Twenty of the smartest nonfiction titles for summer reading

Some of this summer’s best books will introduce you to Machu Picchu, hippie physicists, Parisian walks, and a serial imposter. And that’s just the nonfiction. – Marjorie Kehe, Christian Science Monitor books editor

1. “Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time,” by Mark Adams

One hundred years ago, in July 1911, Yale professor Hiram Bingham III “discovered” Peru’s ancient city of Machu Picchu. Today, journalist Mark Adams retraces Bingham’s steps and delves into some of the unresolved mysteries hovering over both the famed site and Bingham himself. (Penguin Group, 352 pp., June)

2. “Bush’s Wars,” by Terry H. Anderson

Texas A&M University history professor Terry H. Anderson examines America’s wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan and offers a tough critique of the presidency of George W. Bush. (Oxford University Press, 340 pp., July)

3. “The Man Who Cycled the World,” by Mark Beaumont

Bicycle racer Mark Beaumont tells the story of his solo bike trip around the world — 100 miles a day for 6-1/2 months — made in an effort to break the Guinness World Record. (Crown Publishing, 400 pp., June)

4. “The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World,” by Joseph Braude

Journalist Joseph Braude draws on his unusual experience embedded with a Moroccan security squad to tell the story of a murder investigation that becomes a fascinating journey into the backrooms and byways of an Arab society. (Random House, 336 pp., June)

5. “The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits,” by Catherine Herridge

One of the greatest dangers to American security may be the “next wave” of Al Qaeda terrorists — those born on American soil. Fox News journalist Catherine Herridge surveys terrorist incidents involving U.S. citizens and raises questions about failures in U.S. intelligence. (Crown Publishing, 272 pp., June)

6. “How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival,” by David Kaiser

MIT professor David Kaiser tells the story of the band of “hippie physicists” at the University of California, Berkeley, who, in the 1970s, saved their discipline from the doldrums and helped to bring energy to the pursuit of the field of quantum physics. (W.W. Norton, 400 pp., June)

7. “The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America,” by Hannah Nordhaus

Commercial beekeeping is under siege from many directions in the 21st century, as journalist Hannah Nordhaus reveals in her fascinating glimpse into the life of a commercial beekeeper. (HarperCollins, 288 pp., May)

8. “Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America,” by David S. Reynolds

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1851 novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” once galvanized the nation. Biographer David S. Reynolds reviews the book’s history and argues for its ongoing literary value. (W.W. Norton, 351 pp., June)

9. “The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor,” by Mark Seal

It should not have been possible for the man who called himself Clark Rockefeller to maintain his facade as a serial impostor for 30 years. But German immigrant Christian Gerhartsreiter did so. Vanity Fair journalist Mark Seal attempts to unravel the twisted tale. (Penguin Group, 336 pp., June)

10. “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris,” by John Baxter

Film critic and biographer John Baxter takes readers on various strolls through the streets of Paris, tracking both the city’s history and the many celebrated figures who have savored the art of walking in one of the world’s most beautiful capitals. (HarperCollins, 320 pp., May)

11. “India: A Portrait,” by Patrick French

Award-winning British author Patrick French considers the rise of India, a country destined to play a major role in the shaping of the future of our planet. (Knopf Doubleday, 416 pp., June)

12. “What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years,” by Ricky Riccardi

Jazz pianist and academic Ricky Riccardi makes a lively argument that the last decades of the life of jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong were among his most dynamic and productive. (Knopf Doubleday, 400 pp., June)

13. “The House in France: A Memoir,” by Gully Wells

This memoir by the daughter of a privileged London couple who owned a beloved summer home in France is an engaging glimpse into the lives of Europe’s elites in the 1960s. (Knopf Doubleday, 320 pp., June)

14. “American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation,” by Michael Kazin

Who are the radicals who have inhabited America’s far left over the decades? Georgetown University history professor Michael Kazin takes a look at their history. (Knopf Doubleday, 352 pp., August)

15. “Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer,” by David Roberts

In a 1930s version of Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild,” National Geographic writer David Roberts chronicles the tale of Everett Ruess, the young adventurer who disappeared without a trace while exploring remote regions of the American West. (Broadway, 416 pp., July)

16. “The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family’s Legacy of Infidelities,” by Katherine Weber

Noted novelist Katherine Weber has penned a memoir of her unusual family, dating back to grandmother Kay Swift, a composer and longtime paramour of George Gershwin, and on up through her own father, an enigmatic producer who made propaganda films for the U.S. government. (Crown Publishing, 288 pp., July)

17. “I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59,” by Douglas Edwards

Google’s first marketing executive offers an entertaining and insightful look into the early years of one of the most unusual success stories in the history of American business. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 432 pp., July)

18. “The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency,” by Randall Kennedy

There’s nothing “postracial” about it, argues Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy. Race continues to be a significant issue in the American politics of the Obama era, and Kennedy’s book analyzes the ways in which it continues to make its presence felt. (Knopf Doubleday, 336 pp., August)

19. “Manufacturing Hysteria: A History of Scapegoating, Surveillance, and Secrecy in Modern America,” by Jay Feldman

From World War I up through the attacks of 9/11, journalist Jay Feldman examines the history of 20th-century American political repression. (Knopf Doubleday, 400 pp., August)

20. “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading,” by Nina Sankovitch

When her older sister died, Nina Sankovitch was determined to both honor her life and ease her own grief by reading a book a day. Sankovitch’s memoir stands as a tribute to the power of books to enrich our daily lives. (HarperCollins, 256 pp., June)

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