The 15 best nonfiction books for fans of advice, memoirs and histories
In a culture where books are more often than not considered essential to an individual’s personal survival, an entire genre has emerged: nonfiction books about books: the autobiographical, the self-help, the memoirs, the histories and the advice.
At the risk of sounding crass, there’s no doubt that these titles have a place in our lives.
But the question is more complex than whether we should read nonfiction books about books; it’s what we should read, and why.
There are many reasons to read a nonfiction book about books: to learn something about your favourite writer, your favorite author or your favorite book, or even to just appreciate great art. And some reasons to read some nonfiction books about books (again, this is a word of caution – avoid any genre of nonfiction book about books which will simply offer you the most interesting book-related tidbits you’ve ever read, as they’re rarely as good as the books they try to emulate).
If you want advice on reading nonfiction books about books, or more particularly on what you should read, here’s a list of 15 of my favourite nonfiction books about books. They’re all written by men, but as all women who write nonfiction books know, the best advice is often the one you’ve never had.
Best Non-fiction Books About Books by Men
John Berger, Ways of Seeing
John Berger, who was a key figure in the movement towards new, non-sectarian thinking in modern European culture, is the author of one of the finest accounts of nonfiction writing ever. His book is a personal account of his relationship with the non-existent text of the Book of Revelations, and of his own nonfiction writing. There’s a lot of detail in it about the process of nonfiction writing – the way he thinks about his texts, the process he goes through to write his books, and so much more. This book is a must-read for anyone who reads nonfiction books about books, and is a reminder that the best advice is always the one you haven’t asked for.
John Berger, My Father: A Memoir