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10 Non-Fiction Books That Must Be On Your Reading List

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By Krishangi Singh:

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”

Victor Hugo’s words ring true in every sense; a good book can ignite fiery passions that will enlighten minds beyond all dusk. If you have taken out time to read this article, it is safe to assume that you like reading, whether on a glossy screen or rustic leather bound books. While a significant number of readers find comfort in the easy mirth of popular romance comedies or contentment in thrilling adventures and voyages of wizards and elves, I urge you to leave your comfort zone and enter the engaging realms of the non-fiction genre. The discovery of truth becomes a prime delight here, as we are presented with various realities of life ranging from those of principal importance to our society to those with easy charms of everyday lives.

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In this article, I present to you ten non-fiction books written across the span of various centuries that are bound to make you adore this genre.

1. Light From Many Lamps — Lillian Watson

This book is a treasure of inspirational thoughts in form of hundreds of passages and quotes. The reason why this book shines brighter than the rest is because the author’s commentary provides the story behind the existence of world’s most inspirational ideas and how those were weaved. A collection of heartwarming essays and quotes by intellectuals like Franklin D. Roosevelt, Robert Browning, Abraham Lincoln and many others; this is the book one can look up to at all moments of self-doubt.

2. Politically Correct Bedtime Stories — James Finn Garner

This is perhaps one of the funniest books of all times. Mr. Garner refused to include any sexist, racist, culturist, nationalist, ageist, lookist, sizeist or even speciest element as he re-wrote the classic Grimm Brothers’ Fairytales. Thus, we are presented with a collection of objective and extremely hilarious version of fairytales where Cinderella goes on to open a co-operation of comfortable and practical clothing with her step-family after dumping Prince Charming for his ‘lookist’ tendencies! If this does not make you laugh, you must be in severe depression.

3. A Brief History Of Time — Stephen Hawking

If you are amongst people like me who fail to understand complicated equations filled scientific essays, than this book for Mr. Hawking’s easy narrations will be at your rescue. With over 10 million copies sold, this book explains the reason and problems behind fascinating issues like black holes, time travel and many more space related mysteries in an extremely simplified manner. With anecdotes and witty science jokes spaced throughout the book, Mr. Hawking ensures successful comprehension of even the most perplexing theories.

4. The Diary Of A Young Girl — Anne Frank

If you haven’t read this brilliant book, chances are, you have at least heard of Anne Frank. A 13-year-old Jewish girl penned down her innermost thoughts and fear in a diary while she and her family remained in hiding to evade the Nazi police. The book brings out the distress Jews faced as they were completely cut out from outside world and lived in constant terror of being arrested, or worse, being tortured and killed.

5. A Short History Of Nearly Everything — Bill Bryson

As the title very well indicates, this is a popular science book. Yet, the reason this book features in this must read list is because it is not written by some science-god, but rather a general professional writer. It gives the book a new freshness as the reader and writer take the exploring journey together, equally amused by the scientific findings and their discovery. It is filled with entertaining thoughts and witty lines which elevates the book from a mere collection of shocking facts.

6. Listening To Grasshoppers – Arundhati Roy

This book is a collection of essays pertaining to the flaws in the structure and existing practice of democracy. It ventures to reveal how currently developing democracies emulate the model of democracy on a rather superficial level that lacks strong substance. It goes on to provide an objective picture of the Armenian Genocide (Turkey, 1915) to the condemned Godhra riots (Gujarat, 2002) that will make you want to weep at the hypocrisy of the so-called liberal governments.

7. Orange Is The New Black — Piper Kerman

The subtitle of the book read, ‘My Year In A Women’s Prison’, making the storyline seeming easy to deduce. But once you start reading the book, it will dawn on you that this isn’t some rouge ex-con being arrested, but a prim and proper lady who merrily resides in an apartment in New York with her doting boyfriend and a promising career.

The author explains her illegal work in her reckless 20’s and how she deals with its consequences 10 years later when she has already cleaned up her life. It elaborates her sudden transition in prison life where there are prison codes, eccentric inmates and a colorful environment that seems to inculcate an entirely new world & her complete loss of direction after her release from the correction center.

8. The Good Nurse — Charles Graeber

Grey’s Anatomy fans, this is not a book about happy days and saving lives! This is the chilling account of a nurse named Charlie Cullen who killed perhaps hundreds of patients in a span of 6 years across 9 hospitals by injecting them with lethal doses of various medications.

Mr. Graeber in this book focuses beyond criminology and psychopathy and puts a sharp focus on the failure of hospital authorities’ ability to stop him from harming patients and the failure to report to state regulation authorities despite having evidence against him. The book is a nerve-racking explanation of a murderer’s ego issues as he suffers from the Hero complex and goes on a prolonged killing spree just to save some of them at the last moment.

9. Quiet — Susan Caine

If you happen to be among one-on-one engagement preferring people who dislike large gatherings, then this book will answer all your queries regarding your introverted behaviour. Susan Cain explains in her book how our society excessively prefers extroverted personalities thus forcing introverts to emulate them and be in distress regarding their natural behaviour. This book is a fine asset for people who are trying to deal with the societal pressure regarding their fondness for solace and minimalistic company as Miss Cain, being an introvert herself, explains how being an introvert is as natural as being an extrovert.

10. The Power Of Less — Leo Babauta

Our lives are so tangled within the seams of electronic and virtual world that a minimalistic approach to life becomes incredibly difficult.

This book is finely divided into sections for ease of understanding. The first part, ‘In Principle’ elaborately defines the rules to live by for a simplistic de-cluttered life, which at one point seems to be unnecessarily long. However, the second part of the book more than makes up for the slow beginning. ‘In Practice’ explains how these impossible seeming rules can be applied to various aspects of our daily lives for a simple and serene lifestyle. All in all, this is one self-help book that goes beyond arbitrary discussion and delves into actual implementation of self-help principles.

This concludes the list of non-fiction books that I think are informative as well as engaging. If not all, I hope you will read at least one of these fine books. I realize it is not possible to squeeze the entire genre in this petite list or rather any list at all, thus please comment below with the titles of books that you think are must-reads so everyone can gain more from the bounty of knowledge that the non-fiction genre is.

Now, the next time you plan to re-read the E.L. James series again, instead pick up one of these books and I’m sure you’ll find these a lot more believable.

You must be to comment.
  1. Mahitha Kasireddi

    Thank you for sharing this list 🙂

  2. Bhanvi Satija

    Aruna’s Story by Pinki Virani – Amazing piece of non fiction, written down as simply as possible. The novel carefully explains the case of Aruna Shaunbaug, the nurse who was raped way back in 1973. Even though Virani believes she hasn’t done justice to Aruna’s story, once you read the book you would want to believe otherwise..

  3. Neha Nautiyal

    Thank you for the recommendations.

  4. ishark

    I think you should add Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer to the list.

  5. Nikhil Kumar

    10 must read/must watch lists are always unfair. A recent book that should get to every non-fiction reading lists is Gandhi Before India by Ramachandra Guha

  6. Reader

    Thank you, Krishangi

  7. shikha bansal

    its a nice list. u should add ‘aavarana the veil ~ by S.L. bhyrappa’ and ‘freedom at midnight ~ by dominique lapierre. these two books are really awsm.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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