Read this next: Nonfiction book reviews for the spring

Read this next: Nonfiction book reviews for the spring

As the season of AP and final exams come around, the idea of what to do with all of the free time that follows exams seems daunting. Here are a few non-fiction book recommendations to fill the end-of-schoolwork void.


The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough

This National Book Award-winning story by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough provides a fascinating account of one of the most monumental engineering feats in human history. The book begins with the ill-fated attempt by French Suez Canal promoter Ferdinand de Lesseps to build a sea-level canal across the Panamanian isthmus. The French project becomes mired in financial failure and political corruption with McCullough tracking every event in great detail. The story then shifts over to the United States where warring factions in Congress and the White House battle over the future of a canal across the isthmus. Once construction gets underway in Panama, McCullough describes the battle against the elements that canal workers faced in the rugged Panamanian isthmus where the ever-present threat of epidemic disease hung over the laborers. The book also analyzes race relations between construction workers and overseers. The Path Between the Seas has 4.18 stars out of 5 on Goodreads.



Cover2Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos

This Pulitzer Prize-finalist and National Book Award-winning text is the work of the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos, who spent eight years in China as the magazine’s China correspondent. In his book, Osnos delves into China’s modern history and analyzes the nation’s journey from the squalor and famine of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward campaign in the 1950s to China’s emergence onto the world stage in the 21st century. Osnos takes the reader into a world of greed and corruption within China’s Communist Party, from the not-so-humble local officials to the highest-ranking members of the Politburo. The book describes the tumultuous relationship between journalists aspiring to report the truth, government censors trying to quell the wave of resistance and the world of dissident bloggers and social media users who threaten to bring the system to the brink of collapse. Osnos also interviews countless Chinese citizens from students to business owners and artists, like Ai Weiwei, and delves into the individual ambitions that drive China’s 1.3 billion people. Age of Ambition has 4.22 stars out of 5 on Goodreads.



Cover3With Their Backs to the World: Portraits from Serbia by Åsne Seierstad

With Their Backs to the World provides an eclectic portrait of Serbian citizens after the fall of former president Slobodan Milosevic. For years, Milosevic brutally repressed dissident views in Serbia’s press and was tried for war crimes at the Hague after the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Åsne Seierstad traveled all throughout Serbia to get the perspective of various citizens on Milosevic’s regime. Everyone from rural Milosevic supporters to influential political dissidents are portrayed in this book in order to paint a picture of the boisterous transition that took place in Serbian politics in the early 2000s. Seierstad revisits these people over a span of several years to see their lives change as the authoritarian Milosevic falls from power and the underwhelming Vojislav Kostunica rises to the helm of Serbian political life. With Their Backs to the World has 3.79 stars out of 5 on Goodreads.