I’m running a little behind this month, but so long as it’s the eleventh month of the year, then it’s the perfect time to start talking about Nonfiction November. It’s a yearly feature hosted by Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Katie at Doing Dewey, Julie at Julz Reads, and Leann at Shelf Aware with the goal of celebrating all of those wonderful nonfiction books we’ve read since last year. If you’d like to participate, head on over to their sites, check out the topics for the month, and be sure to look at the weekly link-up to find other participants.
As I suggested above, this post technically should have been up last week. However, I couldn’t resist the chance to revisit my nonfiction choices from this past year. There were certainly a lot of them.
Week 1: (November 2-6) Your Year in Nonfiction (Leann at Shelf Aware): 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?
This might be the understatement of the century, but it’s been an interesting year. For a number of reasons, I’ve found it hard to sit down and read a book, which is something I’m sure a lot of us can relate to. That noted, when I sat down to write this post, I assumed I wouldn’t find that I had read a lot of nonfiction between last November and now. Just doing a quick scan on Goodreads, however, I found that I’ve read over seventy works of nonfiction. Seventy-seven, assuming I counted correctly.
So right off, that seems like a lot. But the strange thing is, just looking at the titles, relatively few of these left any lasting impact. I remember the covers, I definitely remember cracking open the spines, and that’s about it.
Part of this is because I read a lot of political books—far more than any sensible person should. If a book focuses on a scandal or a moment in the news that ultimately has a bookstore shelf life of about a week, then I definitely want to read it. Questionable research? Awkward conclusions? Blatant lies? Those comprise a solid chunk of my bookshelf and, this year, my brain rewarded me by blocking any memory of some of them. Thanks, brain!
When I wasn’t abusing what cells I have up there, my reading habits look close to what they are in quieter years. Lots of food and lots of books that skew a little offbeat. Bugs, bears, and big personalities? All led to some great reading.
Below is a list of titles that I really, really loved this past year. Books I can actually remember reading. What a concept. If any of these remind you of a book you’ve enjoyed, feel free to recommend it. I’m always on the lookout for good nonfiction, and that’s definitely the biggest reason why I’m participating in Nonfiction November … even if I am a week behind.
BECOMING DUCHESS GOLDBLATT: A MEMOIR by Anonymous
Duchess Goldblatt is a blip of optimism on the hellscape known as Twitter, yet the author’s real backstory is far less rosy than her fictional life. One of the most impactful memoirs I have ever read.
My Review | Goodreads
Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery
Finally, Edward Gorey has a wickedly whimsical biography to match the man himself. Mark Dery has done a remarkable job of peeling back the Edwardian veneer to find out what made him—and his eccentric work—so indisputably Gorey.
Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson
I’m not the type of person who’s instinctually afraid of insects, though I have to admit I never gave them nearly as much thought as author Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson rightly suggests they deserve. Fascinating and funny, Buzz, Sting, Bite explains exactly why these little creatures are so important to our very existence.
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl knows food. And while I could read an entire book describing her favorite dishes, this one explores her former weird and wonderous life as a critic. It’s as funny as it hunger-inducing.
Hats In The Ring: Conversations with Presidential Candidates by Brad Koplinski
One of the few political books I read this year that actually stuck with me. A series of interviews with former presidential candidates, it offers up their personal recollections of running for office. If you’ve ever wondered why someone would run for an office that they have zero chance of winning, this is the book for you.
Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin
This book came from a wonderful recommendation from Rennie. A collection of essays exploring the wonderous world that is the kitchen, Home Cooking might have been written over thirty years ago, but it’s as fresh as baking bread.
THE HOT ZONE by Richard Preston
Richard Preston might be one of the best horror writers working today … and it’s all true. The Hot Zone, which details viral hemorrhagic fevers like ebolavirus, might not make for the best read in the middle of a global pandemic, but there’s no denying it’s scary good.
A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling
What do you get when you cross a libertarian utopia, a mass of bears, and local populace caught in the middle? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.
My Review | Goodreads
May the Lord in His Mercy Be Kind to Belfast by Tony Parker
I’ve spent a lot of time this year reading books that focus on Northern Ireland. As a piece of journalism, this is a remarkable look at the region from an outsider looking in.
The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South by John T. Edge
Food books always find their way to the top of my reading list—especially food history. For a look at Southern cooking, its evolution, and impact, there are few that can compare to The Potlikker Papers.
Roadside Religion: In Search of the Sacred, the Strange, and the Substance of Faith by Timothy Beal
I’m a big fan of roadside attractions and oddities, so a book that mixes that idea along with American religion? Yeah, this was easy for me to pick up. Timothy Beal packing his family into a motorhome and driving across the country to visit places like the World’s Largest Ten Commandments and the Precious Moments Chapel is just as entertaining as it sounds.
Still Here: The Madcap, Nervy, Singular Life of Elaine Stritch by Alexandra Jacobs
There will never be another performer quite like Elaine Stritch, but this book comes close to matching her energy. Funy and sharp, it’s a brilliant celebration of her life.
My Review | Goodreads