The basic trade of fiction is “I will entertain you with an interesting narrative in exchange for your time” almost never works out as reality is consistently more interesting than what the best authors can produce. Writers can easily brood on what has happened but almost never on what will so the skilled author will almost always lose in my mind to the skilled biographer or historian. Because of this view, I felt like I was almost indulging myself by reading The Poisoner’s Handbook after finishing A Clash of Kings, part of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy books. The latter had characters, the former had people, the latter had a narrative, the former had events embedded in actual history; it was so decadent that I finished The Poisoner’s Handbook in a day. I can visit the tombs of Charles Norris, former chief medical examiner for New York City, and famed toxicologist Alexander Gettler, I have no such opportunity with Eddard Stark.
Yet, I am a completist and will consume the remaining 3000 pages of text penned by Martin across six Audible.com credits, but when one’s looking, I’m going to learn about the history of Biblical translation, read Tina Fey’s biography, and see why Lee Smolin thinks string theory is horse hockey.