I’ve loved books even before I could read them myself and that love has only grown throughout my life. I used to go to the library every Saturday with my family while I was growing up. While I mostly read fiction when I was younger, in college I discovered a love for non-fiction books as well. Now that I’m a college graduate, I’ve been reaching mostly for non-fiction books, perhaps to fill a longing for the kind of intellectual engagement my class readings provided when I was a college student. While fictional books can be equally intellectually engaging, and my love of literature hasn’t wavered, I’ve found an appreciation and enjoyment for non-fiction books that discuss the intricacies of human experience and contemporary cultural phenomena, to aide me in my processing of the world I’m entering as a post-grad. This post features five of my favorite non-fiction books that have helped me grow in my understanding of myself, others, and contemporary culture, and were just as engaging as some of my favorite novels.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I read this book in high school and it really helped me understand and appreciate my introversion, despite mainstream American society’s preference towards extroversion.
Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
Appropriately, my mom read this book before recommending it to me. I love the way Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor each tell the story of their trip to Greece from their different perspectives, one as a mother turning 50 and the other as a new college graduate trying to find her path. I relate a lot to Ann, as a shy young adult learning to come out of her shell, and grappling with some setbacks.
Ways of Seeing by John Berger
If I had to credit my decision to major in Art History to any one specific thing, it would be this book. I read Ways of Seeing for an Art History course during the spring of my sophomore year, the time when I had to declare a major, and this book helped me realize that Art History and visual analysis can have such wide and poignant uses for social critique. Berger writes about subjects such as portrayals of women in art and the visual devises used in advertising. The book is chockfull of insightful passages and brilliantly written lines (and lots of pictures). It’s a quick read and a good way to get an idea of what Art History is about.
On Photography by Susan Sontag
This is another book I read for a class, Visually Anthropology. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in photography. Sontag provides an in depth analysis of photography as a medium and tool, that I can’t help but think about now when I take photos. Though written in the 70s, Sontag’s critique is just as relevant today even with the significant changes in technology.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
I read this book a few months ago and I’ve already deemed it one of my favorites. I heard Roxane Gay speak at my college campus last fall, before knowing much about her, but after hearing her speak, I was eager to read Bad Feminist. In it, she explores various topics personal to her, on popular culture, and politics, with a lens on issues of gender, race, body image, and more. She analyzes and critiques sources such as the movie The Help and Sheryl Sanberg’s popular book Lean In.