A Non-Fiction Adventure

A little while ago I read about a new reading project: A Non-Fiction Adventure.

At first I thought I would be mad to take on another reading project, but when I thought a little more I decided that it was something I really should do.

Because I used to read a lot of non-fiction, but over the last few years I have read next to nothing. It isn’t that I haven’t found books that I’ve wanted to read – I’ve found lots – but I haven’t picked them up.

So I need a push, to make me re-balance my reading, and this is it.

Here’s how it works:

Inspired by Jillian’s Classic Club, Michelle of The True Book Addict has put together a spin-off for non-fiction novels, A Non-Fiction Adventure.

These are the guidelines:

  • Choose 50+ non-fiction books; the number is up to you. Choose 50, 75, 100, 200. It’s entirely your choice.
  • Books must be non-fiction–biography, autobiography, history, memoir, cooking, travel, science, etc.
  •  List them at your blog (or on Goodreads or another social media site, if you do not have a blog)
  •  Choose your completion goal date five years in the future…

I’m listing fifty books. I’ve kept the number low because, I hope, many of these books will lead me to other books. And because who knows what might happen over the next five years.

Here’s the list:

Interesting Women & Their Lives

  • A Profound Secret: May Gaskell, her daughter Amy, and Edward Burne-Jones by Josceline Dimbleby
  •  Becoming Queen by Kate Williams
  •  Born to Rule: Granddaughters of Victoria, Queens of Europe by Julia Gelardi
  •  England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton by Kate Williams
  •  Katey: The Life and Loves of Dickens’s Artist Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley
  •  Love Among the Butterflies: Travels and Adventures of a Victorian Lady by Margaret Fountaine
  • Period Piece by Gwen Raverat
  •  Red Princess: A Revolutionary Life by Sofka Zinovieff
  •  The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey by Leanda de Lisle
  •  Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore

Houses, Homes & Domesticity

  • Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery
  •  Four Hedges by Clare Leighton
  •  We Bought an Island by Evelyn E Atkins
  •  Madresfield: One house, one family, one thousand years by Jane Mulvagh
  •  The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton by Kathryn Hughes
  •  If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley
  •  Other People’s Daughters: The Life And Times Of The Governess by Ruth Brandon
  •  Buried Treasure: Travels Through the Jewel Box by Victoria Finlay

Writers and Writing

  • Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties by Marion Meade
  •  Colette: Secrets of the Flesh by Judith Thurman
  •  I Find Four people by Pamela Frankau
  •  One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
  • Slipstream by Elizabeth Jane Howard
  • Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man by Claire Tomalin
  • Words of Love: Passionate Women from Heloise to Sylvia Plath by Pamela Norris
  • Young Romantics by Daisy Hay


  • A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival by Julie Moorhead
  • Arbella: England’s Lost Queen by Sarah Gristwood
  • From East End to Land’s End: The Evacuation of Jews’ Free School, London, to Mousehole in Cornwall During World War Two by Susan Soyinka
  • How Girl Guides Helped to Win the War by Janie Hampton
  • Map of a Nation by Rachel Hewitt
  • Moltov’s Magic Lantern: A Journey in Russian History by Rachel Polonsky
  • The Blitz: The British Under Attack by Juliet Gardiner
  • The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War by Juliet Nicholson
  • The Thirties: An Intimate History of Britain by Juliet Gardiner
  • Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor Englamd by William Penn

Life Stories

  • A Late Beginner by Priscilla Napier
  • Corduroy by Adrian Bell
  • Look Back With Love by Dodie Smith
  • Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School by Ysenda Maxtone Graham
  • My Grandmothers and I by Diana Holman-Hunt
  • Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters
  • The Young Ardizzone by Edward Ardizzone

The Big, Wide World

  • Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King
  • Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives by Katie Hickman
  • Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France by Lucy Moore
  • Maharinis: The Lives and Times of Three Indian Princesses by Lucy Moore
  • The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime by Judith Flanders
  • The World That Was Ours by Hilda Bernstein
  • Up the Country: Letters from India by Emily Eden

And five years from today the date will be 10th April 2017.

Wish me luck!

11 responses

  1. I love your list! I’ve only read a handful of these books (mostly from the history section) but everything looks great and I’ve added a few of these to my own TBR list (I can’t believe I’d never heard of Daughters of Britannia!). It seems bizarre that 2017 is only 5 years away but I think I’m still mentally convinced it is about 2006.

    Good luck!

  2. Good luck, I do admire all the challenges you do. This sounds such a good one.

    I have heard of a few of these and as I have got my history bug back, I will be checking some of these out.

    I have the Wendy Moore on my shelf and it is one of my own personal challenges this year to finish it. We will see…..

  3. You’ve got some wonderful books there. Period Piece is one of my favourite books, I was given it by my grandmother aged 14 and still have that much-read copy, and Daughters of Brittania is one fo those books to read when you’re feeling gloomy. It’s not a ‘funny’ book but those indomitable women can’t help but lift your spirits.

    I love the sound of Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin, must look that one up.

  4. Another challenge, so tempting! I hadn’t even finished reading your list when I stopped reading and started making one of my own. I shall try to resist joining this challenge but I don’t know if I can.

    I’ve only read one of the books on your list, The World That Was Ours by Hilda Bernstein, which was both wonderful and terrifying. I think I’ll be adding a lot from your list to my nonfiction TBR list!

  5. Good luck! There are some great books in your list. I too read very little NF despite owning and desiring to read lots. I don’t think I could commit to this challenge though.

  6. Good luck with this! I’ve been trying to increase the amount of non-fiction I read but I think this challenge would be too much for me. Winter King is the only book on your list that I’ve read, but a lot of the others sound very intriguing!

  7. Had a lot of fun reading your Non-fiction TBR list… Great selection of titles. I adore NF, and managed to add some new titles to my own TBR from your selection. 🙂 I own “Love Among the Butterflies” and “Period Piece” and have been looking forward to those. “Behind Closed Doors” is fabbo, and I’ve heard good things about “If Walls Could Talk”… (You might be interested in Judith Flanders “Inside a Victorian House” which is similar but different. Also Bill Bryson has a good history of the home out as well.) And both the Juliets (Nicholson and Gardiner) are on my shelves as well.

    I’d love to go through your bookshelves. I think we’d have a lot of overlap. Here’s to happy reading!

  8. What a great idea! And I love your categories!
    Period Piece has been gathering dust on my bookshelves ever since I bought it Cambridge last year – if I ever get around to drawing up a list of my own (I am sorely tempted) it will definitely be going down on it. As will the Judith Thurman biography of Colette, which sounds fantastic.
    Good luck and happy reading!

  9. What a fantastic list! I’ve read about 2/3 of them & enjoyed them all. I suppose if I had to choose 3 favourites they would be Period Piece, Time-torn Man & Behind Closed Doors. This sounds like one challenge that will be a continuous delight. Just as well you have 5 years to finish it.

  10. Wow, what a list! I can’t believe that out of all the diverse non-fiction I own, I do not own even one of those books. I’ll look forward to your reviews so I can see what I need to add to my collection! Thanks so much for joining me on the Non-Fiction Adventure. I hope you enjoy the journey. 🙂

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