Michelle Nijhuis’ Reading List

I keep a pile of books and magazines on my mental nightstand, in overlapping categories: Some to be reviewed, some to be read for professional inspiration or as part of a (usually fruitless) quest for self-improvement, some to be simply enjoyed. The pile includes, or recently included:

Bonk, by Mary Roach. Funny science writing is a rare and precious thing, and Mary Roach reliably pulls it off — in this new book, about sex research, she finds her most, er, fertile ground yet.

The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston. I missed this when it first came out, but when I opened it up this spring, I sucked it down in a couple of sittings. Irresistible narrative.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. I’m expecting my first child in September, and this is one of the very few general pregnancy guides I’ve found that speaks to women in a way that acknowledges both their brains and their choices. I don’t agree with everything in it, but it’s a good starting place. The new edition of

Natural Acts, by David Quammen. David Quammen is an inspiration, and I’m happy to see this book of essays reissued and expanded.

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, by George Johnson. George Johnson writes about science, especially physics, with so much grace and whimsy — I’m looking forward to reading his latest.

Snow, by Orhan Pamuk. I spent a couple of months crisscrossing Turkey two years ago, and since then I’ve been savoring Pamuk’s works — fascinating stories that probe the Turkish mindset.

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. My county in western Colorado chose this for a recent “Big Read” event, so I picked it up for the first time since ninth grade. Some of the lines, I realized, had been lodged in the back of my brain for decades — they’re so powerful that I recognized them immediately.

High Tide in Tucson, by Barbara Kingsolver. A friend recommended I revisit this book of essays, published more than a decade ago, for Kingsolver’s wise thoughts on motherhood and writing.

Disturbance-loving Species, by Peter Chilson. A powerful and unsettling book of stories about Americans in West Africa, and West Africans in the United States.

The American West as Living Space, by Wallace Stegner. If you’re a writer in the western U.S., Wallace Stegner’s perspective can seem to permeate the very dirt. When my father-in-law sent me this little book, I realized that I hadn’t actually read any Stegner in years, and the three lectures reprinted here make me appreciate him all over again — for his humor, stubbornness, iconoclasm, and complicated love of the whole crazy region.

The Sun magazine. As a magazine writer, I’m prone to skim magazines by the crateload, but I always take time to read The Sun. Like a good conversation, it wanders down plenty of side roads, and sometimes finds dead ends, but always touches on something profound.