Sometimes the best nonfiction invites readers to take part in an expedition, to explore meandering paths, to peek around an unexamined corner. Here are five such books—quirky, fun, intriguing titles that blossom into vivid explorations.
- The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest To Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox (Ecco: HarperCollins). At the heart of this exciting and engaging linguistic mystery is an ancient language discovered among the ruins of a palace dating from the Mycenaean period and a female scholar passed over by history.
- Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate by Rose George (Metropolitan: Holt). Charting the oceanic course of almost everything we consume, George takes readers on a fascinating voyage around the world of commercial shipping. During her travels she explores everything from historical and modern piracy to lost ships and seafaring lore.
- On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta by Jen Lin-Liu (Riverhead: Penguin Group [USA]). Who invented pasta? Lin-Liu travels the Silk Road from China to Italy to find out. Along the way she cooks, eats, and details her journey with wit, charm, and a deep empathy for both locale and ingredient.
- The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury, & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat by Meg Lukens Noonan (Spiegel & Grau). In this lyrical and beguiling investigation, Noonan follows the creation of a fabulous bespoke overcoat from the materials used to create it to the soul and talent of its creator.
- The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti (Dial). Blending food, culture, and history, Paterniti crafts a rambling and captivating story of a Spanish cheese maker with an epic tale to tell.