The BAND for April is Quirky


I’m hosting this month’s BAND discussion and the topic is QUIRKY NonFiction.

How do you define QUIRKY? and do you read it?

quirky |ˈkwərkē|
adjective ( quirkier, quirkiest )
characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits :  her sense of humor was decidedly quirky.

I like to read nonfiction on odd subjects. I define quirky as a book about a single subject that at first thought might prompt a question of how anyone could find enough stuff to write an entire book?

When someone asks what you are reading and the look of surprise or confusion on the person’s face when you tell them you’ve got a 484 page tome on the History of SALT suggests you’re crazy, it might be considered ‘quirky nonfiction’.

I think I am attracted to the opportunities to capsulize my learning. One little daring topic is not overwhelming and allows one to meet one person, learn some history, explore safely something I can relate to and then be thrilled to know a little more. I like the exploring of one thing from many different angles. And I’m not confronted with a choice to do something about it. I can be content that I learned something new.

Examples of nonfiction that I’ve enjoyed:

Mauve  How One Man Invented a Color That Change the World by Simon Garfield. Purple is my favorite color. The chemistry and history of the times was captivating.

The Secret Life of Lobsters  by Trevor Corson – One of my all time favorites, this follows three story lines that delve into the biology, the managing of the lobster industry, and the struggles of a family who makes their living lobstering in New England.

 The Invention of Clouds by Richard Hamblyn. The author manages to present a romantic view of weather and the chase to understand it framed around the life of Luke Howard who is credited with cloud nomenclature.

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife – Not my favorite, but I do like mathematics. It is interesting to note that the concept of zero and its recent inclusion on the number line is relatively ‘new’.

Join Me by Danny Wallace.  This book is about what happens when you start a movement. Except that Mr. Wallace didn’t really have an agenda thus was quite surprised when people all over the world were happy to join him anyway.

Other books that catch my eye that I have NOT read (yet) but would fit my quirky category are:

Making Piece:  Love, Loss and the Healing Power of Pie by Beth M. Howard. Yea, actually not very quirky but I want to read this!! A memoir; with pie…

Anything and everything by Mary Roach:  Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Spook: Science Tackles the AfterLife, and more…

Just My Type   by Simon Garfield – HEY! Did you notice that this author is the same guy who wrote Mauve?! WOW! This tells me that Mr. Garfield is probably a guy who likes to write about odd stuff.

I think we can put Mark Kurlansky in this category and most certainly Mary Roach. Tell me some more!

Who are your favorite quirky titles and authors?


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37 thoughts on “The BAND for April is Quirky

  1. I think I’m more of a dilettante; I’d rather know a little about a lot than read one of those micro-histories that tell me everything I never really wanted to know (about salt, for example!)
    So for quirky nonfiction, my favorite so far is The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. It’s humorous, too, which always helps nonfiction go down better. 😉

    1. Oh! The Salt story was AMAZING! I loved it.

      I just saw an audiobook at Ocean State by AJ Jacobs and I almost bought it because I know people rave about his Biblical Life – I call these “STUNT” nonfictions. I can’t remember which one it was (one I hadn’t heard of).

      1. I see he has a new one coming out about being healthy. I didn’t read Biblical Life, but enjoyed The Guinea Pig Diaries. That was a collection of humorous pieces, really, so some were funnier than others; I think they were originally published as magazine articles.

        1. I suppose I should go back to the store and buy it. I need to get started on this audio adventure. (of course, as I type this, I’m on the phone with Apple because my phone won’t work. Grrrr)

  2. I did love The Secret Life of Lobsters! I don’t think I read a lot of quirky stuff otherwise, but I’ll read almost anything about lobsters, after reading the David Foster Wallace essay about eating them–it was like a kind of entry drug.

  3. I did a book display of books like this at the library! I called it Microhistories: stories about just one thing (or something like that). I had a lot of Mary Roach and Mark Kurlanasky and suchlike. It was fun but I added a lot of books to my nonfiction TBR list.

    1. Oh! You’re so sweet. I’m watching her tour progress and really hope she schedules New England – which means she’ll have to pass through NY.

  4. One of my favorite books is Glass, Paper, Beans by Leah Cohen Hager where she explores the history and making of the cup, newspaper, and coffee she partakes of in a Boston cafe. Fantastic, and she writes beautifully. Also, The Wild Trees by Richard Preston about the redwoods and not just the trees, but climbing them! A thriller in its own way.

  5. Honestly I’m not sure if I’ve read a lot of quirky NONfiction. Fiction, yes. I’d say maybe Bill Bryson for nonfiction? Freakanomics was also kind of quirky in a way. Hmmm…must think about this.

    1. Sure, Bryson might be called quirky. He is usually in the Humor category, isn’t he? I wonder if that guy who lived Biblically would be here. I call his stuff “stunt-memoir”.

  6. I heard this kind of non-fiction called microhistories too, there is a shelf on GReads too that I was perusing a few day ago — they pick my curisity, but I haven’t read much. One sort of microhistory I read and loved (though I’m not sure that I would say it’s quirky) is The Geometry of Love my Margaret Visser.
    Thanks for the suggestions, they sound great (especially Just My Type!)

  7. Oh, yes, anything by Bill Bryson is fun. I see someone mentioned that. Big Chief Elizabeth and Nathaniel’s Nutmeg (both by Giles Milton) were excellent, except my husband kept telling me to please “shut up; I don’t want to hear how stupid my ancestors were,” when I was reading Big Chief Elizabeth. It’s about the Raleigh’s lost colony and the settlement of Jamestown. Huzzybuns has roots in the first successful settlement at Jamestown, you see. They were a hardy bunch, those ancestors.

    1. I have no interest in Bryson for some reason. I keep reading reviews that he’s just not that funny and I don’t want to be disappointed. But this Jamestown story does sound interesting.

  8. I don’t know if they qualify as quirky, but two books I loved that go in depth into a particular place are Barry Lopez’ Artic Dreams, and River of Lakes by Bill Belleville about Florida’s St.johns River.

    1. Quirky is as you define it, I think. I might be interested in the Florida book because I don’t know much about Florida and my husband wants to retire there. I’m not so sure I want to, though.

  9. I haven’t read many quirky books, they way you define it, but I did recently discover a very quirky microhistory on tuna for those of you who are particularly interested in genre 🙂 Here’s my full answer

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