Books on my TBR: ultra-specific non-fiction

Hello, friends! It’s time for my second instalment of books on my TBR, which is a series on my blog where I talk about a very specific subset of books on my TBR. I’ve done a few posts of really long lists of books on my TBR, so for these posts I’m going to try to keep the list fairly small, provide the synopsis from Goodreads, and talk about where I found it and why I want to read it.

So, today’s topic is ultra-specific non-fiction. So not just general history or memoirs, but non-fiction that focuses on one specific topic or thing. This isn’t a very well-defined subset, but you’ll get my drift as we go along.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you’re a woman.

Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.

If you know anything about me, I think it’s pretty obvious why I want to read this book. I love reading about systemic issues, and I’m particularly interested in data biases. Data bias is so interesting and important, so I want to read more about it.

If Women Counted by Marilyn Waring

This is a revolutionary and powerfully argued feminist analysis of modern economics, revealing how woman’s housework, caring of the young, sick and the old is automatically excluded from value in economic theory. An example of this pervasive and powerful process is the United Nation System of National Accounts which is used for wars and determining balance of payments and loan requirements. 

Similar to the first book, I love economics and I love feminist economics. This is one of the first feminist economic analyses, so if I can ever get my hands on a copy, I would love to read it.

They Call Me George: the Untold Story of The Black Train Porters by Cecil Foster

A historical work of non-fiction that chronicles the little-known stories of black railway porters – the so-called “Pullmen” of the Canadian rail lines. The actions and spirit of these men helped define Canada as a nation in surprising ways; effecting race relations, human rights, North American multiculturalism, community building, the shape and structure of unions, and the nature of travel and business across the US and Canada. Drawing on the stories and legends of several of these influential early black Canadians, this book narrates the history of a very visible, but rarely considered, aspect of black life in railway-age Canada. These porters, who fought against the idea of Canada as White Man’s Country, open only to immigrants from Europe, fought for and won a Canada that would provide opportunities for all its citizens.

I am always interested in reading more about unknown figures in Canada’s history, and this seems like a perfect place to start! I’ve heard a ton of good things about Cecil Foster’s writing, so I definitely need to give it a try soon.

We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ’90s and Changed Canadian Music by Andrea Warner

Between 1993 and 1997 Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain, Sarah McLachlan, and Céline Dion crossed genres and defied the odds to become the best-selling artists Canada has ever produced. From melodramatic romantic pop to gutsy, angst-driven alternative rock, these women changed the world of music and pop culture and impacted their listeners on an alarmingly personal level.

As a teenager, Andrea Warner divided the four women into two camps: Morissette and McLachlan struck an empowering chord within her but Dion and Twain seemed detrimental to the feminist she was becoming. Through personal, heartwarming, challenging, and exhilarating essays, Warner re-evaluates the impact of these women on her life as a teenager growing up in East Vancouver, examining their impact on feminism in popular music, the climate in which they succeeded, and their legacies.

Equal parts music criticism, cultural analysis, and coming-of-age memoir, We Oughta Know chronicles the careers of Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain, Sarah McLachlan, and Céline Dion with detailed research, intriguing wit, and razor-sharp criticism. It is a powerful debut from one of the strongest young voices in music journalism that leaves no stone unturned and frames four musicians you thought you knew in a powerful new light.

I read one of Warner’s other books earlier this year and found her writing really compelling. And again, I’m always interested in learning more about Canadian history, especially musical history. I think I might get this for my boyfriend for Christmas because men should always read more about women, and as a music nerd, he should read this (this will also be a good test to see if he reads my blog 😀).

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don’s work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins—aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony—and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after another, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family?

What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the schizophrenogenic mother to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amid profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself. And unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, offering paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations.

I love psychology, research and mental illnesses, and find schizophrenia particularly interesting. This book sounds so interesting, and I really need to read it soon. It’s also a book I wish my mom could read, but that’s sad so let’s move on.

Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why by Sady Doyle

She’s everywhere once you start looking for her: the trainwreck.

She’s Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston saying, “crack is whack,” and Amy Winehouse, dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is also as old (and as meaningful) as feminism itself.

From Mary Wollstonecraft—who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman—to Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, and even Hillary Clinton, Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck dissects a centuries-old phenomenon and asks what it means now, in a time when we have unprecedented access to celebrities and civilians alike, and when women are pushing harder than ever against the boundaries of what it means to “behave.”

Where did these women come from? What are their crimes? And what does it mean for the rest of us? For an age when any form of self-expression can be the one that ends you, Sady Doyle’s book is as fierce and intelligent as it is funny and compassionate—an essential, timely, feminist anatomy of the female trainwreck.

I talked in my last post about disaster women, and this is almost a non-fiction about disaster women. It sounds so interesting and very much up my alley.

So there are some very specific non-fiction books I have on my TBR! Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know!

Also if you have any requests for things you’d like to see on my TBR, let me know!

Ally xx

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8 thoughts on “Books on my TBR: ultra-specific non-fiction

  1. Excited to see Invisible Women on here. I read it in August and now I want everyone to read it because it was so impactful.
    If Women Counted sounds kind of similar so I might have to take a closer look at that one. Hope you enjoy them all 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Invisible Women is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s so powerful and shocking. The author has a great twitter account where she points out systemic sexism and data gaps — I’d highly recommend following her!

    Liked by 1 person

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