So you all know that I LOVE young adult novels — hello, I have a blog dedicated to them — but for a while I’ve wanted to expand my reading choices beyond YA (and, let’s be honest, adult romances), to see what other kinds of books I’d enjoy. This is partly the reason I joined the Classics Club, a book club dedicated to reading classics, and recently I’ve also found myself being interested in non-fiction books too.
I’ve read a few non-fiction titles before, but they’re almost exclusively biographies. I love biographies because I love learning about a person I admire. Before we move on, let me quickly recommend some of my favourites: Born a Crime: Tales from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (part biography, part historical novel), Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham, and I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai.
So then I thought, well, if I really like learning about a favourite person then I’d probably enjoy learning about a topic I’m interested in, and thus my non-fiction TBR was born.
Below is a list of non-fiction titles that I am 100% going to read. If you’ve read any of these titles, please let me know how much you loved them!
Eggshell Skull: A memoir about standing up, speaking out and fighting back by Bri Lee
Eggshell skull is a well-established legal doctrine that means a defendant must ‘take their victim as they find them’. If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skull, that victim’s weakness doesn’t reduce the seriousness of the crime.
Bri Lee wondered if it can work the other way: what if a defendant on trial for sexual crimes has to accept his ‘victim’ as she comes: a strong, determined woman who knows the legal system, and who will not back down until justice is done?
Bri worked as a judge’s associate for the Queensland District Court, and two years after her first day, she was back as the complainant in her own case. This memoir is Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system: first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, then as a judge’s associate, where she came to understand that justice works differently when it comes to women, and then finally in her own case, when she brings her rapist to court.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte
Sixty-six million years ago, the Earth’s most fearsome animals vanished, which remains one of the biggest mysteries to this day.
An American palaeontologist named Steve Brusatte follows the dinosaurs’ 200-million year story, bringing to life this lost world and illuminating new facts about the creatures, from the Tyrannosaurus rex, to the Brontosaurus.
Brusatte traces the evolution of the dinosaurs, to the golden age of these animals, to their eventual extinction, in the face of a new “sixth extinction” that we are currently experiencing today.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
On November 15, 1959, four members of the Clutter family were brutally murdered, shot in the face by a shotgun, in a small town in Kansas. There was no motive for the crime, and almost no clues.
Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial and eventual execution of the killers, in a suspenseful tone full of empathy. In Cold Blood is one of the classic true-crime novels, that delves into the nature of American violence.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colourblindness by Michelle Alexander
While Barack Obama may have become president of the United States, countless scores of young black men are locked behind bars across America. Jim Crow laws may no longer exist, but the effects are still being felt.
In The New Jim Crow, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that the racial caste, a la Jim Crow, has not ended, it has simply be redesigned, mainly through the targeting of black men for crimes and the decimation of communities of colour … even as the criminal justice system adheres to the “principle of colour blindness”.
The New Jim Crow explains that the challenges of the civil rights movement should place mass incarceration of black people — primarily men — at the forefront.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the most celebrated astrophysicists, dumbs down one of the most difficult topics in a witty, fun and easy-to-understand way.
What is space and time? How do humans fit within the universe? Where are we? What was the Big Bang? What are black holes and quantum mechanics? Is there life on other planets or are we really alone in the universe?
This book is for people who have always wanted the answers to those questions, but who don’t have the time to learn. So if you’re waiting for the bus, train, or a plane, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will alleviate your boredom.
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, writer David Grann set out to solve the greatest mystery of the 20th century: what happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the lost city of Z, somewhere in the Amazon.
In 1925, Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find this ancient civilisation, believed to be the location of the lost kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands have died looking for it, but Fawcett and his entire expedition vanished. Fawcett’s fate and the clues he left behind about the city of Z have inspired thousands to follow his obsession into the Amazon.
For decades, scientists and adventures alike have searched for Fawcett’s party and Z — many of whom have died. David Grann delves deeper into this mystery than anyone has gone before, revealing intriguing information about the mystery of Z and what happened to Fawcett’s expedition.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Stiff is a hilarious and compelling exploration of what happens to human bodies after death.
For thousands of years, cadavers have been used for science, medicine and just by weird people — some voluntarily, some against their will.
In this account, Mary Roach uncovers the good that cadavers have provided science, the bad, and what happens to our bodies once we don’t need them anymore.
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Cleopatra was the last ruler of Egypt. She was married twice, each time to a brother, and then fought brutal civil wars against one of them as teenagers. She poisoned the second brother, and murdered her ambitious sister.
She was in relationships with two of the most powerful men of the ancient word: Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, having children with both. With Antony, Cleopatra forged a new Egyptian empire.
But men throughout history have shaped our understanding of this woman, from Shakespeare to Shaw to Michelangelo. Through their representations, Cleopatra’s voice about her own life have been overshadowed, to the point where she is viewed as a villain, despite the fact that she was a beloved monarch.
In this book, Stacy Schiff rescues this ancient queen from fiction and restores fact to Cleopatra’s life story.
The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones
The first Plantagenet king inherited the throne from the Normans, leading his descendants to transform the kingdom of England into an empire, from Scotland to Jerusalem.
In this history book, Dan Jones vividly resurrects this royal dynasty from Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most famous women of the ancient world who was a queen twice; to her son Richard Lionheart, who fought in the Crusades; to King John, a tyrant who was forced to sign the Magna Carta.
Along with Robin Hood, the Knights Templar, the Black Death, the creation of Parliament, the Black Prince and the Hundred Year War, the Plantagenet dynasty shaped England, even more so than the Tudors.
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon
Although they were mother and daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley never knew one another, as Wollstonecraft died just days after giving birth to her daughter. Regardless, their lives with both closely intertwined.
Both women became famous writers; fell in love with difficult men; were single mothers who had children out of wedlock; lived in exile; and thought deeply about how women should live life. Wollstonecraft chased pirates in Scandinavia; Shelley faced bandits in Naples. Wollstonecraft sailed to Paris for the Revolution, Shelley eloped in a fishing boat with a married man. Wollstonecraft proclaimed that women’s liberty should matter to everyone, and Shelley founded science fiction.
Bringing together the stories of visionary women who should have known one another, Charlotte Gordon explores their feminist legacy in this biography.
Have you read any of these books? What non-fiction book do you recommend I try out? Let me know!