Having studied Literature at university, I tend to read mostly fiction books. I regularly have to remind myself that a whole world of non-fiction books exists! Saying that, I have read and studied several non-fiction books and enjoyed (most!) of them!
I am a massive geek and love learning. It sometimes overwhelms me how many things there are to learn and how little time there is! I am trying to make a conscious effort to include a few more into my reading lists.
When you read a good non-fiction, it is fantastic! There is a real sense of using your time productively and growing your mind. I generally choose books about gender, race and history, as these are subjects I am most familiar with. This list is most books on these subjects, I know there so much more out there!
If you are thinking of delving into the world of non-fiction, these are my favourite 5.
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
This is one of the more high-brow books on the list, and one of the more lengthier reads! Despite this, for anyone with any interest in Feminism. Simone de Beauvoir was an academic, philosopher, teacher and lover of Jean-Paul Sartre. While her life was slightly controversial, ?, her work is still one of the best studies of what it means to be a woman.
Published in ?, the book is separated into two parts. The first part of the book looks at various
The first half of the book charts the experience of growing up as a woman and how society shapes our gender identity. De Beauvoir manages to explain why women are often subservient and apologetic, arguing that this all stems from how we are treated as children and young adults. It incredibly accurate, and I read it incredibly slowly as I kept having to stop and think!
Inside Hitler’s Bunker by Joachim Fest
I’m a self-confessed history buff. I love learning new things and spend a lot of time listening to history podcasts. While I do enjoy history books, I can find them a little dull if they are only factual. I am always looking for books that impart historical wisdom with a flair of creativity.
It’s safe to say that World War II and Adolf Hitler have been extensively dealt with in literature. It is difficult to find anything that is particularly original and creative. Fest manages to do that. His book looks simultaneously at both the start of Nazism in Germany and Hitler’s final days. The historical accounts of how the party rose to power are more factual but incredibly interesting. They tend to focus on the more social aspects and these were all things I didn’t know. While Hitler’s final days are imagined, they are compelling and based on fact. The juxtaposing of these two threads managed to breathe new life into overdone material.
Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin
My mum heard about this book on BBC Radio 4 and bought it for me as I love cities and walking. It is written by, who is a literary academic. Her career has taken her to several famous cities and she discusses what it means to observe this as a woman. The Flaneaur is a literary trope found in nineteenth-century. It is usually a middle-class white man who wanders the city and records his observations. No female equivalent exists, which is something Elkin is trying to rectify.
As someone who has spent a lot of time living in cities, I found this book very relevant. Her feelings and thoughts living in the Asian city of Tokyo are all things I have felt living in Seoul. The variety of cities she discusses ensures this book speaks to anyone. Indeed, she writes about Tokyo, Venice, London, Paris, and New York, often drawing on famous women who lived and used them in their work.
Self-Made Man: My Year Disguised as a Man by Norah Vincent
This is another book discussing gender but in a less theoretical way. Norah Vincent writes from life, using social experiments to highlight and prove her arguments. In Self-Made Man, she posits that gender is a social construct and that our actions c?
The premise of the book is that Vincent lives a year as a man. She goes to extraordinary lengths, such as wearing a prosthetic penis and painting on facial hair. At the risk of being reductive, she is about to use these attributes to ‘trick’ those around her.
Vincent argues that when it comes to gender, we are programmed to see a set of signs (or characteristics) and then sub-consciously interpret them. For example, we equate short hair, stubbles and various clothes with men. It is a convincing argument supported by Vincent’s personal experiences.
My main problem with this book is how reliant Vincent is on the reactions of others. Most people she meets do not comment on her gender, treating her as a man. However, there is always the possibility that they are simply too polite or feel commenting on unnecessary. Perhaps they are fully aware she is passing as a man and just treat her according to her wishes. If this is the case, the book doesn’t really prove anything.
However, it is still incredibly thought-provoking and a must-read for anyone interested in Gender Politics. She cleverly highlights how ridiculous gender stereotypes and roles can be.
While it is easy to lean toward fiction books, it’s important to remember that a wealth of non-fiction books exist out there. There is a book on every subject you could EVER imagine, so there really is something for everyone!
What are your favourite non-fictions books?