When I worked at my public library for about a year, a coworker told me, “I only read nonfiction philosophy.” She was great at recommending books not in her preferred genre to patrons though.
I was thinking about her the other day and ruminating on my own niche tastes, the deep dives I tend to take into some obscure topics. I thought about how many books I own that are kind of peculiarly un-mainstream. I definitely delight in following my curiosity, which is, now that I think about it, one of the chief reasons I read for pleasure.
Anyway, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is a “love freebie,” meaning, I think, that we should create a top ten list of book-related things we love. So, here we go.
Ten slightly weird niche books/genres I really like
1. Ros Byam Shaw
I love English interior design so so much. It encompasses both decorating like you live in an English country estate and decorating like you live in a Hobbit Hole. Both are aesthetics to which I aspire.
I used to have a blog about needlepoint. A few years ago, I got suuuuper into it and spent a lot of time creating needlepoint and cross-stitch works and, of course, researching and reading about those topics. I don’t do needlepoint anymore because I actually have a hand injury and can’t grip a needle all that well. (It’d be like a dolphin using its flippers to sew.) But I still enjoy books on stitching and the history of “women’s work.” I particularly like Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery and the out of print history Plain & Fancy: American Women and Their Needlework, 1650-1850.
3. Unusual job memoirs
To read one of these, I have to actually be interested in the job the writer is doing or has done. Three of my recent faves are:
- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Stories from the Crematory
- It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War
- The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tale of Life on the Road
I also just heard about The Line Becomes a River, a memoir by a former border patrol guard, which I’ll be putting on hold at the library.
4. New Age
I wrote about my somewhat embarrassing affinity for New Age books here. I think it comes from some urge to seek a way of spirituality outside of traditional religion. But I’m not willing to commit to New Age beliefs either. The jury is out, I guess. Anyway, that post mentions a few books I’ve read that are the furthest out from logic.
A few more I’ve enjoyed:
- You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay – a classic of the genre; even if you don’t believe in the power of positive thinking (or that negative thinking can literally make you sick) the way Louise and her cult following do, this book really drives home the importance of loving yourself.
- Ghosts Among Us: Uncovering the Truth About the Other Side by James Van Praagh – Yep, he’s that famous medium from TV. I have no shame.
- Children’s Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Affect Your Child by Carol Bowman – I really want reincarnation to be a thing. But not with karma. Just the living again part.
Why do I identify so hard with nannies? I dunno but if the protagonist is a nanny, I’m in.
- Jane Eyre (obvi)
- This House is Haunted
- Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres – This is a somewhat academic look at the lives of well-known nannies, including, most interestingly, Mary Wollstonecraft and Claire Clairmont (lover of Lord Byron with whom she had a child). I enjoyed this a lot, but at first I was hoping it’d be a peek into the daily lives of the governesses—it wasn’t. If anyone knows of a book like that, I’d love to read it!
6. Haunted houses
I like books that make me afraid to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- The Haunting of Hill House – If that nighttime door-banging doesn’t get to you, you are not human.
- Rebecca – Asks the classic question: Is the house haunted or is it all in your head?
- The Doll in the Garden – I read this book as a kid and it stuck with me so long that I re-read it last year. Yep, still freaked me out. Mary Downing Hahn, you wizard.
I’m always looking for more of these, so if you have any suggestions, hit me up in the comments—bonus if there’s a nanny!
7. Foster care
I’m slightly obsessed with books by/about foster mothers and children, both fiction and nonfiction. I wrote a post about my most recent dive into that world here.
These are a few I recommend:
- Another Place at the Table – Excellent memoir by a veteran foster mother
- White Oleander – And old Oprah pick – Fictional narrative of the protagonist’s wild experiences in foster care (there’s a great murderous mother too)
- Turning Stones: My Days and Nights with Children at Risk – Memoir by a city social worker that will murder your heartstrings
8. Animal memoirs
No, not memoirs by animals. Memoirs by people about their time spent with animals.
Some favorites are:
- Illumination in the Flatwoods: A Season With The Wild Turkey – I literally fell in love with wild turkeys because of this book.
- The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness – Ditto the octopus
- Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence—and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process – I’m not in love with parrots because I don’t like their weird nose holes (which I know makes me weird)…but that didn’t keep me from crying at the end of this one.
9. Tudor history
I’ve always been interested in British history and literature in general, but honestly, my interest in the Tudors was cemented by the show The Tudors. I fell in love and went through a phase where I read everything I could get my hands on about Henry VIII and his wives. Then, everything I could about any other Tudor.
Here’s a mishmash of books I’ve read on the topic:
- Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII
- Queen’s Gambit
I will also confess to reading The Other Boleyn Girl and seeing the movie. DON’T JUDGE ME.
10. Women leaving oppressive religions
I left Catholicism (not because I found it oppressive but because it didn’t make sense for me) so I suppose that’s where this interest comes from. I like books about women leaving long-established religions as well as books about women who’ve left homes where weird made-up religious rules were foisted upon them.
These are a few standouts:
Not Without My Daughter – This is more about escaping from an abusive husband in Iran, but the same themes are there and I found it un-put-down-able.
11. And a bonus category: anything about how the French do it better
Sick of these books? I find them condescending at best, but I still love a good book on how the French are doing things better. Cooking better, eating better, raising their children better. I wonder if I’m into this theme because I partially agree with the sentiment?
A few I’ve enjoyed:
Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting – French parents don’t let their children act like assholes. Refreshing.
French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters – French parents especially don’t let their kids act like assholes at the dinner table. Again, refreshing.
- French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure – A condescending diet book, but I apparently don’t care…
To see what other people did with this Top Ten prompt, check out today’s post on That Artsy Reader Girl.