Intro by What’s Nonfiction?:
Nonfiction November, that time of year to celebrate stories filled with facts and footnotes, truth being stranger than fiction, and very, very long subtitles begins today!
This week, a look at your year in nonfiction:
Week 1: (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Julie @ Julz Reads): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
My year has included a big increase (+170 percent!) in the numbers of NF titles that I’ve chosen and completed, related (I think) to a growing need from recognizing that there is still so much for me to learn in the world out there. That, and I seem to be interested in almost EVERYTHING so there is always a good book waiting for me to pick it up. (Additionally, this trend may or may not be related to the political nonsense happening across the globe in terms of truth (or the lack of it).)
What has been your favorite NF read so far this year?
In terms of being influential, I think my favorite NF title so far has been “Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston (written in 1931 but published more recently). It really underscored just how recent slavery was; before I had read this book, slavery had rather seemed like some “long-ago” historical event, but the fact that Neale Hurston actually met and interviewed a man who had lived through it was amazing and really brought the fact home that it wasn’t really that long ago when it occurred. It also overlaps with the focus on most of my NF reading this year. (See below for more deets.)
What particular topic have I been attracted to more this year?
Oh, the African-American experience for sure. No doubt about it. As part of my ongoing focus, I’ve been choosing book titles that are either by a POC author and/or about a POC experience. Since February was Black History Month (at least here in the U.S.), I’ve maintained my emphasis of reading more African-American authors and/or related topics, and looking back at the numbers, I can see that just over one in every three titles falls under that category (and this number includes all the POC titles – not just those from African-American writers.)
This also aligns with the fact that the university where I work now has a vice-president who is focused on diversity, and in so doing, has brought (and is bringing) some powerful voices to campus to bring more awareness of diversity issues: bias, privilege, protest, history… It’s been eye-opening to say the least and I’ve learned a lot. I have a lot more to learn, but I know a lot more than I did this time last year.
That would be the topic-of-choice for this year (and ongoing), but another focus has been reading from my TBR shelves as well. When those two goals overlap, even better!
Which NF book have I recommended the most this year?
Despite what I’ve just said in the section before this one, this most-recommended title would have to be the tried-and-true “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. I reread it each year as a reminder of effective writing and I mention it a lot in class to students. I’m also pretty sure that I mention it to my poor patient friends more than they’d prefer, but what can I say? It’s good!
What am I hoping to get out of NF November?
I’m hoping to find more excellent titles that overlap with my current interests, and – fingers crossed – introduce me to more subjects of which I am woefully uninformed right now. I do seem to have a growing craze on animals so perhaps some new titles there?
I’d also love to be introduced to more non-fiction readers!
ETA: People have asked which particular NF titles I’ve read this year. Here you go. (Links where available):
- America’s Best Travel Writing 2018 – Cheryl Strayed (ed.)
- Diary of a Bookseller – Sean Bychell
- Africa – DK EyeWitness Books
- Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” – Zora Neale Hurston
- Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History – Vashti Harrison
- Shade: Pete Souza on Obama – Pete Souza
- Black is the Body – Emily Barnard (essays)
- Victoria: A Life – A.N. Wilson
- Elvis Presley: A Reluctant Rebel – Jeansome, Luhrssen and Solokovic
- The Domino Book of Decorating – Various
- Texas Made, Texas Modern – Helen Thompson (architecture)
- 500 Contemporary Quilts – Kary Patterson Bresenham
- Essentials of College and University Teaching – Eleanor Boyle and Harley Rothstein
- Cooking and Stealing: The Tin House NF Reader – Charles d’Ambrosio (ed.)
- A Book of One’s Own: People and their Diaries – Thomas Mallon (ed.)
- Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann
- Becoming – Michelle Obama
- A Silver-Plated Spoon – John Russell, Duke of Bedford
- The Skillful Teacher – Stephen Brookfield
- From Dry Rot to Daffodils: A Year in a National Trust House – Mary Mackie
- For Her Own Good: 150 Years of Expert Advice – Barbara Ehrenreich and Deidre English
- Interiors: Inside the American Home – Marc Kristal
- Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women – Nina Burleigh
- Hunting for Mister Heartbreak – Jonathan Raban
- The Busy, Busy World of Richard Scarry – Walter Retan and Ole Risom
- Pandora’s Daughters: The Secret History of Independent Women – Jane Robinson
- The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China’s Most Exotic Animal – Vicki Constantine Croke
- Vacationland – John Hodgman (essays)
- The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival – John Vaillant
- Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities – Alexandra Robbins
- The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer – Siddartha Muhkerjee
- Buildings – DK EyeWitness Books
- Happier at Home – Gretchen Rubin
- Writing without Bullshit – Joshua Bernoff
- New Yorker Reader: True Crime Classic Tales – various
- Ten Spurs – NF journal
- Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why – Laurence Gonzales
- Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honey Bee – Hattie Ellis
- A Book on Medical Discourses in Two Parts – Rebecca Lee Crumpler
- The Well-Dressed Lady’s Pocket Guide – Karen Homer
- Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? – Beverly Daniel Tatum
- Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Controlled Chaos – Lucy Kinsley