At the moment, we are all trying to navigate our way around a strange, new world, looking for guidance and inspiration as we do so. Can historians, scientists, philosophers and memoirists, past and present, offer us some help and reassurance? Mandy Kirkby, Folio’s Non-Fiction Publisher, certainly thinks so, and lists her favourite non-fiction books to turn to for the situation we now find ourselves in.
The Diversity of Life by Edward O. Wilson
The environment worldwide benefited from lockdown, and nature came into its own. Edward O. Wilson’s important and classic book
will remind you why we mustn’t forget what a difference it made when we stopped damaging the planet.
Selected Poems of William Wordsworth
If you want to hold on to your newfound appreciation of the the natural world for just a while longer, then Wordsworth is your man
Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do by Studs Terkel
The pandemic has reshaped our understanding of work and has shown us all too clearly why we should appreciate the supermarket cashier and delivery driver. Learn what American cashiers and drivers felt about their work in the 1970s in Terkel’s timeless and fascinating chronicle
. Plus ça change…
The Greatest Benefit To Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present by Roy Porter
We are all aware of the debt we owe – and will continue to owe – to the medical profession. It’s a centuries’ old story of sacrifice and dedication
, and Porter tells it magnificently.
The Gastronomical Me by M. F. K. Fisher
If you’re still dreaming of a foreign holiday and its highlight – the visit to a luscious and enticing food market – then Mary Fisher’s sparkling account
of her lifelong love affair with the food of France should sustain you until the dream finally becomes a reality.
The Mask of Command by John Keegan
What makes a great leader in a crisis and in its aftermath? John Keegan’s masterly study
of four military commanders provides illuminating insights into the nature of leadership.
South Polar Times
Another time, another place, far far away. This complete collection of the magazines
of Captain Scott’s Discovery
and Terra Nova
Antarctic expeditions, written and illustrated by the crew, including Shackleton, is utterly transporting.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Lessons to be learnt. Anne Frank spent more than two years hidden in an Amsterdam attic
during the German occupation. ‘I don’t think about all the misery but about the beauty that remains.’
Essays by Michel de Montaigne
How would the great thinker and essayist
have coped with the pandemic? He’d weathered many outbreaks of the plague in 16th-century France and would have offered us advice on ‘how to live when life itself comes under attack’. And on the easing of lockdown, he’d be sorry it was all over: ‘The wise person will flee the crowd, endure it if necessary, but given the choice, choose solitude.’
Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years by Jared Diamond
Take a step back and put it all in perspective
Is there a non-fiction book that you would recommend?