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! 🙂

My Top Non-Fiction Reads 2018!

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Today I’m sharing my non-fiction reads from 2018! I read 290 books last year and 79 of those were non-fiction so I’ve picked my top 12. Yesterday I shared my favourite fiction reads of the year and you can find that here if you’d like to read it.

Illusion of Justice by Jerome Buting

I was late getting to Making a Murderer but I finally watched season one earlier this year  and immediately looked to see if there were any books on the case. This is written by one of Steven Avery’s lawyers and was a really fascinating read. I watched season 2 as soon as it was on Netflix and see that there’s a possibility that these lawyers could have done more but at the time of reading it felt like a really good insight into the case and that they’d done all they could within the restraints they had.

My Life in Football by Kevin Keegan

I listened to this on audio and really enjoyed it. It was a hard listen at times being a Newcastle United fan and hearing in Keegan’s own words how badly he was treated at the club. It was interesting to learn more about Keegan’s life though and I found this book near impossible to stop listening to.

How Not to be a Boy by Robert Webb

I got this for Christmas in 2017 and it’d been calling to me from my TBR all year so I was glad to finally read it. It’s such an open and honest memoir and I found it such an interesting read.

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

This is a really in-depth book about what led to 9/11. It’s obviously not always an easy subject to read about in terms of what happened but the way this book is written makes it one you don’t want to put down. It gave me a much better understanding of what happened in the years preceding 9/11. It’s such an important book and one I definitely recommend.

Knowing the Score by Judy Murray

I very much enjoyed this book having been a fan of Judy Murray for a while now. It gave such insight into her character and her strength and I was so inspired by just how much she’s done for female tennis players over the years. I have a full review of this book so if you’d like to know more click the title above.

Life to the Limit by Jenson Button

I listened to this as an audio book after buying it in an Audible sale a few weeks ago. I used to be such big F1 fan so was keen to know more behind the scenes of Button’s career. There is much of that but this is also a love letter to his late father, John and I found is so much more moving than I expected.

So Here It Is by Dave Hill

I initially wanted to read this because I grew up hearing Slade as my late mum was a huge fan. The book is so well-written and is so full of honesty and openness that I enjoyed it on its own merits. I have a full review of this so if you’d like to know more about what I thought click the title above.

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan

This book was sheer joy to read! I love books about books anyway but this one really grabbed me as I’m assuming Mangan is a similar age to me as we read many of the same books in childhood. It was a real nostalgic read and led to me buying copies of childhood books that I loved but had sadly long since lost. I recommend this to all bookworms!

The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare

This is a beautiful, lyrical journal about the changing of the season into winter. It’s a mediation on all the changes that occur as winter hits. This book struck such a chord with me and gave me such comfort and solace at a time of year that I needed it most. This is a book I will return to again and again.

This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This was another Christmas gift from 2017, which I read fairly early on in 2018 but it’s stayed with me ever since. It’s a funny book, and a sad book but mostly it’s just an honest diary of a junior doctor’s experience of working in the NHS.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I bought this as soon as it came out as I can’t resist well written true crime. This was a fascinating account of one woman’s growing obsession with the Golden State Killer and her feeling that she had his name almost within her grasp. The author sadly died before she finished this book so there is a real poignancy in the reading experience because of that. It’s a brilliant book though.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (and Spark Joy) by Marie Kondo

This had to be my number one non-fiction book of the year because it has changed my life. Spark Joy I read for the first time in 2018, whereas The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was a re-read (although the first time I read it, I didn’t grasp the good bits as I was too focused on what felt odd in her methods). I read these books at the start of the year and immediately wanted to follow her method properly as my house was over-run with stuff. It really worked for me this time and I’ve spent months going through every single item that I own and have finally got rid of all the clutter. I naturally want to hoard things but I’m now so much better at just getting rid of things that I don’t love. I’ve never had so much space in my own home before and it feels wonderful. I’ve definitely got the decluttering bug now as every time I’m dusting I immediately put in the charity box anything that doesn’t make me happy.

 


 

So that’s my favourite non-fiction that I read in 2018. Did you read any good non-fiction last year? I’d love to know what your favourite book (or books!) was. Don’t forget you can find my favourite novels in yesterday’s post here if you’d like to see my fiction book picks of the year.