A Year of Non-Fiction (June 2016 – June 2017)

Last month, I completed a year of reading solely non-fiction, from June 2016 to June 2017. I did so because fiction had taken over my shelf and my mind. I had convinced myself that I will not be able to enjoy non-fiction. I barely gave it a shot, even though I have been reading all kinds of books for so many years.

Building a habit is always difficult, but it isn’t impossible. I first thought I would read a non-fiction book every month, but I have the tendency to forget things I don’t like doing. I decided to cut my supply of fiction for an entire year, if I was to give reading non-fiction a real shot. There was no one to monitor me, but I, and I have a strong conscience. I promised to stay honest to myself, as I was reading for no one, but me.

In total, I read 25 books, which I think is a beautiful number, and quite satisfying, in fact. The list of books is as follows, in the same order as I read them:

  1. To Sir With Love (E.R. Braithwaite)
  2. My Family and Other Animals (Gerald Durrell)
  3. The Know-It-All (A. J. Jacobs)
  4. White Mughals (William Dalrymple)
  5. Travels with Myself and Another: A Memoir (Martha Gellhorn)
  6. Butter Chicken in Ludhiana (Pankaj Mishra)
  7. Miles to Run Before I Sleep (Sumedha Mahajan)
  8. Papillon (Henri Charriere)
  9. Childhood Interrupted (Kathleen O’Malley)
  10. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  11. ‘Tis (Frank McCourt)
  12. The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch)
  13. Dream New Dreams (Jai Pausch)
  14. Tuesdays With Morrie (Mitch Albom)
  15. Go Kiss the World (Subroto Bagchi)
  16. The Frog Princess (Angie Beasley)
  17. The Boy With No Shoes (William Horwood)
  18. Sun After Dark (Pico Iyer)
  19. The Human Age (Diane Ackerman)
  20. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People (Jack Canfield)
  21. Julie and Julia (Julie Powell )
  22. Nine Lives (William Dalrymple)
  23. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (Amy Schumer)
  24. How to Be A Bawse (Lilly Singh)
  25. The Man Within My Head (Pico Iyer)

I never made a list of books to read; I simply browsed the library shelves and went along with recommendations people made or borrowed books off their shelves. In this way, I was able to experiment with a lot of subjects and began appreciating non-fiction like never before.

Out of the 25, there are six books that made it to my favourites, in no particular order:

  1. Tuesdays With Morrie (Mitch Albom)

I had to stop myself from underlining everything that Morrie had to say and I will definitely be re-reading this in the years to come. I found this book at a book fair and had never heard of it. I was drawn to it; it was tattered and yellowing, but when I took off its jacket, the book itself was in mint condition. A true treasure!

  1. The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch)

Someone had recommended this book to me a few years ago and I never got around to reading it. I am glad I finally read it and I find myself recommending this to anyone who says they like to read. It is one of the best books I have ever read in my life.

  1. White Mughals (William Dalrymple)

I fell in love with the Introduction to this book, which we studied in college. Receiving this book as a present was unreal and it was among the first few books in my year of non-fiction. It was a dive into historical narrative, and it worth every second. William Dalrymple is one of my favourite authors now!

  1. Julie and Julia (Julie Powell )

I can say that I like cooking a lot, but I don’t cook too often. When I do cook, I pretend I am chef. Who doesn’t? I have watched ‘Julie&Julia’ countless times and I almost forgot it was based on a book, till I came across this among the recipe books in the library. I need to get myself a copy of this book to be a part of my ever-growing shelf. Her project resonated with my reading project and surprisingly made a lot of sense when I drew parallels.

  1. Nine Lives (William Dalrymple)

I see Dalrymple’s books now, and I grab them. I don’t wait a second to read the blurbs either. His writing invites you into the story and makes you think all the way through. I found myself pondering over the characters and their stories for days after I finished reading this one.

  1. The Boy With No Shoes (William Horwood)

I don’t find myself being haunted by too many books, but this was one of them. The intensity of the story and the shades in the character and his life were so beautifully conveyed by Horwood. He managed to capture a lifetime in a single book and I still find myself thinking of how he managed to do so, seamlessly.

These books are my favourites because they changed me in little ways – I now can make my way through history without trying to pull my hair out, I appreciate all that I have more than ever, I keep in mind that everyone has their own story and that assumptions don’t help anyone or any situation.

Reading non-fiction was so rewarding due to the assurance that the stories and anecdotes were from real life, that all kinds of problems have solutions and that the most seemingly ordinary people and ideas hold the power to change the world. Fiction has always been an escape of sorts, but non-fiction opened the door to reality, all kinds of them. My project has ended, but the habit is here to stay. I now look for stories that inspire me or teach me something, whether they are real or purely imaginative.


A Year of Non-Fiction (2016-17) Nandika's Notes : On Reading & Writing Series :

DreamingAtMyDesk View All →

Reader. Learner. Dreamer.
I am all about the little things in life!

5 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Great post! I look forward to reading “The Last Lecture” and “White Mughals” – the recommendations are now overwhelming! As for the introduction to the latter, I presume you mean you studied that at UG?


  2. Hi! Decided to check out your site and love your lists! I am a huge fan of nonfiction and read many of the same ones on your list. In one of the most random things that has ever happened in my life, I tutored Frank McCourt’s granddaughter when I lived in New York City as a teacher. I love his books!

    Here are a few that you may also enjoy:

    “The Invisible Thread” <– so so so good!
    “The Last Black Unicorn”
    “Born a Crime”
    “Black Privilege”
    “American Kingpin”
    “Tao of Bill Murray”
    “The Year of Less”
    “The Real West”

    Liked by 1 person

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