9 Of The Best Non-Fiction Books To Add To Your Reading List

A woman cannot live on novels alone

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Looking for something different to read this month? Sarra Manning compiles a list of recent non-fiction that includes books on death, nature, football, debutantes and the man responsible for powdered egg… (we knew that would get you).

Kick by Paula Byrne

A biography about Kathleen 'Kick' Kennedy, JFK's forgotten sister killed with her lover in a plane crash in 1948. When Kennedy scion Joseph was appointed ambassador to Britain in 1938, Kick was presented at court and mixed with aristocrats, politicans and artists at society dances and country house weekends until she scandalised her staunchly Catholic family by falling in love and marrying the future duke of Devonshire. This book has it all: debutantes, scandal, political intrigue and glamour. What else is there in life?(William Collins, £20, out May 23rd)

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H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald 

The mighty H Is For Hawk, bestseller and Costa Award winner, is reissued along with four other nature writing titles. But what makes these editions really special are the beautiful covers designed by the Timorous Beauties studio in Glasgow. To be displayed face-out on your bookshelves.(Vintage Classics, £9.99, out May 5th)

West Of Eden by Jean Stein

Jean Stein's Edie, an oral history of Edie Sedgwick, the first of Andy Warhol's superstars (and the subject of Factory Girl, starring Sienna Miller) was a book I was obsessed with as a teenager, so I was thrilled when I discovered she'd written an oral history of Hollywood. Taking five people moulded by Hollywood including studio head, Jack Warner and Jennifer Jones, who won an Oscar at 25, but struggled with success, West Of Eden traces the town's turbulent history from the 1920s and the mob, to the corporate climate of today.(Jonathan Cape, £20, out now)

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Eggs Or Anarchy by William Sitwell

From food writer and stern Masterchef restaurant critic, Eggs Or Anarchy is a wonderful account of how Lord Woolton, Minster for Food, managed to keep Britain fed during World War Two. Trust me, this is a riveting read full of delicious historical details about how one unassuming man battled against all odds to keep bellies full and morale high despite the dreaded food rationing. Excuse the pun, but I could have eaten this book up with a spoon.(Simon & Schuster, £20, out June 2nd)

The Goddess Pose by Michelle Goldberg

You might expect a biography of Indra Devi who popularised yoga in the western world to be all ashrams and swamis but as is so often the case, the truth is stranger than fiction. Because Indra Devi was actually born Eugenia Peterson, to a minor Russian aristocratic family. After fleeing the Revolution, she got caught up in the Berlin cabaret scene before rocking up in India to persuade a reclusive master yogi to teach her his craft. Eugenia then reinvented herself as Indra and moved to Hollywood where she taught the likes of Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson the downward dog. Only a matter of time before the film rights are snapped up.(Corsair, £16.99, out June 9th)

Forever Young The Story of Adrian Doherty: Football's Lost Genius by Oliver Kay

A biography of the greatest British footballer who never was. A contemporary of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, at 17 Doherty was playing at Old Trafford. But unlike his contemporaries, he wore second hand clothes, studied existentialism, wrote and performed poems and songs and was described as "like Bob Dylan in a No 7 shirt." His meteoric rise up through the footballing ranks was cut short by serious injury and just as he'd rebuilt his life, he died in an accident in Holland the day before his 27th birthday.(Quercus, £20, out May 19th)

A House Full Of Daughters by Juliet Nicolson

The historian Juliet Nicholson (and fortuitously the granddaughter of the writer and Bloomsbury Set-ter, Vita Sackville West) traces the women in her family back for seven generations. It's a journey that takes the reader to the slums of Malaga, the Edith Whartonesque world of turn of the century Washington, a very proper English boarding school and the yuppified New York of the 1980's. A riveting, evocative book that traces how our own personal histories define our present and future.(Chatto & Windus, £16.99, out now)

Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba

It's been a real struggle for me to only include two books about World War Two in this round-up as I'm a huge history buff and World War Two would be my specialist subject if I ever went on Mastermind. But while I'm mostly fascinated by all things Home Front, this account of the women of Paris living under the dark shadow of the Nazi occupation is a must-read.(Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, out July 14th)

The Violet Hour: Great Writers At The End by Katie Roiphe

In this meditative, emotive book, American writer and essayist Katie Roiphe explores the topic of death by focussing on the last days of five writers: Susan Sontag, Dylan Thomas, Sigmund Freud, John Updike and Maurice Sendak. With access to the family and friends of her subjects and her own meticulous research, Roiphe details how each writer dealt with the theme of death in their works but also how they faced their own impending demise.The Violet Hour is an unflinching but meditative look at a topic that may be the last real taboo and I found it challenging, moving and even hopeful in places.(Virago, £16.99, out May 5th)

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