Now more than ever, books can help to offer some much-needed escapism. That said, I know a lot of people will struggle to process or lose themselves in fiction given how overwhelmed they feel by everything that’s going on around us. On the whole, I find nonfiction easier to ingest and to dip in and out of as and when I feel I have the mental capacity to read. It’s also nice to remind ourselves sometimes that not every aspect of real life is a dumpster fire. And so, here are some nonfiction recommendations that I hope will offer some distraction and joy in these uncertain times – or any time, for that matter.
Where possible, I’ve linked to each title on Book Depository, in case anything piques your interest. As always, I encourage you all to share your own recommendations in return!
The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell
If you’re reading this post, chances are you already love all things bookish, so what better than a book that celebrates all sorts of weird and wonderful bookshops from around the world? This really is a love letter to bookshops as safe spaces, and the booksellers who work hard to cultivate and protect that environment, no matter the obstacles they may face.
Written by her mother, this book is about a young girl with severe autism, who was almost entirely uncommunicative until the family took in a very special cat named Thula. The extraordinary bond between the two, coupled with Iris’s remarkable flair for art, sees her begin to blossom in ways her family could never have imagined.
Wisdom from a Humble Jellyfish by Rani Shah
This book is essentially a series of reminders that animals always put their own safety and wellbeing first, and how humans could learn a thing or two from that ethos. Granted, a few of the self-care tips are somewhat tenuously linked to our animal counterparts, but you’ll pick up lots of interesting facts about nature, and perhaps come away from the book resolved to be a little kinder to yourself.
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
I’ve never known anyone with a knack for finding humour in even the darkest of times quite like Carrie Fisher. Though she never shies away from the struggles she endured, particularly with bipolar and addiction, there is such a sense of warmth and wisdom to her stories – not to mention razor sharp wit and genius wordplay – that you feel like you’re putting the world to rights with a friend. No matter how bad things get, we still need a good laugh. As Carrie put it herself, “If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”
Flying the Nest by Hannah Dale
Look, maybe there are times right now when you feel like your brain capacity won’t allow for much beyond looking at adorable portraits of baby animals. I hear you, and I’ve got you covered with this delight of a book. I love Hannah Dale’s art, and don’t worry, there’s a little bit of information about each species featured alongside the portraits, so you are still technically reading.
Gifted by anonymous
Subtitled “The Tale of 10 Mysterious Book Sculptures Gifted to the City of Words and Ideas”, this is about the fascinating project that saw an anonymous female artist leave 10 striking art pieces created from old books in arts venues across Edinburgh. Each was accompanied by a note that explained why that venue had been chosen, with the project essentially serving as an extended and very public celebration of her wish to appreciate and protect art and culture. With many such venues about to face very difficult times, this is a sentiment I’m sure most of us here could heartily get behind.
Literary Witches by Taisia Kitaiskaia & Katy Horan
Suggesting that the power of good storytelling, and the ability to conjure worlds and emotions, is a kind of magic in and of itself, this book celebrates some of the most ground-breaking and inspiring female writers from throughout history. It’s fantastically diverse, with a great mix of literary giants and virtually unknown writers from across the globe being featured. Each receives a short, evocative vignette that offers a poetic snapshot of a key aspect of their life or work, as well as a more traditional biographical note, and recommendations from their oeuvre. The big selling point, however, is Horan’s artwork, with each writer represented in a stunning portrait that cleverly draws on iconography from their body of work. It’s a glorious celebration of female writers, and an excellent means of picking up some new recommended reads!
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida (translated by K.A. Yoshida & David Mitchell)
Structured largely like a Q&A, this was written by a sensitive, intelligent, and assured 13-year-old Japanese boy who wished to dispel myths about life with autism. It has its poignant moments, absolutely, but it does wonders to break down barriers, and remind us all to be kind and patient with one another; a message that arguably feels timelier than ever.
Have you read any of these? What feel-good nonfiction would you recommend?