Today I’m sharing a selection of mini book reviews of some recent non-fiction books that were excellent reads!
James Baldwin and the 1980s by Joseph Vogel
This book took me a while to read but I’m so glad that I kept going with it because it’s a fascinating read. I’ve read a couple of James Baldwin’s well-known books but I didn’t know as much about him and the context of when he was writing as I thought I did. This book covers sexuality, racism and the AIDS crisis all in the context of the 1980s and the political agenda of the time. I was fascinated by the chapter on AIDS and the play that Baldwin wrote that has never been published. The author brought this play, and the themes Baldwin was exploring, to life for me so whilst I might never get a chance to see or read this play I have an understanding of the work now. I was also fascinated by the chapter that focused on the Atlanta child murders. I’d heard about these murders from watching Mindhunter on Netflix but didn’t know anymore about it than that so I was appalled to read more of the background and aftermath of this case. Baldwin was fascinated by the focus on race and sexuality during the case and had a lot to say about how the case was handled. I’ve now put Baldwin’s Evidence of Things Not Seen on my wish list and I think this will be the next book of his that I pick up. This is quite an academic book but it’s absolutely well worth a read, I recommend it!
Chase the Rainbow by Poorna Bell
I’ve had this book on my TBR ever since it was first published but I finally picked it up recently and I’m so glad I did. This is Poorna Bell’s story of her husband’s depression and addiction, and sadly his eventual suicide. This is such an honest and moving book, it’s hard to read at times but it’s well-written and that kept me turning the pages. Poorna Bell is so open about what happened with her husband, but also her own feelings and how it affected her living with someone who was living with demons. She explores the aftermath of her husband’s death – both the immediate weeks and then some time later. The balance of seeing the time after as she begins to heal means this book shows the whole gamut of what it is to live through what she has. I recommend this book.
The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes
I bought this book recently and put it on my Non-Fiction November TBR and I’m so glad I got to read it as it’s such a fascinating book. Kerry Daynes is a forensic psychologist and in this book she shares her stories from her very first work placement in a prison and throughout her career. She has worked with all kinds of people and this book is so interesting. You can sense her frustration when the system fails but also her satisfaction when a person is helped. Some of what Kerry has had to deal with is shocking and terrifying but you get a real sense of what day to day life is like in her job. She has worked in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, homes for vulnerable women and has also done some TV work and private practice. This is one of those non-fiction books that is almost like reading fiction in that it’s near impossible to put down once you start reading – I read it in just two sittings and really enjoyed it. I recommend it!
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
I picked this book up because of the mention of Harper Lee and I’m so glad I did. The book isn’t all about her, but the story being told is fascinating none-the-less. The book is in three sections – the first is about Willie Maxwell, a man who murdered members of his family in order to claim the life insurance he’d taken out on them. The second part focuses on Willie’s lawyer Tom Radney and later the lawyer of the man who killed Willie. The third part of the book is the trial and this is where Harper Lee comes into it. She followed the trial closely and took notes intending to write a book. This section is so interesting as we learn about her close friendship with Truman Capote and how her helping him with In Cold Blood led her to want to write her own book about a murder trial. The whole book is fascinating though because it’s such a bizarre story and I found I just couldn’t put it down. I recommend it!