Affiliate links // I’d never been a big non-fiction fan until a few years ago. My love for non-fiction started with a couple of Formula 1 autobiographies, including Watching the Wheels by Damon Hill and Life To the Limit by Jenson Button and after that, particularly throughout 2020, I found myself more and more drawn to non-fiction on the basis of being educated and inspired as well as entertained.

Non Fiction Books

I’ve delved into a LOT of incredible non-fiction books recently so today I wanted to share with you 5 of them that I think you should add to your TBR list for 2021. I know non-fiction isn’t for everyone and not everyone enjoys it. I was one of those people. But I’m so glad that changed because otherwise I probably would have never read some of these incredible voices which have made me laugh, cry, be inspired and also shocked.

My taste in non-fiction seems to be quite serious, so you probably won’t find anything light-hearted in this list. But if you want stories of real life, from real people who have been on the front line in their various industries, who have used their voice to challenge, educate and break down barriers, then you’ll find something here worth reading.

Here are 5 non-fiction books to add to your TBR list this year:

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This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries By a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay

Welcome to the life of a junior doctor:

97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.

Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn’t – about life on and off the hospital ward.

I’ll start with this one because it’s probably one of the most well-known books on this list as well as potentially the most light-hearted. Although there’s certainly some heartbreaking moments in Adam Kay’s secret diaries, on a whole, it’s a pretty light read that WILL make you laugh out loud.

His Christmas book, ‘Twas the Night Shift Before Christmas is also an absolute banger and definitely worth picking up along with this one if you just can’t get enough of Adam’s hilariously funny and painfully real stories.

It’s Not About the Burqua by Mariam Khan

When was the last time you heard a Muslim woman speak for herself without a filter?

In 2016, Mariam Khan read that David Cameron had linked the radicalization of Muslim men to the ‘traditional submissiveness’ of Muslim women. Mariam felt pretty sure she didn’t know a single Muslim woman who would describe herself that way. Why was she hearing about Muslim women from people who were neither Muslim, nor female?

Years later the state of the national discourse has deteriorated even further, and Muslim women’s voices are still pushed to the fringes – the figures leading the discussion are white and male.

Taking one of the most politicized and misused words associated with Muslim women and Islamophobia, It’s Not About the Burqa is poised to change all that. Here are voices you won’t see represented in the national news headlines: seventeen

Muslim women speaking frankly about the hijab and wavering faith, about love and divorce, about feminism, queer identity, sex, and the twin threats of a disapproving community and a racist country. Funny, warm, sometimes sad, and often angry, each of these essays is a passionate declaration, and each essay is calling time on the oppression, the lazy stereotyping, the misogyny and the Islamophobia.

What does it mean, exactly, to be a Muslim woman in the West today? According to the media, it’s all about the burqa.

Here’s what it’s really about.

This book was one I picked up in the library mid-2020 on a whim. I knew I wanted to branch out with my reading a bit but wasn’t quite sure how. I just knew that I needed to step out of my comfort zone. And boy did this book help me do that. But in the best way. When it comes to minority representation, this book should be on everyone’s lips.

It’s Not About the Burqa was an incredibly eye-opening collection of essays from a range of Muslim women, talking honestly and openly about everything from sex, divorce, feminism and more. Each woman is insanely passionate and real about their topic of choice. I absolutely shot through this book.

Your Life In My Hands: A Junior Doctor’s Story by Rachel Clarke

“I am a junior doctor. It is 4 a.m. I have run arrest calls, treated life-threatening bleeding, held the hand of a young woman dying of cancer, scuttled down miles of dim corridors wanting to sob with sheer exhaustion, forgotten to eat, forgotten to drink, drawn on every fibre of strength that I possess to keep my patients safe from harm.”

How does it feel to be spat out of medical school into a world of pain, loss and trauma that you feel wholly ill-equipped to handle? To be a medical novice who makes decisions which – if you get them wrong – might forever alter, or end, a person’s life? To toughen up the hard way, through repeated exposure to life-and-death situations, until you are finally a match for them?

In this heartfelt, deeply personal account of life as a junior doctor in today’s health service, former television journalist turned doctor, Rachel Clarke, captures the extraordinary realities of ordinary life on the NHS front line. From the historic junior doctor strikes of 2016 to the ‘humanitarian crisis’ declared by the Red Cross, the overstretched health service is on the precipice, calling for junior doctors to draw on extraordinary reserves of what compelled them into medicine in the first place – and the value the NHS can least afford to lose – kindness.

This extraordinary memoir offers a glimpse into a life spent between the operating room and the bedside, the mortuary and the doctors’ mess, telling powerful truths about today’s NHS frontline, and capturing with tenderness and humanity the highs and lows of a new doctor’s first steps onto the wards in the context of a health service at breaking point – and what it means to be entrusted with carrying another’s life in your hands.

You might start noticing a bit of a trend by the end of this post. I definitely lean more towards medical related books which I know aren’t for everyone but I find them so eye-opening and fascinating. Although medical related, this book was not what I expected to be totally honest but it actually taught me so much more than what I thought it would.

This is a seriously eye-opening book. About junior doctors, politics and a severely broken system that a lot of us owe our lives to. The highs and lows and the fight that junior doctors have every day to stay afloat in a drowning NHS. If you care about our NHS at ALL, this book is for you.

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it.

She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ that led to this book.

Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.

I have NO DOUBT that you’ve heard about this book – or read it yourself. I picked this up last year after George Floyd’s death and the increased awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. Of course this sentence alone shows my white privilege so this book was a good place to start for me in order to educate myself further.

It’s a hard read. Intellectually as well as because of the subject matter. It’s more than eye-opening. It’s more than educational. It really does make you – a white person – reconsider how you react, behave, talk and think about race and racism in today’s society.

A Nurse’s Story: My Life In A&E During the COVID Crisis by Louise Curtis

In the midst of the worst global health crisis in recent memory, those working in the NHS have been celebrated as heroes. But what does it mean to have to go to work in such challenging times?

Newly qualified as an advanced clinical physician, thirty-two year old Louise Curtis was very much looking forward to going back to work in A&E in her Midlands hospital. What she did not expect was to be confronted with the most horrific frontline scenario a nurse could ever imagine. Moved into a newly created Intensive Care Unit for Covid patients, Louise was brought face to face with death and suffering on an unimaginable scale.

A Nurse’s Story is the nail-biting story of what she found there, how she tried to cope with it and the price she has had to pay for doing so. It is a heartbreaking and heartwarming account of what NHS staff are going through on a daily basis. It is a story of tears, bravery, self-sacrifice but also of hope and great kindness, of people pulling together and triumphing against daunting odds.

This was the most recent non-fiction book I read and I absolutely flew through it. It was an easy read but definitely a worthwhile one that opened your eyes to the effects the pandemic has had on healthcare staff and patients around the country over the last year.

Louise is very honest and real and shares some incredibly real stories of patients she’s seen (both covid related and not), attitudes she’s witnessed in the midst of the pandemic as well as the effects it’s had on her and the hospital she works at. This is definitely one to pick up.

Have you read any of these books? Which ones will you be putting on your TBR list this year?

95 Comments

  1. I haven’t read any of these but recently enjoyed a wonderful award winning Irish nonfiction title A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa which I highly recommend. Thanks for these suggestions, they sound really interesting.

  2. It sounds like you have some great suggestions on here. I haven’t read any of these, but a couple have really caught my attention. I haven’t read any medical books, honestly, but I am addicted to all the medical shows. I think it’s time I try branching out in terms of what I’m reading lol!

  3. I’ve told myself I’m going to read way more non-fiction throughout 2021, so this post is a great place to find some good ones! I absolutely love ‘This is Going to Hurt’ it’s one of my all time fave books 🙂 x

  4. Your Life In My Hands sounds incredible. I read “This Is Going To Hurt” in the summer of last year and was shocked and moved. I love non-fiction books of this style

    Thanks for sharing!

    Rosie

  5. I’ve read 3 of the books on this list, but in particulal Adam Kay’s this is going to hurt always stands out for me! I literally remember the first time I opened it, such an eye opening book x

  6. I haven’t read any of these books, but do they seem insightful. I need to add It’s Not About the Burqua & Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race to my TBR

  7. Although non-fiction will never make up a large portion of my reading, I will certainly always be reading it. I find non-fic refreshing in it’s own way, and certainly educational–whether I’m reading history, current events, or something else! x

  8. I have to read A Nurse’s Story, I can’t even begin how horrific this pandemic was for our healthcare workers who were face to face with death and this terrible virus daily. Definitely a must read.

  9. I seldom feel this way, but wow, every book in your list of non-fiction titles interest me! I’m gonna go check out some of them, and see if I can get them onto my Kindle. Thanks for the recommendations! 🙂

  10. I’m not very fond of non fiction but I actually am trying to expand my taste in books. This year, I’ve started with The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and I also have Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Michelle Obama’s Becoming on my TBR pile.

  11. I wish I had more of an interest in non-fiction. About the only time I really enjoy them is when they’re a memoir by a celebrity of some sort. I guess a lot of this has to do with the fact that I utilize reading to help me escape from reality, so non-fiction is more of a challenge since it’s just more reality. BUT I can see why all of these would be excellent reads! It’s neat that you’ve found enjoyment in medical-related books.

    1. Oh for sure. I can only read non-fiction in small doses but when it’s about such important issues, I think we should all try and consume the information if it helps us learn and grow. Fiction will always be my favourite though.

  12. You have some inspiringly deep reads here. I love non fiction; it is more grounding learning experience to know this IS the life someone lived. This Is Going To Hurt and A Nurse’s Story both sound like powerful books I need to read.
    Thanks for sharing!

  13. I like few fiction books but I like to read more books that are non fiction. I have read a couple of these. Though, going to check more from this list, thank you for sharing!

  14. I never thought of myself as a non-fiction person until I read Adam Kay last year, shortly followed by Becoming. Although I haven’t read much since, that’s just because there is so much that I still haven’t read that I intend to. There are some great sounding books here – Rachel Clarke’s in particular sounds like one I’d enjoy. Thanks for the recs!

  15. I absolutely second This is Going to Hurt and Why I’m no Longer Talking to white People about Race. My 2021 recommendation for you all is Becoming my Michelle Obama. You won’t regret it, I’ve never felt so inspired reading a book!! Xxx

  16. I have heard of some of these books before. I wanted to read why I no longer talk race and Adam Kay. I have heard great things about them. Might look at the other books too. Thank you for the recommendation.

    goalofhappiness.com

  17. I find it so hard to read non-fiction books tho all the ones I want to read at the moment are, so I’m trying to power through! Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People is a book that I have been wanting to read for so long but I’m 17th in line – hopefully it won’t be too long of a wait. I will go check out the rest too 🙂 x

    Caroline | https://envirolineblog.com/

  18. I love Adam Kay. I laughed so hard at some of the things in that book. I also read one about a prison doctor and that was really good too. I love reading about doctors, they’re just such amazing people!

  19. I liked This Is Going To Hurt and seem to be drawn to books about Junior Doctors so I will definitely try Your Life In My Hands. I find non-fiction so interesting! Thanks for sharing

  20. I read This is Going to Hurt ages ago and I think you’re spot on when you say it’s light hearted but there are bits in there that hit hard. And made me cry, which isn’t something that happens very often with books. I’ll need to read both your other medical non-fiction recommends, I think. Now more so than ever. Thank you for a lovely book post, Jenny! xx

  21. I love ‘Your life in my hands!’ It’s a fantastic book. I also love other books which follow the same lines like ‘Nightshift before Christmas.’ I’m currently reading a book called Stiff which talks about human cadavers being donated for science. It’s really made me re-think my own burial options after death, as morbid as that sounds.