February 17, 2016

My Nonfiction Picks

Non fiction books are hard. They rarely feature dragons. Or queens that slay anyone who dares to cross their paths. For a long time, that’s why I stayed away from non-fiction because of this, and because I thought they were mostly all self-help books. No thank you, I don’t want to be told how to live my life. I’m still not entirely sold on them, but over the years, I’ve read some truly wonderful non-fiction books.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers explores what makes the outliers of this world the way they are. But rather than explore their dispositional attributes, the author explores situational factors in their life that led them to their success. I immensely enjoyed this book, mainly because the author very obviously strove an objective tone. Even though it’s quite long, it’s a fun, easy, thought-provoking read that definitely plan to re-read some time next year.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

If you read one nonfiction book on this list, choose this one. It’s the only nonfiction book that I’ve stayed up till 3 am to read, sobbing half the way as I did because ouch. The Last Lecture was developed based on the last lecture (“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”) that Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon delivered after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

It’s an expansion of the lecture, and contains anecdotes from Pausch’s life, lessons he’d learnt over the years, things that he wanted his children to know. His message is so simple, yet profound and potent. This book was both honest and sad. He doesn’t introduce any earth-shattering new ideas, but the way he phrased his message was very inspiring. To say that this book changed me is sort of an understatement.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

The book explores illusions, predictions and misconceptions that humans tend to make in their quest to make themselves happy. I was assigned this book for a social psychology paper I was required to write for university, and I had a blast reading it. I find psychology fascinating, and social psychology is a my favourite branch of the field.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

Remember what I said about non fiction books feeling slow? This book is anything but. For those who don’t know, Jenny Lawson goes by the name “The Bloggess” online, and runs the funniest blog I know (if you read anything by her, read this post. Metal chicken statue shenanigans happen). Her writing is simply a gift. I can’t make five people laugh to save my life, but she somehow manages to keep me in stitches chapter after chapter of her memoir. She’s wry and self deprecating and blunt, and her quick wit and relentless humour will make you want to keep reading and wonder why you can’t be this funny all at once. I’m currently reading this, and it’s flawless so far, but I’ve put this on hold so I can pick it up after I’m done with finals and give it all my attention.

What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

Randall Munroe is one of the five(ish) people on my need-to-meet list. He's this genius NASA scientist/webcomic artist, and runs a wonderful, scientifically accurately, witty, well illustrated blog that I devotedly read. He entertains the wild imaginations of his readers and answers questions like "If you had a printed version of the whole of (say, the English) Wikipedia, how many printers would you need in order to keep up with the changes made to the live version?", "What would it be like to navigate a rowboat through a lake of mercury". This one's my favourite.

The book contains some old favourites from the blog, some new questions that he's answered, and lists of old questions from his readers that he's too frightened to answer because they all end in big terrifying explosions.

It's awesome.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I recently read and reviewed it on Maji Bookshelf. Long story short, this book is amazing. I put this book off for so long, and I don't know why because becoming a tall, brown, Indian version of Amy Poehler is sort of my life goal. It has Amy’s divine wit and no-nonsense humour and some solid life advice and I read it all in one sitting. Plus there's Parks and Rec inside stories!

 On my TBR

Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues To How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude Steele

This is another book on psychology that explores everything to do with stereotypes-- how they are conceived, which types of social cues reinforce them, how this reinforcement is perceived by others, how it impairs or strengthens social behaviour, and how we can solve the problem of stereotype threat. I find stereotypes every interesting, and this is a field I want to know more about from a social angle. It isn’t very long, and was highly recommended by my professor, so I’ll be giving this a try soon.

We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story by Josh Sundquist

I actually didn’t know who Josh Sundquist was before this book came out, so my decision to read this is mainly based off the reviews of this book that I’ve seen so far. Goodreads tells me that this book is Sundquist’s quest to figure out all the things that went wrong as he tried to woo the girls that he liked. Using science. Dating fiascos dissected using science, guys.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

This is brought to you by my impulsive binge watch of The Mindy Project in the freaking middle of finals but I don’t even care because Mindy is ALL of us.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Making education easily and cheaply accessible to third world countries is my career goal, and Malala is the most important advocate for this that the world has seen in years. I’m a little apprehensive of this book because I’ve heard it being described as slow, but I want to see for myself.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers by Margaret C. Sullivan

I adore, adore, adore Jane Austen and her books and this book is too pretty not be bought and read and stroked, so.

I’m trying to branch out of just YA to adult and/or non-fiction, so if you have some recommendations for me, I’m all ears! Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?


  1. I absolutely loved "The Last Lecture". I don't read nonfiction but my friend gave it to me as a gift and I quite enjoyed it. Don't reading Whistling Vivaldi!!!! Literally the most boring and repetitive book ever. He literally just says the same things over and over again just different phrasing and applied to different case studies. Trust me, it is not worth the time.

  2. Oh my, I absolutely love this post! I'm so glad you shared this. It makes me want to go out, run to the non-fiction section of the bookstore, pile all these books into a trolley and buy them. I'm
    not a huge non-fiction reader either, but I love reading those books that tackle the human psychology and such. So interesting!

    1. I'm glad I succeeded, haha! I don't read non-fiction much either, but it's a nice change every once in a while :)

  3. Let's Pretend This Never Happened is one of my favorite nonfiction reads too!

    I lend this book out to friends and when I do, I attach little sticky notes to my favorite parts. It's rather wonderful getting a sticky noted book back in return. Always a new section to grin about!