Non Fiction

My Year in Non Fiction

I found out recently via Kristin’s post that there is such a thing as Non Fiction November, which is being hosted by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Julie at JulzReads, Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves, Katie at Doing Dewey, and Rennie at What’s Nonfiction.

As I love reading nonfiction , I’ve decided to take part in this celebration.i heart nonfictionWeek 1 – My Year in Nonfiction – hosted by Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness

In this post, I would like to look back at my year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions:

  • What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

My picks are two books as both of them really touched me and left me with many thoughts that lingered for months after I finished reading those:

Educated by Tara Westover (my review here) for its testament of how we can choose not to be defined by our past and circumstances.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (review is currently being written) for Noah’s witty and extremely well articulated essays set in post-Apartheid South Africa, which cover feminism, racism and much more.

  • Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

This year, I have been drawn towards topics of feminism and racism. I really enjoyed reading We Should All Be Feminist by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (review here) and want to learn more about it in the upcoming months.

As a life coach in training, I have also been attracted towards topics that explore what makes us tick. I thoroughly enjoyed Jon Ronson’s So You Have Been Publicly Shamed (review here) and currently loving Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead as well as Seth Godin’s Linchpin.

  • What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

Daring greatlyBrené Brown’ Daring Greatly because:

  • it’s not a boring factual book
  • it’s full of real stories of struggle
  • it gives me hope
  • it teaches me how to be brave
  • and because it shows me that I am not alone.

This book really speaks to my heart. Every time I hear Theodore Roosevelt’s quote below, which goes hand in hand with the book, I have tears in my eyes:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

  • What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I am hoping to discover more nonfiction as well as to connect with alike minded blogging community and to perhaps inspire some of my readers to give nonfiction a go.

There is still a common misconception out there that nonfiction is dry and… boring.

There are many nonfiction books that are full of stories of epic battles that feature both heroes and anti-heroes and I am hoping that by writing about them may pique some of your interest… yes, I do have a cunning plan!


What about you? Do you enjoy nonfiction?

If so, what nonfiction book have you recommended the most? 

Non Fiction

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

you have been shamed

My boyfriend James likes to say rather sarcastically: “Good luck having Vera read something from one of your recommended authors”. Why? Well, I tend to possess the gift of ‘a zero attention span’. I get super excited about an author’s recommendation, and five seconds later, I forget all about it. Despite how much I would like to read something from that author and the fact that their books are added to my TBR list (which I tend to ignore completely these days).

Why am I telling you this?

About 6 years ago, James recommended Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test to me, telling me how brilliant Jon Ronson was and how much he enjoyed that book. I listened, got super excited … and still haven’t read that book to this day….

A few weeks ago, I happened to find out Jon Ronson wrote this book about shame. Shame is one of those topics I always want to know more of. My curiosity was immediately sparked, I had to read that book!

Well, I did. And I loved it and I promptly told James off for not telling me sooner how brilliant Jon Ronson was… true story. 😉

For those of you, who have recommended me authors or books so far: there is still hope that I may read them one day… it may be a convoluted and a long-winded process, but I may get there. Do not despair! 😉 And I do appreciate all of your recommendations, I promise. ❤️


Let’s have a look at what Goodreads’ says about this book first:

From the internationally bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, a captivating and brilliant exploration of one of our world’s most overlooked forces.

For the past three years, Jon Ronson has been immersing himself in the world of modern-day public shaming—meeting famous shamees, shamers, and bystanders who have been impacted.  This is the perfect time for a modern-day Scarlet Letter—a radically empathetic book about public shaming, and about shaming as a form of social control. It has become such a big part of our lives it has begun to feel weird and empty when there isn’t anyone to be furious about. Whole careers are being ruined by one mistake. A transgression is revealed. Our collective outrage at it has the force of a hurricane. Then we all quickly forget about it and move on to the next one, and it doesn’t cross our minds to wonder if the shamed person is okay or in ruins. What’s it doing to them? What’s it doing to us?

Ronson’s book is a powerful, funny, unique, and very humane dispatch from the frontline, in the escalating war on human nature and its flaws.


I listened to this book as an audiobook. It is narrated by the author himself. I enjoyed both Ronson’s musical Welsh accent as well as his narrative. If you enjoy listening to non-fiction podcasts, the audio version of this book may be a way to go.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed investigates, as the title suggests, public shaming. Shame is this corrosive feeling we may experience when we think we may just not be good enough. And we are worried that ‘they’ will find out one day. Public shaming is turning that fear of being found out, into a nightmare scenario of a roaring and upset crowd shouting at us ‘shame on you, what a terrible person you are’.

“We are defining the boundaries of normality by tearing apart the people outside it.” 

Ronson’s book seriously played with my emotions. His curious and funny approach got him to meet people who, according to his words: ‘didn’t do that much wrong’. I could not stomach how torn apart those people got. Hearing about it was both chilling and utterly terrifying. Sadly, it was all believable as well. And I think that is what got me.

“There is nothing I dislike more in the world than people who care more about ideology than they do about people.” 

I personally enjoyed the first half of the book a little bit more than its latter part. That could have been me getting confused with names though. I do have a poor memory and perhaps reading this as a book, rather than listening to it,  would have helped me as I would have been able to reference names a bit better that way.

What I did enjoy was Ronson’s sharp writing style, his diverse spectre of cases as well as the thought provoking topic itself. I also appreciated Ronson sharing some of his own stories. And his use of humour sometimes helped, especially when thinking about such heavy topic as shame.

What’s Ronson’s answer to public shaming? I’ll let you read the book to find it. 😊

Recommended? Yes! It’s not a collection of boring facts but rather a vivid portrait of incidents that could have potentially happened to many of us.

Non Fiction

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

norse mythology

I was a bit of an odd child. I used to live in imaginary worlds full of fairies and other mythical creatures to whom I would serve tea.

I remember playing in my native woods with them, making houses for them and also having some heated arguments with them when they didn’t do what I wanted them to do.

I also remember Thor, Loki and Odin featuring in some of my encounters from time to time.

I was fascinated by mythology as a child. I would read anything I could get my hands on that was written on Greek / Norse / South American / Egyptian / Slavic etc. myths and tales.

The Norse myths were amongst my favourite ones. I am more of a winter rather than a summer person and I have always been interested in Scandinavia; its beautiful nature, architecture that compliments it and its people. Stories full of frost giants really are my thing. 🙂

Retellings of classical myths can be a bit of a hit or miss in my case. Sometimes I love them and sometimes, they are just not for me. I’m happy to report that Gaiman’s Norse Mythology was clearly written for me… 😉

But before I review this book, let’s have a look at GoodReads blurb first:

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.


Norse Mythology is a collection of stories. Because of that, it could be easily read (or listened to) whilst reading other books or being short on time.

I absolutely adored this collection. Gaiman’s spin on Norse myths is a brilliant example how we can use something old and make it work. Not every work we crate must be ‘original‘, in fact telling something familiar whilst using our own voices and experiences can be extremely powerful.

Those stories feel modern, Gaiman’s sharp writing gives them a nice punch. They are fast paced and full of action. There is also a lot of humour involved – I chuckled many times. And they brought me back my childhood memories and that bittersweet feeling of nostalgia.

I listened to this collection of stories as an audiobook narrated by the author himself.

Gaiman is not only a skilled writer, but he also is an excellent narrator.

I found his voice splendidly adjusting to different characters – it would become loud and booming whenever Thor entered a scene and softer with hints of cunningness / slyness whenever Loki would show up. His accent adjusted well to dwarfs and giants and I honestly had a blast. I am likely to re-listen to these stories again as I loved them so much.

Side note: I did laugh-out-loud a few times whilst listening to this audiobook on a busy London tube. I got a few weird stares, but it did make my usually unpleasant tube experience quite bearable! I also nearly missed my stop a few times… so beware! 😉

Parting comments: I’ve always been fascinated how people across different geographies created myths that had so many similarities. Our need to explain our world via story telling is something that has always captivated me. If you are familiar with Greek myths, you may find many alike sounding themes in those Norse myths as well. Our vivid imagination, and how we can perceive nature and everything that is happening around us, without having to dip into scientific explanations, is something I have appreciated, and it is probably the main reason why I love mythology in general.


Over to you! 🙂

  • Have you read this book?
  • Do you read myths in general? And if so, what is your ‘favourite’ geography?

Verdict:  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple (5/5)

Non Fiction

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

we should all be feminists

We live in a society where shame can cause us to put on so much emotional armour that we are no longer connecting with others. You can call it fear, self-doubt, insecurity… whatever we call it, it’s than feeling we may get from time to time thinking we may just not be good enough. And all we do want is to hide. You may know by now, that shame is something Dr Brené Brown’s books talk about and I did explore it a bit in this post.

Why am I talking about shame whilst analysing a book about feminism? You see, how we perceive shame has something to do with our gender.

As Brown says, women tend to experience shame mostly about appearance – if we are thin, young or/and beautiful enough. Side note: of course, appearance shame is not limited to women only, men can experience it as well. It is however the number one shame trigger amongst women.

Adichie says: “forget the history of the word and the baggage it carries and think about the idea of it”.

And I agree. But before we do that, let’s address shame first.

Let’s say I tell my friend I’m a feminist and he looks at me and laughs whist saying back: “so you are telling me you stopped caring, won’t use deodorant and won’t shave your legs?”. Side note: that actually happened to me, admittedly it was more than a decade ago and had a lot to say about that certain individual rather than me… but the memory of it still stinks sometimes.

If the baggage around the word feminism targets a lack of interest in women’s appearances… then by default, it is used to instil shame in women. In other words, if you are a feminist, you clearly don’t care about your appearance, shame on you!

It bothers me.

That baggage is heavy, and I admit there were times when I would rather use a label of a ‘human activist’. Which is not a lie as I wholeheartedly believe in equal rights regardless of one’s gender, age, ethnicity, political, religious and sexual preferences etc.

But that didn’t specifically address the gender issue.

And I admit I was afraid. I didn’t want to be perceived in a certain way where I would have to defend myself. And I didn’t want to feel ashamed.

“My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.”

Not only we can start viewing that word feminist as something both men and women could use, but we can also address how we raise our children – and that applies to raising both girls and boys.

Side note: this is not to shame anybody’s parenting skills, I believe we all do the best we can. I’m talking about more general issue that goes very deep into our origins and roles we all play in this, regardless if we are parents or not.

In general, girls tend to be taught to be careful, to stay away from danger so they won’t get hurt. Boys are encouraged to be brave, to go out and seek adventures. If a boy gets hurt, he will be clapped for being the daring one, if a girl gets hurt, she will be scolded for being reckless and told not to do it again… Boys are encouraged to be loud, angry at times. But girls.. not so much. Pleasant is a word I personally cannot stand but sadly is the one sometimes used to describe a ‘nice’ woman. Why is it that if a woman is angry, she may be perceived as hysterical whereas a man may be perceived as passionate?

What can we do about it?

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”

And I could not agree more.

To make this world a different world, we must think about how we interact with each other, and that includes children, and how we rise up to challenges that will then shape our future. Using shame to solve a certain issue is not a way forward, it is an easy way out that doesn’t create such world.

We Should All Be Feminists is a short essay. I listened to it as an audio book and found Adichie to be a phenomenal narrator. Her beautiful voice talked about issues I really needed to address.

It’s a thought provoking piece that is extremely digestible as it is told via stories. And there is no judgement or hate attached to it. Just an open mind and a vision for better future.

I recommend this short book to everyone.

It’s an important topic and it gave me many thoughts that still linger days afterwards.

I understand the word feminism a bit more and sincerely hope that we all can be feminists

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  (5/5)

Non Fiction

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

the year of less

I have been following Cait Flandersblog for a while and had to read her book as I find her writing as well as topics she chooses to discuss extremely interesting. According her own words: Cait Flanders paid off $30,000 of debt, tossed 75% of her belongings and did a two-year shopping ban. She writes about consuming less and living more.”

The Year of Less is a memoir. It’s a story about what Cait discovered during her one year long self-imposed shopping ban. It’s not a how-to guide and I think it’s important to keep that in mind when reading this book to avoid any disappointment.


Before we dive in though, let’s first have a look at what GoodReads summary says:

WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER

In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.

The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food—and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.

Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life—and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less.


Cait’s memoir is all about her numbing experiences and how she managed to get out of those addictive habits of hers. It can be used as an motivational read as there is nothing lighthearted about not wanting to experience pain, shame and other emotions we deem difficult. My heart went to her as I could relate with many things she was experiencing.

“I don’t remember how much it hurt with Chris, because back then I numbed myself. I numbed my sadness with food, and my emptiness with stuff.”

We live in a society where numbing is slowly becoming our way of coping.

Numbing could be any activity that we use to suppress feelings we don’t want to experience. Often commonly used numbing tools are: alcohol, food / sugar, binge TV watching, over-exercising, ‘busyness’, recreational drugs, self- medication, shopping sprees.. anything really that ‘takes that edge off‘ and that saves us from having to feel emotions we don’t want to encounter.

Dr Brené Brown talks about about numbing in her book Daring Greatly. Dr Brown’s extensive research points out following:  “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

When we choose to numb all that painanxietyshame and fear, we are also numbing all that joy, cheerfulness, hope and love. It’s not easy to accept that when I was “busy” or “buying things to feel better”, I was also subduing all those feel-good emotions I was so desperately seeking.

What particularly resonated with my was this sentence of Cait’s:

“Who are you buying this for: the person you are, or the person you want to be?”

You see, I used to be guilty of such behaviour. I would buy dresses my “sophisticated” self would wear but I never ended up wearing them as they were just not me. I would buy books my “smart” self should read but they only gathered dust on shelves afterwards. I would buy make-up my “grown up” self should wear only for it to stay unused.. I bought things for the person I was so eagerly trying to become. It’s painful to admit it at times but having compassion towards my younger self helps as I can see her for who she was.

I recommend The Year of Less to anyone who is curious about what may happen once we stop numbing ourselves. It’s an journey of a 20-something Canadian gal that went through a lot of pain but came out much stronger because of it. It’s not a guide on what to do, but it may inspire you nevertheless.

Over the years, I have minimised my own possessions and am definitely more mindful about my purchases. However this book triggered some thoughts in me about my own future spending habits and I am seriously toying with an idea of coming up with a self-imposed shopping ban as well…. stay tuned! Side note: I reserve the right to change my mind though! 🙂

I’ll leave you with this beautiful passage from Cait’s book:

“One of the greatest lessons I learned during these years is that whenever you’re thinking of binging, it’s usually because some part of you or your life feels like it’s lacking—and nothing you drink, eat, or buy can fix it. I know, because I’ve tried it all and none of it worked.

There’s more to it but I won’t give it all up as it’s such a wonderful ending of Cait’s book, which made me all teary-eyed. 

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple  (4/5)

Non Fiction

Educated: A Memoir – Tara Westover

educated

Educated is a powerful testament of how we can choose to stop being defined by our past.

It is a thought provoking memoir that left me with a strong feeling of unease long after I finished reading it.

Its main theme is privilege. We don’t get to choose circumstances we are born into.

It also explores belonging, shame, forgiveness as well as the ability to become an observer, rather than a victim of your past.

“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.” 

For the book’s summary, here’s what GoodReads’ summary:

An unforgettable memoir in the tradition of The Glass Castle about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter, she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.


Sometimes, to break a thought pattern, we need a perspective. An ability to distance ourselves from our emotional involvement, to see things for what they are – i.e. to distinguish between facts vs. our opinions / stories about them.

Westover did this brilliantly in her raw memoir.

You can see her coming-of-age story through her mature observer’s eyes.

You can feel how much pain she must have bravely experienced to get to the point where she is now.

Her writing evoked a strong emotion in me.

As I immersed myself in Educated, I started experiencing deep gratitude; for being born into a loving and nurturing family; for them enabling me to question the world; for them loving me for who I was, no conditions attached.

“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you.”

Imagine growing up in a family that completely cuts you out of society.

Imagine not having friends, not knowing any facts about the world you live in. The only truth you know is the one your psychologically ill father tells you:

“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind.”

Imagine being physically abused whilst thinking it may be your fault, that there must something wrong with you.

Imagine feeling like you don’t belong anywhere else but to your highly dysfunctional family.

This is not a competition who had it ‘better’ or ‘worse’.

Not having to experience any of those points above, that is privilege.

I am so impressed with Westover’s courage.

Her ability to recognise that she could want more for herself.

Her willingness to stand on her own even though she, like majority of us, yearned to belong.

That curiosity that lead her to define her own life and own her story.

Just bravo, nothing less than that.

Possible triggers: domestic abuse, and abuse in general. This book is quite graphical and left me disturbed, if you are sensitive to these topics, please take care of yourself.

Have you read this book or planning on reading it? Let me know in the comments below. 😊🙏

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher Random House for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  5/5