A Non-Fiction Adventure

NF Adventure

I don’t read as much non-fiction as fiction. I find it needs more concentration and so often pick up and read fiction. But I do like non-fiction and own quite a lot of it. I’ve been trying to read more and one way that helps me to focus on reading it is the This Isn’t Fiction Reading Challenge run by Birgit at The Book Garden.

Now, thanks to Bev at My Reader’s BlockI’ve found another wayA Non-Fiction Adventure.  Like The Classics Club this one runs for five years. It’s hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict

The Sign- up is here.

These are the guidelines:

  • Choose 50+ non-fiction books; the number is up to you. Choose 50, 75, 100, 200. It’s entirely your choice.
  • Books must be non-fiction€“biography, autobiography, history, memoir, cooking, travel, science, etc.
  • List them at your blog (or on Goodreads or another social media site, if you do not have a blog)
  • Choose your completion goal date five years in the future€¦

My five years run from 14 August 2013 to 14 August 2018.

My Goal: 50 books, initially choosing from these 60 books: all books I own; there are more, but I think this is enough to start with. I like the idea that your list can change, so this is just a starting point and no doubt I’ll find other books I want to read during the next five years!


  1. Jane Austen’s Letters
  2. Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years 1969-1979 €“ Michael Palin
  3. Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople: From The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates €“ Patrick Leigh Fermor
  4. Great Meadow: an Evocation €“ Dirk Bogarde
  5. Slipstream: a Memoir €“ Elizabeth Jane Howard
  6. Trollope: an Autobiography
  7. A Long Walk to Freedom €“ Nelson Mandela
  8. The Snow Geese €“ William Fiennes
  9. A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep €“ Rumer Godden
  10. Corvus: a Life with Birds €“ Esther Woolfson
  11. The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters €“ Charlotte Mosley  editor
  12. Chronicle of Youth €“ Vera Brittain


  1. Being Shelley €“ Anne Wroe
  2. The Wolf That Never Sleeps €“ Marguerite de Beaumont (Baden-Powell)
  3. The Innocent Man €“ John Gresham
  4. Mary Queen of Scots €“ Alison Weir
  5. Victorian People €“ Asa Briggs
  6. D H Lawrence: the Life of an Outsider €“ John Worthen
  7. Billy €“ Pamela Stephenson
  8. The Life of Samuel Johnson €“ James Boswell
  9. William Barclay €“ Clive Rawlins
  10. Thomas Hardy: the Time-torn Man €“ Claire Tomalin
  11. Howard Hughes €“ Peter Harry Brown
  12. Marilyn Monroe €“ Barbara Leeming
  13. Shakespeare: the biography €“ Peter Ackroyd
  14. Charles Dickens: a Life €“ Claire Tomalin
  15. Dickens €“ Peter Ackroyd
  16. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey €“ Leanda de Lisle
  17. Virginia Woolf: a Writer’s Life €“ Gordon Lyndall
  18. Mary Queen of Scots €“ Antonia Fraser
  19. L S Lowry: a Life €“ Shelley Rhode
  20. Agatha Christie at Home €“ Hilary Macaskill


  1. Great Escape Stories €“ Eric Williams
  2. Big Chief Elizabeth €“ Giles Milton
  3. Band of Brothers €“ Stephen E Ambrose
  4. How the Girl Guides Won the War €“ Jane Hampton
  5. The Making of Modern Britain €“ Andrew Marr
  6. After Elizabeth: the death of Elizabeth and the coming of King James €“ Leanda de Lisle
  7. Stalingrad €“ Anthony Beevor
  8. The English €“ Jeremy Paxman
  9. Shakespeare’s Restless World: An Unexpected History in 20 Objects €“ Dr N Mcgregor
  10. Wartime Britain €“ Juliet Gardiner
  11. 1599:  A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare €“ James Shapiro
  12. The Games We Played €“ Susan Kelleher
  13. Glencoe €“ John Prebble
  14. On the Trail of the Assassins €“ Jim Garrison

Philosophy/ Religion

  1. Sovereignty of Good €“ Iris Murdoch
  2. Think: a compelling introduction to philosophy €“ Simon Blackburn
  3. Meditations €“ Aurelius
  4. C S Lewis: the Man and His God €“ Richard Harries
  5. Islam: a very short introduction €“ Malise Ruthven

Reading/ Writing

  1. Virginia Woolf on Women and Writing
  2. A Reading Diary €“ Alberto Manguel
  3. The Companion to the History of the Book €“ Simon Eliot & Jonathan Rose editors
  4. How Fiction Works by James Wood
  5. You English Words €“ John Moore


  1. Weeds €“ Richard Mabey
  2. Gorillas in the Mist €“ Dian Fossey
  3. Rivers €“ Griff Rhys Jones
  4. The Penguin Book of Lies €“ Philip Kerr editor

14 thoughts on “A Non-Fiction Adventure”

  1. This sounds like a “challenging challenge”. I don’t think I own 50 non fiction books. I like non fiction: memoirs, biographies and medical books and then of course gardening, cooking etc.

    enjoy Margaret


  2. Margaret – Thanks for sharing this with us. You’ve got quite an impressive goal here, and I’ll be looking forward to reading your reviews as you go along. I do like your variety of books, too.


  3. The only non-fiction I read that hasn’t turned up on one of my book group lists or that I need for research purposes is letters and journals. If you want to add to your selection do try Virginia Woolf’s letters and journals. They are superb.


  4. Hi Margaret,
    You have certainly set yourself an impressive challenge, I have difficulty thinking five minutes ahead, let alone five years.
    Between us, hubbie and I own several hundred non-fiction books, but I have to confess that 99% of them are his, not mine.
    I am something of a sloth, when it comes to reading non-fiction, it is all too easy to take the easy, non-thinking option and pick up a fiction book!
    If I do delve into the depths of our (his) non-fiction shelves, I will usually select a book of quotes or poetry, something I can open randomly and always find something interesting to read for just a short time span.
    Good Luck with your mission.
    If I do venture into the realms of non-fiction


  5. Diane, I’m treating this as a project rather than a challenge!
    Margot, it’s because I like variety that I’ve ended up with lots of books I’ve really only dipped into up to now. I’m hoping this project will concentrate my mind.
    Alex, thanks for the suggestion. I’ve heard that about Virginia Woolf’s letters and journals – I haven’t got any of them but I’m on the look-out for them!
    Yvonne, I’m not surprised – after all, your blog is called Fiction Books!


  6. An excellent ‘project’ and good luck with it. A bit similar to my American challenge which I plan to take years over too. Some interesting books on your lists, the only one I’ve read is The English by Paxo, liked it very much. Enjoy!


  7. I’ve read just a few of these selections. Good luck reading them when there is so much fiction to read too. Time is just so limited. I’ve been trying to read a fat biography of Harry Truman in between novels, but this is taking quite a long time.


    1. Barbara, that’s the difficulty isn’t it – non-fiction is often long and you have to concentrate to read it. I try to read them alongside novels and it always takes me much longer.


  8. You will have a non-fiction adventure! I enjoy bios and histories and occasionally science books. I’m impressed that you already have all of these–you will be striking a blow for the TBR effort as well!

    Band of Brothers will be on my list as well–Ambrose is a marvelous writer of history.

    I may join in this challenge–while I do tend to mix it up with non-fiction, so many of my reading challenges these days involve fiction that the non-fiction gets pushed aside.


    1. Jane, I hope you do. I have so many because I get so enthusiastic about a book and mean to read each one as soon as I get it – but it doesn’t often work out that way – for example I brought home Road to Referendum (non-fiction) and The English Spy (fiction) from the library meaning to read the Referendum book first but once I’d looked at the other one I carried on reading it. Now someone has reserved the Ref book and I’ve had to return it unfinished! I’ve since found a Kindle version at £1.19 so at least I can read it, but now I’m reading The Pillars of the Earth (over 1,000) – when will I get round to reading non-fiction??


  9. I started the Non-Fiction Challenge back in 2012 at the same time I started The Classics Club. I’ve read a surprising number on both lists. What is happening with my non-Fiction Challenge is I see non-fiction books not on my list at the bookstore, pick them up and read them. I haven’t been taking books off the list as this happens so it just keeps getting longer! I like the challenges, though. It gives my reading a bit of organization, which I enjoy.


  10. This list looks daunting to me, so good luck! I am into non fiction travel books lately. Memoir types, Denis Hickey has Breaking Free out now and it was fabulous! He’s got The Traveler due out soon and I can’t wait. He has a knack for a great read, http://www.breakingfree-thebooks.com/ for his info. Good for any list I think!


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