• Anna-Roisin Ullman-Smith

My Top 5 Non-Fiction Reads


Even the greatest reader of fiction has those few non-fiction books on their shelves which stand out to them as must reads. Here are the five non-fiction books I consider a personal must have and loved reading.


  1. A is for Armageddon by Richard Horne



Everyone has their own version of the 'Friends' Death book and A is for Armageddon is mine. Gloriously illustrated, and feeling like a misplaced high school textbook; including various places to add your own additions; A is for Armageddon is the sort of book you can flick through and enjoy from any page.

Jam packed with hilarious insight into all of the possible events which could end the world; from the very real threat of climate change to the highly unlikely rise of the Four Horsemen; this book will ensure you have an all round knowledge of all the awful things that could, may well do and probably won't happen during the apocalypse.

Though written, and illustrated, with humor this book is not entirely a joke. With well researched science thrown into the the realistic issues facing the world, Richard Horne will open your eyes to some of the things that are, sadly, actually destroying lives today.

For those writers exploring adventures in a post apocalyptic world A is for Armageddon is a must to turn to for ideas and explanations to bring your stories to life. While for those of us who just love to read it remains a fantastic book to have on the living room bookshelf, or in the bathroom, for guests to ponder over.


2. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle


A by far more academic read than the first on this list, Reclaiming Conversation, is an in-depth study into the effects of the digital age on all members of society.

This well thought out and thoroughly studied novel remains far from boring to read, with it's personal case studies and real life scenarios thrown in and grasping our understanding and attention.

While many may buck against the conclusions and the findings involved throughout the book, it cannot be denied that the effects of technology, particularly social media, remain a rising point of concern in all societies. If you want to have a point to stand on on the matter, coming from education in the topic, this is a must read for you.

Outside of the advance in debates this read can provide it is also an eye-opening look into the real effects of the digital age, which may in turn improve your own relationship with the online world after reading.


3. The Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda


Some books we read more than once because we enjoy them, others we read again because the first time around we didn't truly understand them.

For me The Laws Of Simplicity falls into both categories. On the one hand it is beautifully written, drawing you in with dashes of humor and honest representations of thought processes, while on the other hand it sits as a book which I will understand differently every time I read it. When I first read it as a teenager it hit me in completely different ways from when I read it as a student and now from when I read it as a mother. However each reading has opened my mind to a new way to secure simplicity in my life, and in turn the way I go about my life improves in ease and reduced stress from taking these messages to heart.

While I have successful made this sound like a self-help book in the mindfulness section, The Laws Of Simplicity is a scientific book; packed with research, studies and fundamental truths.

For those with a more academic mindset this is the kind of book which will help you to connect the dots in your life and bring improvements of simplicity to the forefront of actions, making you more effective, faster and by far less stressed out.


4. The Cloudspotter's Guide, by Gavin Pretor-Pinney


An oldy, buy a goody. I struggle to imagine that anyone alive has not, at some point, looked up at clouds and thought of them as beautiful, or created images from them in a game.

The Cloudspotters Guide takes that fascination and runs with it. Introducing you to every cloud imaginable, revealing their fluffy secretes and exploring their haphazard layers. Stuffed with photographs, stories of surprising natures, and written with an obvious love for the weather, The Cloudspotters Guide will leave you appreciative of the sky in a way you never have been before.

A book, even a topic, which so many may consider boring, is brought to life by Gavin Pretor-Pinney's evident excitement about it and will give you the opportunity to always be right about the weather.


5. Poverty Safari, by Darren McGarvey


The most recently published book on my list, and potentially the one with the greatest success in today's modern world, Poverty Safari is a must read for any British citizen who dares to say they 'care' about the plight of those less fortunate in this country.

Brazenly written, drawing on the personal real-life experiences of the author himself, Poverty Safari leaves no where to hide from the harsh realities of impoverished life.

Arguably the most hard hitting book on this list Poverty Safari remains in my top five fictional reads thanks to it's necessity in a Britain with a steadily increasing class and financial divide. In the past year (2020) issues of financial support have become mainstream topics for all members of society across the country, as many are forced onto benefits with the rise of job losses, yet drug abuse, and societal benefits; such as schools, employment opportunities, available housing; remain the lesser known, hardly talked about, struggles of many people across the UK.

Darren McGarvey highlights how the politics of the nation, on both sides, effect the lives of those living on the smallest of threads. His personal experiences shinning an honest light on how growing up in the poorest of homes and communities worsens the chance of the children, not due necessarily to the parents, but to the system and what the system allows them.

Though the topics are not light the writing is excellent. McGarvey taps into his journalistic know how to divide and conquer a long list of topics in an easy to read fashion. The change from present day to past and back again between chapters keeping you hooked, leaving you wanting to know what will happen next as if you're reading a piece of true crime fiction, while relentlessly forcing you to acknowledge the desperate reality that is the truth of today's economic standing for so many.

Heavy, and often distressing, Poverty Safari is a must read for all those who want to invoke positive change in this country, and an eye-opening read for those besides.




Are any of my top five non-fiction reads on your bookshelf? Do you have a book which you think I should read? Let me know in the comments below and a share your thoughts with all our readers.

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