Top 5 Non-Fiction of 2011

28th Nov 2011


It’s not long until the end of the year, and while we might already be drooling at the prospect of overdoing it on mince pies and Amaretto at every available opportunity over the holidays, we’ve got some serious business to do before then: end-of-year lists.

A beautiful time beloved by the obsessive, opinionated and argumentative, we can’t wait to see what you think of our favourites from the past twelve months, and to find out which ones would have made your list.

So, without further ado, here’s five non-fiction titles from 2011 that we’re sure we’ll be returning to time and time again:

The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing by Darina Al-Joundi

An utterly captivating rollercoaster of a read published by The Feminist Press, The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing is not an account of the jazz and blues icon, but instead a coming-of-age memoir set against a backdrop of bullets in war-torn Beirut.

Charting the author’s cultural education from her father, who schooled her from an early age in classic cinema, Arab erotica and fine wine, to her sexual misadventures later in life, this is a memoir recommended for all rebels with a cause.

 Persistence: All Ways Butch & Femme edited by Ivan E. Coyote & Zena Sherman

A collection of forty essays, analyses, anecdotes and experiences examining the binary of butch and femme identities, with a contributors’ list featuring authors, artists, academics and activists.

From butch pregnancy to femme invisibility, the collection showcases a spectrum of experiences, identities and interpretations, making Persistence thought-provoking, powerful, and essential reading for butches, femmes and all those inbetween.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Ranted and raved about in almost equal measure, this was probably the most controversial memoir of the year. Some loved it, others hated it, but there’s no denying that it got people talking.

Getting people to publicly discuss topics such as childbirth, plastic surgery, marriage and ‘muff tax’ isn’t an accomplishment many memoirs can boast, and for that Caitlin Moran’s boldness and bravery has been applauded (even if we’re not completely convinced).

Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

This long-awaited autobiography by one of our all-time favourite authors was published in October to universally rave reviews, and tells the true tale behind Winterson’s fictionalised but autobiographical debut, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit.

Winterson has always been upfront and eloquent about being brought up by adoptive Pentecostal parents, and her moving memoir recalls those times with her usual inimitable blend of humour, bravery and originality.

In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood

Literary grand dame Margaret Atwood may be best known for her Booker Prize winning fiction, but she is also a lifelong science fiction obsessive, exploring her love for the genre in this collection of essays published by Virago.

Our in-depth review will be on the site soon, but for a sneak peek into the analyses included by the undisputed queen of dystopian fiction, have a read of this excerpt at Beams & Struts, which looks at Batman through a Jungian lens.

What do you reckon? Will you be asking Santa for any of these? Are there others we’ve been mad to miss? Tell us in the comments which non-fiction titles would be in your top five this year…

Jane Bradley / Alex Herod