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! 🙂

Book Reviews: James Baldwin and the 1980s | Chase the Rainbow | Furious Hours | The Dark Side of the Mind

 

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Today I’m sharing a selection of mini book reviews of some recent non-fiction books that were excellent reads!

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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!

 

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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.

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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!

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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!

Non-Fiction November: Become the Expert… on Gender!

This week as part of Non-Fiction November the prompt set by Katie at Doing Dewey is to Be the Expert / Ask the Expert / Become the Expert. I’ve decided to go with Become the Expert as there is a topic that I’ve bought a few books on but have yet to read any of them.

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I want to learn more about gender as it seems there is more and more in the media about this and I feel like I don’t know as much as I would like to. I often think back to my own childhood as a girl with brothers and I feel like back then we all played with dolls and tractors. Lego was made in primary colours and for everyone. But when I look back at photos I’m always wearing pretty dresses and my brothers wore more practical clothes.

So these are the books I’d like to read in the coming months:

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The Gender Agenda by Ros Ball and James Millar

I think this book would be a good place for me to start as it’s a book compiled from tweets and blogs that the parents kept as their children were growing up. It feels like it will be an accessible and fairly quick read that will give me an overview of how society views boys and girls differently, and how stereotypes keep being reinforced (even when we perhaps try not to do this).

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Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

This book looks at gender from the angle of neuroscience and psychology to see whether men and women’s brains are wired differently, and to further understand what role the way we are brought up has on our adult lives. I’m fascinated to read this book, I think it will be one that really gives me much more understanding on the subject of gender.

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Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O’Toole

This book is slightly different in that it looks at gender but more specifically at women and how we dress and perform in order to fit society’s norms. I think the author is trying to challenge the stereotypes and to re-write the agenda. This book sounds so interesting to me and is one I’ve wanted to read for ages.

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The Gender Games by Juno Dawson

I had to add this book to my quest to understand more about gender as the sub-title to this book is ‘The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both’. Juno is a trans-woman so she is able to bring another perspective to my learning about gender. I’ve had this book on my TBR for a year now and haven’t managed to get to it but in putting this post together it’s reminded me how much I want to read it.

Do you have any recommendations of more books on gender that might give me further insight and understanding? I’d love to add to my TBR on this subject.

 

 

 

My Year in Non-Fiction! #NonFicNov

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I’m taking part as Non-Fiction November again and this year there is a weekly prompt set by a different blogger each week. This week the prompt as been chosen by Julie at Julz Reads and it’s all about looking back over the non-fiction we’ve read this year.

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

 

So far since the 1st January this year I’ve read 302 books and only 68 of them have been non-fiction, which I’m disappointed by. I love non-fiction and it usually makes up around a third of my reading. Hopefully Non-Fiction November will help me focus on non-fiction for the most part this month!

 

Thinking back over 2019 I thought I’d been most drawn to true crime but when I look through my year of reading on Goodreads it seems I’ve read more medical-related books. I’ve very much enjoyed most of the non-fiction that I’ve read this year.

 

 

I think the two books that have had the most impact on me this year have been Trauma by Dr Gordon Turnbull and After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry. Trauma because it was a history of how PTSD came to be recognised as a medical condition and how the treatment has evolved over the years. The author takes us back through cases that he has worked on and it’s fascinating. I suffered with PTSD for many years so this was of particular interest to me but I really do think it’s a book everyone would find very interesting. After the Eclipse is written by a woman whose mother was murdered when she was in the house and just a young teenager at the time. It really shows the love and the mixed up emotions around such a traumatic event at a young age but it also was an important reminder to me that in all the true crime documentaries we watch and read about that there is a victim and loved ones of that victim. It really humanises and shows the other side of a murder case. These are the two books that I would most recommend of my non-fiction reading this year.

 

I’m hoping that Non-Fiction November will help me focus more on non-fiction for a few weeks but also that it will allow me to get to some non-fiction that I’ve been putting off for one reason or another. I have such a huge stack of non-fiction books on my TBR and I’m so excited to read all of those books.

Non-Fiction November 2019 TBR Books!

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Nonfiction November 2019 runs from 28th October to 30th November 2019.  This year’s hosts are Katie of DoingDewey, Rennie of What’s Nonfiction, Julz of JulzReads, Sarah of Sarah’s Bookshelves and Leann of Shelf Aware.

They’ll be posting a discussion question and link-up on the Monday of each week.  Check out this post for the schedule and prompts.

 

I love joining in with Non-Fiction November each year. I do read a reasonable amount of non-fiction throughout the year anyway but it’s great to have a month where I focus on reading more non-fiction than fiction. I’ve really struggled to pick my TBR this year as I have so many books on my TBR that I want to read so I’ve tried to pick a wide range and hope that I’m in the right mood to read most of them during the month! Ultimately I’ll just be happy to read more non-fiction than fiction throughout November.

 

So without further ado here is my TBR!

 

Firstly I have a few non-fiction books that I’ve been sent for review so I’m putting those on my list:

 

Bowie’s Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie’s Life by John O’Connell

I was thrilled to get approved to read this book from NetGalley as I’ve been a huge David Bowie fan since I was a young child and think learning more about his favourite books will be so interesting.

Constellations by Sinead Gleason

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I read a very moving article in the newspaper about Sinead and one of the stories in her book. I’ve had this book on my NetGalley for a little while now and really do want to make it a priority in November.

The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness by Anne Boyer

I got this book on Read Now on NetGalley a few weeks ago. It might be a book that is too much for me to read but this is a subject that I generally want to read more about so I’m hoping I can read this one.

 

Chase the Rainbow by Poorna Bell

I’ve shamefully had this book on my review pile for over a year so I really want to make it a priority this month. The subject matter is around mental health and suicide so it won’t be an easy read but I think it’s an important book.

How to be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax

This is another book that I’ve had on my review pile for a while now and I’m still really interested to read it.

 

Then I went through my non-fiction audio books and spotted a handful that I’m really keen to listen to:

 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I got this book on audio as Michelle Obama reads it herself and I’ve been wanting to listen to it ever since it was first published. I think this will be a fab listen so I’m really looking forward to this one.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

I’ve heard so many great things about this book so it’s high on my priority list for the month ahead. I think it really focuses on the women and their lives rather than how they died so I’m fascinated to listen to this one.

 

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

This is another book that I’ve been so keen to get to and I keep hearing such good things about it so I really hope I can get to this one this month.

The Death of a President: November 1963 by William Manchester

I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time but it’s really hard to find second-hand at a reasonable price. I think it was out of print when I looked for it so when I spotted it on Audible I immediately spent my credit for that month. It’s a really long book so I’m not sure I’ll get to listen to all of this in November along with all my other reading but I hope to at least start it.

 

Next there are the non-fiction ebooks that I’d like to get to:

 

Deceit and Self-Deception:  Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others by Robert Trivers

This book has been on my TBR for around three years and my interest in it has never waned. I do feel intimidated by it for some reason so I keep putting off reading it. I really want to make this a priority this month to at least get a chunk of it read as it does sound so fascinating.

A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives by Cordelia Fine

Ever since I’ve had my medical condition I’ve been fascinated by how the brain works and how it can distort things, and also how we can over-ride this. So this book caught my eye in a kindle sale recently and I’ve been so keen to read it.

The Dark Side of the Mind: True Stories from My Life as a Forensic Psychologist by Kerry Daynes

I couldn’t resist buying this book when it was recommended to me as I’m fascinated by psychology and this looks like my kind of book! I’m really keen to read this one so it might even be the book I pick up first for Non-Fiction November!

Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us by Will Storr

I’ve had this book on my TBR since it was first published and I’m still really intrigued to read it so hopefully I’ll finally get to read it this month!

Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

I’ve added this book to my TBR as I think it will be good to have a book os essays to dip in and out of throughout the month. I love Zadie Smith’s fiction but have never read any of her non-fiction so I’m really keen to read this one.

Brainstorm: Detective Stories From the World of Neurology by Suzanne O’Sullivan

I really enjoyed Suzanne O’Sullivan’s previous book It’s All In Your Head (which I read while in hospital recovering from neurosurgery!) so when I spotted she had a new book out I had to buy it. As I said about Cordelia Fine’s book earlier in this post I’m fascinated by the mind and what it can do so I think I’m going to love this book too.

Misogynies by Joan Smith

I bought this book on a whim very recently and am really looking forward to reading it. I think it’s a slightly older book on this subject but it still sounds so fascinating and I’m keen to get to this one.

Turning the Tide on Plastic: How Humanity (And You) Can Make Our Globe Clean Again by Lucy Siegle

This is a book that I really want to read soon as I’m working really hard on reducing my plastic in my home but I feel like I now need more guidance on how to reduce it further. There are some things that feel impossible to change but I know there will be ideas out there. I’m hoping this book is the one I need.

Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari

I read another of Johann Hari’s other books a year or two ago and found it really interesting so this one really stood out to me. I think there has been some controversy over this book but also some good reviews so I’m keen to see what I think.

How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy by Stephen Witt

I recently watched a documentary and the author of this book was on it and I thought that I’d look the book up. When I went to buy it it turned out I already owned it! So I decided that was a sign that I should read it soon!

 

And finally the print books:

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Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman

This is a book that I’m desperate to read but haven’t managed to purely because the type is so small I haven’t managed it. I’ve got yet more new glasses for reading recently so am hoping I can finally read it this month. I want to read this one because I LOVE Roger Waters’ album Amused to Death and this book apparently inspired the title and some of the themes on that album.

Mansfield and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Sarah Laing

I bought this book a year or so ago and am so keen to read it. It seems perfect to put on this TBR as it will be a different format of non-fiction for this month.

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox

This is another book that I’ve been so looking forward to and it looks like it might be both interesting and fun. It’s a bit of a doorstop though so I might struggle to read all of it this month but I will do my best to get to it.

 


 

Are you taking part in Non-Fiction November this time? What’s on your TBR for the month? Have you got any good non-fiction recommendations for me based on my TBR?