Whilst I am still in easy reading mode, a girl needs to have a plan for when her brain gets back from vacation. In the months to come I’ll be making a concerted effort with my writing, and it struck me that I’ve never systematically read through the sort of non-fiction that I like and would like to be producing. And so I’ve been making a list of books to read attentively between now and the spring. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
Joan Didion – Live and Learn
This is a collection of Didion’s essays. I’ve heard so much about her – and so much of it good – that she is the main essayist I’d like to study. Not many women get away with writing about politics, but Didion seems to.
Justine Picardie – My Mother’s Wedding Dress; The Life and Afterlife of Clothes
Such an interesting topic, under the banner of ‘Things and What They Mean’. I love the way this topic combines both private and cultural history.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History
As I have often complained here, I struggle with biography but refuse to give up the fight. I like the way this book combines the stories of both famous and obscure women and mixes history with gender politics.
Candia McWilliam – What To Look For In Winter; A Memoir of Blindness
This should be a very stylish and poignant memoir – with a happy ending as McWilliam undergoes innovative surgery to get her sight back.
Robert MacFarlane – The Wild Places
This man seems to be the literary non-fiction star of the moment with his new book, The Old Ways. I’m starting on a previous release, but one that still exemplifies MacFarlane’s particular combination of nature, history and personal experience.
Carola Hicks – The King’s Glass
An art historian tells the stories of the stained glass windows in King’s College Chapel. I think good art history is hard to find, so I am interested to see Hick’s narrative strategies.
Deborah Davis – Gilded; How Newport Became America’s Richest Resort
I read Davis’s book on Truman Capote’s black and white ball and loved it. She’s very good at giving scandal a glossy veneer and making it seem like serious reading material.
Jackie Kay – Red Dust Road
This memoir received very good reviews a couple of years ago. Plus I do like it when poets write prose.
Gordon Turnbull – Trauma
A behind the scenes look at the way that doctors help the victims of post traumatic stress disorder, in the aftermath of events like 9/11, the London bombings, the Gulf wars and political hostage situations. Right up my street.
Brian Dillon – Tormented Hope; Nine Hypochondriac Lives
You’ll see from the side bar that I’d begun this last week and it was really excellent. But it’s not quite the book for now, so I’m holding off reading it for a little while. But the hypochondriacs under discussion – including Charlotte Bronte, Florence Nightingale and Andy Warhol – made for a fascinating list.
If you know of any other really good literary non-fiction books, do let me know. I’m more than happy to extend the list!