I’ve read more this year than I ever have. When times have turbulent or stressful or too much pressure, there has always been comfort in a book.
I’ve also spent my time since January craving to hear other people’s stories, which is why I’ve been reading non-fiction books. From those that are learning something life-changing, to amazing mental health campaigners and even those who have gone through the toughest of times and still felt able to share their experiences – there are plenty of inspiration people to learn from.
Here are my favourites that I’ve read this year.
Chase the Rainbow, Poorna Bell
I spoke with a friend recently who said that she likes to read the kind of book that teaches her something – otherwise, what’s the point? Poorna Bell’s Chase the Rainbow is my favourite book this year for this very reason.
Did you know that suicide is the leading cause of death in young men under the age of 45? I had no idea the issue was so huge until I read this book. An extraordinary story, it documents the love and life of Poorna and her husband, Rob, who killed himself in 2015. In many ways, it is a love story too. I found joy in the descriptions of their time together, the somewhat insignificant things that make a relationship what it is. It is funny and touching and extremely powerful – a must-read for anyone, male or female. Poorna is now a keen campaigner speaking openly about male suicide, and is releasing another book next year. Safe to say, it’ll be top of my to-read list.
Eat, drink, Run, Bryony Gordon
Having read both of Bryony’s wonderful books, The Wrong Knickers and Mad Girl, I was excited about the latest addition. I follow her avidly on Instagram, mainly because it is refreshing to see a size 18 body-positive woman who appears in her bra so often.
Besides being a great story about how a woman managed to run the London Marathon (when at her start point, she could barely run around a park), this story is about Bryony’s addictions too. A life-long drinker to excess, who also suffers with OCD, she has plenty of experiences to share – one of which involves even setting up a podcast with Prince Harry.
The Wild Other, Clover Stroud
Another firm favourite, The Wild Other is like no book I’ve ever read before. It focuses on Clover, who besides having a ‘wild’ life of her own, had to cope when a horrific riding accident left her mother permanently brain-damaged. Aside from the themes of grief and loss, there’s a lot of ‘finding yourself’ in the book too. Clover travels from gypsy camps in Ireland, to a rodeo in Texas and even to war-torn Russia, before settling in England and making the journey to look after her own children. It’s one hell of a journey – but definitely one worth reading about.
Everything I know about love, Dolly Alderton
Dolly Alderton has a way with words. She says herself:” I am always half in life, half in a fantastical version of it in my head.” It’s the pursue of something fantastical that makes Dolly’s writing so wonderful too. Despite the name, Everything I know about Love is mostly about her friendships – from the girls she went to school with, to her colleagues and flatmates. There’s also stories of break-ups and make-ups, one night stands and casual flings with unsuitable men. What’s not to love?
Leap in, Alexandra Hemingsley
I was first introduced to the writings of Alexandra Hemingsley (or Hemmo, as she is known) a few years ago, when I read Running like a Girl. It was one of the books that inspired me to lace up my trainers and embark on a 5k, so I was looking forward to reading Leap in. Although it didn’t make me want to immediately head to Brighton’s seafront, it made me have a new appreciation for learning a new skill. From Hemmo’s struggle to get into a wetsuit, to an amazing swim from Kefalonia to Ithaca – Leap in is an ideal book to read if you want to be inspired to feel brave.
Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig
A bestseller, Reasons to Stay Alive is the story of mental health campaigner Matt Haig, an author who suffered from depression in his twenties and at his lowest ebb, learnt to consider his own ‘reasons to stay alive’. Rather than a linear story, the book is made up of a number of small excerpts – all beautifully written. There are some wonderfully relatable quotes you’ll be able to remember too. This one is one of my favourites:
“Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.”
Calm, Fearne Cotton
I’m a huge fan of Fearne Cotton – ever since her days presenting on CBBC! She’s now turned her hand to writing books, of which the second is Calm. A follow-up to her book Happy, which was a great read, I was excited to see what this would look like. Like many, I’m keen to read anything that gives advice on how to live slower with less stress. With advice from experts, conversations with fascinating people in her life and even activities to try, Calm is a lovely book to have by your bedside. Fearne is also releasing Quiet in December, described as ‘learning to silence the brain chatter’ – something I think we can all get on board with!
What are your favourite non-fiction books?