My Must Read Non Fic

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I didn’t use to be a massive non fiction reader. When I was younger I struggled to read any non fiction book from cover to cover. Then I started including non fiction in my yearly goals to make sure I got my fill. But now- this year- for some reason I can’t explain, I’ve been devouring the non fiction. Maybe it’s cos I got into memoirs last year, maybe it’s cos I can’t seem to click with a lot of my usual favourites this year. Either way, I thought it might be good to recommend a few of the very best non fic books I’ve read over the years. Books that are *vital*, that will shake you to the core, that will mean a lot to any reader. Now, while this won’t be a favourites list, I will say that my interests in non fiction are pretty niche, so be prepared for an unusual selection. But I hope you get as much out of these as I did:

Big Magic– I want to begin on a positive and empowering note- so what better place to start than with something that will spark your creativity? Insightful and inspiring, this was such an uplifting read for me. And it might just give you a kick up the backside if you need it 😉

The Art of War– one of the most spectacular books I’ve ever read. This is full of ancient wisdom that still feels very relevant. And while the title might suggest it’ll only be of use to military generals, I’d strongly recommend this to anyone writing a book or just needs to understand people a bit better. The advice is surprisingly universal.

Man’s Search for Meaning– I’ve gone on about this book so often, I almost feel bad… but it’s such a good book!! It made a massive difference to my own outlook on life. Frankl may have been through hell, however, he used it to empower others to find meaning in suffering.

Twelve Years a Slave– a heartrending, true account, sometimes I just think it’s important to understand history and look evil in the eye. Speaking of which…

Evil– this is in part to understand how and why other people do evil things, but also to understand our own nature as humans. In my view, that is the only way to truly prevent evil in all its forms. When I first started looking into moral psychology, this book was recommended everywhere and for good reason. Not only is it a thorough exploration in its own right, it’s also got a very good bibliography that you can use as a springboard for further research.

Ordinary Men– this is a book I found because of Evil (and other recommendations). Even though I knew it would be tough, I also understood that I had to read it if I wanted to truly understand how ordinary men can do evil things. As important as it is to remember victims, I’d argue it’s more important to understand how the human heart can be twisted to do the unthinkable. Lest we are doomed to repeat it.

Wild Swans– I’m not just recommending this because it’s emotional and moving and interesting- though it is all those things. It goes beyond personal stories to be an account of a historical era that, while recent, seems to have been quickly forgotten. We ought to know more about it.

In Order to Live– I was blown away by this memoir. It was both an incredible and universal tale of human endurance, giving us just a peek behind the fences of North Korea. Hearing of how Park not only persevered and survived, but also thrived was such an inspiration to me. It was impressive beyond belief. Human endurance.

Gulag Archipelago– even if you just read volume 1, I think it is tremendously important to understand the full scope and tragedy of communism. This is the definitive explanation as to why it did not work and why it could never work. It also demonstrates how the same tragedy repeated itself across borders and how the experiment fails the same way every time. I also personally found the parallels with 1984 astounding- which, interestingly enough, the previous two recommendations also explicitly referred to.

Communist Manifesto– because of my last two recommendations, this may be a surprise. However, unsurprisingly, this is not an endorsement of communism. Far from it. I believe that an honest evaluation of this creed is necessary. I trust people to check it out for themselves (and come to your own conclusions about whether it’s a good idea to denigrate human endeavour, family and freedom).

On Liberty– whether you agree with this or not, I feel like it’s important to understand the founding principles of a lot of Western political systems. I think this is a great place to start.

Righteous Minds– given the gulf that exists between political classes right now, I’d say there’s never been a more important time to read this. Explaining why different people react differently to the same information and why people might have different political inclinations, I think this could be really useful for people looking to reach an understanding. In my view, this book can help people move towards productive conversations and see each other’s perspectives. I reckon we could all do with this in our lives.

Woke– and since we’re ending on a political note, then I must once again talk about THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK OF OUR TIME! This book will CHANGE YOUR WHOLE WAY OF THINKING! You will see what A GODDESS TITANIA MCGRATH IS! (okay, for the record, this is satire, don’t make the same mistake as that bookshop that took it too seriously 😉 but I do think it’s a must-read, because there’s no greater cure for all the *bonkers* in the world than a little bit of laughter!)

So, have you read any of these? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Have any MUST-READ books to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

24 thoughts on “My Must Read Non Fic

  1. I’ve had Big Magic on my tbr for a while, must move it up! To offer a recommendation in return, I’d have to say Burnout by Emily Nagoski, about dealing with stress but also made me feel like I could be a better feminist and human being.

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  2. I don’t often read non-fiction but lately I have been feeling the itch. I think I’d like books you like because I enjoy reading about the research and insight into morality, human character, life philosophy, and psychology. And I definitely agree with you that you need to read about what you disagree with because there is nothing wrong with conversations when we are conversing about content and meaning and not labels.

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  3. So, the not-massive-non-fiction reader has read some of the most important non-fiction books. Certainly, Gulag and Man’s Search for meaning describe the value of life in the most desolate of circumstances. I’d also suggest 2 books by Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America – good reading for anyone concerned with the state of the world.

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  4. Wow! The next book I actually picked up to read was Man’s Search For Meaning, and I’m taking it as a sign seeing it here on your list! You listed so many great recommendations here that they are all going on my TBR list, definitely. I need to read more non-fiction, it’s always healthy to keep a balance and varied reading list. You learn so much from reading across genres, and one of the most important is, of course, non fiction! 😀 The Art of War I’ve owned for years but haven’t gotten around to reading. So thank you for reminding me about it 😀 I’m going to pick that up soon too!! ❤

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  5. Outstanding list! Have you read Fascisim by Madeline Albright? Well done, [says the aging political science major who was an adult when Regan said “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!”) Woke! What Joke! lol Let the Meghan Markles of the world have their tantrums.

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  6. I haven’t read any of these, but I can definitely see the appeal of a couple of them. I probably should read more non-fiction, but the ones that hit home with me were Quiet by Susan Cain and Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I think those two have been my standard answers for non-fiction questions for years now haha

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  7. Love love love these recs!! I’m totally with you on the Communist Manifesto; I love the way you particularly phrased that parenthetical phrase 😉 Woke stays hilarious :’) Ordinary Men sounds great. It reminds me of a passage in a nonfic I read last year, The Gestapo: A History of Horror. In it, the author chillingly describes the seemingly innocuous physical appearance of some of those men, as well as the fact that most of those men’s physiognomy reflected the “imprint of the inner forces which animate it.”

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