My posts during April form part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I will be writing to a theme: book genres, largely taken from the comprehensive Goodreads list.
Firstly, let me be clear. Fiction is my real love, virtually regardless of genre. But my bookshelves absolutely heave with non-fiction. The majority of these non-fiction books are what I call professional reads and they encompass varying schools of psychology, counselling and life coaching. In between, they cover subjects such as cultural or gender differences, boundaries, body language, therapeutic journalling, LGBT issues and PTSD just to name a few. Some have been hard reads, others have been so well-written that it's hard to consider them study.
When I completed my training, I fell like a starving man back into the huge pile of unread fiction which had been building up. If anyone suggested anything other, I was quick to turn them away. But last year, my book club selected a non-fiction read. It was the hugely useful and inspirational read by Atul Gawande "Being Mortal". It proved to be amongst the 'less than you can count on one hand' selection that was voted an all round winner. Not a light or fluffy read, but thought-provoking, educational and personal. Gawande's book is about living the best end of life that was possible. Not about death with dignity, rather about living those years which preceed death, with dignity. With the population's average age increasing decade upon decade, this will become more relevant to us all - firstly for our own elderly loved ones and lastly for ourselves. If you are an ostrich, you are - even now - turning the metaphorical page on this post, despite being exactly the person who needs its kind words and gentle advice. Because when ostriches put off making necessary decisions, they may find that life can run faster than a person can keep up with and so end up making decisions which are rushed, hurried and harried, without the full range of options available to them. The questions we learn to ask in Gawande's book would help us to plan for the worst, as well as the best and so has become the book I recommend most.
"Blame my Brain: the amazing Teenage Brain Revealed" by Nicola Morgan was a Secret Santa gift. That book club again, it proved that my fascination with all things neurological and psychological are well known! Because the author is not a trained scientist, psychologist or neuroscientist - but is a writer with a keen interest - it makes a complex subject accessible. Addressed to teenagers, there is a lack of overly complex language. As an adult, I didn't feel 'talked down to', rather that there had been an active choice made in the selection of vocabulary - similar to the process when speaking to someone who can speak your language, but isn't fluent. What was revealed is that there are differences in brains during the teenage years. After massive growth from birth through childhood, the brain starts to prune and tidy up during the critical teenage period, in preparation for the adult years. Imagine all that slashing 'n burning - or re-filing if we're going to be less dramatic - it can only cause confusion when you're having to coninue using that system whilst all the changes are happening. That's the basic story, but Morgan covers many other areas such as suseptibility to addiction, depression, risk taking, sleep and the gender differential (due to certain areas of the brain developing at different rates between male and female teenagers). Her book has been written following discussion with experts and bears a recommendation from no less an authority than Simon Baron-Cohen, expert in Aspergers and the Autism spectrum. It's only 200 pages, so well worth a quick read - either for you or your teenager - especially as Morgan's expressed desire is that teenages shouldn't just "blame their brains", but work with the knowledge in her book to develop and grow.
My non-fiction TBR list is ever increasing and include Henry Marsh's "Do No Harm", "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston and "The Emperor of all Maladies" by Siddhartha Mukherjee, spanning surgery, the recent ebola outbreak and cancer. But there's always room for more recommendations from you.
Do you enjoy or avoid non-fiction? What might draw you to read more?