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.
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.
I love Dave Grohl. There, I've said it. I HAD to read this book, but I didn't realise how much I'd adore it. How much I'd adore his way of writing, his lyrical prose, his honesty. I can almost hear him reading the words to me, and when he warns in the introduction that the memories can sometimes be loud: "Turn it up. Listen with me," I'm in...all in. In case you weren't aware, Dave is an American musician, a singer, director and songwriter. He was the drummer for Nirvana and he founded the Foo Fighters for whom he is the singer, guitarist and main songwriter. He has charisma in spades, is a great raconteur, in spite of the blaspheming! You don't have to know who he is to enjoy it, as it's a compelling story of heartbreak, humility, humour, warmth and wisdom. If you're a fan, you'll love him even more. His mother was an English teacher, his dad a speechwriter and although he jokes that he didn't pay attention at school, this self-penned book is a triumph. We journey with this kid from Springfield, Virginia, whose music is in his veins walking through life while living out the crazy dreams he had as a young musician. "I see the patches of white within my beard. And I am thankful for it." And so are we as we follow him on his journey of "road-worn beauty of individuality, time and wisdom." He used lockdown to pen this memoir, and boy are we glad he did. When his band were unable to tour, he began posting short stories from his career on Instagram and the response he received inspired him to produce this beautiful book. This is a great read, a bloody great read. Music lover or not.
For those of us at parenting age, with children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, we have a responsibility to guide and encourage them towards a future that is inspired and informed by values of fairness, inclusion, respect for all our fellow human beings and, of course, for the planet we call home. How to Raise a Global Citizen is written by and for parents and carers of children of all ages. In an exclusive LoveReading LitFest event, we are delighted that author Anna Davidson was joined by two of the seven contributors to the book; mother of three daughters and blogger Fariba Soetan, and father of two and founder of Dope Black CIC and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultancy BELOVD, Marvyn Harrison. For parents, grandparents or carers of the children who will go on to save the world, this is the book and the event for you. The LoveReading LitFest invited Anna Davidson, Fariba Soetan and Marvin Harrison to the festival to talk about How To Raise A Global Citizen. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.
For all those who are already fans of Roald’s Dahl’s awesome stories and for newcomers to them, this is a splendid introduction to some of the favourite characters and the most dramatic, hilarious, spinechilling and adventuresome stories that are his storytelling legacy. Following a brief account of Roald Dahl’s childhood and his famous writing shed, 15 of his top titles are cleverly explored through their main characters and the key features of the stories. There is James and his extraordinary crew from the awesome travelling peach in James and the Giant Peach; the delightful Charlie Bucket whose winning ticket takes him to Mr Wonka’s astonishing chocolate factory and a heap of adventures with some less lovely children including Veruca Salt and Augustus Gloop; the delightful Danny and his father and some fabulous pheasant poaching plots and the truly horrible Mr and Mrs Twit who have a whole book to themselves. The battle between Matilda and the awful Miss Trunchbull, the BFG’s encounter with the Queen and the utterly terrifying Witches – all of these and more are brought to life in these brief retellings which make clever use of letters, recipes and newspaper clippings. As in the originals, all are fabulously illustrated by Quentin Blake. The inclusion of an activity pack adds an interactive element to the book and enhances enjoyment of it.
Truly fascinating, this is one of the most surprising books I’ve read in a while. Seriously, I could rave on and on about it! Journey to what feels like an entirely different planet and explore the wonder of fungi. “Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live...Yet they live their lives largely hidden from view , and over 90% if their species remain undocumented.” Author Merlin Sheldrake caught and held my attention from the outset. I had to stop reading every so often just to contemplate the world that was opening up in front of me. I still feel gobsmacked days after reading it. Fungi has shaped our history and “the ability of fungi to digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil is being harnessed in breakthrough technologies, and the discovery that they connect plants in underground networks, the ‘wood wide web’, is transforming the way we understand ecosystems.” Entangled Life made me reconsider established thoughts and opened my eyes to new ones. I want to recommend it to everyone, for me it’s a genuine must-read and just had to be included on my list of Liz Picks of the Month and as a LoveReading Star Book.
Dedicated to the NHS and key workers for looking after us and keeping the nation going, enabling us to get back together, Oliver’s latest book and the 25th in his collection is a triumph of togetherness. Being together is precious and after all of our recent time apart, this book is a celebration of that and the joy of good food. Every chapter starts with a little menu card for each meal, for easy sharing with your diners. This is a stress-free step-by-step guide to entertaining, no matter what the occasion. From a laid back feast to a sunny gathering, cosy indulgence or celebration roast, this book has it all. And my favourite bit is the recipe methods which help you get super organised the day before your event, thus maximising your precious time with your guests. Every single recipe has a glorious full colour photograph and Oliver’s nutrition team has been busy with a whole nutrition section which features easy-to-read nutrition information on every dish. Mouth watering, I’m already popping get-togethers in the diary so I can test these recipes out. And recreate some of the stunning table settings and beautiful images peppering the book. And let’s not forget the cocktail section to help you enrich any gathering you throw. Coffee negroni, yum. Jammy margarita, yes please. I’m off to test a few out…
Meticulously and compellingly curated by his daughter, Amber Marks, Becoming Mr Nice presents a personal, kaleidoscopic visual compendium of Howard Marks’ life, from the Welsh Valleys, to the spires of Oxford, to life on the run, to court transcripts of his Old Bailey trial, and beyond. Through the likes of gig tickets, Oxford University paraphernalia, family photos, official documents, private letters, handwritten notes and Marks’ previously unpublished account of his fugitive years, this offers fresh, fascinating insights into the life of a truly fascinating - and funny - character. For example, Howard’s description of applying for the newly created position of UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office (Drugs Czar, in his words) is characteristically comic: "Realising that by legalising all drugs, I could fulfil the brief easily and quickly, I wrote to the Cabinet Office". Though his application (and qualifications for the post) were mightily impressive, he wasn’t shortlisted for interview, but the whole exchange is hilarious, and superbly presented. Related, Amber Marks’ background as a researcher and barrister is very much in evidence throughout - the book has been put together perfectly, and she and her father worked on preserving many of the artefacts featured in the book together during the final years of his life.
Instagram phenomenon @1bike1world Dean Nicholson reveals the full story of his life-changing friendship with rescue cat Nala and their inspiring adventures together on a bike journey around the world. When 30-year-old Dean Nicholson set off from Scotland to cycle around the world, his aim was to learn as much as he could about our troubled planet. But he hadn't bargained on the lessons he'd learn from his unlikely companion. Three months after leaving home, on a remote road in the mountains between Montenegro and Bosnia, he came across an abandoned kitten. Something about the piercing eyes and plaintive meowing of the bedraggled little cat proved irresistible. He couldn't leave her to her fate, so he put her on his bike and then, with the help of local vets, nursed her back to health. Soon on his travels with the cat he named Nala, they forged an unbreakable bond - both curious, independent, resilient and adventurous. The video of how they met has had 20 million views and their Instagram has grown to almost 750k followers - and still counting! Experiencing the kindness of strangers, visiting refugee camps, rescuing animals through Europe and Asia, Dean and Nala have already learned that the unexpected can be pretty amazing. Together with Garry Jenkins, writer with James Bowen of the bestselling A Street Cat Named Bob, Dean shares the extraordinary tale of his and Nala's inspiring and heart-warming adventure together.
The mountains of the Himalaya, prised up by tectonic plates, emerged from the ocean ahead of any other land mass on our planet and are therefore not only the highest, but also the oldest in the world. No wonder then that the human stories to subsequently be written upon this landscape should be so unique, so extraordinary and so often full of remarkable bravery and endeavour. Ed Douglas, the author of Himalaya: A Human History has entwined these stories together in what will surely come to be regarded as the definitive account of this region. It is certainly difficult to see how it might be improved. The book is dense, detailed and written with wit, wisdom and deep knowledge undoubtedly acquired to large extent through the author’s years editing the Alpine Journal. A mountaineer as well as an exceptional journalist, Douglas brings together tales of cultures, trading, adventures, myths, arts, religions.. but also sciences such as geology, genetics and botany, which all feature in the tapestry of the Himalaya. This writer has mastered the art of opening a chapter with a modern day scenario or incident - often outside Asia - only to skilfully escort you back through time in order to find its roots in the region. His eye for connectivity, for threading history, is what allows the reader to relate to such a distant and perhaps alien place that has nevertheless across the centuries embedded itself in all our minds on the strength of its majesty and mystery. At the centre of the Himalaya is of course Nepal, and above it the Tibetan plateau, which together separate China from India. This fragile geo-political position, combined with the challenges provided by altitude, are what makes the future of the area such a concern and the consequences of climate change will fall heavily here, and indeed already are. Himalaya: A Human History is an impressive work and an epic love letter to an unequalled place which deserves to feel the embrace of the whole world.
Thoughtfully, in fact beautifully handled, this is an absolutely fascinating look at the early life of Audrey Hepburn as she lived through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Ask me to name my favourite Movie Stars and Audrey Hepburn would appear. I have watched her films and read biographies detailing her life, she made a difference both with her art and her humanitarian work. This book takes you to the time before she became a movie star, a time that has previously been invented and misinterpreted in accounts. In Dutch Girl, the detailed historical explanation of the Second World War flows over and around Audrey, allowing you to see just why and how she became the woman so much admired around the world. The foreword by Audrey’s son Luca Dotti actually tells you everything you need to know about this biography, he thanks author Robert Matzen, calling the book a true gift. The preface tells you a little about the meticulous research carried out for Dutch Girl, Robert Matzen says that his investigation took many twists and turns and also provided surprising answers. He has located quotes from Audrey about the Second World War, has included new interviews, and used archives to form a detailed, compelling account. The photos are fascinating and act as a visual support to what is already a vivid biography. Entering this book enables you to touch history, to feel the effects of the war as it would have affected Audrey. If you’re just looking for glitz and glamour you most certainly won’t find it here. Dutch Girl is the most compassionate and wise book, it takes you beyond and behind the image of the Hollywood star, to what lay beneath.