The best nonfiction of July

Jon Foro on July 29, 2019
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In this round-up of the month's best nonfiction: a look back at our fast-food history through secret sauce-tinted glasses; one of the most anticipated books of the year that's also destined to be one of the most talked about; exploring the wilderness of the Great Bear Rainforest in search of... Bigfoot; an ode to efficiencies of inefficiency; and a global quest for the world's most tantalizing flavors.


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Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America's Fast-Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler

Adam Chandler introduces us to the entrepreneurs, drop-outs, and dreamers who built empires out of nothing, and mentored others to follow in their footsteps. We meet the people who work in fast food restaurants and those who gather around their Formica tables—these are places where all share a common experience, rich or poor, young or old. Chandler looks at the evolution of the industry’s business models and menu items, from healthier options embraced (or shunned) by consumers to what you’ll find at franchises around the globe.


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Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

For more than eight years, Taddeo crossed the country to document the complex and diverse desires of a trio of ordinary American women. Her chronicle is frank and eye-opening, and some may find it shocking. But it’s also a bold and empathetic work of journalism, one that Elizabeth Gilbert (City of Girls) has called “a nonfiction literary masterpiece at the same level as In Cold Blood — and just as suspenseful, bone-chilling, and harrowing, in its own way.”


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In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch by John Zada

While exploring the Great Bear Rainforest, a remote and utterly wild expanse on British Columbia's northwest coast, Zada was struck by the prevalence of Sasquatch wherever he went—and not just the quantity of the narratives, but the matter-of-fact manner of the storytellers. In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond takes those accounts seriously while walking a fine line between skepticism and credulity. It's a beautifully rendered account of a mist-shrouded world suspended between myth and modernity: its people, culture, and ecology, and, for receptive readers, its most mysterious denizen.


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Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule. Provocative and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency.


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Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World by Jeff Gordinier

René Redzepi, the renowned chef of Noma, four years spent traveling the world in search of the most tantalizing flavors. Hungry is a memoir, a travelogue, a portrait of a chef, and a chronicle of the moment when daredevil cooking became the most exciting and groundbreaking form of artistry. Along the way, readers meet Redzepi’s merry band of friends and collaborators, including acclaimed chefs such as Danny Bowien, Kylie Kwong, Rosio Sánchez, David Chang, and Enrique Olvera.


More of the best nonfiction of July:


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