Fact of the Week #5

This week The Guardian published their list of the 100 greatest non-fiction books of all time. Three of these were grouped into the literature topic – The Lives of the Poets by Samuel Johnson, An Image of Africa by Chinua Achebe and The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim.

A good fact about Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, No Longer At Ease and A Man of the People, is that when he started at university in Nigeria he was admitted as a Major Scholar to study medicine, only to change subjects after a year to English, history and theology. Who knows, maybe if it had not been for this change of heart the world may never have been treated to Achebe’s brilliant literature.

The book featured in the list, An Image of Africa, attacks Joseph Conrad for his depiction of the African as an unruly savage in Heart of Darkness.

Other books to make it on to the Guardian’s list include Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking and The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer.

But what are YOUR favourite non-fiction books? Everyone loves talking about their favourite novels/poems/short stories, but how often do you sit down and think about your favourite piece of non-fiction?

6 thoughts on “Fact of the Week #5”

  1. Hi Dave,

    Despite what I said to you yesterday – I have now changed my selection to The Lonely Sea and the Sky by Sir Francis Chichester.

    It is the amazing story of his attempt to fly long distance from England to Australia and his later world record breaking sailing around the world.

    The book takes its title from the poem Sea Fever by John Masefield.

    I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
    And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
    And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
    And a gray mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

    I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
    Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
    And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
    And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

    I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
    To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
    And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
    And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

  2. Mine is ‘Waterlog’ by Roger Deakin. Roger goes on a swimming journey around Britain – in canals, lidos, lakes, ponds, estuaries and the sea. Its a really interesting mix of facts about Britain, nature and the history of swimming, and his experience in the moment of swimming. Very amusing when he describes gliding down a river through pond weed and startling people on the bank – who then try to act as if its an everyday occurrence. Love it! Makes you want to swim anywhere and everywhere!

  3. My two favourites are ‘If This Is a Man’ by Primo Levi and ‘The Diary of a Left-Handed Birdwatcher’ by Leonard Nathan both excellent reads in very different ways.

  4. Jonathan Bate’s biography of Claire
    Peter Ackroyd on Dickens
    Pater Ackroyd on Thomas More
    DH Lawrence Fantasia of the Unconscious
    Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism
    Homi K Bhabha, The Location of Culture

    (BTW, much as I admire Achebe, especially his poetry like ‘Vultures’, he is incredibly dismissive of the brilliant Conrad, IMO, and he has his detractors on the view that Conrad was a ‘racist’, as he says in the book cited. It’s worth taking a look at some of those who have opposed him, too, just for balance.)

  5. Jonathan Bate’s biography of John Clare
    Peter Ackroyd on Dickens
    Pater Ackroyd on Thomas More
    DH Lawrence Fantasia of the Unconscious
    Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism
    Homi K Bhabha, The Location of Culture

    (BTW, much as I admire Achebe, especially his poetry like ‘Vultures’, he is incredibly dismissive of the brilliant Conrad, IMO, and he has his detractors on the view that Conrad was a ‘racist’, as he says in the book cited. It’s worth taking a look at some of those who have opposed him, too, just for balance.)

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