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Non-Fiction Books That Taught Us Something New

By Sarah Lundy, Lucy Lillystone, Kelly Stone, Ellie Brady, Amy Wright and Ana Matute

Whether you’re heading back to the classroom or coming back from a summer holiday, September is the perfect time to learn something new. Explore these fascinating and informative non-fiction books to give your brain a boost!

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Picture this: you’re approaching a new building for the first time. Maybe it’s your first class at a new school or your first day of work at the office. You want to make a good impression and are feeling confident as you grab the handle of the front door and push – but it’s a pull door! A moment of frustration and embarrassment ensues. There are so many little experiences like this that alter the way you interact with the world around you. The Design of Everyday Things examines the way humans interact with their physical surroundings and good (or bad!) design choices. It is a fascinating read that will change the way you think about conveniences that are built into objects and technology, from the placement of the handle on a tea kettle to the buttons on your smart device.

The Body by Bill Bryson

If you’re looking to learn something with a fun and witty guide, picking up a Bill Bryson book is always the best way to go. His latest offering will be the best biology lesson you ever get. The Body is a wonderfully funny but incredibly informative guide to the human body, a contraption that we don't understand as well as we think we do, despite living with them our whole lives. It’s the kind of book that will have you annoying your friends and family with interruptions of “Did you know…?” and “Can you believe…?” This book is perfect to get your brain back in the classroom, with fascinating chapters exploring everything from our heads to our toes.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Part memoir, part masterclass by one of the best-selling authors of all time, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is one of the most inspiring books about writing I’ve ever read. Talking about the skill of writing in a frank but practical way, this is the perfect book for students writing an essay or writers with dreams of being the next King of Horror. It is the perfect guide for anyone looking to hone their skills on writing. And even if you never intend to write, the memoir is a wonderful take on King’s life and, like all his stories, does not lack imagination or entertainment. Simply reading King’s prose will motivate you to put your writing cap on and get some work done!

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson’s gift to non-fiction science writing is his ability to distil deeply complex, mind-blowing information into something comprehensible for youngsters and adults alike. He does this with style, hilarity and a human realness that perfectly communicates the wonder of what he is telling you. In this instance, he tells us about the Big Bang, the size of our universe, human evolution, modern scientific knowledge of our planet, its climate and how it may all end, all told with a nod to the scientists who brought this information to us in the first place. I learned so much from this book without even trying. It’s a modern scientific and literary masterpiece.

Paula by Isabel Allende

In 1991, Allende flew to Spain to see her daughter, who was ill with porphyria. What started as a letter to Paula finished as a way that Allende could live her own grief through her writing. It’s a slow read, a miscellaneous work combining multiple styles, that follows Allende’s life and Paula's illness. As Allende said, “Writing is a long process of introspection; it is a voyage toward the darkest caverns of consciousness, a long, slow meditation”. To me, it’s the perfect book for when you need a story about life and all the things we can’t control. It’s a book to find new hope in daily life.

How to Be a Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan

How to Be a Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan will teach you many things, but how to be a grown-up is perhaps not one of them. This inspirational memoir provides lessons on how to navigate life when you feel daunted by adulthood. Buchanan is the perfect agony aunt; she provides useful advice on jobs, friendships, relationships and more, all the while providing assurance that you’re not doing anything wrong. The memoir is honest and supportive, and Buchanan combines her realistic guidance with her own hilarious stories. The book’s ultimate lesson is that there is no right way of doing things, and learning from your unique mistakes is the best way to survive adulthood.


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