We’re now halfway through #nonficnovember, a themed reading month created by two fabulous book tubers, Olive and Gemma. Despite my best intentions, I’ve sadly been in a reading funk for months. I was keen to participate and get my non fiction reading game on, but so far I haven’t managed to do so. That doesn’t stop me foisting recommendations upon you, however, dear reader!
When it comes to non fiction, I lean more towards science than history. I trained as a nurse, and I love learning more about the mind and body, how things work and how things go wrong. But I also love a grisly true crime, a memoir (mainly of the music industry genre, but not exclusively) and lately have been drawn to nature writing too. So I thought I would share a few of my favourite non fiction reads, and also some that I hope to get to very soon.
Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh. Henry Marsh is a British neurosurgeon and looks like your granddad. Here he shares stories from throughout his career without being patronising or lecture-y. He is painfully honest about the good stuff and bad, and clearly cares very much about his patients. There is some graphic surgical detail, so skip those parts if you must, but if you’re after a glimpse of life as a surgeon this is the one for you.
Adventures in Human Being by Gavin Francis. If you’re a fan of the human body (and, seriously, if you’re not you should be; the human body is simply amazing) you need to read this book. Francis looks at different ‘regions’ of the body in turn, drawing from history, art and modern science to take you on a journey through the body. With fascinating and sometimes gruesome anecdotes (I particularly like the story about Isaac Newton inserting a needle into his own eye socket. Lovely.) this book will provide you with an impressive number of “did you know” dinner party moments.
People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry. Here is a true crime story that will keep you awake at night. This is a truly compelling account of the murder of Lucie Blackman, a 21 year old British girl who disappeared one day in Tokyo. It is a grim, dark and utterly engrossing account of the investigation into her disappearance and murder. As a mother of a teenage daughter on the brink of adulthood, this book terrified me.
On a lighter note, Just Kids by Patti Smith is a trip into a completely different world. Thoughtful and melancholic, this is Patti’s account of her relationship with artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. I find New York in the punk era a weirdly enticing place, and Patti Smith does not disappoint with this memoir.
Which brings me nicely on to the books I’d like to get round to very soon … beginning with:
M Train by Patti Smith. I put this on my Christmas list last year after reading Just Kids and it is shameful that I still have not read it! I think this is basically just the thoughts that fill Patti’s head while she’s drinking coffee in various coffee shops around the world – and who doesn’t want to be inside Patti Smith’s head?!
The Moth: 50 Extraordinary True Stories edited by Catherin Burns and introduced by Neil Gaiman. I picked this up on a whim while waiting for someone in the enormous paradise that is the Piccadilly branch of Waterstones. This is a collection of true stories gathered from live storytelling events that takes place in various cities in America. So kind of like a jam session for true stories. It sounds so interesting, and I actually might pick this up right now.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald is a book I’m sure I don’t need to introduce to you; it has been all over the bookish internet for the last year. I have a feeling this is going to be an emotional read and I need to be in a robust frame of mind before picking it up!
It’s All in Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan is a journey into psychosomatic illness, and won the Wellcome Book Prize this year. This sounds absolutely fascinating and I’m hoping it will be like a Do No Harm for the mind …
I’d love to hear about your favourite non-fiction books and bump up my TBR even further, so do leave me some recommendations in the comments!