For the longest time, I was strictly a fiction reader. I don’t know if non-fiction just reminded me too much of studying or school but either way, I wouldn’t pick up a book unless it was a figment of some author’s imagination. Though in the last couple of years, I have begun to find comfort in the truth of others. Reading beautiful memoirs and autobiographies before progressing into reading and examining the sometimes difficult realities around us. As I open myself up to learn more about the experiences of others, I thought I’d share some of my favourite books I’ve come across. These are my four favourite non-fiction books I’ve read.
And Away – Bob Mortimer
“It was right up my street even though I’d never walked its pavements before.”
In early 2020, I discovered a wonderful little thread on Twitter about The Train Guy. ‘Videos calls’ in busy train carriages to Carl about product pitches and THEE Jeff Linton. After the initial sign-off “have a campachoochoo on me and you are, as always, an adult heron” I was hooked.
I’ve always had a vague awareness of who Bob Mortimer was, after all, ‘Vic and Bob’ are household names in the UK with comedy careers spanning decades. However, for the first time, he was fully on my radar. I spent my time in lockdown 2.0 by consuming Bob Mortimer highlight reels on YouTube and in hysterics during his escapades on Would I Lie to You and Taskmaster.
For many long-standing Mortimer fans, his autobiography ‘And Away’ will have been longly awaited. And for newer fans like myself, I was just eager to learn more about the man behind the tales.
Fans of the hit BBC show ‘Would I Lie to You?’ will know that Mortimer can tell some tall tales (doing his own dentistry springs to mind) but bizarrely, they’re more often than not true! And Away is a reflective and surprisingly moving memoir that shares Bob’s life stories from boyhood until the present day. I found this autobiography laugh out loud funny and surprisingly, a little poignant.
Whilst a great read, it’s an even better listen with the man, Bob Mortimer himself, narrating.
Native: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire – Akala
I’ve already gushed about Akala’s book in my ‘Favourite Books I Read in 2020‘ post but I’m here to gush again. He is someone I deeply admire – so knowledgeable, cool, calm and collected. It’s impossible not to be engrossed when he speaks.
Unsurprisingly – in Natives – Akala produces level-headed and succinct arguments whilst framing them against his own experiences and history as a whole. Whilst trying to educate myself on black history, I found this book to be particularly educational as it addresses the British and colonial landscape. Here I am once again stating that Natives should be on every school’s curriculum. Not only could it potentially broaden the viewpoints of those at an influential age but I found that there are plenty of reference points which I wasn’t familiar with which allowed for some independent research.
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper – Hallie Rubenhold
The Five is an unofficial biography of the five victims of Jack the Ripper. With this biography, Hallie Rubenhold has masterfully and sensitively shared stories of great importance. The stories of the victims. The women that, despite being the reason for his despicable infamy, were written off as prostitutes and forgotten by history.
I don’t believe I can stress enough what a fantastic job Rubenhold has done in giving these five women a voice. She writes a more accurate and nuanced account of their lives than they may ever have received.
The Five is a book that I didn’t know I needed to read but one I am so glad I did. This book made me desperately angry and sad in equal measures, as I think of how men and the patriarchy failed these women and countless more like them. Whilst the ripper is the true evil, the evil and hardship they endured at the hands of their husbands, the police and society at the time cannot go unnoted.
The Honey Bus – Meredith May
One of my earlier reviews on The Ashmosphere, The Honey Bus has stuck with me over the last few years. As an award-winning journalist, it’s not a wonder that Meredith May can write but the lyrical prose of her writing utterly charmed and captivated me. May’s memoir of her tumultuous childhood and the healing powers found within her grandfather’s beehives reignited my childhood fascination with bees. Reading this memoir will begin you on the start of your bee conservation journey.
Read my full review of The Honey Bus here.
And there you have my four favourite non-fiction books. Are any of these on your list? I have to say, whilst I never saw myself as a non-fiction reader, I am enjoying the variety of what I’m reading and the differing points of view. What is your favourite non-fiction book you can recommend?
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Until next time,