Recommended Reading – Non-Fiction

This list could easily run to 25 titles, or 50, or more. I love factual writing. Done right, it calls for curiosity, insight, empathy, humility and the willingness to face (as Orwell puts it) unpleasant facts.

George OrwellDown and Out in Paris and London
Orwell took everything seriously, except himself, which makes this account of his experience as a Parisian kitchen drudge and London tramp insightful and grimly funny.

Susan Faludi
The Terror Dream
A brilliant, audacious polemic that argues America’s post-9/11 self-perception is shaped more by the enemy within than the threat from without.

Germaine Greer
The Female Eunuch
Even if you don’t agree with a word she says Greer is worth reading for the way she says it. Genius writing and bracing politics.

Barbara Ehrenreich
Nickle & Dimed
The essential text on the myth of the American Dream that, worryingly, gets more relevant every year.

Aiden HartleyThe Zanzibar Chest
Intense, disturbing and profoundly insightful first-person account of life as a war correspondent in Africa.

Martha GellhornTravels With Myself & Another
Possibly my favourite travel book of all time. Gellhorn, like Orwell, has no truck with self-pity (“moaning is unseemly,” she notes) which makes these tales of horror journeys perversely enjoyable.

Hunter S ThompsonFear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail
You don’t need to know or care about American politics to be enthralled by Thompson’s account of the 1972 Presidential race. Essential reading in an election year.

Charles BowdenMurder City
Almost hallucinogenic account of a year in Ciudad Juarez, northern Mexico, where the “War on Drugs” is a catalyst/excuse/smokescreen for a culture of brutality that, Bowden argues convincingly, is the natural end-product of unfettered 21st century globalised capitalism.

Phillip CaputoA Rumour of War
Classic first-person account of the Vietnam War.

David Simon & Ed BurnsThe Corner
Before The Wire Simon and Burns were on the corner, sharing the lives the victims of yet another American war of attrition as they crafted this masterpiece. One of the single best sustained acts of reportage I’ve ever read.

Good tunes + good words from Shelley who will be joining the Creative Writing Ibiza retreat in Sept!


Rudimental ft John Newman, ‘Feel The Love.’  The 4 piece East London collective release their latest track on May 28th, 2012. ‘Feel The Love’ is a spectacular smorgasbord of genres (soul, dubstep and grime), which come together to produce a rather reposed and replenishing sound. I like it alot, not least due to the addition of horses as a preferred means of transport across the metropolis.



Gossip, ‘Perfect World.’ This is the lead single from Beth Ditto and pals’ fifth studio album, ‘A Joyful Noise’ and is available to download now. The album is released on May 22nd, 2012. I think that this track has more of an indie-pop vibe than some of their previously released, harder indie-rock offerings. As I air on the side of pop, this pleases me greatly. I also like the ‘Like a Prayer’-stylised music video; I am a big fan of the…

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Creative Writing Holiday Ibiza 2012

Marina Botafoch & the lighthouse

Book before 31 May and save £50!

Creative Writing Ibiza’s Residential Retreats are Ibiza’s only creative writing holiday. Led by award-winning essayist, journalist, critic and fiction writer Cila Warncke, each retreat will help you develop your skill and confidence as a writer.

The retreat comprises guided writing practice, one-to-one workshops, inspirational readings, and plenty of free time and privacy for writing. You will also enjoy guided excursions to some of Ibiza’s most exquisite beaches and fascinating historic sites. In the evening you will have the option of dining out, taking a paseo through the old town, or simply unwinding and enjoying a glass or two of excellent Spanish wine.

Residential Retreats are designed so all you have to think about is writing!
The £350 course fee includes:

  • Accommodation
  • Airport transfers
  • Workshops & one-to-one sessions
  • Course materials
  • Excursions
  • Home-made vegetarian meals featuring local produce
  • Water, wine, tea & coffee

Flights, travel insurance and optional evening meals & drinks are excluded.

The next Residential Retreat will take place 1-4 September 2012.

Book before 31 May and save £50!

To request an application email: Creative Writing Ibiza

Writers On Writing – Frances Hwang

Sometimes words appear when you need them most. Kelcey of PhD in Creative Writing posted the latest in her excellent series of writer interviews today and interviewee author Frances Hwang has some pithy words for the panickers and procrastinators, of whom I am one.

You can only progress as a writer if you write, and the more you write the more you understand and trust the process of writing. I’d urge you to get into the habit of finishing work. The temptation to abandon a piece can be great (and no doubt there are times when you do need to let something go), but you learn more and feel a real sense of accomplishment when you complete something. If you get stuck and are overwhelmed by the ambitious plans you have for your work, I suggest taking a less grandiose approach. Try to write the story in a way that comes naturally and that is most accessible to you. Otherwise, there’s a real danger of never writing the story at all.