Nonfiction you’re eager to learn from – Sunday Stack #19

I’m always a sucker for a nonfiction when it comes to impulse buying at the book store. But I have to say, they are also the books that seem to get the least love when it comes to actually reading them. Today I thought I would share the nonfiction read that I am particularly determined to read by this time next year. Most are history, as I always find them the most fascinating, so if you’re looking to dive into all this past, I’m sure there will be some great picks here for you to choose from.

Serhii Plokhy- Chernobyl

On the morning of April 26, 1986, Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine. Dozens died of radiation poisoning, fallout contaminated half the continent, and thousands fell ill.

In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy draws on new sources to tell the dramatic stories of the firefighters, scientists, and soldiers who heroically extinguished the nuclear inferno. He lays bare the flaws of the Soviet nuclear industry, tracing the disaster to the authoritarian character of the Communist party rule, the regime’s control over scientific information, and its emphasis on economic development over all else.

Today, the risk of another Chernobyl looms in the mismanagement of nuclear power in the developing world. A moving and definitive account, Chernobyl is also an urgent call to action.

Simon Sebag Montefiore – Catherine the Great & Potemkin

It was history’s most successful political partnership – as sensual and fiery as it was creative and visionary. Catherine the Great was a woman of notorious passion and imperial ambition. Prince Potemkin – wildly flamboyant and sublimely talented – was the love of her life and her co-ruler. Together they seized Ukraine and Crimea, defining the Russian empire to this day. Their affair was so tumultuous that they negotiated an arrangement to share power, leaving Potemkin free to love his beautiful nieces, and Catherine her young male favourites. But these ‘twin souls’ never stopped loving each other. Drawing on their intimate letters and vast research, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s enthralling, widely acclaimed biography restores these imperial partners to their rightful place as titans of their age.

John Guy – My Heart is My Own

A long-overdue and dramatic reinterpretation of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots by one of the leading historians at work today.

She was crowned Queen of Scotland at nine months of age, and Queen of France at sixteen years; at eighteen she ascended the throne that was her birthright and began ruling one of the most fractious courts in Europe, riven by religious conflict and personal lust for power. She rode out at the head of an army in both victory and defeat; saw her second husband assassinated, and married his murderer. At twenty-five she entered captivity at the hands of her rival queen, from which only death would release her.

The life of Mary Stuart is one of unparalleled drama and conflict. From the labyrinthine plots laid by the Scottish lords to wrest power for themselves, to the efforts made by Elizabeth’s ministers to invalidate Mary’s legitimate claim to the English throne, John Guy returns to the archives to explode the myths and correct the inaccuracies that surround this most fascinating monarch. He also explains a central mystery: why Mary would have consented to marry – only three months after the death of her second husband, Lord Darnley – the man who was said to be his killer, the Earl of Bothwell. And, more astonishingly, he solves, through careful re-examination of the Casket Letters, the secret behind Darnley’s spectacular assassination at Kirk o’Field. With great pathos, Guy illuminates how the imprisoned Mary’s despair led to a reckless plot against Elizabeth – and thus to her own execution.

The portrait that emerges is not of a political pawn or a manipulative siren, but of a shrewd and charismatic young ruler who relished power and, for a time, managed to hold together a fatally unstable country.

Rosella Postorino – The Women at Hitler’s Table

East Prussia, 1943. Hitler hides away in the Wolfsshanze – his hidden headquarters. The tide is turning in the war and his enemies circle ever closer.
Ten women are chosen.
Ten women to taste his food and protect him from poison.

Twenty-six-year-old Rosa has lost everything to this war. Her parents are dead. Her husband is fighting on the front line. Alone and scared, she faces the SS with nothing but the knowledge every bite might be her last.

Caught on the wrong side of history, how far is Rosa willing to go to survive?

Lucy Worsley – Jane Austen at Home

Take a trip back to Jane Austen’s world and the many places she lived as historian Lucy Worsley visits Austen’s childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses–both grand and small–of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life. In places like Steventon Parsonage, Godmersham Park, Chawton House and a small rented house in Winchester, Worsley discovers a Jane Austen very different from the one who famously lived a ‘life without incident’. 

Worsley examines the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to her, and the varying ways in which homes are used in her novels as both places of pleasure and as prisons. She shows readers a passionate Jane Austen who fought for her freedom, a woman who had at least five marriage prospects, but–in the end–a woman who refused to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy.

Lucy Worsley – Courtiers

Kensington Palace is now most famous as the former home of Diana, Princess of Wales, but the palace’s glory days came between 1714 and 1760, during the reigns of George I and II . In the eighteenth century, this palace was a world of skulduggery, intrigue, politicking, etiquette, wigs, and beauty spots, where fans whistled open like switchblades and unusual people were kept as curiosities. Lucy Worsley’s The Courtiers charts the trajectory of the fantastically quarrelsome Hanovers and the last great gasp of British court life. Structured around the paintings of courtiers and servants that line the walls of the King’s Staircase of Kensington Palace-paintings you can see at the palace today-The Courtiers goes behind closed doors to meet a pushy young painter, a maid of honor with a secret marriage, a vice chamberlain with many vices, a bedchamber woman with a violent husband, two aging royal mistresses, and many more. The result is an indelible portrait of court life leading up to the famous reign of George III , and a feast for both Anglophiles and lovers of history and royalty.

And there we have it! I definitely need to make more time to read Non-Fiction and with these picks, I can’t wait !

2 thoughts on “Nonfiction you’re eager to learn from – Sunday Stack #19

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