In honour of Non-Fiction November, here are some mini reviews of some non-fiction books I’ve read this year.
- The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity by Mohammed “Abu Productive” Faris
As the title suggests, This book is about the intersection of the Islamic faith and productivity. This book teaches its readers various ways Islamic teachings make us productive beings in several ways, with pragmatic tips on sleeping, focus, eating habits and so much more.
Apart from the extensive Islamic literature that points to productive habits, Faris also looks at various self-help research done by non-Muslims in this field and incorporates all of this in this (relatively) short, yet practical book. I highly recommend not only this book if you are looking for pragmatic tips on leading a productive and Islamically minded lifestyle, but his website, Productive Muslim, as well for articles, courses and a variety of resources for the productive Muslim!
2. A Little History of Economics by Niall Kishtainy
This novel starts from the Greek economies and explains how we have ended up where we are. Not only is it an accessible way to learn so much information, it’s very interesting. Many economists’ personalities are explored, giving a glimpse into the heads of the people who have influenced so many socio-political movements and thoughts. It’s interesting to note how so many politicians will wear a certain economic ideology with pride, and yet not understand what it was really for, and that sentiment is true for so many of us. This provides a great foundation for anyone interested in sociology, history or economics, as it can broaden one’s scope when they read other books in those areas and truly understand the socio-political climate of whatever they study.
3. Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin
This book is such a contentious read. First and foremost, this is based on the author’s opinions on the current feminist movement and for many white western women who identify strongly with third-wave feminism, this may come off pretentious and snobbish and something that puts women down.
Crispin argues that the current feminist movements are way to comfortable with patriarchal systems, and simply want to make their presence in a male-dominated space and not question the Patriarchal nature of the space. She states that feminism was always something that was radical and did not have the support that it has today and that was what it meant to be a feminist.
What I took away from this book was a criticism of white feminist by a white women. It’s refreshing to get that opinion because the current feminist movement makes it seem like an economically successful women = a fierce feminist. I don’t mean to belittle the feminist movement at all, I think that current conversations around rape culture and sexual harassment are so important, but I wish the conversations also acknowledged that the economical system is incredibly patriarchal in nature and we should question that. Women are a prominent role in the workforce and it’s time to acknowledge that the workforce does not work for people (often women) with familial responsibilities, doesn’t value emotional labour that (often female) workers who deal with the public put into their work, or other skills that are gendered (e.g. sewing isn’t seen as a skill the same way mechanical skills are, it’s seen as something “natural” to women). Having more females in an patriarchal system continues the very system that oppresses women. We need to question that, and so much more within society.
On the other hand, I can understand why she comes off obnoxious. Do check out reviews on her book so you don’t end up just really pissed off afterwards.
4. Letter to His Father By Franz Kafka
I love Kafka. His raw talent for creating surrealist, bleak fiction is amazing, but since so much of his work is influenced by his life, it’s always interesting as a fan of his work to read about the origins of some of his stories. This is a letter Kafka had written addressed to his father. He had given them to his mother asking her to give it to his father. She didn’t.
Despite the fact that this doesn’t have surrealist elements to it, it felt so similar to his non-fiction works. The despair, the resentment, the longing for affection, it’s all here. It’s also very harsh and to the point. It’s clear that he blames his father for problems he faces, and some reviews of this state that it’s way too harsh and that they are thankful that his father didn’t read it. I’m sure the letter would’ve been different had it been meant for the public, or maybe it wouldn’t have. Regardless, given the fact that this is a personal letter made public, it feels wrong to try to put a stance between the relationship of these two. Knowing that this wasn’t intended for the public to read, I treat it as a means to understand his non-fiction and pass no judgement on what he says.
5. The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn
This is a biography of Jim Jones, the founder of the peoples temple and the man who led over 900 people to “commit suicide” in Guyana in 1978. The story starts before Jones is even born, with a look into the life of Jone’s mother, Lynetta Putnam and goes all the way to his death. Its an incredibly academic and comprehensive look into Jones’s life, while still being very engaging and interesting.
It seems as though Jones was interested in power and he would put himself into several different communities and see what really moved people and brought them together. He was also a communist and felt that a church community was the means through which he could preach his ideas in a climate that was not open to those ideas.
There’s no sign in this biography of when he “snapped” or anything of that sort. His portrayal of Jones isn’t very consistent and this makes it all the more believable. There’s no clear cut answer as to why he did what he did or why things turned out the way that they did; while at times it seemed more based on his ego, other times it seemed his need for control, but nonetheless it shows how he was still human. There is no doubt that Jones did so many amazing things for his community and preached for great causes, making a safe place for marginalized people. Looking back, its hard to say how much it was to gain approval of others or what he truly believed. Regardless of his intentions, there’s no overlooking or forgiving the damage he did and how many lives were lost due to his actions.