Thoughts

Thoughts #12: Neglected Non-Fiction

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There is one thing I’ve noticed a definite lack of in the blogosphere.

Non-fiction.

Personally, I love many genres of non-fiction: autobiographies, memories, history and archaeology books, books on nature, science, linguistics… But it feels that many bloggers don’t have a particular interest, or at least don’t share it. So why is it not a common feature amongst the blogs?

  • It can be quite difficult to review (apparently I’ve reviewed only six non-fiction books since starting the blog), which means that whilst my fellow bloggers may enjoy non-fiction, it’s difficult to feature on the blog.
  • How do you review something that is fact? You can’t criticise so many of the different areas you would look at for a work of fiction. It seriously reduces the amount you can really say about the book.
  • Some people read to escape to other worlds, so non-fiction just doesn’t work for them.
  • I know that when I was at university, I avoided reading any history or archaeology books that were NOT relevant to my course, because I had so much to take in anyway, and didn’t want to end up remembering stuff about Henry VIII when my course was in ancient history! So perhaps, for that same reason, many fellow bloggers who are still studying prefer to avoid non-fiction.

I thought perhaps I’d share some of my favourite non-fiction books, in various categories, and hopefully you can share yours with me!

History & archaeology

Pompeii by Mary Beard The Borgias by Christopher Hibbert Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser

This is perhaps, along with travel, one of my more read areas of non-fiction – as my degree was in ancient history and archaeology. I’ll read about almost any period of history up until the twentieth century. Mary Beard is one of my favourite classicists so anything by her is good. I also have a particular interest in the Borgia family (so much scheming!), and Louis XIV after studying him for History A Level when I was 18. I think books like this can often have a reputation for being stuffy, written by scholars who know everything about these ancient worlds and nothing about the present day one. And whilst that may be the case with some books of this type, there are so many wonderfully written and accessible history books. You could start with books that accompany a TV series of the same subject, as they’re often written for people who are learning along with the show.

Travel

A Ride in the Neon Sun by Josie Dew The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson Hitching Rides with Buddha by Will Ferguson

If you’ve not yet read anything by either Bill Bryson or Josie Dew, then step on it! The two write very witty travel accounts – Bryson travelling alone by car (normally), and Dew alone by bicycle. They both capture the spirit of the countries they visit, and somehow poke fun at various elements of culture without being offensive in any way. Words cannot describe how excited I was last year when I realised there was a Bill Bryson book I hadn’t read yet – and so I got to experience that first read through joy!

Biography & memoir

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson 35488 How To Be A Woman

When it comes to biographies and memoirs, to me they either have to be witty and perhaps a bit self-deprecating, or of truly fascinating lives. Some memoirs I’ve read just don’t have either – even after the ‘big break through’. Or perhaps it was just how they were written. Once again, Bill Bryson makes the list with his autobiography, as does Caitlin Moran with her hilarious anecdotes of her younger self. And I recently read Johnny Cash’s autobiography and absolutely LOVED it. He is one of my very favourite musicians and had such an interesting life – plus the way it was told was just wonderful. He rambles from tale to tale, nothing is in chronological order – but it works. It’s as if you were sat there, having drinks with him and listening to him talk about his life.

What about you – do you enjoy reading non-fiction? What are your favourite genres of non-fiction? If you don’t enjoy it, tell me why! Why do you think it’s not often featured on book blogs?

Past Features, Recap

Weekly Roundup #32 + meeting Mary Beard!

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

Bought

  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – I think I first spotted this one through following Felicia Day on Goodreads. I’m not sure how romance-y it is, so I don’t know how much I’ll like it, but we’ll see! It is about an assassin after all…

Won

  • She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick – I won this from Goodreads. I’ve seen it around a lot recently and heard some good things about it.

On Sunday, I got to meet Mary Beard!

I also just wanted to quickly share some photos from this Sunday, when I met Mary Beard at Cheltenham Literature Festival. If you’ve not heard of her before, she is a classicist and a Don at Cambridge University. She’s written some fantastic books and made some wonderful TV shows, and I really, really admire her.



Her talk was about her recent book, Confronting the Classics, and how the ancient world is often presented in the modern day. It was really fascinating, and I plan on getting hold of her book at some point – sadly the hardback is £25 and I can’t really afford it right now. I told her that I’d studied ancient history and archaeology, and my plans for the future: I want to be a museum curator. It was so wonderful to meet a big role model of mine!

I got her to sign my copies of Pompeii and It’s A Don’s Life, and she even added in an extra message after I told her of my plans! Now all of the books that I own written by her are signed – when I was working at the festival last year I picked up a signed copy of All in a Don’s Day. That was also the last day of the Cheltenham Literature Festival – now to look forward to next year’s line-up!

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #13 & Happy New Year!

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An appropriate number for this week’s Weekly Roundup, which comes to you a day late – I apologise! My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.


This week I want to show you my book-related Christmas gifts, and discuss New Year’s Resolutions.


I received It’s A Don’s Life from my parents, and Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town from my grandparents, both by Mary Beard. I’m a big fan of Mary’s, and managed to get a book signed by her when I was working at the Cheltenham Literature Festival – but sadly I didn’t get to meet her.


And I got these amazing bookmarks – one in my stocking, one from my grandparents; as well as a Waterstones giftcard from my sister! Talking of The Hobbit – I’ve seen it twice now, and absolutely love it – what do you all think of it? I’m a massive Tolkien fan, The Lord of the Rings is my favourite book ever and I re-read it every year – but I didn’t get round to it in 2012!

I did, however, achieve my book reading goal – I managed to read 105 books, when my aim was 52! I think this was partly down to being a student and then unemployed for three quarters of the year though, so this year’s goal is 75.

So that’s one of my resolutions – read 75 books. Another book-related one is to work on my challenges a little more (links are in the right-hand sidebar) – not complete them, but at least make some progress. As for non-book related resolutions, I want to carry on with my healthy eating – which I was doing just fine until the end of September, when I was going through a bad situation and kind of gave up on it. And with the healthy eating comes keeping up my exercise – I did manage that at least for all of last year! I also need to work on my Dutch, which I’m learning because I plan on doing my Masters degree in the Netherlands. The course is in English, but I would feel really ignorant going out there not knowing a word!

So… gelukkig nieuwjaar/Happy New Year to my lovely readers!