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The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

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The Vine: January 13, 2012

Submitted by on January 13, 2012 – 9:15 AM112 Comments

I have hair. And when I say that, I mean I have hair. It doesn't go far past my shoulders, but it is thick, and coarse, and full of weird waves and cowlicks. It has been compared to "horse hair" by several people who have gotten their hands on it. This is some hair, people.

Basically, the only way to get it out of my way is to twist it back in one of those big hair claws. I've had one for years, and since it's plastic, it looks like I've had it for years. I've looked for metal ones, but they're either tiny, or they're those glittery ones encrusted with rhinestones that weigh a ton and look right only on brides or fifteen-year-olds. I've looked on Etsy, but the ones there tend to be made of cigar bands or have huge flowers attached. I just want some nice, plain, metal hair claws big enough to hold hair that is the width of a respectable hot-dog bun. Anyone got an idea where to get them? Or, failing that, an easy way to sweep big, thick hair back with pretty accessories?


Hair Clogs My Vacuum Cleaner Every Week

Dear Clog,

I have fine, thin hair that's only fluffy enough to take even a teeny claw clip because I wreck it to hell with blonde hair color every six weeks, so I will not be a ton of help. But I have friends with thick "horse" hair, and my first recommendation, for any hair type, is to get a stylist who understands how to deal with your particular hair. My girl Angela knows my head; she understands how to layer to give me more volume, that she has to cut "on the bias" in the back because my cowlick placement is kooky, etc. Try to find your own Angela, one who will suggest thinning out your hair underneath so it isn't quite such a massif, and who shows you how to style it yourself at home, using tools or a pomade or whatever. I learned a sweet tip to help me with straightening last time I went in.

I say this because, if you've reached the point where you twist it up in the same clip every day…I mean, you may as well cut it all off. I don't think you want to do that, but if you care enough about how it looks to ask for "pretty accessories," you care enough about it to experiment with it, and spend some time on it, and I think you've kind of convinced yourself that your hair is intractable and that styling it every day would take a full hour and you're Not That Guy. This isn't a judgment — I was like that — but a good hair wrangler can 1) get you a cut that works WITH your hair and 2) teach you how to do it yourself (or close enough) in your own bathroom, which 3) gives you some options for leaving it down sometimes.

…This isn't what you asked, but since recently re-achieving Ponytail Length, I'm kind of an evangelist for giving yourself a menu of styles. Don't let your past narrative of "oh, nobody can do anything with this mane" close off your options.

Anyway! Google "Goody Corporation" to see what they've got going on (I believe you can finally order direct from their site now?), and let's see what the readers recommend.


Hi Sars,

I am looking for non-fiction books to read. I try to read four books at a time, because I am insane — a "fun" fiction, usually something genre or light and beachy, like the True Blood books; a classic or at least well-written piece of fiction; a fun non-fiction, usually a celebrity biography or something of that nature; and a serious (read: educational) non-fiction. I have more fiction titles in my queue than I can probably finish in my lifetime — I am looking for suggestions on the non-fiction side, especially for the serious/educational side.

For the serious category, I am open to reading most any topic — economics, business, sociology, psychology, science (if it's not too in-depth), history, politics, GLBT studies, etc.; so long as I can learn from it I'm happy. Only thing off limits is biographies of the more nauseating Republicans (if I was trapped on a desert island and it was the only thing available to read, I STILL would not read Going Rogue). Two books I recently enjoyed were Lies My Teacher Told Me and A Short History of Nearly Everything (which was exactly the right level for me in a science book — not childish, but not so in-depth I didn't understand or get bored). For the non-serious side, celebrity biographies of actors mostly, or humorists like David Sedaris are the kinds of things I enjoy.

I strongly prefer the recommendations be available for Kindle, but I would consider buying the paper book if it's really that good.


Sophie's Choice For Me Would Be My Kindle Or My TV 

Dear Sophius,

I'll let the readers handle this one, mostly, but I've got a couple of suggestions.

One is the works of William Poundstone. He's the author of the Big Secrets series, which I mention on here alllll the tiiiiiime, and he started publishing those…Jesus, 30 years ago. So some of the information is not the most recent, and I don't know that they're Kindle-able. (…"Kindlable"? Can I get a ruling?) But it's a ton of info about "secret" stuff like the formula for Coke and KFC; the Masons; Scientology; celebrities' real ages; those phantom radio frequencies that only broadcast one letter; that kind of thing. Poundstone's tone is dry, but not TOO dry, and he's also written things like The Ultimate, which settles great armchair debates, and Fortune's Formula, which is about betting systems — again, written so civilians can enjoy it, and if you like books about blackjack and games, that's a great one.

I'm also in the middle of Earl Swift's The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways. It's not easy to make state-congress infighting over transportation funding interesting, but Swift does a great job, and his prose evokes the times really well.

So that's what I've got for you. (Friend me on Goodreads if you want to see my true-crime "shelf." It's terrifying.) Readers, hit Sophius with some suggestions, but please confine yourself to THREE (3) SUGGESTIONS PER so he's not overwhelmed. Thanks!

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  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Again, guys: THREE PER. Otherwise we run into TL;DR territory really fast. Thanks.

  • avis says:

    @Hair Clogs – You have to try these:
    I found them at a craft fair and they actually work for my hair and it is just like you describe yours. You will need a smaller size than you think you do. I have thicker hair than the woman normally deals with and I stil use an extra small for a half up like you're doing with a hair claw. I only need a medium for a full ponytail. Get the size you think you need and then a smaller one. They have lots of designs and are metal and I wear mine every day if I'm not leaving it down to go wild.

  • Katie says:

    I'll offer one serious and one non-serious suggestion.

    Serious: Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. For ten years, she followed a family in the Bronx, whose experiences read like a laundry list of social issues- drugs, teenage pregnancy, homelessness, jail time, violence, sexual abuse, etc. It is really amazing the access she gained to these people's lives, and it's extremely well-written.

    Non-serious: Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman. It's a memoir that recounts stories about her life in a very funny way. She reminds me of David Sedaris, but her stories have a bit more of a point and are longer. The overwhelming impression I get of her is that she's someone I'd love to be my best friend.

  • Jennifer M. says:

    I would suggest Mary Roach's books on various topics. As a former travel writer, her style is very readable:

    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (my favorite)
    Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
    Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

  • RK says:

    Science-oriented, but more focused on issues of race, class, and ethics, I highly recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks ( ).

  • saro says:

    Re Sars comment about finding a good hairdresser – As a woman with very similar hair, I suggest finding where the Arabs/Persian/Asians in your area get their hair done. Many women from those communities have similar hair and I've had good luck just asking women with really thick hair where they get their hair done. Most point to the salons in their respective communities. I also suggest yelp for advice if you feel uncomfortable going up to perfect strangers. I get my hair cut about once or twice a year and she does wonders…

    If you want DC or Atlanta advice, I can send you my hairdresser's names.

  • Jenny says:

    One of my favorite non-fictioin books is—The Smartest Guys in the Room. It is about the Enron scandal.

    Great, great book. It's an interesting read that is written well enough that civilians can understand, yet there is enough detail that you can read it over and over again. (I've read it probably close to 30 times). There's a documentary that runs on CNBC fairly often as well. I'd read the book first, but the documentary is great as well.

    Another author I'd recommend is Barbara Ehrenreiah. She's written a lot of books, but my favorite is Nickled and Dimed. It's basically a book where she goes under cover for a month in a few different cities and tries to live on wages from being a waitress or a maid or a Walmart worker. It's eye opening and a little scary.

    But if you have to pick one, go for The Smartest Guys.

  • Whitney says:

    @avis — Those hair clogs look nice, I may need to try some!

    My hair is pretty fine, but there is a LOT of it (as in, every stylist I've ever gone to has more or less said "Girl, you have SO MUCH HAIR" within about five minutes of working on it) . I couldn't tell from your letter what kind of plastic claw you have, if you just have the big straight ones, you might look for an "octopus" claw like this: They are plastic, but they are a more compact shape and fit flatter against your head so people see your hair in a pretty updo more than they see the giant clip. Look for the ones that have the little rubber bumps on the inside, because they hold onto your hair really well. They are basically my go to hair accessory whenever I don't have the time or patience to get my hair to behave (which is a lot, especially when it's raining).

    But I also second what Sars said about finding a stylist that will take some of the weight out when they cut it. I'd never had anyone do that before I found my current stylist and it is wonderful — it also means I can get my hair cut 3 times a year instead of 6 because it takes longer to get to the stage where I have so much hair I can't stand it any longer.

  • Julie says:

    One of the best books of any genre that I read this year was "The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth" by Alexandra Robbins. It's a sociological study of high school cliques, why they happen, and what we can do, but it's mostly told in narrative form so it has the "story" feeling of fiction.

    Also, late to the game on this one, but I recently read "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer and found it fascinating.

  • Lesley says:

    For books when I am looking for something new I always go to the Pulitzer Prize list of winners. The selections are usually very good and very accessible.

  • sam says:


    I'm your soul sister. I could talk about the fact that I regularly break hair bands, or that even the xxl clips would randomly spring off my head because my hair would not be contained, or the conscious decision to become a 'hippie' in high school because my hair would not hold a style past 10am because it was so heavy?

    Or how about the people who tell you how lucky you are, while your entire head is sweating and your neck actually has knots in it from all of the weight? Don't even get me started on my misdirected attempt to get a perm in junior high school (what?! it was the 80s!). 6 boxes of perm solution later, and I resembled nothing so much as an untrimmed poodle. My college years were spent with it piled in a giant bun on top of my head.

    On top of all of this, I used to keep my hair super-long, thanks to my mother's own anxieties about her own hair and not letting me cut it to any significant degree. The BEST thing I ever did was cut it all off once I started working – pixie cut. I didn't realize how emotionally wrapped up in the whole hair thing I was until it was gone.

    But the second most important thing, as per Sars' advice, is to find a stylist who understands your hair and can actually give it a style. If you live in NYC, I can recommend someone, because it took me years to find her. I've since let my hair go back to shoulder length, and she actually knows what to do to handle the random patterns that appear on my head. Lots of layers! Thinning it out in the summer! And most importantly, not being afraid to tell me when what I want is going to conflict with what my hair will actually do.

    I do think that the cutting it all off and letting it grow back was very helpful in letting me understand better how it 'worked' – I actually thought I had straight hair my whole life until I cut it to a length where it wasn't weighed down by itself – It's actually quite curly.

    As far as products…I tend to limit myself to headbands or small barrettes to keep my bangs out of my eyes when necessary, but my cut now actually forces me to wear it down most of the time, since it won't stay in a pony (I have been known to resort to pigtails on hot summer weekend days). When it's longer, I find that I use the ponytail as a crutch and it ends up looking, well, unprofessional and juvenile (I'm a lawyer, so that's a no go).

  • HLM says:

    Hah, Sophie's Choice, we are twins under the skin. Recommendations ahoy!

    1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus provides a very readable synthesis of archaeology, history, and other disciplines to provide a picture of what the Americas may have been like before Columbus and smallpox got there. Spoiler: There were a lot more people there than you might've expected. If you liked Guns, Germs, and Steel, this will be your cup of tea.

    Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution reaches a bit, with occasional clunker sentences about, say, how Marie was symbolically exercising rebellion against the French system by demanding control of her own body through refusing to wear the justacorps, but the book does talk about some significant social issues affecting and affected by fashion. Again, quite readable, and it paints the queen in a sympathetic light without absolving her of responsibility for her role in bringing down the monarchy.

    Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History is another lovely cross-disciplinary piece, though some of the technical material is dry enough that you can skim it the first time through. The authors use paleontology, linguistics, pottery, biology, oceanography, hydrology, and agricultural evolution to support a provocative–and, to my mind, convincing–thesis about the origins of the Biblical flood story.

  • Michele says:

    If you enjoyed A Short History of Nearly Everything, I recommend Bryson's Home. It is essentially a history of the house, but done how Bryson does. Fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable. I am currently reading Maphead by Ken Jennings (yes, the Jeopardy guy) and am enjoying that as well. Of course, I am also the kind of person who will sit and stare at an atlas for hours, so I am exactly the target demographic. The next book on my list is Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. I downloaded the preview on my Nook and bought the full edition about 10 pages in- it grabbed me pretty quickly. (But, could not compete with maps. Sorry James Garfield!)

  • Leigh says:

    How about great serious but readable non-fiction authors? Here are my top three suggestions:

    Oliver Sacks (offbeat neurology/psychology)

    Alain De Botton (practical, modern philosophy)

    Mark Kurlansky (in-depth look at topics like Cod or Salt or the History of NonViolence. I haven't actually read him yet, but my husband devours him, and he's a really slow and picky reader who shares my taste)

  • Claire says:

    @Hair Clogs, seriously look into getting a short hair cut. I have hair that sounds very similar to yours (down to the weird waves) and four years ago I cut it to chin length and I've never looked back. I do so much more styling with it than I did with long hair because I know it'll only take five minutes to flat iron or do something interesting. Of course, I'll echo Sars and say what you really need is to go to a stylist who really understands your hair and then he/she can advise you on the right route to go.

    @Sophie, this isn't quite in the category you mentioned but Deborah Ball's House of Versace is one of the most fascinating books I've read in the past couple of years. It's very in-depth about the Italian economy (so relevant now), the huge changes that the global fashion industry has undergone in the past 20 years, and has the plus of random juicy celebrity gossip.

  • Jess S. says:

    Two linguistically oriented suggestions:

    Non-serious: Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis. A journalist spends a year embedded in the world of competitive Scrabble. (Unexpected side benefit: My Words with Friends scores were greatly improved after reading this book.)

    Serious: The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of 'Proper' English, from Shakespeare to South Park by Jack Lynch. Pretty much what it says on the tin: a fascinating look at how people have attempted to regulate the "right" way to speak and write English — and why.

  • Liz says:

    If you haven't read it, it's an oldie, but a goodie – 'the Hot Zone' by Richard Preston. In case you don't know it, it's about the Ebola virus (upwards of 90% fatality rate!) that showed up in Reston, VA, just outside of DC. I also really liked 'the Demon in the Freezer', same author, about the smallpox virus – that one was written after the 2001 Anthrax attacks, so it's with that as a backdrop. They're well-written & read like novels. There's a lot of science, but he doesn't talk down to you, or fill up on science-y jargon that only a PhD could understand. I've read both these books multiple times (well, at least twice). Hm, I may go back & get those out again – I haven't read them in awhile!

  • Jenn says:

    1. I second Packing for Mars, which was one of the best books I read last year.

    2. Sloane Crosley's two books, which are kind of David Sedaris-ish.

    3. My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe. He and his Korean-American wife bought a deli in New York for her mother, and he writes about his experiences helping run it. Both funny and semi-educational.

  • Alice says:

    @Hair Clog,

    I have no suggestions on the hair claws, but I second Sars recommendation to find a good stylist that can work with your hair. I have really thick hair, too, and growing up I usually ended up with what my family calls the "poofy hair." Every new sylist I've had says I have the thickest hair they've seen. I'm not sure what kind of place you get your hair cut, but I definitely recommend at least trying a professional salon like Aveda (or something similar).

    I first went to an Aveda salon in college because it was in a convenient location, but I was amazed at how well my hair looked and behaved afterwards. It was probably twice as expensive as I usually payed at home, but worth every penny because my hair looked awesome and was easy to style in the mornings. I couldn't believe it.

    If you call a salon, explain your type of hair and problems you have with it, and the receptionist should be able to tell you the stylists that work best with your hair type. Ask for an experienced stylist. Don't resign your self to one style! I know I did, but having a good stylist can help you find different ways to work with your hair.

  • Renee says:

    The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr
    About biophysicist Luca Turin's quixotic quest to prove his offbeat theory of how the human scent mechanism works. I love this book.

    Rats by Robert Sullivan
    Exactly what it sounds like. Educational and entertaining.

    I was just coming to suggest Mark Kurlansky and Bill Bryson, but I was beaten to it! I also second Word Freak.

  • heatherkay says:

    I'm going to recommend three writers who have some serious material with a light style. All of these guys have written a bunch of books, so if you like one, you can keep drilling down. This is like pulling teeth to get it down to 3.

    David Quammen's books — in particular Monsters of God and Song of the Dodo — will be right up your science alley. He comes from a magazine writing background and he favors an anecdotal style. These books are both about biology.

    John McPhee is a class science writer in the geological vein. One of Tom Wolfe's new journalism co-religionists (hell, you could do worse than Tom Wolfe, go get The Right Stuff). The Annals of the Former World is great, and happens to feature one of my thesis advisors. Again, anecdotal and personality based.

    Finally, for my third, it's got to be Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage about the Lewis and Clark expedition. A massive undertaking in which only one person died accidentally. Another died on purpose, but that couldn't be helped. He may or may not have been a plagiarist, but he could certainly write.

  • Sue says:

    Serious non-fiction:
    The Rape of Europa by Lynn Nicholas (Kindle version available). Fascinating book about how people tried to acquire (through force, or capture) and save art, museums and historic buildings through Europe during World War II. I've re-read it multiple time myself.

    Amanda Foreman's life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire is also terrific. There is a Kindle version available (possibly revised for the US market?) called The Dutchess. More educational than you might think as she was active politically and socially.

    The biographies I'd like to suggest aren't on Kindle so The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester is my last suggestion.

  • jlg says:

    George Chauncey, Gay New York
    Linda Kerber, No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies
    Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie

  • Kriesa says:

    I think I have your hair… weirdly wavy, rough, and thick, thick, thick. I'm no help with your clip question, though, because I'm another who's gone to short hair and couldn't be happier. Not that I'm recommending that, necessarily, but if you always pull your hair back anyway, you might want to consider it. Either way…

    I will second the idea that you need to find a good salon (for years, I was under the impression that thinning out your hair was supposed to hurt — the salons I'd been to made me dread a haircut more than the dentist).

    Also, check out this website:
    You can glean a lot of information from that site, but getting a hair profile done was probably the best $20 I've ever spent on my hair. I found out that even though I'd always thought that my hair was coarse, it's normal (just super thick and dry), and the products that I'd been using were really working against me.

    I'm almost 40, and I've only just found a hair style and a routine that makes me happy (90% of the time, anyway).

  • KTB says:


    I second Liz's suggestion of The Hot Zone. Here are my non-fiction recs:

    1. In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. It's about the American ambassador to Germany in the 1930s, and it's a great read. The Weimar Republic is a special interest of mine, but the story is well-written, full of name-checking and cool historical bits. I didn't like Larson's Devil in the White City (too much White City, not enough Devil), but In the Garden of Beasts was excellent.

    2. 1776 by David McCullough. Well written, fascinatingly interesting, and you look oh-so-smart reading it.

    3. The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson is about the cholera epidemic in London in the 1850s and it is great. Basically, one of the characters goes into detective mode to figure out why the cholera epidemic hits certain places and not others, and it's a pretty quick, gripping read.

  • steph* says:

    The first two are serious topics, dealt with in a manageable and not-completely-depressing manner.

    First They Killed My Father – is a memoir about the Cambodian Revolution (with the Khmer Rouge). Because it's written from a child's perspective, it's easy to follow, and doesn't get too deep into the politics behind it. I picked it up knowing nothing about Cambodia, and I'm very glad I did.

    Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal – An American travels to Nepal to volunteer in an orphanage, and ends up trying to reverse child-trafficking in the remote regions of the country.

    The Tipping Point – Like Freakonomics, but from more of a psychological standpoint, rather than a financial one.

    It looks like Sophie's Choice has a ton of good books to choose from!

  • angela says:

    Also Carol's Daughters hair products might be good to look at for thick and wavy locks- it was developed for the biracial daughter of a woman who needed a handle on styling her child's hair, whien she had not a clue. There are a lot of new styling lines trying to bridge the gap between the barbie hair products, or flatironing to death. Rick's NYC has lots of brands: (link=

  • Jenmarc says:

    I would recommend anything by Nathaniel Philbrick, but my favorite is In The Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. His books are all incredibly well-researched, but read like fiction, so he makes learning about 200-year-old history gripping and immediate.

  • penguinlady says:

    I enjoy reading biographies of interesting women, and Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl was fascinating. She was a controversial figure, and I liked learning more about her. Plus, the book does a really great job of framing WW2 Germany.

    Another good biography, and the one that started me reading biographies in general, is Galileo's Daughter. He's interesting – she's almost more so!

  • Lisa says:

    Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach is also good. She writes science in a really understandable way, and also throws in random side comments that always make me laugh. I'll be the third to recommend her book Packing for Mars, I loved that one too.

    I also liked A Rope and A Prayer by David Rohde, about his kidnapping in Afghanistan. Lots of Middle East history stuff, and his wife writes some of the chapters, giving her perspective.

  • Erin says:

    For nonfiction, try The Information, by James Gleick. Awesome.

    For hair, I also have thick and weird hair, and I finally (also at 40!) found a hairdresser who can take out some of the relentless volume so I have the effortless curly retro bob-ish hair I've always wanted. I mean *effortless*. Jump out of the shower, scrunch it a bit, and go. If you're in SF I can give you a recommendation for the woman who cuts my hair! I finally understand those people who follow hairdressers across continents. :-)

    When I had long hair I could use a hair elastic for two days, tops, before it lost its will to live and all its stretch, so I know where you're coming from.

  • Katie L. says:

    1. I am reading How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America, by Moustafa Bayoumi. I love this book–portraits of several 20-something Arab-Americans from Brooklyn in post-2001 New York (and Iraq). The stories are SO compelling and, at times, infuriating–in a good way, in that they draw attention to injustice. Sadly, it's not Kindlable. (Actually, "not Kindlable" kind of sounds like non-flammable, which, ironically, is NOT true of non-digital books…)

    2. A non-fiction book I've liked so much that I've actually RE-read it is Mitchell Duneier et al's Sidewalk–a sociological study of the guys who sell used books at the tables on 6th Ave & 8th Street/thereabouts. You can get a taste of it in a This American Life episode:

    3. Seconding Random Family, Rats, and Word Freak.

  • Anlyn says:

    Robert Cowley, "What If?". Gives you a kind of alternate look at history, if the Israelites hadn't defeated the Assyrians, or just how close we came to losing the Revolutionary War. It's large, but full of small essays that pick a time in history and ask, well, "What If?"

    "The Physics of Star Trek", by Lawrence Krauss. Seriously. It's easy to read, sometimes funny, and gives you an idea of what types of "science" in Star Trek may be real.

    "Beyond Star Trek", also by Lawrence Krauss. Same thing, but asks about whether "science" in other sci-fi shows can work, such as X-Files.

  • Georgia says:

    And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts. It's a comprehensive history of the HIV/AIDS crisis, detailing the spread of the diseases around the world, and the completely inadequate responses of governments dealing with the problem. While that may sound dry, this reads like a great thriller, where you're constantly shouting "Gah, NO, don't do THAT!" Completely fascinating look at the intersection of politics, scientific research, and social behavior.

  • Tisha says:

    I've got what sounds like similar hair to Clog, and while I don't have any rec's for any hair clips or whatever, I do need to reccomend that she look into an InStyler. I know the info-mercials are hokey and gross, but man, this thing is my best friend now. They are pricey, but SO worth it, if you have a particular kind of hair, IMO.

    You can see my before and after (first time using it) here. It took 15 minutes to do my whole head, while it normally takes 30 minutes with a flat iron.

  • Tisha says:

    Wait, my pic isn't showing up. Well, here's the link:

  • cayenne says:


    If you liked A Short History, I recommend checking out the oeuvre of Simon Winchester. The guy is interested in and writes about everything – you'll find something that matches with your interests. The one of his that I liked the best was Krakatoa.

    If you're interested in where history, science, and social sciences intersect, I highly, highly recommend Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs & Steel and Collapse. He's an excellent wide-view guy, well-written, and makes his topics really accessible to non-scientists, anthropologists, historians, etc.

  • Jessi In GA says:

    I highly recommend Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions, and Lore that Shaped Modern America, by Martin J. Smith and Patrick J. Kiger. It deals with the history of a lot of everyday things, and it's a really fun read.

    It's not on Kindle, but Amazon has the paperpack for one cent.

  • MinglesMommy says:

    I am writing down some of these suggestions for myself.

    In the meantime, I'll add:

    "Lost in Planet China" – J. Maarten Troost – interesting account of a man who visited to see if he'd want to move his family there; I found it fascinating (if a bit grim).

    "Devil in the White City" – Erik Larson – America's first documented serial killer against the backdrop of the Chicago World's Fair. (It sounds like a Patterson novel, but it's all true… and unlike Patterson, not shlock. Sorry, Patterson fans.)

    "The Six Wives of Henry the VIII" – Alison Weir. I'm a huge Anglophile/fan of the Tudor family (NOT the series – don't even get me started); I've read this one several times.


  • The Other Katherine says:

    Hair Clogs, I also have thick, wavy hair, albeit with medium hair texture (neither fine nor coarse). The lengths that work best with my hair are pixie, chin length, and below my shoulders. Pixie is wash-and-go, chin length can be styled straight or curly without much effort, and below my shoulders can air dry in the evening or overnight, then be worn up or half-up during the day for business purposes. Currently I'm growing out from chin length and am now past my shoulders, but it gets easier to deal with when my hair is at least to the middle of my back because its own weight pulls it down and reduces the lion's-mane look.

    Here's a thread where you may find some helpful tidbits about wavy hair: And here's one about thick hair: A lot of thick-haired people love the Flexi8s (, and the Ficcare clips ( are also popular.

    Good luck! I agree with the suggestion to find a hairdresser who is comfortable thinning your hair if you go for a shorter length. Thinning shears used on dry hair are magic.

  • attica says:


    I'll recommend Jonah Lehrer's neuroscience books (he's done a couple or three), which are very breezy and readable. He blogs at Wired's site under the heading "The Frontal Cortex" if you want to get a taste before commiting to a book.

    For a memoir, I'm presently working on Mark Whitaker's The Long Trip Home. He's a biracial journalist looking back at the roots of both sides of his fam, and even only two chapters in, I'm hooked.

    Hair: My weirdly cowlicky locks require two different seasonal approaches; one for when the humidity makes me a poodle, and one when it abates. So my point is work with a stylist, but don't be bashful about correcting any misapprehensions they have about your head. If you know your weird waves will render a bangs or part in a correspondingly weird way, speak up. My guy keeps wanting to cut my bangs to nose-bridge length, and I have to keep telling him that cowlicks make that length equivalent to hundreds of individual eyeball spears. A quarter of an inch shorter, and everybody's happy.

    And one other point: Nothing can be done that can't be undone. All cuts grow out. Be brave; embrace change.

  • Erin says:

    Keeping this to three is killing me.

    The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee – kind of an autobiography of cancer but very accessibly written. Couldn't put it down.

    Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – incredibly story of an Olympic runner whose plane was shot down and who spent years in a Japanese POW camp.

    War by Sebastian Junger (and if you like it, track down Restrepo, accompanying documentary) – an account of a 15 month tour of duty in Afghanistan's Korengal valley. (actually, anything by Sebastian Junger is great)

  • Kate says:

    @Sophie: Thomas Cahill has written some history books that are pretty easy reads. "How the Irish Saved Civilization" and "Mysteries of the Middle Ages" were both fantastic, and I know he's written a few others.

  • Hellcat13 says:

    I, too, recommend the Mary Roach books. Packing for Mars was my favourite and also turned me onto my second suggestion, Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut by Mike Mullane. It was a fascinating and funny look at the space program.

    Finally, I'm a big fan of Rob Rummel-Hudson, so I'd be remiss not to include Schuyler's Monster: A Father's Journey with His Wordless Daughter.

  • M. Nightingale says:

    Re: Non-fiction recommendation

    I just finished A History of God: The 4000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong. I found it a great read, very organized, the writing was engaging, the ideas coherent and building off of each other, and the subject matter fascinating. It's about monotheism and how it came to be and its various incarnations. Heck, I wanted to read it after the author's note at the beginning.

    Here's a link to the Kindle Edition:

    Also, I, too, have read Guns, Germs and Steel and found it worthwhile.

  • Kathryn says:

    I'll second the suggestion for Erik Larson (I actually liked "Devil in the White City", but it was the first one of his I read, and the first one of any author usually becomes my favorite); his book "Thunderstruck" covers Marconi's invention of the wireless, but also tells the story of a sensational murder by a doctor who subsequently went on the run with his lover, who he dressed as a man to throw off the police.

    For serious topics, anything by Karen Armstrong. She's written quite a few books on religion and the history of different religions, and she's got an interesting perspective; she became a nun in her teens, and then left after seven years when she discovered that she was COMPLETELY miserable in the church. (She also found out that her blackouts and occasional hallucinations which psychiatrists dismissed as "neurotic" or "trying to get attention" were caused by years of undiagnosed epilepsy, during which NOT ONE DOCTOR had suggested a cat-scan. Argh, rage.)

  • KAT says:


    One of my absolute favorite non-fiction books is Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang. It is one of the best biographies I've ever read and, by neccesity of who he was, gives a really good history of China during his time period as well. It's well-written and utterly fascinating.

    Life in the Valley of Death by Alan Rabinowitz was an interesting read about the complications of tiger conservation.

    And then really anything by Richard Feynman, who to my mind is the most approachable of the physicists. He's great, and a wonderful read.

    I'm a bit perturbed to realize that some of my favorite science books aren't available via Kindle. I wonder what that's about.

  • dk says:

    Hair: check out the scunci selection in any Walgreen's/CVS/drugstore. They have a few large claw clips that work really well. I like these:
    I usually have to use 2 big ones on either side of my bun, but they blend in well and are very strong.

    Also, check out spin pins:
    If your hair is long enough, they are amazing! I have huge, thick, curly hair and thought these pins were a joke. I was WRONG. Make a bun, twist 2 pins in, and seriously you are done.

    And definitely check out salons – don't be afraid to approach women in your area that have good looking hair similar to yours, and ask them where they go. Someone asked me that once and I was totally flattered and happy to pass on my hairstylist's name. A good haircut and some good products work wonders.

  • Elisa says:

    This falls into the more "serious" category, but Massie is such a great author that even though the books are massive biographies, they are NEVER boring. I recommend "Catherine the Great" and "Nicholas and Alexandra". I know the first one is available for the Kindle.

    I also second the "Six Wives of Henry VIII" by Alison Weir.

    Also, if you go to and rate some books you really liked, it will recommend other books to you based on what you like.

  • Stephanie says:

    Well, not that it will happen for years after seeing all these suggestions, but something I do from time to time when I want to find non-fiction reading suggestions is look up syllabi for classes that sound interesting to me and then use the reading lists there. (Is that too nerdy? No?) My college major was interdisciplinary – Science, Technology, and Society – and that is where I look most often. Some of the required books are too textbook-ish, but a surprising number are… not.

    Most colleges have at least some class syllabi online, then there are always options like MIT OpenCourseWare.

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