Friday, 5 August 2022

THE "NOT A NOVEL" BOOKLIST. compiled by Penny Dolan

Hello! This year, during the Scattered Authors Society’s retreat at Charney Manor, one session focused on the pleasure and power of non-fiction, especially during a time when personal research, travel and contact with the real world had felt restricted.

People talked about titles, old, recent or new, that had offered them new or wider information, inspired fresh thoughts & ideas and/or helped that individual reader to “fill the well” in some way. There were  plenty of nods of recognition, murmurs of future intent and the tapping of titles into phones.

Here, today, on Awfully Big Blog Adventure, I’m sharing those suggested titles. Hope that you find something that’s of interest to you.


Ghostland – In Search of A Haunted Country by Edward Parnell. A reading memoir about his/our fascination with ghost stories.

A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Daily Life from the Stone Age to the Phone Age by Greg Jenner. Popular historian & tv history presenter. (TC)


Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Josser by Nell Stroud. Finding a new life in the circus after a family tragedy with links to Gifford’s Circus. (KL)


The Seabirds Cry by Adam Nicholson. About the life of wild birds and migration.

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Ertes. (Ethnologist) About unlocking the power of wild women through myths & fairytales.

Storyland: A New Mythology of Britain by Amy Jeffs. Beautiful black and white engravings. (CH)


The Book Of Trespass by Nick Hayes. In each chapter, he trespasses on a piece of land that has been enclosed or restricted. About freedom & ownership of the land. Beautiful b&w drawings.(JW)


Time Song: Searching For Doggerland by Julia Blackburn. An imaginative portrayal of the long-lost lands between Britain’s eastern coast and Europe, now submerged by the sea. Initially inspired by strange, fossilised treasures the poet collected while beachcombing in Suffolk.

Travellers in The Third Reich by Julia Boyd. First-hand accounts of cultural travellers witnessing the rise of the Nazi state in Germany and Europe. (SP)


Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink. Part autobiography, part about favourite books

The Last Act of Love: The Story of My Brother and His Sister by Cathy Rentzenbrik: Memoir about the impact her brother’s life-changing accident had on him, her and her family’s life. (LB)


Tove Jansson, Work and Life by Tuala Karjalainen. Excellent biography of this artist & writer.

Madame De Stael by Maria Fairweather. Biography and a great history of Napoleonic Europe. (ER) 



Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape; by Cal Flyn.

Lyrical exploration of plants and wildlife. (Collins 2021) (AR)


Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo: brief memoir from Native American US Poet Laureate.

How to Write Poetry by Ted Hughes. Brief and beautiful. Taken from BBC schools radio talks on the creative process.

Feel the Force and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Classic self-help book on not allowing anxiety to limit your life. (JA)


The Real Anthony Fauci; Bill Gates, Big Pharma and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health. By Robert F Kennedy Jnr. The development of the health industry.

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl. A memoir of a musician’s life.

Islander: A Journey Around our Archipelago by Patrick Barkham. The experience of life, past and present, on small islands around the British Isles. (TE)


Markievicz: A Most Outrageous Rebel. Biography of Constance Markievicz by Lindie Naughton. A headstrong, amazing women who worked for the rights of women and the independence of the Irish nation. The book also illustrates the complexity of Irish politics & cost to 20C women’s lives.

The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St Clair, The development and uses of different traditional threads such as linen, silk, wool and cotton, plus chapters on fabrics used for polar exploration, space travel, extreme sports and more. (PD)


And finally, a real oddity:

Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours by P. Syme : described as “the book Charles Darwin used to describe colours in nature on his HMS Beagle voyage” Facsimile published by the Natural History Museum, London. Originally published at a time when mineralogists, plant-hunters, illustrators and scientists needed to check & communicate the colours of their samples and discoveries especially after long journeys.

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions, thoughts and ideas.

Would you add any titles to this list?

Penny Dolan



Paul May said...

A big thumbs-up for Searching for Doggerland. I picked it up in a local Oxfam shop last year and it led me to read all of Julia Blackburn's other books. They are all brilliant!

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks, Paul! Another book - a novel - has a similar title ("Doggerland") so I'm glad you can re-inforce the recommendation for the book listed here.

Oxfam bookshops are the most brilliant places for discovering odd and interesting titles. There's one in Wanstead, London, that I call in almost every time I'm in the area. Too tempting, really.