This is a freebie week on TTT, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I’ve decided to use this as an opportunity to talk about some of my favourite non-fiction books; I have some very specific obsessions which crop up in my non-fiction reading, as you will see. On a side note, a couple of years ago, I was deeply offended when I mentioned my love of non-fiction to a friend and her response was, “oh, I might read non-fiction when I’m older.” She is 8 months younger than me.
Here’s my top ten:
10. Retromania by Simon Reynolds
Reynolds is the author of another music-related book which I really enjoyed – Rip It Up and Start Again – so I knew I’d like this investigation into retro culture. Reynolds takes his critical eye to diverse topics like the revival of vinyl as a format and the current trend for bands to reunite and play decades-old albums as a moneyspinner (on this subject, I do have to object; watching the Manic Street Preachers play Everything Must Go a couple of weeks ago was basically a religious experience for me).
9. Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson
This is a really technical history of football tactics; it sounds like quite a weird thing to read but it’s very enjoyable. Wilson is truly a font of knowledge; I was a fan of his from his contributions to the Guardian football podcast, and the book is punctuated with his signature dry humour as well as enthralling explanations of how the W-M formation went out of fashion.
8. Gig by Simon Armitage
In case you don’t know, Armitage is a poet and beloved heart-throb to female English teachers (and probably some male ones too). He’s extremely funny and affable, which comes across perfectly in this book about how he really wanted to be a rock star. There are some very funny anecdotes, some of which he talks about in his public appearances or which are mentioned in his poetry, like the bit about his dad’s reaction when Armitage got his ear pierced.
7. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
I know this isn’t a universally popular book, with some people taking issue with Dunham’s inclusion of certain incidents, but, as a whole, it’s an entertaining and relatable book. I’m a big fan of Dunham; I’ve always enjoyed Girls and felt that she and I would be best friends if we actually met and she wasn’t freaked out by how much I’d be shrieking.
6. I am Zlatan by Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Ibrahimovic’s autobiography reads exactly how you’d expect it to if you’ve ever seen him play; about 50% of it is about how brilliant he is and the rest is him slating Pep Guardiola or headbutting people. It’s gloriously entertaining.
5. The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing
This brilliant and really affecting book looks at high profile writers whose lives were affected by their alcoholism; Laing intersperses this with her own experiences of living with an alcoholic and her reflections on Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway are particularly fascinating.
4. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
I’ve read a lot of music memoirs, and this is the best by approximately 8 million miles; I raved about it for Fourth and Sycamore a few months ago. Brownstein, guitarist in Sleater-Kinney, is whip-smart and hilarious, with fascinating insights into the reality of life in the music industry, particularly as a woman in an all-female band.
3. Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett
I’m not sure how I ended up with an obsession with the Spanish Civil War, but it happened, and this book is one of the best I’ve read on the subject. Tremlett guides the reader through Spain’s major regions, detailing how they were impacted by the conflict and its aftermath, and it’s incredibly absorbing.
2. Psychotic Reactions and Carburettor Dung by Lester Bangs
Coming across the music journalism of Lester Bangs 15 years ago basically changed my life; I wrote about him for my masters dissertation, he inspired me to write about music (sadly, this did not help me achieve my dream of a job at the NME) and his writing introduced me to a whole load of amazing music. If I could resurrect one dead celebrity for a drink, it’d be him.
- Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
I blogged about this a few weeks ago after my most recent re-read; it’s one of my favourite books of any genre, let alone just non-fiction. Hornby’s account of his life as a football fan resonates very deeply with this obsessive nerd.
So that’s my Top Ten; honourable mentions must go to Louise Wener’s Different for Girls, anything Caitlin Moran has ever written and the journals of Sylvia Plath, all of which I have also enjoyed a lot. I’m planning on reading Kiese Laymon’s How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America this week, with some lovely literary biographies to come too, including Jonathan Bate’s biography of Ted Hughes and Romantic Outlaws, Charlotte Gordon’s biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley.