5 Non-Fiction Books I’ve Recently Added to My TBR

The Experimental Fire: Inventing English Alchemy, 1300-1700 [2020] by Jennifer M. Rampling

Alchemy is the art of manipulating life, and consciousness in matter, to help it
evolve, or to solve problems of inner disharmonies
“. Jean Dubuis

I had discovered, early in my researches, that [alchemists’] doctrine was no mere chemical fantasy, but a philosophy they applied to the world, to the elements, and to man himself”. William Butler Yeats, Rosa Alchemica

Alchemy, an ancient, mysterious practice of transmuting base metals and finding the Elixir of Life, is a fascinating subject to read about, and I previously talked about alchemy in art. This new book traces the history of alchemy in England from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, illuminating “the role of alchemical reading and experimental practice in the broader context of national and scientific history“. The great thing abut this book is that Jennifer Rampling uses “new manuscript sources” to support her arguments, and emphasises “how English alchemy was continually [reinventing itself] over the space of four centuries, resulting in changes to the science...”

Heavy Light: A Journey Through Madness, Mania and Healing [2021] by Horatio Clare

If you follow my blog for some time you know that I love books on the history of mental illness or mental diseases in general, especially as they are discussed in a biological or philosophical context. Heavy Light is an autobiographical book about the nature of living with a mental illness (manic depression), and the experience of being sanctioned under the Mental Health Act in the UK. Our narrator is Horatio Clare, and this eye-opening book unveils the hardship of living with a mind so troubled and misunderstood by society. The Scotsman says that this is “a sincere book” whose “linguistic skill [is] exemplary“.

Lone Survivors: How We Came To Be The Only Humans on Earth [2011] by Chris Stringer

In this book, Chris Stringer talks about “a new theory of humanity’s origin”, putting to question his own previous theory that humans emerged in one small part of Africa and spread to replace other humans in other continents. Now Professor Stringer maintains that, taking into account the newest archaeological and genetic evidence, “distinct humans may have coexisted and competed across the African continent“. This promises to be a very thought-provoking book from the world-renowned paleoanthropologist.

The Last Whalers: Three Years in the Far Pacific with a Courageous Tribe and a Vanishing Way of Life [2019] by Doug Bock Clark

This non-fiction book is about the Lamalerans, a tribe of some 1.500 hunter-gatherers who live on a volcanic island in the Savu Sea, Indonesia. They primarily hunt whales to live and survived on this activity for a millennium. They also employ very rudimentary tools for this purpose, including bamboo harpoons. While I am horrified at the mere thought of reading about the killing of whales, I am also interested in travel and anthropology, and would like to know more about a way of life so different and distant from ours. While most critics praise this book, other reviewers note that the author infers too much from the scant information given to him, especially into the thoughts of the Lamalerans. Publisher Little Brown reports that The Last Whalers is “a riveting, powerful chronicle of the collision between one of the planet’s dwindling indigenous peoples and the irresistible enticements and upheavals of a rapidly transforming world”.

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India [2016] by Shashi Tharoor

I spotted this book on Share My Library – Non-Fiction Books. Shashi Tharoor is an Indian politician, and in his book Inglorious Empire he talks about the history of the British in India, telling about “how Britain’s rise was built upon its plunder of India“, covering the period from the eighteen century to 1947. It promises to be an illuminating book and has good reviews. For example, The Irish Times wrote that “Shashi Tharoor’s angry history of British rule in India is a timely response to empire nostalgia“, and The Guardian said that Inglorious Empire was “[a] timely book that addresses the need to temper British imperial nostalgia with post-colonial responsibility“.


6 thoughts on “5 Non-Fiction Books I’ve Recently Added to My TBR

  1. Wonderful books, Diana! I’ve heard of Shashi Tharoor’s book but the others are all new to me. Happy reading! Will look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

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