Books, Non-fiction

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Teju Cole - Every Day is For the Thief

4 Apr 20144 stars

A powerful blend of fiction, memoir and travelogue set in modern Nigeria

Returning home for the first time in 15 years, the unnamed narrator of Teju Cole's novel Every Day is for the Thief plunges into the chaos and exhausting inefficiency of a Nigeria plagued by corruption. Bribes are disguised as tips while extortion and…

Alasdair Gray - Of Me and Others

27 Mar 20144 stars

A clear, invigorating and fun collection of assorted non-fictional works spanning Gray's life

Rather than take the traditional anecdotal approach to autobiography, Glasgow’s favourite polymath has spent the last few years assembling this collection of assorted non-fictional works spanning his life as a writer. Arranged roughly chronologically…

Rebecca Mead - The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot

19 Mar 20144 stars

A passionate celebration of the art of reading

Interweaving in-depth readings of George Eliot's classic novel Middlemarch with an exploration into Eliot's life, as well as reflections on Mead's personal history, The Road to Middlemarch is no dry academic study, but a complex and sensitive work of…

Gary Shteyngart – Little Failure

3 Mar 20144 stars

A truthful and humourous memoir from the author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story

‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad’. Philip Larkin’s most famous opening line doesn’t appear as an epigram for Gary Shteyngart’s memoir, but it wouldn’t be out of place. The novelist’s life, from early childhood in Soviet Russia to panic…

Interview: Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero of The Room

25 Feb 2014

The two filmmakers discuss their so-bad-it's-good movie and Sestero's book, The Disaster Artist

When I meet Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, I am woefully under-prepared. I’d come along to tonight’s screening of The Room – part of the Cameo Cinema’s centenary celebrations – as a paying punter, expecting to witness a bit of Tommy’s madness on-stage…

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Philip Roscoe - I Spend Therefore I Am: the True Cost of Economics

18 Feb 20143 stars

An easy to grasp analysis of how economics has infiltrated every aspect of modern living

A straightforward, easy to grasp analysis, Philip Roscoe's politically charged denunciation of economics' primacy in the modern world highlights the dire consequences of applying a market mentality to such areas as car safety, organ donorship…

Robert Crawford - Bannockburns

18 Feb 20144 stars

A successful (if partisan) attempt to put the Scottish independence debate in an historical context

Seven hundred years after Bannockburn, with Scotland's independence referendum fast approaching, Robert Crawford has in Bannockburns produced a comprehensive account of Scottish Independence from 1314 to the present day. He begins with an exploration of…

David Belton - When the Hills Ask For Your Blood

5 Feb 20143 stars

A lyrical mix of fiction and non fiction regarding the Rwandan genocide, from BBC journalist Belton

A lyrical mix of fiction and non fiction that not only depicts the horrors of a recent history but delves into the very heart of human behaviour, When the Hills Ask for Your Blood is BBC journalist David Belton’s quest to expose and revisit the terror…

Eric Smith - The Geek's Guide to Dating

27 Nov 20134 stars

Smith's infectious enthusiasm and genuine geekiness make for charming and excellent advice

Whether scripting first date scenarios in the style of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel or picking through Viking action movie The 13th Warrior for lessons in developing social skills, The Geek's Guide to Dating is never less than inventive in its use…

Nina Stibbe - Love, Nina

22 Nov 20134 stars

A collection of warm, unaffected letters from the world of The London Review of Books in the 1980s

Love, Nina is a collection of letters written by North London nanny Nina Stibbe to her sister Victoria, detailing her life in the employment of The London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers, in 1980s literary London. According to the author…

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John Grindrod - Concretopia

18 Oct 20133 stars

An enthusiastic but not entirely convincing counter-argument to the popular Crap Towns books

The recently revived Crap Towns books sneer at ugly modern architecture, but John Grindrod comes not to bury the postwar rebuilding of Britain but to praise it. For while tower blocks, prefabs and new towns have been unpopular with many traditionalists…

Bradley L Garret - Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City

17 Oct 20134 stars

A heady, inspirational rush through the 'urban explorer' movement

The cover of Explore Everything depicts author Bradley Garrett as a hooded figure, stood atop the Forth Rail Bridge at night, silhouetted by glow of South Queensferry. The book is underpinned by a restless curiosity to find deeper ways to understand and…

James Essinger - A Female Genius: How Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s Daughter, Started The Computer Age

17 Oct 20133 stars

A useful if slightly stiff account of the Victorian Lovelace's short career

In this slender biography about mathematical prodigy Ada Lovelace, James Essinger argues she was the only person to realise the true potential of the first calculating machine, which could have ushered in the computer age in the 1840s. Famous from…

Interview: Jeff VanderMeer, author of Wonderbook

20 Sep 2013

The American writer is looking to inspire others with his 'illustrated guide to imaginative fiction'

You describe Wonderbook as 'an illustrated guide to creating imaginative fiction'. How would you define 'imaginative fiction'? I think using terms like ‘realistic’ or ‘fantastical’ fiction sets up a kind of false opposition. You can find flights of…

Peter May and David Wilson - Hebrides

20 Sep 20134 stars

May's text takes second place to Wilson's stunning photography of the Scottish islands

It's understandable that Scottish city-dwellers, in their landscape of concrete and streetlights, can forget that they're living in a breathtakingly beautiful country. Luckily, David Wilson's photographs are here to remind us. With images of moody…

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Tim Dee - Four Fields

19 Sep 20134 stars

A deeply personal look at the man's effect on nature across four different environments

In Four Fields, Tim Dee explores human relationships with the environments around us: meditations on where and how we live. His stop-start sentences sing with an eager curiosity as he writes of four very different fields, each uncommon ground for…

Chris Turney - 1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica

19 Sep 20133 stars

An ambitious history of polar exploration that falls short on presentation of maps and new evidence

This ambitious book summarises all five expeditions to the Antarctic around 1912, the year that Scott and his men died, having been beaten to the Pole by Amundsen. What is much less well known are the contexts for these expeditions and Turney argues…

Dr Matteo Farinella & Dr Hana Ros - Neurocomic

27 Aug 20134 stars

A Wellcome Trust-backed graphic guide to the brain

How does the brain work? And what exactly is a neurotransmitter, serotonin or a synapse? Not, perhaps, questions pondered every day but if you ever require a quick and (relatively) simple guide to what scientists have learned about the brain, this…

Author and historian William Dalrymple sees history repeating itself in Afghanistan

20 Aug 2013

His book, The Return of a King, draws parallels between historic and modern conflicts in the country

Renowned Scottish historian and travel writer William Dalrymple invites us to consider the striking parallels between the current situation in Afghanistan and the first Anglo-Afghan War of 1839-42. His book on the subject, The Return of a King, earned…

Olivia Laing - The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink

19 Jul 20134 stars

There’s a fear, given the title, that this seeks to romanticise alcoholism, positioning writers as tortured geniuses set apart from ‘ordinary’ people. Thankfully, Laing allays this fear. The Trip to Echo Spring is a nuanced and heartbreaking book…

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Sarah Moss - Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland

24 Jun 20133 stars

A deeply personal account of an Icelandic experience

The high north of Europe has captured the imagination of travellers, artists and writers for centuries, exuding a magnetic pull towards northerly latitudes of medieval sagas, crystalline summer days of endless light and latterly, societies underpinned…

Top 5 feminist road trip books

10 Jun 2013

Apocalypse Baby, The Borrower, Nellie Bly and Foreign Parts among the best pro-woman travel stories

Apocalypse Baby is the latest novel by Virginie Despentes, subversive writer and filmmaker of Baise-Moi. It focuses on missing teenager, Valentine, and Lucie, the inexperienced private detective hired to find her. When you've finished chasing the pair…

Iain Macwhirter - Road To Referendum

10 Jun 20134 stars

The political commentator's book is a vital contribution to the discussion on Scotland's future

Iain Macwhirter’s Road to Referendum is easily the most accessible piece of writing concerned with the independence debate. Not only one of the shrewdest commentaries on Scottish politics, it is also an important tribute to the country’s…

George Monbiot – Feral

28 May 20134 stars

A poignant call to rethink the way we use and view our British landscape

The restoration of the Earth’s ecosystems is a key topic in current environmentalism: a positive, hopeful practice in times of huge environmental stress following centuries of alteration and destruction by human hand. Guardian journalist George Monbiot…

AL Kennedy - On Writing

22 Feb 20134 stars

‘There is more than one way to burn a book’, AL Kennedy tells us as she discusses censorship and suppression of art. This book is political, and not the technical examination of writing one might expect. On Writing is a collection in three parts: ‘the…