmations (with Audio CD) – Louise Hay
In this delightful book, Louise L. Hay discusses the power and importance of affirmations and shows you how to apply them right now! Louise explains that when you state an affirmation, you’re really saying to your subconscious mind: “I am taking responsibility. I am aware that there is something I can do to change.” Within these pages, Louise discusses specific topics and concerns (health, fearful emotions, addictions, prosperity issues, love and intimacy, and more) and presents exercises that show you how to make beneficial changes to virtually every area of your life. On the enclosed CD, Louise offers you helpful information about affirmations that you can also use to your benefit. She recommends that you listen to the CD at any time of the day or night­whenever you’d like positive thoughts and ideas to permeate your consciousness and fill you with hope and joy

Spiritual Partnership: The Journey to Authentic Power – Gary Zukav
This book is about our new relationships. A new and surprising world is emerging that requires each of us to explore the sources of our love and cultivate them and the inner sources of all that prevents us from loving (our fears) and heal them. Our evolution has taken a new path, and our relationships are changing in unexpected and dramatic ways. We are evolving beyond the limits of our five senses and encountering more expanded experiences of ourselves and our world than were previously possible. Where once our perception was confined to what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell, we are now increasingly able to access data that these senses cannot detect. This expanded perception is forever altering our experiences of ourselves, our world, and our relationships. Our evolution now presents us at each moment with a profound choice: we can pretend that our lives and the world are not changing and continue to relate to one another as before, or we can use our relationships to transform ourselves into authentically powerful, loving individuals


Gray’s Anatomy – John Gray
Why is progress a pernicious myth? Why do beliefs that humanity can be improved end in farce or horror? Is atheism a hangover from Christian faith? John Gray, one of the most iconoclastic thinkers of our time, smashes through civilization’s long cherished beliefs, overturning our view of the world and our place in it.

Should You Judge This Book By Its Cover? – Julian Baggini
In Should You Judge This Book by Its Cover philosopher Julian Baggini examines the meanings behind a host of everyday expressions. Is it really always better to practice what you preach? To do as the Romans do? To be safe, not sorry?  In his quest for clarity in everyday language, Baggini leaves no saying behind as he considers such expressions as “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Far from a reference book, this entertaining collection is full of short, stimulating capsules of defiantly clear thinking that are meant to fuel thought and conversation.

Supervillains & Philosophy – Ben Dyer
Offers a sympathetic, philosophical look at the supervillains. This title delves into the dark nature of supervillainy, examines the boundaries of good and evil, offers helpful advice to prospective supervillains, and untangles diabolical puzzles of identity and consciousness.

The Philosopher and the Wolf – Mark Rowlands
Charts the relationship between Mark Rowlands, a rootless philosopher, and Brenin, his extraordinarily well-travelled wolf. This life-affirming book can make you reappraise what it means to be human.

The History of Madness – Michel Foucault
Begins in the Middle Ages with vivid descriptions of the exclusion and confinement of lepers. Why, the author asks, when the leper houses were emptied at the end of the Middle Ages, were they turned into places of confinement for the mad? Why, within the space of several months in 1656, was one out of every hundred people in Paris confined?

The Idle Parent – Tom Hodgkinson
Why can’t we just leave our kids alone? If you’ve ever wondered why so many of today’s children are unhappy, spoilt, stressed and selfish – mini-adults, really – then the answers and the remedy are to be found in The Idle Parent. Tom Hodgkinson wants us to leave our kids be, to give them the space and time to grow into self-reliant, confident, inquisitive, happy and free people. Full of practical tips of what to do and (more importantly) what not to do, Tom will not only help your kids be happier, but also help you, their parents, live happier and stress-free lives.


Vermeer’s Hat – Timothy Brook
In one painting, a Dutch military officer leans toward a laughing girl. In another, a woman at a window weighs pieces of silver. In a third, fruit spills from a porcelain bowl onto a Turkish carpet. The officer’s dashing hat is made of beaver fur, which European explorers got from Native Americans in exchange for weapons. Beaver pelts, in turn, financed the voyages of sailors seeking new routes to China. There – with silver mined in Peru – Europeans would purchase, by the thousands, the porcelain so often shown in Dutch paintings of this time. Vermeer’s haunting images hint at the stories behind these exquisitely rendered moments. As Timothy Brook shows us in Vermeer’s Hat, these pictures, which seem so intimate, actually open doors onto a rapidly expanding world.

The Forger’s Spell – Edward Dolnick
As riveting as a World War II thriller, The Forger’s Spell is the true story of three men and an extraordinary deception: the revered artist Johannes Vermeer; the small-time Dutch painter who dared to impersonate him years later; and the con man’s mark, Hermann Goering, the fanatical art collector and one of Nazi Germany’s most reviled leaders.

The Man Who Made Vermeers – Jonathan Lopez
It’s a story that made Dutch painter Han van Meegeren famous worldwide when it broke at the end of World War II: A lifetime of disappointment drove him to forge Vermeers, one of which he sold to Hermann Goering in mockery of the Nazis. And it’s a story that’s been believed ever since. Too bad it isn’t true.

On Photography – Susan Sontag (ABC Evergreen)
One of the most highly regarded books of its kind, On Photography first appeared in 1977 and is described by its author as “a progress of essays about the meaning and career of photographs.” It begins with the famous “In Plato’s Cave” essay, then offers five other prose meditations on this topic, and concludes with a fascinating and far-reaching “Brief Anthology of Quotations.”

Ignore Everybode – Hugh MacLeod (ABC Evergreen)
MacLeod has opinions on everything from marketing to the meaning of life, but one of his main subjects is creativity. How do new ideas emerge in a cynical, risk-averse world? Where does inspiration come from? What does it take to make a living as a creative person?


Living for the Weekday – Clint Swindall
Employee engagement drives superior performance–it’s that simple. Good leaders know this, and take active steps to promote it. Yet engagement is a two-way street; no program works without employees stepping up and participating. If you’re a leader, this participation is the key to your team’s breakthrough results. If you’re a team member, it’s the ticket for more life satisfaction and career advancement.

Gross Misconduct – Venetia Thompson
Working as one of only a few female inter-dealer bond brokers, the blonde ex-public school girl (nicknamed ‘posh bird’ and ‘airbags’ ) threw herself headlong into a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture of extravagance. Determined not to be bullied by the brash Essex wide boys and Alpha males around her, she partied with as much gusto as her colleagues, taking all the life offered: the GBP900 bottles of wine, the six-hour lunches, the days out at Cartier Polo, the Champagne-fuelled nights at lap-dancing clubs, the Chanel handbags and the meaningless sex. Then, as easily as she’d slipped into the life, she was catapulted back out, when a satirical article she penned for The Spectator, spilled the beans on how her co-workers and bosses really behaved.

Too Big to Fail – Andrew Ross Sorkin
From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, Russia and the corridors of Washington, this title tells the story of some of the most powerful men and women in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego, greed, and, ultimately, the fate of the world’s economy.

Magic & Controversial Knowledge

Cunningham’s Book of Shadows – Scott Cunningham
Includes spells, rituals, and invocations and a herbal grimoire.

Human Race Get off Your Knees – David Icke
The new David Icke book should have come out in May, but so far our suppliers haven’t had it in.  Hopefully it’ll come out in July!

The Real History of the End of the World – Sharan Newman
Nice uplifting read for at the campsite… 🙂

Contact: Countdown To Transformation–The CSETI Experience 1992-2009 – Steven M. Greer
Steven M. Greer MD and the CSETI team chronicle the amazing contacts they have had since 1992 with Extraterrestrial Civilizations. Learn how the CSETI protocols have led to ongoing – and rapidly increasing – contact with Interstellar civilizations and how these contact events are building to an astonishing crescendo: We are now in the final Countdown to the Transformation of life on earth as we become a peaceful, universal society.  There’s also a DVD connected to this book.

Dark Mysteries of the Vatican – H. Paul Jeffers
The defender of the faith for more than 16 centuries, the Vatican became the repository of many secrets, making it the focus of countless legends, myths, and mysteries. Veteran journalist Jeffers unveils the Church’s highly controversial scandals and cover-ups.

Ancient History & Mythology

There Were Giants Upon the Earth – Zecharia Sitchin
The crowning work of the bestselling Earth Chronicles series, “There Were Giants Upon the Earth” reveals the existence of physical evidence of alien presence on Earth in the distant past, and identifies and describes the demigods who descended from these visitors.

The Landmark Xenophon’s Hellenika – Xenophon & Robert B. Strassler
From the editor of the widely praised “Landmark Thucydides” and “Landmark Herodotus” comes a new edition of the “Hellenika,” the primary source for the events of the final seven years and aftermath of the Peloponnesian War.  Beautiful series!

The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell (brand-new ABC Evergreen)
A study of heroism in the myths of the world – an exploration of all the elements common to the great stories that have helped people make sense of their lives from the earliest times. It takes in Greek Apollo, Maori and Jewish rites, the Buddha, Wotan, and the bothers Grimm’s Frog-King.

History, Military History & Political Science

Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future – Stephen Kinzer
The bestselling author of “Overthrow” offers a new and surprising vision for rebuilding America’s strategic partnerships in the Middle East.

Speeches That Changed the World – Simon Sebag Montefiore
Comprehensively updated with many new speeches including Earl Spencer’s lament to ‘The extraordinary and irreplaceable Diana’, Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech of 1956 signalling the beginning of the end of Stalinist Russia, Patrick Pearse’s rousing funeral oration that fanned the flames of the Easter Rising, Kevin Rudd’s historic apology to Australia’s mistreated Aborigines and Barack Obama’s momentous US election night victory speech. Alongside these are the finest war cries of Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King’s prophetic ‘I have a dream’ and ‘I’ve seen the promised land’ speeches, the inspiring words of JFK and impassioned pleas from Nelson Mandela – the first at his trial in 1964 and the second on his election as president of South Africa in 1994. In addition are historic speeches from Elizabeth I, Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Emmeline Pankhurst, Mahatma Gandhi, Vladimir Lenin, Neville Chamberlain, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle, General George S. Patton, J Robert Oppenheimer, Mao Zedong, Malcolm X, Richard M. Nixon, Pope John Paul II, Vaclav Havel, Elie Wiesel, Mikhail Gorbachev and many other great historical figures.

War – Sebastian Junger
The author of the gripping bestseller “The Perfect Storm” turns his brilliant and empathetic eye to the reality of combat. “War” follows a single platoon through a 15-month tour of duty in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan.

Counterinsurgency – David J. Kilcullen
“Counterinsurgency” is a picture of modern warfare by someone who has had his boots on the ground in some of today’s worst trouble spots–including Iraq and Afghanistan–and who has been studying the topic since 1995. Filled with down-to-earth, common-sense insights, this book is indispensable for all those interested in making sense of our world in an age of terror.

Ill Fares the Land – Tony Judt
Something is profoundly wrong with the way we think about how we should live today. In Ill Fares The Land, Tony Judt, one of our leading historians and thinkers, reveals how we have arrived at our present dangerously confused moment. Judt masterfully crystallizes what we’ve all been feeling into a way to think our way into, and thus out of, our great collective dis-ease about the current state of things. As the economic collapse of 2008 made clear, the social contract that defined postwar life in Europe and America – the guarantee of a basal level of security, stability and fairness — is no longer guaranteed; in fact, it’s no longer part of the common discourse.  In reintroducing alternatives to the status quo, Judt reinvigorates our political conversation, providing the tools necessary to imagine a new form of governance, a new way of life.

Hitch-22: A Memoir – Christopher Hitchens
Over the course of his 60 years, Christopher Hitchens has been a citizen of both the United States and the United Kingdom. He has been both a socialist opposed to the war in Vietnam and a supporter of the U.S. war against Islamic extremism in Iraq. He has been both a foreign correspondent in some of the world’s most dangerous places and a legendary bon vivant with an unquenchable thirst for alcohol and literature. He is a fervent atheist, raised as a Christian, by a mother whose Jewish heritage was not revealed to him until her suicide.   In other words, Christopher Hitchens contains multitudes. He sees all sides of an argument. And he believes the personal is political.

Taming the Gods – Ian Buruma
For eight years the president of the United States was a born-again Christian, backed by well-organized evangelicals who often seemed intent on erasing the church-state divide. In Europe, the increasing number of radicalized Muslims is creating widespread fear that Islam is undermining Western-style liberal democracy. And even in polytheistic Asia, the development of democracy has been hindered in some countries, particularly China, by a long history in which religion was tightly linked to the state.  Ian Buruma is the first writer to provide a sharp-eyed look at the tensions between religion and politics on three continents. Drawing on many contemporary and historical examples, he argues that the violent passions inspired by religion must be tamed in order to make democracy work.

The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama – David Remnick
No story has been more central to America’s history this century than the rise of Barack Obama, and until now, no journalist or historian has written a book that fully investigates the circumstances and experiences of Obama’s life or explores the ambition behind his rise. Those familiar with Obama’s own best-selling memoir or his campaign speeches know the touchstones and details that he chooses to emphasize, but now—from a writer whose gift for illuminating the historical significance of unfolding events is without peer—we have a portrait, at once masterly and fresh, nuanced and unexpected, of a young man in search of himself, and of a rising politician determined to become the first African-American president.

Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment – David Kirby
The “New York Times”-bestselling author of “Evidence of Harm” presents a dramatic exposé of factory farms and the dangerous public health crisis created by some of the most powerful industries in America. Annotation: The “New York Times”-bestselling author of “Evidence of Harm” presents a dramatic expos of factory farms and the dangerous public health crisis created by some of the most powerful industries in America.


Sex in a Tent: A Wild Couple’s Guide to Getting Naughty in Nature – Michelle Waitzman
More interested in getting back to nature with your honey? This charmingly illustrated how-to book will give you lots of fun tips for getting it on in the great outdoors. Including sections on how camping can improve your sex life, how to have sex in a tent without destroying it, and creating a romantic dinner from a Ziploc bag, this practical and fun guide is sure to inspire you to take a walk on the wild side.

Food & Cooking

Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids – Jill O’Connor
For everybody who will have a child or multiple children at home for the summer holiday, you can have fun with the recipes in this book!  Glamorous Movie Star Marshmallows, Peanut Butter-Pretzel Bonbons, what more do you need? Easy to use spiral bound edition, with very appealing and cheerful layout.

Travel, Foreign Languages & Local Interest

City Pick Amsterdam, Perfect Gems of City Writing – edited by Heather Reyes & Victor Schiferli
From outsiders to insiders, from classic to cutting-edge, over seventy brilliant writers reveal the many faces, present and past, of this amazing city. Ian McEwan describes that perfect Amsterdam moment. Alain de Botton finds the exotic in the ordinary. Cees Nooteboom celebrates a city of water. David Sedaris visits Anne Frank’s House Geert Mak on a nation within a nation. Doeschka Meijsing takes a swim in the canal. Simon Schama evokes Old Amsterdam. Dubravka Ugresic discovers a city of exile. Geoff Dyer spends a weekend in Amsterdam and much, much more.

The Undutchables – Colin White & Laurie Boucke (ABC Evergreen)
Nothing is more interesting than to see yourself through the eyes of an outsider.  The UnDutchables is a very revealing treatise about us… This book in a very exact yet funny way discloses all the secrets about us that we really would have preferred to keep to ourselves. In other words, they hang out the dirty linen… The authors have clearly looked much farther than wooden shoes and tulips… Even the way we stir sugar in our coffee has not escaped their notice and not until you read this book from cover to cover do you understand how much our behavior, that we consider as completely normal ourselves, borders on insanity for a non-Netherlander.  Everything in it is true, and only the humor with which it is written makes it at all palatable for us. A fine little work, then, that will be around for years. — Johannes van Dam, Het Parool, May 26, 1990

Dutch Ditz: Manners in the Netherlands – Reinildis van Ditzhuyzen
Reinildis van Ditzhuyzen is known in the Netherlands as the “Queen of Manners”. She interviewed expats to write this book ‘Dutch Ditz, Manners in the Netherlands’ for English speaking people.

Xenophobe’s Guide to the Dutch – Rodney Bolt
The spirit of tolerance does constant battle with the ghost of Calvin for control of the Dutch psyche. Few Dutch people go to church any more, but they don’t need to. Inside every Hollander’s head is a little pulpit containing a preacher with a vermanende vinger, a wagging finger. Xenophobia is an irrational fear of foreigners, probably justified, always understandable. Xenophobe’s Guides – an irreverent look at the beliefs and foibles of nations, almost guaranteed to cure Xenophobia.

The Rough Guide to Travel with Babies & Young Children – Fawzia Rasheed de Francisco
From pre-trip planning to pre-empting and dealing with challenges when away, this is a guide to hassle-free family travel. It gives the low-down on topics ranging from planning your itinerary and accommodation to what to bring and how to pack it. It also includes tips on painless travel by plane, car, bus or train, as well how to deal with delays.

Living Language Spanish Vocabulary (multimedia set)
“¡Dos cervezas, por favor!” Learn Spanish vocabulary before heading off to Madrid or a Spanish beach by listening to native speakers.

Teach Yourself Complete French (Book and CD)
Want to order your escargots in a romantic Dordogne restaurant in the local language? Teach yourself!

Lonely Planet Slovenia – Steve Fallon
Why not go to Slovenia this year? This tiny country has some surprising places to discover.

Bradt Transsylvania – Lucy Mallows
Or explore this region made famous by Dracula and visit its impressive castles!

Bicycle Mania – Shirley Agudo
American photographer Shirley Agudo captured an intriguing aspect of Holland: its unique cycling culture .


Let’s Go Outside!: Outdoor Activities and Projects to Get You and Your Kids Closer to Nature – Jennifer Ward
Offers activities for preteens that encourages them to go outside and experience adventure in the great outdoors. This book covers sections, including Back to Basics – reconnecting with twists on traditional games and activities such as Capture the Flag; and Making the Ordinary Extraordinary – picnics and doing homework outdoors.

DIY & Crafts

Handy Dad: 25 Awesome Projects for Dads and Kids – Todd Davis & Niki Schulz
Skate ramps, zip lines, go-carts, and more! In this super-fun book, Todd Davis extreme sports athlete and host of HGTV’s Over Your Head presents 25 awesome projects for dads to build with their kids. Busy dads can choose projects that range from simple to challenging and take anywhere from five minutes to a full weekend. Readers are given all the directions they need to grab materials that can be found around the house or at the local hardware store and get to work banging up a sweet BMX ramp or half-pipe, building a tree house or tire swing, or throwing together a slip-and-slide or tie-dye station for an afternoon of fun. With plenty of color photographs, easy-to-follow instructions, and detailed illustrations, Handy Dad is chock-full of creative and inexpensive ways to keep kids (and dads) entertained for hours.

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share – Ken Denmead & Chris Anderson
Today’s generation of dads grew up more tech-savvy than ever. Rather than joining the Little League team, many grew up playing computer games, Dungeons and Dragons, and watching Star Wars. Now with kids of their own, these digital-age dads are looking for fresh ways to share their love of science and technology, and help their kids develop a passion for learning and discovery.  Enter supergeek, and father of two, Ken Denmead. An engineer and editor of the incredibly popular GeekDad blog on, Ken has created the ultimate, idea-packed guide guaranteed to help dads and kids alike enjoy the magic of playtime together and tap into the infinite possibility of their imagination. With illustrations throughout, this book offers projects for all ages to suit any timeframe or budget.

Victorian Lace Today – Jane Sowerby & Alexis Xenakis
Yes you can knit in the summer. Try your hand at these delicate patterns, with light yarn (think luscious silk!).  The end result is a scarf or shawl of stunning beauty!

Crochet Borders – Edie Eckman
And this one is especially for Hayley: crochet borders!  Does what it says on the tin.  Wonderful little book with tons of ideas on how to finish of those pesky edges of anything handmade.

Biographies & Autobiographies

Diplomatic Incidents – Cherry Denman
This collection of hilarious memoirs of an undiplomatic wife brings very funny tales of global misunderstanding.

Nelson Mandela: A Biography – Martin Meredith
A portrait of the legendary 92-year old grand old man of South Africa who made it from the prison to the presidency.


The Wave Watcher’s Companion – Gavin Pretor-Pinney
Join the author on his fascinating journey through the nature of various kinds of waves: from ocean waves to brain waves.

The Climate War – Eric Pooley
A page-turning account of the heated (sorry, couldn’t resist …) debate over America’s climate policy.


¡Vivir!: Reflexiones Sobre Nuestro Viaje Por La Vida – Louise Hay
Yes, we also have a Spanish section (at ABC Den Haag only though)(loads of Spanish titles can be ordered through us, too)!

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