Top 20 Non Fiction

These are the Top 20 Non fiction books that Leeds Libraries issued in the last month. Some of them may take you by surprise! Even if you think that non-fiction is not for you I challenge you not to be tempted by one of these.

Creation: an oratorio for soprano, tenor & bass soli, SATB & orchestra by Joseph Haydn

Did you know that you can borrow whole orchestra sets from us? We have issued this 180 times in the last month, so some orchestra somewhere is having fun practicing this at the moment. To find out more about our music lending service click here.

Top NF HappyHappy by Derren Brown

Everyone says they want to be happy. But that’s much more easily said than done. What does being happy actually mean? And how do you even know when you feel it? Across the millenia, philosophers have thought long and hard about happiness, and come up with all sorts of different definitions and ideas for how we might live a happier life. Here, Derren Brown explores the history of happiness from classical times until today, when the self-help industry has attempted to claim happiness as its own. His aim is to reclaim happiness for us all, and enable us to appreciate the really good things in life for what they are.

Top NF AdmissionsAdmissions: a life in brain surgery by Henry Marsh

Henry Marsh has spent a lifetime operating on the surgical frontline. There have been exhilarating highs and devastating lows, but his love for the practice of neurosurgery has never wavered. Prompted by his retirement from his full-time job in the NHS, and through his continuing work in Nepal and Ukraine, Henry has been forced to reflect more deeply about what 40 years spent handling the human brain has taught him. Moving between encounters with patients in his London hospital, to those he treats in the more extreme circumstances of his work abroad, Henry faces up to the overwhelming burden of responsibility that can come with trying to reduce human suffering.

Top NF SapiensSapiens: a brief history of humankind by Yuval N. Harari

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, ‘Sapiens’ challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.

Top NF ring of bright waterRing of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell

An oldie but a goldie; Gavin Maxwell’s account of his life at Camusfearna, a remote cottage in the western Highlands, and in particular the two otters, Mijbil and Edal, who became his constant and much-loved companions.

Top NF IELTSEssential Words for the IELTS by Lin Lougheed

Join the library and enjoy free materials to help you learn and study. This book offers IELTS students extensive practice in vocabulary building and correct English usage, with emphasis on 600 English words that relate to specific categories that appear frequently on IELTS exams. These categories include nature and the environment, leisure activities and hobbies, the arts and culture, transportation, health, tourism, business, technology, social issues, and education.

top NF Life UKLife in the UK test

We also have books for loan to help with working towards your UK citizenship. Ask about them in your local library. This handbook presents all the latest official materials you need to study in a simple and easy-to-learn format.

Top NF Little DribblingThe road to Little Dribbling: more notes from a small island by Bill Bryson

In 1995, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his home. The hilarious book he wrote about that journey, Notes from a Small Island, became one of the most loved books of recent decades, and was voted in a BBC poll as the book that best represents Britain. Now, in this hotly anticipated new travel book, his first in fifteen years and sure to be greeted as the funniest book of the decade, Bryson sets out on a brand-new journey, on a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis on the south coast to Cape Wrath on the northernmost tip of Scotland. Once again, he will guide us through all that’s best and worst about Britain today while doing that incredibly rare thing of making us laugh out loud in public.

Top NF Yorkshire ShepherdessThe Yorkshire Shepherdess: how I left a city life behind to raise a family by Amanda Owen

Amanda Owen has been seen by millions on ITV’s ‘The Dales’, living a life that has almost gone in today’s modern world, a life ruled by the seasons and her animals. She is a farmer’s wife and shepherdess, living alongside her husband Clive and seven children at Ravenseat, a 2000 acre sheep hill farm at the head of Swaledale in North Yorkshire. In ‘The Yorkshire Shepherdess’ she describes how the rebellious girl from Huddersfield, who always wanted to be a shepherdess, achieved her dreams.

Amanda will be appearing this year at the Morley Arts Festival. Book a ticket here.

Top NF ItalyItaly by Christian Bonetto

Why pay out for a guidebook you might only use once? We have travel guides in all our libraries and they can be reserved for free. This guide to Italy is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Take in a gondolier’s sweet song while gliding past Venetian palaces, sample olives and wines as you traverse Tuscany’s storybook hills, or be humbled amid thousands of years of Roman history and art; all with your trusted travel companion.

Top NF ReasonsReasons to stay alive by Matt Haig

Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

Top NF Les parisiennesLes Parisiennes: how the women of Paris lived, loved and died in the 1940s by Anne Sebba

We were lucky enough to have Anne do an event with us earlier this year when she talked about this book. By looking at a wide range of individuals from collaborators to resisters, actresses and prostitutes to teachers and writers, Anne shows that women made life-and-death decisions every day, and often did whatever they needed to survive. She explores the aftershock of the Second World War and the choices demanded. How did the women who survived to see the Liberation of Paris come to terms with their actions and those of others? Although politics lies at its heart, ‘Les Parisiennes’ is a fascinating account of the lives of people of the city and, specifically, in this most feminine of cities, its women and young girls.

Top NF BerlinBerlin by Andrea Schulte-Peevers

This city guide to Berlin includes various types of accommodation options, from lakeside camping to historic hotels and entertainment, from classical to cabaret.

Top NF JungleJungle: a harrowing true story of adventure, danger and survival by Yossi Ghinsberg

Four travellers meet in Bolivia and set off into the Amazon rainforest on an expedition to explore places tourists only dream of seeing. But what begins as the adventure of a lifetime quickly becomes a struggle for survival when they get lost in the wilds of the jungle.

Top NF Homo DeusHomo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow by Yuval N. Harari

This is the second book in the Top 20 for this author.

During the 20th century, humankind has managed to do the impossible: we have brought famine, plague and war under control. Today, more people die from obesity than from starvation; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed in war. We are the only species in earth’s long history that has single-handedly changed the entire planet, and we no longer expect any higher being to shape our destinies for us. As the self-made gods of planet earth, which projects should we undertake, and how will we protect this fragile planet and humankind itself from our own destructive powers? Yuval Noah Harari examines the implications of our newly acquired divine capabilities, from our desperate pursuit of happiness to our dogged quest for immortality.

Top NF Bletchley GirlsThe Bletchley Girls: war, secrecy, love and loss by Tessa Dunlop

Historian and broadcaster Tessa Dunlop tells the story of the women of Bletchley Park, through exclusive and unprecedented access to the women themselves.

Top NF CatchingCatching a serial killer: my hunt for serial killer Christopher Halliwell by Stephen Fulcher

On the evening of Saturday, of 19th of March 2011, D.S. Stephen Fulcher receives a life-changing call that thrusts him into a race against time to save missing 22-year-old Sian O’Callaghan, who was last seen at a nightclub in Swindon. Steve knows from experience that he has a small window of time to find Sian alive, but his hopes are quickly dashed when his investigation leads him to Christopher Halliwell. Following the investigation as it develops hour-by-hour, Steve’s gripping inside story of the cat-and-mouse situation that ensues shows how he hunted down Halliwell – his number-one suspect – which led him to the discovery of Sian’s body and another victim, Becky Godden-Edwards, who had been missing since 2002.

Top NF Chimp ParadoxThe Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters

A personal development book by Dr Steve Peters, the British cycling team’s psychiatrist, in which he shares his phenomenal mind management programme.

Top NF Deliciously EllaDeliciously Ella every day: simple recipes and fantastic food for a healthy way of life by Ella Woodward

The ‘Deliciously Ella’ way of eating isn’t about following a diet, it’s about enjoying delicious, natural food to help you look and feel your best. Luckily, Ella understands that nourishing your body with wholesome ingredients needs to fit in with your existing lifestyle and not feel like something difficult, which is why she has written this book – to help you make the right choice every time and start to glow from the inside out. With ‘Deliciously Ella Every Day’, her easy-to-make food will become a natural part of your life.

Top NF Walking HomeWalking Home by Simon Armitage

‘Walking Home’ describes Simon Armitage’s extraordinary, yet ordinary, journey. It’s a story about Britain’s remote and overlooked interior – the wildness of its landscape and the generosity of the locals who sustained him on his journey. It’s about facing emotional and physical challenges, and sometimes overcoming them.

 

 

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Librarian Top 10 – Matt’s Best Reads 2015

This Librarian Top 10 is from Matt, an assistant community librarian based at Armley library.

The Red PonyThe Red Pony by John Steinbeck

I’m a huge Steinbeck fan, ever since I read Of Mice and Men for my GCSE exams, and this is another example of how masterful he is when writing short fiction. The story is simply about a boy’s desire to possess and train his very own horse, but in typical Steinbeck-style, fate has its part to play. The novel is written with great affection for the land and nature, and, of course, the author’s beloved California. You’d be hard-pressed to find such vivid descriptive language and precise prose that captures the human condition in works by other authors.

Boxer HandsomeBoxer Handsome by Anna Whitwham

Most boxing novels, and movies too, tend to follow the same storyline (underdog wins and gets the girl etc..), however Anna Whitwham’s debut novel is incredibly original. The book focusses on two young pugilists from culturally disparate backgrounds and how their East End neighbourhood, and love of ‘sweet science’ brings them together in and outside of the ring – sometimes with devastating outcomes. The fight scenes are truly exhilarating and the author captures life’s intimate interactions most beautifully.

One.jpgOne by Sarah Crossen

Shortlisted for this year’s Leeds Book Awards – and rightly so! – One is the story of conjoined twin sisters who have no choice but to attend American high school when their family fall on hard times. They’re exposed to a world which they have tried to avoid all their lives; fortunately they find friendship and love, but their story is tinged with sadness. Sarah Crossan has written an immensely moving teen novel in prose-poetry that abandons rich language (usually found in verse) and uses line breaks and spatial wordplay to astonishing effect.

PhysicalPhysical by Andrew McMillan

Thank heavens for Andrew McMillan’s debut poetry collection! I was fortunate enough to see him read from Physical at Latitude festival and it was evident in his reading that we have a towering poetic voice in the Barnsley-born bard. His technical ability is unparalleled and his dissection of modern manhood is refreshing yet startlingly self-aware and honest. His poem ‘The men are weeping in the gym’ is a stand-out example of his verse; direct, funny and universal.

Black CountryBlack Country by Liz Berry

As I get older, I become more and more aware of how we are letting slip our link with history and the tribe of people that made us. So you can imagine my joy in discovering Liz Berry’s debut, which is largely inspired by her Black Country upbringing and the region’s thick dialect. The opener, ‘Bird’, soars into your mind as though the pages of the book our trying to take flight. And ‘Bostin’ Fittle’ (meaning good food) is a favourite of mine; musical and nostalgic, reminding me of the time I first saw a rabbit being skinned and transformed into a delicious stew.

HappinessHappiness by Jack Underwood

I saw Mr Underwood read at the Bridlington Poetry Festival and he obligingly recited my favourite of his, ‘Your Horse’, a surreal lyric about examining a relationship through a person’s belongings. There are flashes of Frank O’Hara and Philip Larkin throughout this collection, but the poet is an altogether inimitable talent. You only have to read ‘The spooks’, a poem about injecting blood into a banana and observing what happens when someone attempts to eat it, to realise you are in the midst of a rare literary mind.

Bunny vs MonkeyBunny vs Monkey Book One by Jamie Smart

My five-year-old son loves weekly comic The Phoenix, so he was dead chuffed when I brought home a copy of Bunny vs Monkey: Book One from the library. The basic storyline concerns a laboratory simian who was supposed to be fired into space, but instead crash lands in a nearby forest. He instantly thinks he should be ruler of the woodlands, with the help of an innovative skunk, however a defiant rabbit and his friends have something to say about it. This graphic book is wonderfully daft and Jamie Smart’s illustrations are accomplished and alive with colour.

The Gorse trilogyThe Gorse Trilogy by Patrick Hamilton

Patrick Hamilton must be the most overlooked novelist in literary history. Responsible for novels such as Hangover Square and Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, as well as the play Rope (later adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock), his legacy should loom larger. The Gorse Trilogy is an epic novel following the decline of a swindler who preys on vulnerable women. However, as his powers of persuasion dwindle with age, he resorts to new, less sophisticated, methods of extracting what he wants from his victims. And I have to add that Hamilton is the finest writer when describing drunkenness and how it can suddenly creep up on you.

LanarkLanark: a life in four books by Alasdair Gray

A masterpiece in cross-genre fiction, Lanark is a portrait of the artist (Gray) as a young man as he transforms into a serious painter, lover and, er, salamander. The novel begins as a surreal dystopian fantasy, focusing on a mythical skin condition known as ‘dragonhide’, a metaphor for the author’s own battle with severe eczema. From that point, the plot takes several twists and turns in various guises of Modernism and realism – one chapter goes to great lengths to point out all the possible plagiarisms within its pages. Nothing comes close to this book, in terms of style and subject matter. Nothing!

UlyssesUlysses by James Joyce

Alright, I have to admit, I haven’t finished Ulysses yet – I’m about 350 pages in. Still, it is a fantastic novel and a vital contribution to Modernism and literature in general. I read the first 100-or-so pages in one go, but felt exhausted afterwards because the language is so complex, bulging with slang, Latin, unformed thoughts, etc… and the novel, as a whole, is pretty much devoid of plot. Having said that, if you pick at its bones, now and again, you realise that this is a text celebrating every aspect of living, creating a festival of words as you turn the pages. I plan to delve back into Joyce’s groundbreaking book when I finish my current read – hopefully I will have read Ulysses before the year’s out!

 

 

Poem of the week – Pessimism for Beginners by Sophie Hannah

sophie hannahThis weeks poem is from Sophie Hannah. Sophie has published five bestselling collections and this poem is taken from the collection; Selected Poems, published 2006. I think we all have a pessimist in our lives and this made me giggle. This one’s for you Mum!

Pessimism for Beginners

When you're waiting for someone to email,
When you're waiting for someone to call - 
Young or old, gay or straight, male or female - 
Don't assume that they're busy, that's all. 

Don't conclude that their letter went missing
Or they must be away for a while;
Think instead that they're cursing and hissing - 
They've decided you're venal and vile,

That your eyes should be pecked out by an eagle.
Oh to bash in your head with a stone!
But since this is fairly illegal
They've no choice but to leave you alone. 

Be they friend, parent, sibling or lover
Or your most stalwart colleague at work,
Don't pursue them. You'll only discover
That your once-irresistible quirk

Is no longer appealing. Far from it. 
Everything you are and you do
Makes them spatter their basin with vomit.
They loathe Hitler and herpes and you. 

Once you take this on board, life gets better. 
You give no one your hopes to destroy. 
The most cursory phone call or letter
Makes you pickle your heart in pure joy. 

It's so different from what you expected!
They do not want to gouge out your eyes!
You feel neither abused nor rejected - 
What a stunning and perfect surprise. 

This approach I'm endorsing will net you
A small portion of boundless delight. 
Keep believing the world's out to get you.
Now and then you might not be proved right.

Poem of the week – Eating Her Children by Ellen Phethean

BreathThis week’s poem is a day early as it is National Poetry Day today. If you don’t normally read poems you could start today and I think this lovely poem from Ellen Phethean is a good place to start. Ellen was a featured poet with the Read Regional campaign last year which is where I came across her. Her poems feature childhood and family life as well as the cultural landscape of Newcastle upon Tyne and this poem should really resonate with any parents.

Eating her Children

Her babies were milky puddings,
delicate as junket, not quite set,
messy possets that she coddled, rolled
on her tongue, licking and sucking,
wanting it to last. 

Toddlers were finger food, currant-dotted
hot cross buns, eaten on the hoof, at a run,
walloped down. Only after
did she regret
the indigestion. 

She ate her ten year old for breakfast
one sunny morning, a golden croissant,
smelling warm, buttery crisp,
his own perfect curl,
she bit greedily. 

Her eldest went off: sharp as anchovies,
tough as liquorice stick, a bitter unripe olive.
She had to spit him out, go hungry,
knowing some other mouth
would find him. 

Poem of the week – This Lunar Beauty by W.H. Auden

Auden Selected PoemsThis weeks’ poem is taken from Selected Poems by W.H. Auden.

This lunar beauty
Has no history
Is complete and early;
If beauty later
Bear any feature
It had a lover
And is another.

This like a dream
Keeps another time
And daytime is
The loss of this;
For time is inches
And the heart's changes
Where ghost has haunted
Lost and wanted.

But this was never
A ghost's endeavour
Nor finished this,
Was ghost at ease;
And till it pass
Love shall not near
The sweetness here
Nor sorrow take
His endless look.

Poem of the week – Song at the Beginning of Autumn by Elizabeth Jennings

collected poems jenningsThis weeks poem is taken from The Collected Poems by Elizabeth Jennings.

Song at the Beginning of Autumn

Now watch this Autumn that arrives
In smells. All looks like Summer still;
Colours are quite unchanged, the air
On green and white serenely thrives.
Heavy the trees with growth and full
The fields. Flowers flourish everywhere.

Proust who collected time within
A child's cake would understand
The ambiguity of this - 
Summer still raging while a thin
Column of smoke stirs from the land
Proving that Autumn gropes for us.

But every season is a kind
Of rich nostalgia. We give names - 
Autumn and Summer, Winter, Spring - 
As though to unfasten from the mind
Our moods and give them outward forms.
We want the certain, solid thing.

But I am carried back against
My will into a childhood where
Autumn is bonfires, marbles, smoke;
I lean against my window fenced
From evocations in the air
When I said Autumn, Autumn broke.

Poem of the week – A Farewell by Alfred Tennyson

Tennyson Major WorksThe poem this week is taken from The Major Works by Alfred Tennyson.

A Farewell

Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea
Thy tribute wave deliver:
No more by thee my steps shall be
For ever and for ever.

Flow, softly flow, by lawn and lea,
A rivulet then a river:
No where by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.

But here will sigh thine alder tree,
And here thine aspen shiver;
And here by thee will hum the bee,
For ever and for ever. 

A thousand suns will stream on thee,
A thousand moons will quiver;
But not by thee my steps will be,
For ever and for ever.