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.