Looking to find out something more about the world we live in, instead of gallivanting off into the realm of fiction? Have a look at our hand-picked non-fiction choices.
An ancestry test suggesting she shared some DNA with the Sami people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic tundra, tapped into Laura Galloway's wanderlust; an affair with a Sami reindeer herder ultimately led her to leave New York for the tiny town of Kautokeino, Norway. When her new boyfriend left her unexpectedly after six months, it would have been easy, and perhaps prudent, to return home. But she stayed for six years. Dálvi is the story of Laura's time in a reindeer-herding village in the Arctic, forging a solitary existence as she struggled to learn the language and make her way in a remote community for which there were no guidebooks or manuals for how to fit in. Her time in the North opened her to a new world. And it brought something else as well: reconciliation and peace with the traumatic events that had previously defined her - the sudden death of her mother when she was three, a difficult childhood and her lifelong search for connection and a sense of home. Both a heart-rending memoir and a love letter to the singular landscape of the region, Dálvi explores with great warmth and humility what it means to truly belong.
There is a piece of cod-wisdom regularly dispensed to single women: romance will arrive when you least expect it. I had assumed it would also make its own travel arrangements too. Emma John is in her 40s; she is neither married, nor partnered, with child or planning to be. In her hilarious and unflinching memoir, Self Contained, she asks why the world only views a woman as complete when she is no longer a single figure and addresses what it means to be alone when everyone else isn't. In her book, she captures what it is to be single in your forties, from sharing a twin room with someone you've never met on a group holiday (because the couples have all the doubles with ensuite) to coming to the realisation that maybe your singleness isn't a temporary arrangement, that maybe you aren't pre-married at all, and in fact you are self-contained. The book is an exploration of being lifelong single and what happens if you don't meet the right person, don't settle down with the wrong person and realise the biggest commitment is to yourself.
Fascinating and utterly bewitching, if you love fairy tales, in fact stories of any kind, then this is the book for you. Nicholas Jubber examines the history of the fairy tellers, those who started the fairy tales that have twisted and reformed and are still alive today. I have to say that this book is so ‘right up my street’ that it’s parked on double yellows, thrown its doors open and invited everyone to gather round and listen, so of course we declare it a LoveReading Star Book. The book itself is completely engaging, from the choice of cover to the accompanying map, and chart detailing the legacies of the story tellers, through to the explanations and decisions taken over the content. Nicholas Jubber has with great love and attention chosen a core selection of tellers, highlighting the oral culture that dwells in their past: “Their collective life stories trace the development of the fairy tale from oral community tales to the mass production lines of the modern children’s literature industry”. Nicholas Jubber himself is a teller and with vibrant, vivid eloquence explains the background to our much beloved tales. I recognised iconic and less well known writers and stories, travelled to far flung places and through time, and ended up thinking about fairy tales in a completely different way. The author advises that: “These are precious stories, beautiful stories, carved out of terrible suffering in some cases, and in others moulded from moments of ecstatic joy”. So, don’t begin expecting a happily ever after, like the traditional stories this comes with bite, but there is also joy waiting to be discovered. I highly recommend stepping into The Fairy Tellers and spending quality time within the pages as it’s an absolute beast of a beautiful read.
Save time, save money, save the planet and boost your health - in short, that’s exactly what Becky Alexander’s inspiring, practical - and stylish - The Green Lunch Box can help you do. Featuring sixty easy-to-follow, plant-based lunch recipes, these dishes are quick to make without compromising on taste. In fact, fulsome flavours are at the fore here, with the recipes focussed on converting leftovers into tasty lunchtime meals. Opening with an introduction that suggests simple ways you can “save your planet on your lunch break” (such as how to shop smarter and stock-up wisely using locally sourced products, and batch cooking), the book covers recipes for delicious salads, soups, sandwich fillings and snacks that’ll transform your lunch from functional to flavoursome in a few easy steps. If that wasn’t enough, the book is a thing of beauty in itself, thanks to Sally Caulwell’s elegant illustrations.
A statement piece gift for lovers of fashion and the world of celebrity styling, Vanity Project tells the rags-to-glad-rags story of Dave Thomas, an erstwhile unemployed plumber whose hard graft and flair for styling saw him take the fashion world by storm. Featuring over 300 iconic photographs of notables from many fields across three decades - models, musicians, actors, sportspeople - this huge book celebrates the work of a pioneering stylist while also paying homage to the Prince’s Trust grant that enabled Thomas to get his stylish foot in the door, with 10% of the cover price being donated to the Trust, and a foreword by Prince Charles. The book also features original contributions from some of the celebrities Thomas has worked with over the years - Lionel Ritchie, Anna Friel, Boy George, and the Spice Girls, to name but a few - plus fascinating press cuttings, and intriguing insights into the impact of styling.
Love him or loathe him, you cannot help but be sucked into the shenanigans at Clarkson's Diddly Squat Farm. An unlikely farmer, in June 2021 Clarkson's TV series Clarkson's Farm, documenting an intense, tough but funny year at his farm in the Cotswolds, debuted on Amazon Prime Video. If you read the Sunday Times, you will have already read this book as the content first appeared in his column. If not, grab your wellies and join new eco-warrior Clarkson on his voyage of discovery through the farming calendar, in the year he decided to actually do something on the sprawling thousand acre farm he bought in 2008 as he learns to become a farmer. The repetition from the columns are a little frustrating but nevertheless it's a funny book with lots of take outs. Following his attempts to become the potato king of Chipping Norton, we see the brutal reality of full-on vegetable farming, his attempt at doing a "Morgan Freeman" with bees and how the farming lifestyle becomes part of him, despite it paying him forty pence a day.
Relating the remarkable stories of 100 extraordinary women of colour, Maliha Abidi’s Rise is an inspirational, informative showstopper of an anthology. Global in scope and engagingly lively in style, it’s a powerful and beautifully curated testament to trailblazing women of colour from all walks of life, from all fields of endeavour (literature, science, engineering, business, banking, mathematics, politics, law, medicine, human rights activism, sport, art, music, dance), from all corners of the world. What a glorious gift this is to treasure - and draw inspiration from - for a lifetime. Featuring women from over 40 countries, these are pioneers who’ve risen above multiple challenges to have huge impact on the world, whether in the public eye, or behind the scenes. While the book includes seminal icons who are household names (among them Beyonce, Frida Kahlo, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Rosa Parks and Serena Williams), Rise also highlights lesser-known names whose work has had huge impact on our world. Like the women themselves, Maliha Abidi’s writing style is engaging and keenly focussed, and her striking portraits of each innovator are an exuberant, life-filled joy.
An absolute wow of a book which offers and encourages new thoughts and feelings. I follow Stephen Ellcock on social media, he collates images and celebrates the beautiful, different, weird and wonderful and I often stop, pause, and ponder as I scroll. His first book All Good Things, was totally gorgeous, and a LoveReading Star Book. In The Book of Change Stephen states: “I am continually driven by an overwhelming, gnawing frustration at the injustices of the world and an intense desire for something better”. He goes on to explain that this book is a response to his lifelong feeling of alienation and dislocation, and the current situation we find ourselves in 2021. His introduction sings of his wish for justice, equality, and peace for all. He looks into the past, observes the present, and reaches out to the future, to information, mass media, and power, and he addresses the issues that are plaguing our planet. He offers seven sections, starting with Source, and ending with Hope, and boy, did the images contained within evoke my emotions. I found myself being drawn into each one, sometimes caught by the obvious, sometimes looking past and through into the hidden, the darkness, the suggestive heart. At times I felt uncomfortable, I was definitely challenged, and was left feeling that this book had taken on a life of its own within my thoughts and feelings. The Book of Change, so darkly beautiful and provocative, has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
Infused with an infectious, unadulterated, no-guilt passion for the sweet stuff, Ravneet Gill’s Sugar, I Love You is ideal for anyone who wants to take their baking to the next level. What’s more, it’s easy-to-follow, with Gill’s demystifying, straight-talking, witty approach as central to the book as her love of sugar. It also bursts with photos that are every bit as vibrant as the recipes (and their author, for that matter). Covering Biscuits, Cakes, Cheesecakes, Sweet Doughs, Fried Delights, Entrements, Ice creams and Plated Desserts, each chapter of Sugar, I Love You is threaded with a fabulous international outlook, with mouth-watering recipes for the likes of Japanese cheesecake, Danish Brunsviger cake, and ricotta bombolini served alongside inventive twists on British classics, including Devonshire splits and a self-saucing toffee apple pudding. This is the kind of cookbook that will invigorate and inspire even the most seasoned of bakers.
This fascinating and engaging read will satisfy the reading curiosity of anyone who has an interest in witchcraft, pagan paths, or those who miss nature in their stressful daily lives. Nature journalist Jennifer Lane charts a year in her life after realising that she needed to step outside of the anxiety of her office based environment. I travelled with Jennifer as she looked back to her past and began to reconnect with her love for nature and witchcraft. I joined her in festivals and rituals, various courses including Shamanism and Astrology, and on her walks in our natural environment. This is a gentle and thoughtful introduction to Witchcraft and Paganism, a group of contemporary religions based around a reverence for nature. Jennifer describes her beliefs as: “balance, harmony, and living seasonally”. In the 2011 census, over 56 thousand people identified as pagan, however it is likely that numbers are far higher, as due to other people’s misunderstanding or falsification of the religion, it can remain a hidden part of their lives. The Wheel is a thought-provoking and interesting glimpse into Jennifer’s love for nature and witchcraft.
Shifting from shocking confessions, to relatable emotions and experiences, Eleanor Tattersfield’s Lockdown Secrets is an ingenious concept of a book that will make an entertaining and elegant gift. It all began back in the dark days of a long COVID lockdown, when designer Eleanor Tattersfield heard a podcast about a 1980s answering machine confession line, leading her to “wonder what might happen if people had a similar opportunity at this strangest of times to document their own lockdown confessions.” Somewhat fortuitously, later that day, Eleanor found a box of unused postcards from the 1930s - “It felt like fate. I rushed upstairs, set up the type LOCKDOWN SECRETS and the shop’s address, and printed away.” Following an Instagram shout-out - “I'll send you a postcard, you send me a secret” - replies flooded in, a selection of which are reproduced in this gorgeous book. Many of the cards are resplendent with illustrations, elaborate typography, clever collages, and intriguing handwriting, and all of them capture the shared experience of lockdown in all its complex strangeness. Indeed, the author noted a number of recurring themes - “food fetishes, masturbation, loneliness, breaking the rules, sex, love and, surprisingly, the love of lockdown.” Honest and enlightening, what an extraordinarily unique document of such extraordinary times this book is.
When Bernardine Evaristo won the Booker prize in 2019, aged 60, for her eighth novel Girl, Woman, Other, she made history. After 40 years in creative industries, everything changed as she became the first black woman to win the prize in the fifty years since its inception. This memoir is a page-turning, intimate and brave account of her life. Convinced that fame and success would come, this autobiographical story of her unstoppable journey towards her many accolades is an inspiration as she shares her life stages from her birth in Eltham in 1959 through her upbringing and cultural background, her influences and inspirations. One of 8 children of a fearsome Nigerian father and white English mother, we learn about her bi-racial childhood, early experiences of racism and the challenges of growing up as a mixed race woman which ultimately set Evaristo on the path of rebellion and freedom. The chapters take us through her heritage as an independent middle child in an inter-racial family in a predominantly white area. Through her years as a nomadic Londoner living out of bin bags. Through the men and women who came and went, all culminating in her finding her soulmate. We see her creative journey from theatre-maker, writer of poetry to fiction and her becoming the award-winning writer she is today. The book concludes with her Manifesto. We see the potential, the possibilities, the rewards if you are brave enough, her refusal to conform and her passion for fighting for what she believes in. Although in her conclusion she concedes that these days instead of throwing stones at the fortress she sits inside its chambers having polite, persuasive persistent conversations about how best to transform outmoded infrastructures. She is formidable in every sense and I warmed to her and am inspired by her. She tells us of her addiction to the adventure of storytelling and I am in awe of that storytelling. Manifesto is about life, love, courage, community, creativity, activism and optimism. And I for one could not get enough of it. I’ll be pressing this book into the hands of people for years and imploring them to read it and everything she writes. We need more Evaristos in this world, that’s for sure. It’s a powerful manifesto from a trailblazer and a reminder that there is a manifesto in all of us.