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Five excellent non-fiction books
From memoirs to psychology, these are some of my favourites
Long-term subscribers to this newsletter will know that the majority of the books I read are novels. I like stepping into the worlds they create, believing the characters, escaping into the stories. I have nothing against non-fiction, it just has to be really bloody good for me to diverge from the piles of fiction on my list to read. And funnily enough, that is exactly how I would describe these five non-fic books.
I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
Maggie O’Farrell is much-lauded for her novels - Hamnet won the Women’s Prize for Fiction - but this is by far my favourite book of hers. A memoir recounting her near-death experiences (she’s had 17 of them!), I Am I Am I Am is the kind of book that you read on constant, breathless tenterhooks - and then need a while to recover from.
Let's Talk by Nihal Arthanayake
This book, from the BBC Radio 5 Live presenter, is endlessly intriguing and very entertaining. It’s about the art of conversation - I think I’m better dinner-party company because of it - but also about the importance of dialogue in a disconnected and divided world. Let’s Talk feels like one of those vital books - if only everyone would read it!
What We Want by Charlotte Fox Weber
Written by a psychotherapist, this is an astonishingly mind-expanding dissection of twelve of our most deep-set desires - such as attention, control and belonging. I’m obsessed with What We Want, and if you like books by Brené Brown, Esther Perel, Glennon Doyle et al, then you will be too. (Note to my lovely State-side subscribers: the book is published in the US in April next year, under the title Tell Me What You Want, and is a very worthy pre-order.)
Hysterical by Pragya Agarwal
If there are any women reading this who haven’t been told to ‘calm down’ or ‘chill out’ when they’re feeling perfectly calm and chilled out, thank you very much, I’d be very surprised. Hysterical is an absorbing deep-dive into this myth of gendered emotions; I now have many underlined paragraphs in my back pocket ready for the next accusation.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things is one of the most treasured books on my shelves. It’s a collection of the author’s Dear Sugar agony aunt columns, in which she wisely and oh-so-beautifully guides people through their life problems. I sort of see Cheryl Strayed as a spiritual leader, and this book as my bible.
National Book Tokens have released their annual Hidden Books Game, which delights/destroys me every year. If you haven’t yet played, please do so. The link is here, and for anyone who has never heard of it, the idea is simple: there are twenty books (old and new) hidden in the picture with Dingbats-style clues - all you need to do is find and name them. It took me several, painstaking days to complete this year’s but I got there in the end. Need clues? Email me or comment below.