Non-Fiction Round-Up

There are some books that, for a range of reasons, I read but just didn’t get around to reviewing in full this year. Because I’d like to start the new year without a pile of books I haven’t reviewed yet glaring at me I thought I’d do a couple of round-ups instead. Today it’s non-fiction, earlier in the week it was fiction.


The Lonely City – Olivia Laing

Laing examines the idea of being lonely in the busiest place on earth – the city, specifically in her case New York City. Part memoir, part mediation on art, Laing looks at a number of artists who’ve dealt with the theme of loneliness – in their work and often in their private lives too – focusing in on Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Henry Darger and David Wojnarowicz. The Lonely City is a fascinating exploration of what loneliness is; how we attempt to stave it off; why some people are consumed by it, and what its relationship to artistic creation might be.


The Pursuit of Happiness – Ruth Whippman

When her husband’s job takes her and their toddler to California, Ruth Whippman decided to take a look at the USA’s happiness industry. What does it consist of? Does it work? On a personal journey that takes in mindfulness, happiness gurus, a cultural project in Las Vegas, parenting, Mormons, Facebook and positive psychology, Whippman discovers what’s simply big business and what might actually be the key to feeling happy. Told from a cynical Brit’s point of view, this cynical Brit found it an interesting and engaging read.


Rain: Four Walks in English Weather – Melissa Harrison

Harrison explores the English countryside in the most British of weathers: the rain. Beginning in the waterlogged Fens before taking the reader through Shropshire and The Darent Valley to Dartmoor, Harrison combines historical fact with a glimpse of memoir and notes on the countryside, making you feel as though you’ve visited each place with her. Interesting enough from your armchair if you’re not a fan of walking in the rain; you can also amuse yourself with the 100 Words Concerning Rain contained in the back of the book and impress your friends with a range of dialectal terms.


Thanks to Canongate, Windmill Books and Faber and Faber for the review copies.

7 thoughts on “Non-Fiction Round-Up

  1. Olivia Laing’s book is wonderful, a lovely meditation on what it truly means to be lonely. One of my favourite books of the year. I’d like to read the Harrison book, but didn’t get around to it this year.

  2. Absolutely agree about the Laing, beautifully expressed yet raw, too. I’m looking forward to the Harrison. She writes so well about nature in her fiction and living in the wet west of England this one’s particularly appropriate for me.

  3. Pingback: Books of the Year 2016, Part One | The Writes of Woman

  4. I was reminded of The Lonely City last week when Marina included it in one of her round-up posts – and now your endorsement is another nudge for me to get to it soon. So glad to hear that you liked it, Naomi.

    • I think it’s the combination of city, loneliness and art that did it for me. There’s something fascinating about a glimpse into other people’s lives too, isn’t there?

  5. I loved The Pursuit of Happiness and The Lonely City; the latter is probably one of my books of the year. I think I definitely need to get hold of Harrison’s book too.

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