Since November is designated for the Non-Fiction Reading Challenge, I thought I would talk about my favourite non-fiction genres and my experience of reading non-fiction books. The only non-fiction genre which I love but will not cover below is medicine/cognitive science. It will be the topic of my next post and I also previously covered it in this list here.
Some of my favourite non-fiction books fall into the categories of history and travel (culture exploration). Be it dinosaurs (The Rise & Fall of the Dinosaurs), the Middle Ages (A Distant Mirror) or stories of survival in hostile terrains (Miracle in the Andes), I find all these topics completely fascinating. My previous favourite reads also included books on Mexico, New Orleans, New York and Rome. Though some I enjoyed more than others (for example, I did not get along with Peter Mayne’s Marrakesh book nor with Kurlansky’s Havana), I am always keeping my eyes open for interesting books in these categories. Thus, I am currently looking forward to reading A History of the Bible by John Barton, The Ghost: A Cultural History by Susan Owens, The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia, and Medieval Civilisation 400-1500 by Jacques Le Goff, an author that was recommended to me by Ola G.
I also read philosophy non-fiction, including books on religion, esoteric philosophy and Buddhism (The Way of Zen). In particular, I enjoy thought-provoking books on existentialism which have been my favourite for a long time, including the writings of Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus/The Fastidious Assassins) and Søren Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling). Some other philosophers that I want to read in future are Spinoza, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. Moreover, I have books by William James and Bertrand Russell on my TBR.
Since my background is law, I have read many books (excluding textbooks) on this topic over the years, be it on political/legal/philosophical theories and morality or on individual judges and famous legal cases. That will be books by Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Emile Durkheim. My favourite books within this topic are the ones that trace the development of the common law over the centuries and also those that present famous cases in the law of tort. Books on human rights and civil liberties can also be very engaging and interesting. I particularly recommend Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas that talks about William Wilberforce and his fight to abolish British slave trade. Other related books that I have on my TBR are Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium (apparently Belgium has one of the most “relaxed” laws on assisted suicide and one can request to be “put to death” for “constant and unbearable psychological suffering”), and Deadly Medicines & Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, which I saw reviewed by Juan Gómez-Pintado on his blog.
I never previously considered myself to be a big reader of biographies or memoirs, but this is slowly changing for me and I notice that I become more and more drawn to biographies and autobiographies. For example, this year I enjoyed a biography of Fred Rogers and also Eric Lomax’s memoir. Since I am a movie buff and have a different blog on WordPress dedicated to all things film, I really want to read more biographies or memories of famous directors, actors or actresses. Recently, this blog introduced me to an autobiography of Irish actor Gabriel Byrne (Walking with Ghosts), which I am now eager to pick up, and other related books on my TBR list include books on Andrei Tarkovsky, Akira Kurosawa and Jean Renoir.
One non-fiction genre which I am interested in but cannot find “good” books to read is space/galaxies’ exploration and generally books on stars, planets and our universe. I am fascinated by this topic, but whenever I pick up books in this genre, I become quickly bored with either too much unnecessary detail inside or with the repetition (authors often recycle what others have already said). Other books in this genre also tend to try overly hard to appeal to an everyday reader and employ too conversational a tone, including having inside too many clichés and pop culture references, as, arguably, do books by American physicist/futurist Michio Kaku. In the past, I did enjoy books by Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time/The Theory of Everything) on this topic, and was also impressed by the book If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens…Where is Everybody? by Stephen Webb. All this means that if you do have any suggestions or recommendations for me on good “space exploration” books, I would love to hear them! (and many thanks in advance!).
Honourable mentions: true crime has always been one of my favourite non-fiction genres to read, but given recent stressful events around the world, I now try to stay away from these books…at least for now and in the foreseeable future (so as not to overburden myself psychologically). Once in awhile I also enjoy books on cooking, especially those that focus on cuisines from Latin America or Japan. For other non-fiction books that I wholeheartedly recommend see my list here.
Do you read non-fiction? Will your participate in this year’s Non-Fiction Reading Challenge? What is your favourite non-fiction genre to read, and do you find yourself drawn to some non-fiction genres and not to others? Finally, do you have a favourite non-fiction book?