Non-Fiction That Changed My Life

Happy Wednesday my bookish unicorns, today I wanted to talk to you about non-fiction *gasp* I know…. This is not at all my usual content, or my usual reading material for that matter. I tend to avoid non-fiction unless I have to read it for school. it has always been hard for me to read, it just doesn’t stick in my brain somehow. However, there have been some truly amazing non-fiction books I have stumbled upon in my life, that I needed to share with all of you. TO say that they changed my life is a bit extreme, but they did all have a big impact on how I see the world.

1. Sapiens, By: Yuval Noah Harari

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100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.

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?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries 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.

This book was not only a very compelling read, it also taught me a lot about human evolution and the way we navigate our ever-changing world. 

2. Quiet, By: Susan Cain

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At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts–from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.

Being an introvert myself, this book really spoke to me. It showed me that I am not alone, and that there are many other people who feel trapped by the extravert dominated society in which we are raised. Susan Cain’s writing is engaging and informative, as well as fascinating.

3. Guns, Germs and Steal, By: Jared Diamond

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In this “artful, informative, and delightful” (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed writing, technology, government, and organized religion—as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war—and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth Club of California’s Gold Medal

This book probably taught me more than all my high school history classes combined, and it did it in a way more interesting way. It is definitely a long read, but well worth it in my opinion.

4. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, By: Alex Haley

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Through a life of passion and struggle, Malcolm X became one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century. In this riveting account, he tells of his journey from a prison cell to Mecca, describing his transition from hoodlum to Muslim minister. Here, the man who called himself “the angriest Black man in America” relates how his conversion to true Islam helped him confront his rage and recognize the brotherhood of all mankind.
An established classic of modern America, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” was hailed by the New York Times as “Extraordinary. A brilliant, painful, important book.” Still extraordinary, still important, this electrifying story has transformed Malcom X’s life into his legacy. The strength of his words, the power of his ideas continue to resonate more than a generation after they first appeared.

I had to read this for a course on Race and Religion, and I was skeptical at first. I didn’t know much about Malcolm X before reading this book, and I am sorry I didn’t. He is such an important historical figure, and this book was an excellent example of why.

5. The Cross and the Lynching Tree, By: James Cone

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A landmark in the conversation about race and religion in America.

“They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.” Acts 10:39

The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. In this powerful new work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk. Both the cross and the lynching tree represent the worst in human beings and at the same time a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning. While the lynching tree symbolized white power and black death, the cross symbolizes divine power and black life, God overcoming the power of sin and death. For African Americans, the image of Jesus, hung on a tree to die, powerfully grounded their faith that God was with them, even in the suffering of the lynching era.

This was another book I read for school, and wow was it a powerful read. James Cone is a beautiful writer, and the horrors he depicts in this book are shocking to say the least. It is a book that will make you sit back and think about the way we look at race and religion in our western society.

 

What are some non-fiction books that had a big impact on you? let me know in the comments!


9 thoughts on “Non-Fiction That Changed My Life

  1. The only book I’ve heard of on your list is Quiet. I’m intrigued by The Autobiography of Malcolm X, though. Here’s a few of my favorites: The Diary of a Young Girl, Night, Nickel and Dimed, Columbine, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Unbroken, and a few more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great list! I loved both Sapiens and Quiet, while ‘Guns Germs and Steel’ is in my TBR. If you liked Guns, you should also check out ‘Why Nations Fail’ and ‘Prisoners of Geography’, two brilliant non-fiction that explain why the world is how it is.

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  3. This is such a great post! I still need to read Sapiens — I’ve heard so many good things. My favourite non-fic book that changed my life was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — its about a black woman who passed in the 50s and whose cells where used to revolutionise modern medicine, but her family never saw a cent of the money. I’m be taking a look at the other books on this list!

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  4. I don’t really read too much non-fiction, but I read and loved Smoke Gets in Your Eyes because it opened my eyes up (pun intended) to how different cultures treat death, especially the practices on the US and how taboo talking about death is.

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  5. These all sound fascinating! I’ve been wanting to read Sapiens, but it’s got such a long wait list at my library. My favorite nonfiction book is Radium Girls. I remember that one sticking with me a while after I had read it.

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  6. I really want to read Sapiens, and Quiet sounds interesting as well. As for non-fiction books that made a big impact with me, The Choice by Edith Eger springs to mind. I don’t like WWII fiction, but this memoir of Auschwitz survivor, shows so much spirit and positivity through an utterly devestating story that it will stay with me forever to remind me that you can go through anything and come out the other side.

    Liked by 1 person

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