Thursday, 16 June 2011

Greatest non-fiction books

There is an interesting discussion going on this week over on the Guardian Books website.
They have compiled a list they are calling The 100 greatest non-fiction books. Obviously lists such as these are always biased to the interests and knowledge of the people compiling them, hence the greatest number of titles appear in History, Memoir, Philosophy and Politics while sections on Music, Maths, Environment and Religion are alarmingly short.

Also noticeable is the great age of many of the chosen books, which makes it a difficult list for public libraries to promote, though many of the titles will still be in print in new editions. The most recent title I spotted is Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky (2008) on the social media revolution.

There are already lots of comments about the list over on the Guardian site, most of them bemoaning the lack of individual people's personal favourites. More interesting to me are all the comments about the lack of readability of many of the titles which seem to have been picked because they are "classic" but not necessarily because they are an enjoyable good read.

So there is work to be done- can we flag up alternative titles in libraries? Titles which still inform and educate and which more people might actually finish reading; titles which complement this very worthy list. If there are any public libraries which take on this task please let me know here.

1 comment:

  1. One of our reading groups reads mainly non fiction. However they are more 'readable' titles than those in the Guardian's list.

    The books have to be readable and promote discussion...for example we have read 'Alex's Adventures in Numberland by Alex Bellos, Big Bang by Simon Singh and 'Quirkology: The Curious Science Of Everyday Lives' by Prof Richard Wiseman... I have a full reading list if anyone wants it.