I’m not actually participating in Non-Fiction November – I have very little non-fiction on my shelves here in Liverpool – but I wanted to get involved nonetheless. I’ve read quite a lot of non-fiction in the past couple of years, and have stumbled across a couple of new favourites, so I wanted to share them with you.
Now, I must say, these are either Victorian-themed or war-themed. I’m not very diverse in my non-fiction reading. I’m set in my ways, so I’d really appreciate it if you dropped some recommendations yourself in the comments. I’m always on the look out for new books!
Let’s start with the Victorian non-fiction…
First is Ruth Goodman’s How to be a Victorian, which is an excellent study of how the Victorians went through life, from waking up to going to work to falling asleep. Goodman looks at all their rituals, traditions and pastimes. There’s so much enthusiasm and warmth to the book that you can’t but get caught up in Goodman’s passion for the Victorians. It was such a pleasant read.
It wouldn’t be me with mentioning the Brontës now, would it?
I really love Juliet’s Barker’s The Brontës and Claire Harman’s Charlotte Brontë: A Life. Barker’s is The Definitive Biography. She looks at the whole family, from their mother to their dead sisters. Barker doesn’t leave anything out. It’s a very large book, coming in at over 1,000 pages, but it is so interesting. Harman looks a Charlotte specifically, examining how certain points in her life shaped her into the person and writer she was.
Karen Dolby’s My Dearest, Dearest Albert: Queen Victoria’s Life Through Her Letters and Journals is another fantastic read. Dolby ordered some of Queen Victoria’s letters and journals to help shape a more personal and intimate image of her. It’s a very brief account of her life, but it’s a moving one, and it gives us an insight into the life of the Queen from her own writing.
So, moving onto the war-themed non-fiction, my favourite has to be Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. Despite being a teenager who is experiencing puberty, and despite being hunted for her belief, and despite being locked up in a tiny space for years, Anne Frank is full of optimistic, love and passion. Her diary is just so full of life, and she doesn’t dwell on the negatives, instead trying to find the good in life. Her sarcasm, anger and love really moves me, and I love how it’s been captured in such a mundane way – diary-writing. Such a good read.
I recently read Jeremy Dronfield’s The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz and I loved it. Dronfield recounts the life of Gustav and Fritz Kleinmann, a father and son, who managed to survive the whole Holocaust together. I learnt more about how the Polish were treated by the SS from this book than I ever did in history. It was informative, moving and so interesting. I really couldn’t recommend this enough.
Lastly, I can’t write about my favourite non-fiction without mentioning Jennifer Worth’s Call the Midwife. If you’re a fan of the show, then you’ll really love the books. Worth is a midwife in post-war London, delivering babies to the working-class Poplar mothers. It is here that she truly experiences the world, seeing firsthand the effects of the war, of how advancing medicine is shaping the future of midwifery, and how a little bit of love and charity can go a long way. Worth is a brilliant story-teller!
…I think I’ll leave it there for now. That’s enough for you to chew on. I’m slowly getting into non-fiction a little more, but I’m very selective with what I want to read and learn from. But recommendations might help me to branch out, so please drop some in my comments and I’ll check them out!
What’s your favourite non-fiction book? and why?
Thanks for reading, Lauren X