History, science, psychology, biography, cooking – what’s your favourite kind of non-fiction? Whatever it is, we’ve got a bumper crop for you in Shiny 5.
I suspect almost everyone likes reading about reading, and we’ve got two books on that subject, both of which started as projects. Ann Morgan’s Reading the World was an ambitious plan to read a book from every nation in the Olympics, and Andy Miller’s The Year of Reading Dangerously set out to cover every major work he hadn’t read and took seven years to complete.
History’s always popular, and the three history books on the list could hardly be more different. Criminal justice in America is surveyed in Just Mercy, Five Came Back looks at Hollywood directors in and after World War Two, and The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio is the extraordinary story of a scandal that rocked the Vatican in the late nineteenth century.
Victorian Fairy Tales by Michael Newton does what it says on the box, providing a fascinating range of little known stories and discussing their history, while Science in Wonderland looks at the way writers in the nineteenth century used fairy stories to illuminate scientific knowledge.
Science pops up again in a book I rather hope I’ll never need to consult: The Knowledge contains detailed and fascinating instructions on how to survive a post-disaster scenario. Maths meets history meets memoir in Birth of a Theorem: Annabel, who reviewed this, assures us that ‘equations can be sexy!’
For those interested in psychology, Reasons to Stay Alive provides a moving account of surviving depression, while Creatures of a Day is a series of fascinating case histories by a celebrated psychotherapist.
Then there are two autobiographers with very different perspectives: Leaving Before the Rains Come is a family memoir covering the breakdown of a twenty-year marriage, while Portrait Inside My Head explores its author’s life in the form of essays. For a cosier sort of biography, A Curious Friendship looks at the relationship between the writer Edith Olivier (aged 51) and the painter Rex Whistler (aged 19).
Finally, if all this is making you hungry, take a look at A Bird in the Hand, a recipe book all about ways of cooking chicken. Yum.
Harriet, Non-Fiction Editor, Shiny New Books