Four Non-Fiction Books I’ve Read Recently

The Outrun Amy LiptrotShortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize earlier this year and winner of the Wainwright Prize, The Outrun by Amy Liptrot is a memoir about her descent into alcoholism and subsequent recovery after returning to her childhood home of Orkney at the age of thirty. There is a stark contrast between Liptrot’s hipster lifestyle in east London in her twenties where her addiction to alcohol led to relationship breakdowns, job losses and a driving conviction and the contemplative days spent observing corncrakes and living on the remote island of Papa Westray with a population of just seventy. Above all, it is a book which explores the meaning of connections, whether it is through people, places, drugs, wildlife or technology. Much like the excellent H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, it successfully brings together a moving narrative of trauma with nature appreciation and could be a contender for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction (formerly known as the Samuel Johnson Prize) ahead of the longlist announcement next month.

When Breath Becomes Air Paul KalanithiPaul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon in Massachusetts until his death in March 2015 from stage IV metastatic lung cancer at the age of thirty-seven. When Breath Becomes Air is a posthumously published memoir of his terminal cancer diagnosis and treatment during his last year of residency training at Stanford University with an afterword written by his wife Lucy. This short book combines the end-of-life care aspects addressed in Being Mortal by Atul Gawande with the neurosurgeon’s perspective as seen in Do No Harm by Henry Marsh and offers a rare view of a medical professional addressing his own mortality as a patient with both scientific reasoning and philosophical reflection. Kalanithi previously studied literature at university before turning to a career in medicine and his obvious gift for writing strikingly compassionate prose makes ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ a profound and moving book. Many thanks to Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for sending me a review copy via NetGalley.

Because We Are Bad Lily BaileyBecause We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought by Lily Bailey is an account of a young woman’s life with obsessive compulsive disorder. OCD is a complex and debilitating mental health condition and I very much hope this book will help correct some of the common misconceptions surrounding the illness. As Bailey’s experiences show, there is a lot more to OCD than constant hand-washing and checking the lights have been switched off as it is the compulsion aspect of OCD which causes such serious distress to sufferers. Bailey’s extreme anxiety developed during her childhood and teenage years and affected every aspect of her life with intrusive thoughts and exhausting repetitive lists and routines before she eventually started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Her account can sometimes be uncomfortable and harrowing to read and the intensity often made me feel quite powerless, but it is well worth taking the time to read ‘Because We Are Bad’ and gain a real understanding of what OCD actually entails. Many thanks to Martin Hickman at Canbury Press for sending me a review copy.

Duncan Campbell Crime Reporting We’ll All Be Murdered in Our Beds: The Shocking History of Crime Reporting in Britain by Duncan Campbell looks at how journalists have covered crime stories from public executions in the eighteenth century to the consequences of the recent phone hacking scandal and subsequent inquiry. As a former crime correspondent for the Guardian, Campbell draws on an incredible amount of knowledge and personal experience, offering a lot of insight into the relationship between the press and the police and how it has changed over the decades. What particularly struck me was how the ways in which crimes are reported can have such a huge impact on patterns of crime as well as the notoriety of some of the most infamous criminals in history. This definitive history has won plaudits from readers as diverse as drug smuggler Howard Marks, barrister Helena Kennedy QC and journalist Roy Greenslade and I would recommend it to anyone interested in journalism and true crime.

What have you been reading recently?

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21 Comments

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21 responses to “Four Non-Fiction Books I’ve Read Recently

  1. These all sound great! I’m glad you liked When Breath Becomes Air. I read this recently and was incredibly moved by it. I’ve just added Because We Are Bad to my TBR list – it sounds really interesting.

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  2. I have read some of these. Today I am reading A Splash of Words, Believing on Poetry by Mark Oakley. Mark is Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral London, his essays that follow each poem are a masterpiece. This is not all about Christianity, but a different look at poems and faith. I strongly recommend it.

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  3. When Breath Becomes Air sounds amazing!

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  4. I always promise myself a break from fiction, but never can find good nonfiction. Thanks for the suggestions – very helpful.

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  5. Hi Clare. Campbell’s title certainly caught my attention. Think I’d hunt for that. Thanks for sharing this selection!

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  6. I’ve heard a lot of high praise for When Breath Becomes Air and I’m hoping to get it someday. I have to be in a specific mood for memoirs, so whenever that strikes this will be the first one I pick up!

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  7. What a great list, they all sound fascinating, especially the last one, which I had never heard about until your post! (And my non-fiction tbr just became even longer:)

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  8. I have read the Macdonald and the Marsh and plan to read the Gawande, the others looks my kind of reading too, thanks.

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  9. I have just come across your blog. I simply adored The Outrun by Amy Liptrott and H is for Hawk was my favourite book of last year. I love your blog!

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  10. Hmm I haven’t read any of those. They seem interesting though! Great reviews (and blog)!

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  11. Pingback: My Books of the Year 2016 | A Little Blog of Books

  12. Pingback: The Wellcome Book Prize Longlist 2017 | A Little Blog of Books

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