Bookish Chat About: Non-Fiction

I’m often to be found trotting out the phrase ‘I’m just not a non-fiction kinda gal!’…….


If for example I was at a pub quiz and was asked the question ‘How many non-fiction books did Amanda read in 2018?’ – My teams answer would be four maybe five if I thought really hard about it.  Well…..

1. My answer would be *cue Family Fortunes style noise* INCORRECT and

2. We’d be at a very dubious pub with very niche pub quiz questions.

It turns out in 2018 I read 15 non-fiction books.  Whilst that’s still not huge amounts considering I read 140 books in total, it’s still more than I thought.

Here they are in all their glory:

Love Nina: Dispatches From Family Life by Nina Stibbe.

Member Of The Family by Dianne Lake

Trafficked Girl by Zoe Patterson

Dead Babies And Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly

Look What You Made Me Do by Helen Walmsley Johnson

This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims

Impossible Things Before Breakfast by Rebecca Front

Hunger by Roxanne Gay

You Left Early by Louisa Young

Gross Anatomy by Mara Altman

A Life Discarded by Alexander Masters

My Shitty Twenties by Emily Morris

The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman

Kings Of The Yukon by Adam Weymouth

I put it to you the jury that Bookish Chat does indeed read non-fiction.  Case Closed.

Thinking about it I have read some absolute belters over the years, so I just wanted to do a little blog post about the non-fiction I have already read and enjoyed and then follow it up with a post about the non-fiction I am slowly amassing in my quest to be wider read this year.

I of course read Kings Of The Yukon By Adam Weymouth and The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman for The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award and really enjoyed them both.

I also read You Left Early by Louisa Young and Look What You Made Me Do by Helen Walmsley-Johnson and enjoyed them both. Louisa Young tackles her partners alcoholism and Helen Walmsley-Johnson tackles her coercive relationship. Both books are unflinchingly honest, sometimes difficult reads. I actually remember tweeting that it was difficult to admit that I had ‘enjoyed’ Louisa’s book as it felt wrong to say it under the circumstances and was hugely relieved when she tweeted back that it was perfectly fine to say so.

In terms of the non-fiction I am drawn to, it seems to be books that are medically based, be that physically or mentally, or just books that satisfy my inherantly nosey nature. The perfect example of this being Home: The Story Of Everyone Who Ever Lived In Our House by Julie Myerson. Which is a book that does exactly what it says on the cover.  Julie Myerson takes it upon herself to research all the people who have lived in her London victorian house. This quest sees her visiting the library and checking out old archives and records (I’ve always wanted to do that!) she uncovers the lives of the families who lived their lives in her home. This has always fascinated me and I have to admit I got bit excited recently when we had to dig out our house deeds! It’s amazing to see the names of people who have lived through loves and losses in your home. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Next up is a book that is the epitome of nosey! What better way to snoop on somebody than to read their diary! A Life Discarded (148 diaries found in a skip) by Alexander Masters is the story of Alexander’s mission to find the owner of a stack of old diaries he chances upon in a skip. Piecing together somebody’s life via their innermost thoughts be they mundane or profound. Alexander doesn’t even know (up to a point) whether the diarist is male or female even. It’s like a quirky detective story with an edge of eavesdropping on someone’s thoughts. Again, I found this book fascinating.

Talking of diaries…….

Two books which are entirely made up of diary entries are The Diary Of A Book Seller by Shaun Bythell and Love Nina by Nina Stibbe. Both of these books are dryly humorous and witty. I love a book told in diary entries, not least again because I’m nosey but because they are short and snappy little glimpses into someone’s life and inner thoughts. I would heartily recommend both of these books.

Another great book I read last year was My Shitty Twenties by Emily Norris. I found an affiliation with this one straight away as Emily lives quite near to me and mentions a lot of the places I know in her book about falling pregnant, dropping out of university and initially struggling to bring up her baby as a single parent. Again this is a funny and heartwarming book full of northern heart. My review is here.

I am ashamed to admit that with Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt, I have read it and loved it and I even wrote a review but it’s sitting in my drafts unpublished and I’m not sure why! All I can think is that this book has been EVERYWHERE and so many people have loved and reviewed it that I feel like why would anyone want to read MY review? Stupid eh? I wrote it such a long time ago now that I feel like I might never publish it……….ok ok I will one day…..maybe. Anyway, it’s a GREAT book. You know this I’m sure.

As this blog post goes live I have just finished When I Had A Little Sister by Catherine Simpson. Man. I can’t talk about it yet. My review will follow soon. Heartbreaking.

My intention was to do a post about the non-fiction I have read and enjoyed and the non-fiction I have collected recently by hook or by crook by this post has turned out to be a bit longer than I’d like so I’ll save my new non-fiction books for a separate post!

Suffice to say I DO INDEED read non-fiction and I DO INDEED enjoy it.

Do you have any suggestions of other books I may enjoy? I’m all ears!

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

15 thoughts on “Bookish Chat About: Non-Fiction

  1. Great post and I’m firmly in the ‘I don’t read non-fiction’ but I do camp. Thanks for the recommendations as well, I like the sound of the Shaun Bythell book.
    From your round up, you might like ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi which is the story of a neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with cancer. It’s remarkably uplifting.
    Even though I ‘don’t read non-fiction’, just yesterday I bought Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood from the charity shop. As a crime fan, I can’t believe I haven’t read it before. I’ll review when read. Really enjoyed and related to this post. Thanks


    1. I have seen When Breath Becomes Air but I’m not sure whether it will get inside my head too much. You’ve said it’s uplifting though so maybe I’ll give it a try!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m seeing some similarities between us with this post. I don’t really do non-fiction except…..there are some non-fiction books that I adore. I’m so pleased to see a fellow Home fan. It’s one of my favourite non-fiction ever, along with Toast by Nigel Slater. I wasn’t so enamoured with A Life Discarded personally. Some just hits the spot and some doesn’t.

    Have you read any of Margaret Forster’s non-fiction? I can recommend Hidden Women and My Life in Houses.


  3. Great post and some of these look fascinating. I never used to read non fiction but something changed and now I tend to alternate it with fiction. I prefer humorous or popular science or travel themed (even all in one book). Favourite include Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure, Bright Earth by Philip Ball and Underground London by Stephen Smith. Medical memoirs are on trend at the moment, the latest one of these I’ve read is Hard Pushed by Leah Hazard.


      1. Really good, made me appreciate midwives more and it gave a worrying picture of what it’s like to be an NHS midwife in current climate. Look out for my review nearer the publication date 😉


  4. Love this…I occasionally dip my toe in the non-fiction pond/ocean! I adore Maggie O’Farrell and have devoured all of her novels, but avoided reading I Am I Am I Am for ages because it was non-fiction. Can’t recommend it enough though. Her writing is just sublime.


  5. I’m trying to read more non-fiction each year – managing 31/141 last year. I love medical themed nf too, and yes to Paul Kalanithi. I recently read Christie Watson’s memoir of nursing The Language of Kindness which was excellent too. My weakness is for anything rock’n’roll – so my book of the year last year was Viv Albertine’s memoir To Throw Away Unopened – it just pipped Maggie O’Farrell’s for me in the end.


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