August Books List

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

This month, I took part in a Goodreads challenge to just read non-fiction for the whole of August.  The idea was to explore outside of your usual reading comfort zone and perhaps learn something new in the process too.  I really enjoyed it, though I had to sneak in one fiction book!  I think I'll definitely make more of an effort to try and read at least one non-fiction book a month now.


1. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach
A light and easy summer read following Alice Steinbach on her year of travelling alone.   In this book, she mainly talks about her visits to London, Paris, Oxford and Italy, commenting on the people she meets along the way and why she decided to take a year out from her busy life.  Well worth a read for her thoughts on Paris alone if you've ever fancied going.  [4/5]

2. Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Aleksievich
This has been one of the most emotional and harrowing books that I've ever read about the Chernobyl disaster.  It's a compilation of memoirs from survivors, their friends, and family etc, and some of the stories are just horrific.  But interwoven with the horror is a lot of hope, love and an unimaginable faith in humanity to pull through the very worst of times.  It's also very interesting from an environmental perspective too.  [4/5]

3. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell
Outliers is one of those non-fiction books that you can just pick up whenever and enjoy reading. Gladwell's writing style is laidback and accessible, and this whole book is full of interesting facts and stories about how people have become successful.

The first part of the book looks into the backgrounds of people such as Bill Gates and explains the circumstances and opportunities that they had, that got them to where they are today.  In this section Gladwell uses the simplest analogy to describe success:- The tallest tree in a forest comes from a hardy seed, but other factors like access to sunlight, not being eaten by animals or chopped down when young, help it to grow into the mighty tree that it is today.  So whilst successful people work really hard, there are certain doors that are opened to them which help them along their way, or they may simply have had the luck of being born in the right place at the right time.

The second part looks at cultural legacies and the importance of understanding them in relation to success.  For example, Gladwell explains that Asians are often better at maths than Westerners because they have a more logical counting system and so forth.  Certainly worth reading if you're interested in the sociology and history of success over the last century.  [5/5]


4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I snuck in a fiction book this month and decided to re-read The Bell Jar.  If you're already familiar with the works of Sylvia Plath then you'll know that her writing was very self-reflective on her ongoing struggles with depression and this novel was self-autobiographical.
The first time I read The Bell Jar I was about 16/17 and I remember it having such a profound effect on what I thought depression was and how I saw others perceiving it in different ways.  Re-reading it at 25 allows me to see it from a much different perspective and appreciate Plath's writing a lot more, and it always makes me sad that this was her only novel.  [4/5]


What have you been reading this month?  Do you read much non-fiction?
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20 comments

  1. Thanks for this post! I have just signed up to GoodReads and I am LOVING it!

    I suffered from depression in my teens and then again in my earliest twenties - I have been meaning to read The Bell Jar and I think I will pick it up after this review - It's on my to-read list. It's nice to see books featured on a beauty blog as reading is another passion of mine!

    Philippa Claire MacDuff x

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    1. It's supper addictive isn't it? Same here, I'm always on the lookout for new books to read and have found so many through beauty blogs!

      Definitely read The Bell Jar and let me know what you think Philippa :) x

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  2. This month I've been reading Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell and The Catcher in the Rye :) The latter of the two I really enjoyed!

    I am really interested in reading Bell Jar. Thanks for this post, it's great for us book worms ^.^

    xx Veronica

    http://frowardfashion.blogspot.com

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    1. I read both of those a few months ago :) The Bell Jar is definitely interesting :) xx

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  3. Ooh I've read Outliers, I really liked it! Love these book posts. I'd never heard of Goodreads before- but after looking I love it! Will sign up and hopefully find some new amazing books :)
    Daniella x

    http://daniella-r.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Have you read any of his other books? I think they're all in a similar style to Outliers so I'll see what the library has in :) Goodreads is great, you spend hours just browsing books! x

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  4. I read The Bell Jar years ago, I enjoyed it a lot but I thought it kind of drifted a bit in quality near the end. I didn't find the writing as taut and engaging as in the first half. But it's still a moving and beautifully written book overall. I'm interested in reading Outliers, it seems like it'd be an interesting and enjoyable book :)

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    1. I agree, it's one of the reasons I gave it 4/5 instead of a full 5/5 - the last part just seems to disengage itself from the rest of the book in a few ways. Outliers is great, I really enjoyed reading it :)

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  5. Really liking the sound of the Chernobyl book - events like this always seem to grab my attention as it's almost hard to believe they actually happened. I'm reading One Day at the moment but can't seem to get stuck in enough!

    Another non-fiction book I really recommend is Trafficked by Sophie Hayes - well worth a read!

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    1. Yeah it's really shocking, I've always been interested in the after effects of nuclear disasters and it's frightening how much of the seriousness is covered up by the mainstream media etc. Voices From Chernobyl gives a great insight into what really happened and how people were immediately affected by it, as well as problems that began to show decades after.

      I loved One Day but I'm a sucker for those kinds of books! Will check out Trafficked, I read something similar a while ago and it was pretty scary stuff.

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  6. Your description of The Bell Jar is pretty much exactly my sentiments too. I'd love to have read the novels she *might* have written!

    Adding the first two to my to-read list too. Lovely post :) x

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    1. I always hoped that someone might have found a missing Plath novel or something after she died, but sadly nothing's ever come to the surface. I would have loved to have read more novels by her!

      I hope you enjoy the first two if you pick them up, thanks so much for commenting Meg :) x

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  7. I love Sylvia Plath - one of my favourites is letters home. I fancy reading without reservations x

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    1. I loved Letters Home too - I haven't read it in years so I might go and see if I still have my copy somewhere :) Without Reservations is a lovely summer read, I really enjoyed it x

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  8. The Chernobyl book sounds really interesting x

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    1. It is, well worth worth checking out :) x

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  9. I love GoodReads, it's such a great way to keep track of what you've read and discover new things! I don't read too much non-fiction probably because it's nice to be able to get away from it all with fiction, but I'm definitely not opposed to reading a good non-fiction book. I've been trying to do the yearly book challenge and I set myself up to read 100 book this year of which I haven't even come close!

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    1. I love GoodReads for those reasons too, it's so addictive! I know what you mean about fiction vs non fiction in terms of escapism. There's always something quite wonderful about losing yourself in a different world and story :) Good luck with your challenge, there's still plenty of time left! x

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