7 Recommended Non-fiction Reads That Will Enthrall You

Fingal Libraries
by Fingal Libraries on February 28, 2018.

There’s a huge and diverse range of non-fiction books published every year, and so many are available in our Libraries. Fergus O’Reilly, a Librarian based in Howth Library has chosen a selection of some of his favourite titles. Here are some of the absorbing factual writing published in the last year. 1.     Politics/History The […]

7 Nonfiction Recommended Reads

There’s a huge and diverse range of non-fiction books published every year, and so many are available in our Libraries. Fergus O’Reilly, a Librarian based in Howth Library has chosen a selection of some of his favourite titles. Here are some of the absorbing factual writing published in the last year.

1.     Politics/History

The Exile : the stunning inside story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in flight by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy

This is a long book with extensive notes at the end, but its main narrative is as compulsive as a thriller. It unravels the extraordinary inside story of Osama bin Laden, his family members and the major figures of Al Qaeda in the years after 9/11. There is first-person testimony from associates, and rare colour photographs of key figures and places. After the invasion of Afghanistan, what seemed a final confrontation around the mountains of Tora Bora saw Bin Laden slip away amidst confusion and recriminations. The ensuing details of flight and pursuit range across Pakistan, Afghanistan, the tribal border areas, Iran, and hidden CIA detention sites in Asia and East Europe. Explored is the controversial rendition policy of the United States, and its fraught relationship with Pakistan. The authors also challenge previous official reportage, and aspects of the feature film Zero Dark Thirty.

2.    History/Medicine

Pale Rider: the Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it changed the world by Laura Spinney

The Spanish flu of 1918-1920 has emerged as one of the greatest disasters in human history.  For so long it was an overlooked pandemic eclipsed by the attention given World War I. In 1991 the death toll was thought to be 30 million. More extensive research since then has led to estimations that at least 50 million died from the flu, and the figure may be up to 100 million. Laura Spinney explores its terrible impact around the globe, and the ways in which the war may have exacerbated its impact. The flu also attacked in three distinct waves. Even the name given it was misleading, as neutral Spain had an uncensored press and the onset of the disease was reported there, but was already present in several countries. Spinney looks at the work since 1920 identifying the virus, and the ongoing research. Extinct until 2005, the H1N1 strain that caused the flu was reanimated in a high-security laboratory to some scientific dissent. The spectre of future pandemics governs present-day research.

3.    Music/Popular Culture

Uncommon People : the rise and fall of the rock stars by David Hepworth

Author and music critic Hepworth argues in his foreword that the age of the rock star has passed, deeming Kurt Cobain the last rock star. Whether or not the reader shares his view, there is plenty of insight and humour in his illuminating snapshots from the storied past of rock music. He offers one defining moment per year from his designated period (1955-1995). Figures from Presley to Dylan to Springsteen to Madonna are shown to have the ability to both reflect and mould the society around them.  Some are caught in decline (Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin), and some in tragic early death (Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Freddy Mercury, Cobain). A few are defined by extra-musical achievement – Duran Duran pioneering the ideal MTV videos and Bob Geldof galvanising his peers into philanthropy and Live Aid. The book has its provocative surprise inclusions and omissions.

4.    Cinema

Movie Geek : the den of geek guide by Simon Brew, Ryan Lambie & Louisa Mellor

This book from the people behind the popular film website charts movie facts and hidden stories from pre-production through to release.  It provides entertaining and irreverent insights into how a movie budget is spent, why costs have shot up in recent times, and the particular genres that were so strong in different decades. There’s a different slant on successful franchises like Star Wars and Back to the Future, and fascinating categories like brilliant opening credit sequences in movies, the movie sequels you might not know existed, and incredibly arduous film productions. In two pages there’s a look back at how home movie formats have changed, from the launch of Betamax and VHS to DVD and Blu-ray, and ones like VCD and UMD that foundered. 

5.    Sport

The Mixer : the story of Premier League tactics, from route one to false nines by Michael Cox

2017 marked the 25th anniversary of the transformation/rebranding of top-flight English football as the Premier League. This book shows how the set team patterns of 4-4-2 and an emphasis on physicality and tackling changed, in part thanks to the influence of talismanic foreign signings like Eric Cantona and Dennis Bergkamp. The author sees 2004 as another critical juncture, when managers Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez arrived with different systems and ideas. Cox watched around 100 games over the period, talked to participants, and looked at contemporary newspaper reports and biographies. This study of tactics is also about the stories of different teams, from Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United, full of flair and heartbreak, to Leicester’s miracle season, the revival of Manchester City, and the recent success of Chelsea. The evolution and legacy of the most durable and successful managers (Ferguson, Wenger, Mourinho) is fully explored.

6.    Economics

A Little History of Economics by Niall Kishtainy

In the early development of economics, its leading figuress were primarily philosophers who evolved their ideas from studying how society should work. Economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo laid the framework for classical economic thought, and Karl Marx established a countervailing view of an alternative society. In brief chapters, the author chronicles the development of economic theories from ancient times, but the greatest concentration is on ideas since 1929 when the Great Depression forced a lot of reassessment. Game theory, development economics, public choice theory, feminist economics, moral hazard, and more ideas are examined in a lively anecdotal way.  There is the iconic clash between the theories of J M Keynes and Milton Friedman which actively influenced the policies of governments. The speculative finance that led to the recent global crisis is explained, and leads on to why economists matter.

7.    Memoir

Life After life: a Guildford Four Memoir by Paddy Armstrong with Mary Elaine Tynan

In 1974 Paddy Armstrong was wrongly convicted of carrying out the IRA Guildford and Woolwich bombings, along with his girlfriend Carole Richardson and two Belfast acquaintances, Gerry Conlon and Paul Hill. Armstrong had in fact been living a somewhat aimless bohemian existence in London and was ill prepared for the physical and psychological abuse he suffered in police custody.  He spent 15 years inside, moving between different prisons. He had to cope with bouts of depression and moments of false hopes, like an appeal a few years later that failed. His conviction and time in prison forms the core of his memoir, but there is a fascinating final section of the book dealing with his adjusting to freedom.  Being a public figure and having a lump sum of compensation money brought its own complications, but in Dublin he finds love and a family. The book ends on a poignant note with the passing of Carole and then Gerry Conlon.


The above titles are available from Fingal Libraries. You can borrow any of the books free of charge by calling into your local Fingal Library .  Alternatively you may wish to search and reserve for your chosen book in the comfort of your own home by using the Fingal Online Library Catalogue. We have created links for each Book which will bring you directly into our Online Library Catalogue, just click on your chosen Book title.


By Fergus O’ Reilly, Fingal County Libraries