Nonfiction November Week 1: The reading so far…

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):

19 thoughts on “Nonfiction November Week 1: The reading so far…

  1. Haha, I’m glad you liked my opening line about very long subtitles 🙂

    Realizing there’s so much I want to learn about the world is one of the reasons I started increasingly turning to nonfiction too. And I loved Barracoon too, what a massively affecting book. It also underscored for me how slavery isn’t that far removed at all. I can’t believe it took so long for it to be published!

  2. I love that you read Elements of Style every year!

    I read almost as much nonfiction as I do fiction. I currently almost finished with The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer, a history of Native Americans written by a Native American from Leech Lake here in Minnesota. It’s a big fat book and I am learning a lot. Really well written too.

    • I bet that your current read has a different perspective than other titles. I’m glad that it’s well written as well. Big fat book plus writing errors can be painful! 😉

  3. I like what you said about the emphasis on truth in your reading these days. That’s a really great way to look at the work of nonfiction reading these days!
    I’m also glad that you are making the effort to read more diversely – it’s something that was brought to my attention a few years ago and it feels like a whole other world has opened up because of it.
    I’m Canadian but I’ve still read a lot about the Black experience in the US and the racism built into so many institutions. Just Mercy is one that shows what modern day slavery looks like.
    Good luck with your truth quest! May you find more books to aid you on your journey!

    • Thank you for visiting the blog and leaving a comment. I’m actually English but now live in the States and had always thought that slavery was an inherently “American” problem. However, that was quickly sorted out when I dug more deeply into US/UK history. I’m wondering – is there the same wave of social justice influence (as happening here in the US due to Trump) also occurring to some extent in Canada? I know that Trudeau has had some problems lately. (However, there’s no comparison as to the Trump admin though. I know! 😦 )
      I’ll have to have a looksie at Just Mercy. I’ve heard of it but not read it yet. Thanks for the title!

      • To some extent, in certain circles, yes. But mostly, we like to pretend that racism is an American problem and we have moved beyond. Trudeau’s photos are evidence of how wrong that idea is.
        There’s also a related documentary on Netflix, I think it’s called The 13th. And Just Mercy is the basis for a movie that’s coming out about Bryan Stevenson and his work with death row inmates.

  4. I have a stack of books on race in America, mostly on ebook in my Kindle. What are some of the other books you’ve read besides the Zora Neale Hurston on the topic? Always seeing if I can add to my own list. As for The Elements of Style, I probably need to reread that every year too. I know I have a copy kicking around here somewhere. 🙂

    • Hi Bryan – Let me put together a list of what I’ve read on the subject. It’ll be fun for me. I’m thinking that the list might make good content for Week 3 of NF November… Do you have titles that you can recommend? I’m always open for new ones. Thanks a lot.

      • I said I’d get back to you. Sorry, it’s taken me so long. The ones I have on my list (not read yet) are What Truth Sounds Like, both by Michael Eric Dyson; White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matters Memoir by Patrice Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandela; The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton; How Not To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi; and So You Want To Talk About Race? by Iljeoma Olua.

      • No worries about how long this took: we all have lives and besides, it is ok to be human. 🙂 You have some hard-hitting titles on your list: I’ll have to check them out. Thanks for letting me know the details!

  5. It’s not nonfiction, but I definitely think you would enjoy it….The Water Dancer. I heard Ta-nehesi Coates speak last week, and he was fascinating. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about slavery the way he presented it. He wrote a wonderful nonfiction book a few years ago, and it was wonderful, too.

  6. Wow! What an incredible increase in your nonfiction reading this year! I’ve also been prompted to read more about issues of race and class by the current political situation, so I’m going to enjoy going through the list of books you’ve read this year. The best books I’ve read on this topic recently are all from the National Book Award longlist – Thick, Solitary, and Go Ahead in the Rain.

    • Hi there. Thanks for popping by. I traveled back to your blog and read your reviews of the books – they look pretty hopeful so I’ll try to track them down at the library. Thanks for letting me know about them. I appreciate it.

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