My Favourite Non-Fiction Books! #NonFictionNovember

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This week as part of Non-Fiction November Shelf Aware has set the prompt for us to talk about what makes a book a favourite. What qualities do you look for in non-fiction?

 

I love reading non-fiction and definitely read more of it in recent years than I ever used to before. I’m one of those readers that always has multiple books on the go at once and at least one of my books is always non-fiction.

When I first starting getting into non-fiction it was mainly through reading memoirs and biographies of people that I was interested in and I’m still drawn to them. They’re generally quite easy reads and the focus is on one person so they’re easy to follow. I find them good when my pain levels are high and I need a book that doesn’t require huge amounts of concentration. Alongside my love of memoirs are the easier non-fiction books that read almost like fiction because they’re so unputdownable!

The first grown-up non-fiction book I remember reading is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I read it the summer I was 8 and I can still remember the devastating, eye-opening impact that it had on me. The next biography that made an impact was Still Me by Christopher Reeve. I bought this in hardback the day it was released and I read it in one sitting. I was so moved by his struggle and his openness in the book. I didn’t know when I read it that one day I would be partially paralysed, it doesn’t compare to what happened to him but it does give me even more insight. I’m also recommending The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. This is a memoir of a woman who whilst ill and confined to bed takes to watching nature, this is such a beautiful book and is one I stumbled across and am so glad it found me. On a lighter note I also included Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm, which is a must-read if you were a child and teenage reader (particularly if you’re in your 40s now). I adore this book! A fun read, also for 40+ year olds is Now We Are 40 which is all about Generation X and I loved it. Finally I recommend The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater – it’s part Christmas memoir and part cookbook and it’s such a gorgeous book to read as the festive season comes around.

 

I also enjoy reading non-fiction to learn and often find myself drawn to factual books when I’ve been reading a novel or watching something on TV and want to know more. I’m more likely to fall down a rabbit-hole of one book leading to another these days and I love it when that happens. It so often ends with a book that is quite a distance subject-wise from where I started which then sends me off on another track.

In this section I’ve included Pain-Free Life by Andrea Hayes and Mindfulness for Health by Vidyamala Burch as both have massively helped me find a way to live with the chronic pain I’m permanently. I recommend them if you’re a pain sufferer. In Plain Sight is about Jimmy Savile and is such a well-written book about how his crimes were discovered. The Emperor of all Maladies and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks are both about cancer. The first is a history of cancer told in such a fascinating way, it’s a brilliant book. The second is about the cells doctors took from Henrietta that are still used today but her family weren’t informed about what was done. It’s such a moving and interesting book. Death at Seaworld is a brilliant book that really opens your eyes to what is happening at Seaworld. This book made me so angry but that’s a good thing and it’s a book more people should read. Hillsborough: The Truth is the full story of what happened and is a must-read. I’ve read it twice and it’s still so shocking for so many reasons. The Looming Tower is an excellent read about the factors that led up to 9/11 and has since been adapted for TV. The Red Parts is a memoir about Nelson’s Aunt’s murder, which happened before she was born and I’ve found this has really stayed with me. Last but not least is Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space, which was such an interesting read. It’s incredible to read her story and find out how she came to be an astronaut but also the extra struggles she had being the first woman, and how things had to be considered that never had before.

 

My concentration for more academic non-fiction isn’t great these days but when I want to read something to learn or to gain much more depth on a subject I will still pick these books up. I loved all the academic books that I read when I was doing my degree many years ago but I struggle now I’m out of the habit and do find these books more daunting.

Here I’m recommending just four books. The first is A Literature of their Own, which I bought in my first week at Uni when I heard Elaine Showalter was going to be giving a guest lecture. I’m such a fan of her writing now and want to re-read this one soon. I’ve also included Aspects of the Novel, which I devoured immediately after buying it and really enjoyed it. The Case of Peter Pan came in really useful for an essay I was writing but I’ve since re-read the book and find it such an interesting read. I want to read more by the author. I’m also including James Baldwin and the 1980s, which I’ve only recently finished but it’s sparked me into wanting to read so many other books so it feels right to include it.

Ultimately, I think my favourite kind of non-fiction is books that are the ones where I’m learning more about something but without the book being too academic. It means I can learn whilst enjoying my reading and it feels less pressured for me when my health isn’t so good.

 

Also, I have to squeeze in a mention that I do have something of an addiction to books about de-cluttering. I love Marie Kondo’s books (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy as it’s her method that finally clicked with me to sort my whole house out (and it’s stayed tidy ever since! Here is a post about my clutter journey.)  but if I see a book about hoarding or de-cluttering I still have to read them! I also found Banish Clutter Forever, which helped me with re-organising my house after I’d decluttered. It’s based on the idea that we always know where our toothbrush is because we keep it right where we use it so if we apply that principle to everything else we own our homes should be easier to tidy and it should be easier to find things. I’ve reviewed Un*fuck Your Habitat here if you’d like to know more about this one.

 

What are some of your favourite types of non-fiction? What are your favourite non-fiction books? If you have any recommendations for me based on any of the books in this post please let me know, I’m always looking for more books to read! 🙂

See my new #BookHaul in my Stacking the Shelves post! (1 Jul)

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Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, which is all about sharing the books that you’ve acquired in the past week!

 

I bought these books:

A Manual for Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink

A Manual for Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink

I’ve had this on pre-order ever since I first heard about it as Cathy’s previous book The Last Act of Love is one of the best, and most moving, books I’ve read in the last couple of years. This new book feels like it will have a similar impact on me and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

Synopsis:

When Cathy Rentzenbrink was still a teenager, her happy family was torn apart by an unthinkable tragedy. In A Manual for Heartache she describes how she learnt to live with grief and loss and find joy in the world again. She explores how to cope with life at its most difficult and overwhelming and how we can emerge from suffering forever changed, but filled with hope.

This is a moving, warm and uplifting book that offers solidarity and comfort to anyone going through a painful time, whatever it might be. It’s a book that will help to soothe an aching heart and assure its readers that they’re not alone.

Gemma Dowler

My Sister Milly by Gemma Dowler

I hadn’t heard anything about this book until I saw Gemma being interviewed on This Morning a couple of days ago and I knew I had to read this book. I’ve already started reading it and it’s so moving.

Synopsis:

‘My name is Gemma Dowler. On 21 March 2002, a serial killer named Levi Bellfield stole my sister and sent our family to Hell…’

Everyone thinks they know the story of Milly Dowler.

Haunting headlines about the missing schoolgirl splashed across front pages. The family’s worst fears realised when her body was found months later. The years of waiting for the truth, only to learn that the killer, known to the police, lived just yards from where Milly had vanished. The parents subjected to horrific psychological torture at a trial orchestrated by the murderer. And the shocking revelation of what journalists would do for a story – criminal acts that brought down a national newspaper.

But these bare facts hide the true story.

In My Sister Milly, Gemma Dowler shares the heartbreaking account of Milly’s disappearance, the suspicions that fell on the family, the fatal errors made by the police, and the media’s obsession that focused relentlessly on every personal, intimate and emotional aspect of the Dowlers’ lives. It is the story of two stolen childhoods – Milly’s and Gemma’s – and about the love that kept the family together as they struggled with terrible darkness and injustice.

However, this book is a story of hope and recovery.

It’s taken fifteen years of pain for the family to find their voice. The family has worked hard and has received intensive therapy to recover from the trauma of Milly’s murder. Their story shows that whatever suffering you endure in life, there is always hope, and there is always love.

Now, for the first time, Gemma tells their story and that of the real Milly. Above all, in this book the family want to bring back to life their incredible daughter and sister. Now, finally, the truth about Milly Dowler can never be denied.

Dear you by Tessa Broad

Dear you by Tessa Broad

I’ve seen a few people chatting about this book on social media so have been keen to read it. I think this will be a tough book to read but it seems like it will ultimately be a healing and uplifting read.

Synopsis:

Tess Broad wanted children. She longed for them. It wasn’t to be.

In this candid and moving memoir, Tess writes to the children that never were. She writes to them as their adult selves with openness and honesty and tells them of the childhood she envisaged for them and the mother she believed she would be. She describes her reluctant transformation from the woebegone, wannabe mummy that she once was, to the woman she is now; childless but chilled, sailing through Mother’s Day with a smile on her face. Happy.

From the ‘trying for a family’ stage to the relentless treadmill of infertility treatment, Tess recounts her story with humour and pathos, taking the reader on her journey with her, sharing her experiences, the roller-coaster ride of IVF, the sudden departure of the husband whose children she wanted to have and ultimately to acceptance that the life she wanted and expected was not hers for the taking. This is a breathtaking memoir that offers a shoulder to lean on for everyone experiencing the uncertainties and pain of infertility.

Maurice by E.M. Forster

Maurice by E.M. Forster

I read this book many years ago and it’s always stayed with me so when I spotted the ebook at the bargain price of 99p I snapped it up. 

Synopsis:

As Maurice Hall makes his way through a traditional English education, he projects an outer confidence that masks troubling questions about his own identity. Frustrated and unfulfilled, a product of the bourgeoisie he will grow to despise, he has difficulty acknowledging his nascent attraction to men.

At Cambridge he meets Clive, who opens his eyes to a less conventional view of the nature of love. Yet when Maurice is confronted by the societal pressures of life beyond university, self-doubt and heartbreak threaten his quest for happiness.

Reckless by Chrissie Hynde

Reckless by Chrissie Hynde

I’ve been wanting to read this memoir for ages now so when I saw that Kindle had a sale on selected memoirs and this was included I immediately downloaded it. I hope I can read this soon as I think it’ll be such an interesting read.

Synopsis:

By the time she was 14, Chrissie Hynde knew she had to get out of Akron, Ohio. Her perfect ’50s American childhood upturned by a newly acquired taste for rock ’n’ roll, motorbikes and the ‘get down boys’ seen at gigs in and around Cleveland – Mitch Ryder, the Jeff Beck Group, the Velvet Underground and David Bowie among the many.

Wrapped up in the Kent State University riots and getting dangerously involved in the local biker and drug scenes, she escaped – to Mexico, Canada, Paris and finally London where she caught the embryonic punk scene just in time not only to witness it first-hand, but more importantly to seize the opportunity to form her own band, the Pretenders.

Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Vivienne & Malcolm, Ray Davies … on every page household names mingle with small town heroes as we shift from bedroom to biker HQ; from squat to practice room; from pub gig to Top Of The Pops – the long and crooked path to stardom, and for the Pretenders, ultimately, tragedy.

That Chrissie Hynde is alive to tell the tale is, by her own admission, something of a miracle. Throughout she is brutally honest, wryly humorous and always highly entertaining. She has written one of the most evocative and colourful music memoirs to be published in recent years.

All Our Wrong Todays

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

This is another book that I’ve heard so many good things about and so when I spotted this in the monthly kindle deals earlier this week I grabbed it. 

Synopsis:

So, the thing is, I come from the world we were supposed to have.

That means nothing to you, obviously, because you live here, in the crappy world we do have.

But it never should’ve turned out like this. And it’s all my fault – well, me and to a lesser extent my father.

And, yeah, I guess a little bit Penelope.

In both worlds, she’s the love of my life. But only a single version of her can exist.

I have one impossible chance to fix history’s greatest mistake and save this broken world.

Except it means saving one Penelope and losing the other forever – and I have absolutely no idea which to choose . . .

A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicholson

A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicolson

This is another kindle book that was in the sale and it sounded like such a fascinating book that I couldn’t resist it. 

Synopsis:

All families have their myths and Juliet Nicolson’s was no different: her flamenco dancing great-great-grandmother Pepita, the flirty manipulation of her great-grandmother Victoria, the infamous eccentricity of her grandmother Vita, her mother’s Tory-conventional background.

A House Full of Daughters takes us through seven generations of women. In the nineteenth-century slums of Malaga, the salons of fin-de-siècle Washington DC, an English boarding school during the Second World War, Chelsea in the 1960s, these women emerge for Juliet as people in their own right, but also as part of who she is and where she has come from.

Who Rules the World?- Reframings by Noam Chomsky

Who Rules the World?: Reframings by Noam Chomsky

I bought this on a whim as it sounds like an interesting read. I don’t know when I’ll get to read it but hopefully it won’t be too long.

Synopsis:

Noam Chomsky is the world’s foremost intellectual activist. Over the last half century, no one has done more to question the great global powers who govern our lives, forensically scrutinizing policies and actions, calling our politicians, institutions and media to account.

The culmination of years of work, Who Rules the World? is Chomsky’s definitive intellectual investigation into the major issues of our times. From the dark history of the US and Cuba to China’s global rise, from torture memos to sanctions on Iran, Chomsky explores how America’s talk of freedom and human rights is often at odds with its actions. Delving deep into the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel/Palestine, he provides nuanced, surprising insights into the workings of modern-day imperial power.

The world’s political and financial elite have become ever more insulated from democratic constraints on their actions. Chomsky shines a powerful light on this inconvenient truth. With climate change and nuclear proliferation threatening the survival of our civilization, the message has never been more pertinent or more urgent: the need for an engaged and active public to steer the world away from disaster grows ever greater.

Fiercely outspoken and rigorously argued, Who Rules the World? is an indispensable guide to how things really are from the lone authoritative voice courageous and clear-sighted enough to tell us the truth.

 

I received two review books:

 

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Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa

This book arrived in the post yesterday and it’s such a beautiful book, my photo doesn’t do it justice. The book sounds like such a powerful novel and I can’t wait to start reading it.

Synopsis:

With urgency and tenderness Evening Primrose explores issues of race, gender and the medical profession through the eyes of a junior doctor.

When Masechaba finally achieves her childhood dream of becoming a doctor, her ambition is tested as she faces the stark reality of South Africa’s public healthcare system.

As she leaves her deeply religious mother and makes friends with the politically-minded Nyasha, Masechaba’s eyes are opened to the rising xenophobic tension that carries echoes of apartheid.

Battling her inner demons, she must decide if she should take a stand to help her best friend, even it comes at a high personal cost.

 

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The Other Twin by Lucy V. Hay

I’d already been sent an advance ecopy of this book by the publisher but the print copy arrived this week and it’s a stunning book. I’ll be reading this very soon as I’m on the blog tour for it in July.

Synopsis:

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its well- heeled families, The Other Twin is a startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth …

 

So, that’s all of my new books from the past week. Have you bought any new books recently? Tell me all in the comments below, or if you have a stacking the shelves post on your blog feel free to post the link below too.:)

My weekly wrap up post will be on my blog tomorrow so please look out for that.