Statement the first: I miss learning.

Statement the second: I have some great friends.

My fiancé recently went back to school. He’s one of the older students, and he was a bit out of practice when it came to test-taking and needing to study a few hours each night, but he fell into the routine very quickly. I would come home, unwind and then repeatedly peer over his shoulder to see what he was reading. I felt this itch that I just couldn’t scratch; a weird jealously bubbling.

I was jealous that he was learning. I had a sudden longing for my university days, full of long lists of required reading, late nights with several internet windows of academic articles open at once and mornings that would have been impossible without coffee. Granted, I hated those days when they were happening, and yet somehow, I now feel nostalgic for them.  I mentally went through my usual work day in my mind and realized that I don’t learn as much as I used to.

I immediately strode across our floor at work, to where my friend Andrew sits with his team.  Andrew has a very eclectic taste in books and will try nearly anything if it has a good enough recommendation backing it, but by far his true love is non fiction. I asked Andrew if he could put together a list of 10 non fiction books, but curated towards someone who is primarily a fiction lover. Not one to turn down a challenge, a stack of books appeared on my desk two days later accompanied by a printed list of why each one was recommended. The list featured a bunch of narrative non fiction, as well as subjects he knew I was interested in. Even a bonus graphic novel was added as I do quite love the comics.

Thanks to him, I now have a few months worth of fantastic learning material!  Andrew has a blog of his own, so go check out his extremely clever literary ponderings over at Tea in the Cloister. He posted about this list, so I am going to steal his text to describe his book choices. Enjoy!

Also, let me know about your relationship with non fiction!


(From Tea in the Cloister)

History | The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown | A misfit rowing crew takes on the Berlin Olympics in a book that is higher, faster, stronger.
History | The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King | My riskiest suggestion for her tastes, but a stunning, snarky voice that makes Canadian history interesting.
History | A Spy Among Friends by Ben MacIntyre | Captures deep friendship, brutal betrayals, and the English class system in a good old fashioned Cold War intrigue.
History | In The Kingdom Of Ice by Hampton Sides | The talk of the book office at the moment, an epic of comradeship, adventure, and Arctic survival.

Memoir | An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth by Chris Hadfield | Umm, it’s Chris Hadfield. Why haven’t you read it yet?
Memoir | Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston | An intimate self-portrait by a woman who had it all and lost it in a bottle. Because drinking isn’t just a guy problem.
Memoir | Buddy by Brian McGrory | Who wouldn’t want to read a story about a couple who fell in love, healed, and built a family around a pet rooster?

Cultural | Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo | Eye-opening reporting on globalization from the bottom of the world’s heap.
Cultural | Sex And The Citadel by Shereen El Feki | Want to understand how the Middle East is changing in the modern world? Then figure out their sex lives (still the best cover of 2013).

Science | How Mother Nature Is Trying To Kill You by Dan Riskin | An ewww-worthy book that uncovers the less nurturing side of Mother Nature.

And, as a bonus, because I know she likes the comic books| The Great War by Joe Sacco | A twenty-four foot graphic extravaganza.


14 thoughts on “A Non Fiction Prediction

  1. I love that you have a co-worker like this! And now you have a required reading list! Have you already read In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson??? He’s the master of narrative fiction and that book is amazing. I love non-fiction, mostly history, biography and pop culture kind of stuff but I seem to have hit a bit of a wall with my choices recently. I need an Andrew in my life!

    • I sadly haven’t read any Erik Larson, but I sincerely intend to! I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things. If I can recommend a recent non fiction read, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty is fascinating, but you have to have a very strong stomach lol.
      And it is really nice to have a friend/coworker who is as crazy about books as me lol.

  2. I recently picked up nonfiction again because I had that same itch to learn! I loved The Boys in the Boat and Behind the Beautiful Forevers, but could not, no matter how hard I tried, get into A Spy Among Friends. The litany of people named and the relationship between them was hard to follow and boring to me. I agree with Paperback Princess that Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts is superb!

    • I will definitely try Erik Larson in the future! Any other recommendations? I love trying new things and non fiction has really not been at the forefront of my reading ..well, ever lol.

      • I enjoy Jared Diamond’s works – more anthropological non-fiction works if you’re into that. Also, I read a lot of legal non-fiction and enjoy authors like Gilbert King and Jeffrey Toobin. But again, those are heavily law-based so you may not find them so interesting. :)

  3. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth was fantastic, I even wrote a paper on it in an English class I was in because I liked it so much. You’ll learn tons about what it takes to become an astronaut and what it’s like to be one. So, so good. I’d say even if you’re not that interested in space, it’s still a very interesting book for anyone to pick up.

    • I’m so glad you liked it! I got the book when it first came out and have been meaning to read it but haven’t yet. I will definitely push it up closer to the top of my list!

  4. I miss learning too! Sometimes I go to the coffee shop downtown where all the uni students hang out with my laptop or book so that I can feel like I’m still at school. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the Brock bookstore to just browse through the textbooks and novels on the English reading list. I know…I’m a huge nerd lol!

    I tried filling the hole that university left behind with non-fiction as well, and it did sort of work. I LOVED The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks! It’s a phenomenal work of non-fic that really opened my eyes to the world of science and medicine. The White Masai by Corrine Hoffman was really interesting too!

    I don’t read nearly as much non-fic as I would like though….and I feel like it doesn’t completely fulfill my need to learn because I miss discussing books/ideas with others. Maybe I should start a Nostalgic for University Book Club where we can have our own seminars lol!

    And WOW….I wrote a lot more then I meant to, so I’ll end this mini essay by saying that this was a great post…and you’ve motivated me to read more non-fiction! Also, kudos to your co-worker for a great list of suggestions! I’ve heard great things about all of the books he recommended!

    • That is such a neat idea! A Nostalgic book club. I am just like you though, I actually googled to see if one of my old favourite teachers from university had publicized her syllabus for this year. Sadly, my snooping retrieved nothing. I’d be super curious to see what books would be on the reading list for this book club!

    • Oh he will be so excited to hear that lol. He’s quite the reader, and of some pretty heavy stuff, so it’s neat to see someone who reads so much differently than myself give recommendations. I hope you enjoy his stuff!

  5. Your job and co-workers sound amazing. And I miss learning! I don’t really want a degree, but I would love to be a housewife with extra time and money on my hands so I could take a class here and there. I don’t get to read as much non-fic these days as I’d like, at least not the heavier science stuff that requires a lot of concentration but are usually really interesting. I’ve been relying on audiobooks for my non-fic fix and it kind of works, but I can’t really take notes or underline with an audiobook, so I feel like I forget half the things by the time I get around to writing a review. Grrr.

    But anyways, audiobooks might be a good option for you. And I’m currently listening to You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney, which is SUPER interesting.

    • Um, that book sounds amazing. I will have to look into that! And I randomly downloaded Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman in audio form from the library and am so happy. First time trying it out and in the cramped subway where normally I wouldn’t be able to read, I had this amazing woman reading TO me. It was fantastic!
      Your lists always seem to have a healthy dose of non fiction! I love seeing all your sciencey books and such on your monthly TBRs!

  6. That’s so great of your coworker to give you that list and recommendations! I may have to use it for some inspiration myself. I’ve just finished my master’s a few weeks ago and have been feeling like I need to read some non-fiction, because I’m not learning anymore. It’s ridiculous that it’s only been about 3 weeks and I’m already worrying about not learning anything, but that’s a good sign I’m hoping!
    I hope you enjoy delving into the non-fiction world!

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