Well, it’s somehow December already, and that means it’s time to look back at all the wonderful books I’ve read this year. I normally do a single post highlighting my favourite books published in the preceding 12 months, but I’ve decided to break out my favourite reads into separate categories this year, as well as incorporating some older titles. This first post is for non-fiction. I don’t normally read a lot of non-fiction, but I’ve made a concerted effort to incorporate more of it into my reading this year, and it’s something that I’ve really enjoyed. Hopefully I can keep it going into 2022!
Here are my favourites, in no particular order – clicking on the title will take you to my review.
Race is real because we perceive it. Racism is real because we enact it. But the appeal to science to strengthen racist ideologies is on the rise – and increasingly part of the public discourse on politics, migration, education, sport and intelligence. Stereotypes and myths about race are expressed not just by overt racists, but also by well-intentioned people whose experience and cultural baggage steer them towards views that are not supported by the modern study of human genetics. Even some scientists are uncomfortable expressing opinions deriving from their research where it relates to race. Yet, if understood correctly, science and history can be powerful allies against racism, granting the clearest view of how people actually are, rather than how we judge them to be.
How to Argue With a Racist is a vital manifesto for a twenty-first century understanding of human evolution and variation, and a timely weapon against the misuse of science to justify bigotry.
Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent. This book is an attempt to speak.
The book that sparked a national conversation. Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today.
The Greek myths are among the world’s most important cultural building blocks and they have been retold many times, but rarely do they focus on the remarkable women at the heart of these ancient stories.
Stories of gods and monsters are the mainstay of epic poetry and Greek tragedy, from Homer to Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, from the Trojan War to Jason and the Argonauts. And still, today, a wealth of novels, plays and films draw their inspiration from stories first told almost three thousand years ago. But modern tellers of Greek myth have usually been men, and have routinely shown little interest in telling women’s stories. And when they do, those women are often painted as monstrous, vengeful or just plain evil. But Pandora – the first woman, who according to legend unloosed chaos upon the world – was not a villain, and even Medea and Phaedra have more nuanced stories than generations of retellings might indicate.
Now, in Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, Natalie Haynes – broadcaster, writer and passionate classicist – redresses this imbalance. Taking Pandora and her jar (the box came later) as the starting point, she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk. After millennia of stories telling of gods and men, be they Zeus or Agamemnon, Paris or Odysseus, Oedipus or Jason, the voices that sing from these pages are those of Hera, Athena and Artemis, and of Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Eurydice and Penelope.
London, 1938. Alma Fielding, an ordinary young woman, begins to experience supernatural events in her suburban home.
Nandor Fodor – a Jewish-Hungarian refugee and chief ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical research – begins to investigate. In doing so he discovers a different and darker type of haunting: trauma, alienation, loss – and the foreshadowing of a nation’s worst fears. As the spectre of Fascism lengthens over Europe, and as Fodor’s obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed.
With rigour, daring and insight, the award-winning pioneer of historical narrative non-fiction Kate Summerscale shadows Fodor’s enquiry, delving into long-hidden archives to find the human story behind a very modern haunting.
I AM, I AM, I AM is a memoir with a difference – the unputdownable story of an extraordinary woman’s life in near-death experiences. Insightful, inspirational, gorgeously written, it is a book to be read at a sitting, a story you finish newly conscious of life’s fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count.
A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital. Shocking, electric, unforgettable, this is the extraordinary memoir from Costa Novel-Award winner and Sunday Times bestselling author Maggie O’Farrell. It is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger, and what would you stand to lose?
So there you have my top five non-fiction recommendations from those I’ve read this year. Anything you’ve read, or want to read? Do you have any non-fiction recommendations for me?! Let me know in the comments!