While I’m almost sad October is over, it’s time for Nonfiction November, and that makes everything better. For the first week, here’s our prompt:
Week 1 (November 1-5) Your Year in Nonfiction with Rennie at What’s Nonfiction: 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 was a difficult prompt for me this year. After looking through all the nonfiction I’ve read since last November, I couldn’t come up with a single book that I would put above the rest—nor could I find a simple pattern for what I was gravitating toward. Sure, there were the usual food and theatre and political books, but I read more broadly than in years past.
Really, with everything still in general turmoil this year, I think I was grabbing for any book that could be a distraction.
Fortunately, I found a ton. Here are fifteen of my favorite nonfiction reads since the last Nonfiction November:
An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe
Holidays can be stressful for anyone, but if we all approached them like author Nina Stibbe they’d at least be funny too. I’m a big fan of this hilarious memoir devoted to Christmas and the general wildness that’s permeated the festive season throughout her entire life.
Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom by Ursula Nordstrom and edited by Leonard S. Marcus
There’s perhaps no bigger titan in the history of children’s publishing than Ursula Nordstrom, and this collection of her letters details exactly what made her so special in cultivating some of the best talent as editor-in-chief of juvenile books at Harper & Row.
Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?: A Memoir by Séamas O’Reilly
There’s almost nothing better than a good memoir, and they’re rarely as good as this heartfelt exploration of growing up as one of eleven children at the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way by Caseen Gaines
I’m constantly looking for nonfiction about Broadway and theatre in general, so I was thrilled to discover someone was finally writing a book about one of the most influential productions in Broadway history—and thankfully, it more than met my expectations.
Hot, Hot Chicken: A Nashville Story by Rachel Louise Martin
Honestly, I’m a sucker for books about food. Now if only they were all as good as this exploration of hot chicken, its history, and its influence in Nashville.
I’m Not Making This Up, You Know: The Autobiography of the Queen of Musical Parody by Anna Russell
This was a book I’d wanted to read for a long while. Anna Russell was a remarkable performer, somehow mashing together comedy and opera into a tour deforce career that lasted decades. No one else has ever been able to quite do what she did, and that includes this unique autobiography. Funny and charming, just like her.
Krazy: The Black and White World of George Herriman by Michael Tisserand
Before reading this book, I wasn’t at all familiar with George Herriman or his comic strip Krazy Kat. However, Tisserand, with his careful attention to detail and absolute adoration for his subject, gave me a deep appreciation for this icon of comic history.
Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White
If I was handing out awards for my reading this year, Bailey White might win the award for Most Unique Voice. With witty folksiness, she has crafted an incredibly endearing look at the eccentricities of family.
Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power by Anna Merlan
I’m only mildly interested in conspiracy theories, but I’m absolutely fascinated by people who are devoted to conspiracy theories. Fortunately, this book does a deep dive into both of these things and their influence on the United States … Kind of bleak and kind of horrifying, but absolutely riveting all the same.
Sealand: The True Story of the World’s Most Stubborn Micronation and Its Eccentric Royal Family by Dylan Taylor-Lehman
Ever wanted to take control of a disused military fort and move your family into it? Yeah, I hadn’t really considered it, but this book certainly makes the case.
Tales From Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made? by David Hughes
While I pay a lot more attention to theatre than any other form, I love all sorts of behind-the-scenes books, and this is one of the best. Reading this will make you question how any movie ever gets made.
This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes
99% of books by actors are terrible. Fortunately, this one is in the 1%!
The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Jeff Baham
This year, I’ve spent a lot of time reading about theme parks, and this was one of the most interesting books in that collection. While I’ve never been to a Disney park, this is a fascinating hyper-focused look at the ride’s bumpy history.
Vote First or Die: The New Hampshire Primary: America’s Discerning, Magnificent, and Absurd Road to the White House by Scott Conroy
Well, I can’t talk about my year in reading without reading political books. Generally, they’re all bad, but an occasional bright spot jumps up. This examination of New Hampshire’s status as the first primary in each presidential election in the United States shows a lot of the absurdity involved in not just that process, but the entire political system.
The Whorehouse Papers by Larry L. King
Brash and colorful, this is definitely the most unique book that details the making of a big Broadway musical. While The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas would ultimately be a massive success, reading this account of the tumultuous production process makes you wonder how it even opened in the first place.
If you’d like to participate in Nonfiction November—and I hope you do—feel free to head over to What’s Nonfiction and link your post for this week.
You can also participate on Instagram with Jaymi @theocbookgirl by using #nonfictionbookparty