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Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year in Books

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes
99% of books by actors are terrible. Fortunately, this one is in the 1%!
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads

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.
Goodreads


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

43 responses to “Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year in Books”

  1. Your summary of the Miriam Margolyes book made me laugh. It’s true that most actors can’t write for toffee! I knew about the existance of Sealand but not that the writers had brought out a book – I’ve always been a bit fascinated by it, so I’ll have to look it up.

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    1. It’s so true! I’ve fallen victim to so many celebrity books that look interesting but are dull as mud. I do hope you like the Sealand book if you check it out!

      Like

  2. Marianne Maurer Avatar
    Marianne Maurer

    That’s an interesting list. I haven’t read a single one of them or even heard about any of the books or their authors. The only one I know of is Miriam Margolyes and I love your description of her. She is great indeed.

    Here is my Year in Non-Fiction November for Week 1.

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    1. She’s one of my favorites—and such an amazing storyteller. No surprise her book ended up being wonderful too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent and beguiling choices! I wasn’t able to pick just one, either, so I am glad to see other people providing lists, too.

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    1. It’s far too hard settling for one when there are all these amazing books out here! Glad I wasn’t the only one.

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  4. You read some really great sounding books!!! Sealand and the book about Disney’s Haunted Mansion sound interesting!

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    1. They’re both so fascinating! And that’s really what I love about Nonfiction November—I always walk away with so many great new books that I’m just hearing about for the first time. It really does a number on my TBR pile.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember listening to Bailey White’s essays on NPR…I wonder if she is still alive…and that collection of her essays is just lovely.

    Adding Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power by Anna Merlan to my list.

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    1. After reading her book, I became so curious about what she’s been up to. I saw a post someone made about meeting her within the past year, so it does seem like she’s still around. I’d love to read something new from her. She has an incredible voice.

      And I hope you enjoy it! It’s a wild read.

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  6. Fascinating list, Christopher! I’m especially interested in Dear Genius! I love reading about the writing world and/or journals diaries of writers. Thanks!

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    1. Then I think you’d genuinely love this one! She was such an amazing gift to children she literature and it’s so evident in her letters. Just a fascinating piece all around.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A great list! I had to add An Almost Perfect Christmas to my TBR. It sounds like it will be full of laughs and bring back memories of holiday celebrations of old.

    Pam @ Read! Bake! Create!
    https://readbakecreate.com/bookish-gift-guide-big-spender-edition/

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    1. That’s exactly what it did for me! I’m thinking about reading it again this year. It’s the perfect season for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. There are a lot of interesting books on your list! I am adding Vote First or Die to my TBR (as a 20+ year resident of NH how can I not?) If you haven’t read anything by Adrian Miller you might want to check him out–he is a food writer (and former White-House-staffer) whose latest is Black Smoke.

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    1. As a New Hampshire resident, I think you’ll get even more out of it than I did! The author obviously has a great appreciation for the state … if not necessarily for the circus that comes to town every four years.

      And thank you for the recommendation! I’ve had his work on my TBR pile for seemingly ages, but I really need to get around to actually reading some of it.

      Like

  9. A pattern? A theme? For a minute, I had it pegged as books that include “mama,” but then that stopped and you went your merry way with whatever distracted you. I think you had a fun nonfiction year!

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    1. I think you’ve perfectly summed up my reading habits! Whenever I start dipping into a theme, I have to shake things up.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Dear Genius sounds really good and I LOVE that chubby, striped kitty graphic at the top of the page.

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    1. Dear Genius is great—and perfect if you have any interest in children’s literature and/or publishing. And thank you! I love having that little cat hang out up there.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I know I tell you this all the time, but you seriously always find THE most interesting and unique nonfiction!! Obviously with our love of all things food writing I had to add Hot, Hot Chicken to my list. And The Whorehouse Papers!!! Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is one of my all-time favorite movies but I’ve still never seen the play. The book sounds so interesting though, and I had no idea it was such a tumultuous production, although I guess I’m not totally surprised? Did Ye Hear Mammy Died sounds really interesting and moving too, and Vote First or Die sounds incredibly important, I need to look into that one. Amazing list as always!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are too kind! I swear, at this point I think I subconsciously seek out obscure books just to get you to write that.

      I think you’ll love Hot, Hot Chicken. It’s a really cool blend of food history with this rich history of Nashville. Just a very unique piece of writing. And if you love The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, then you will love this book. He goes into quite a bit of detail about the movie too—mostly about contract negotiations—and it’s wild. It’s honestly amazing that the musical even premiered. Plus, it’s just so, so funny. At one point, they cast the woman who the musical was based off of in a small ensemble role and she would just sit and complain about the lead actress.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. These both just sound SO good and like a gossipy Best Little Whorehouse story really sounds like what I need after some intense and emotional reads recently!!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m adding An Almost Perfect Christmas to my December reading list! Thanks for the recommendation.

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    1. I hope you end up loving it! It’s just so much fun and perfect for this time of year.

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  13. I don’t really seek out conspiracy theories, but when I stumble upon one, I can fall down a rabbit hole. I also remember reading something about Sealand, years ago, and now I must know more!

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    1. I’m very similar. Mostly I’m just interested in how these communities spring up around these beliefs. It’s wild sometimes!

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  14. So many wonderful titles! I have added The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion to my TBR. I have never been to a Disney park (don’t plan on going either) but the story of the Haunted Mansion has captured my attention since hearing about it on my favorite podcast.

    Have a wonderful NFN!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you enjoy it! I’m the same way—I haven’t been to the park, but I find theme park design fascinating. And that particular ride has such an interesting history.

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  15. So many great themes here! I’m amazed at the number of new nonfiction books I discover every November, thanks to readers like you.
    My post is here https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/11/05/nonfiction-november-my-year-2021-in-nonfiction/

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    1. That’s exactly how I feel! For as much as I try to keep up on new releases, Nonfiction November always provides a ton of books I haven’t seen.

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  16. I detect a particular interest in film and theatre here, and I can imagine that was sustaining through the pandemic. I share those interests though I don’t tend to read a LOT in that area. The book that grabbed my attention most among this was you unique voice one, Mama makes up her mind.

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    1. You are spot on with that assessment! I didn’t get a lot of theatre reading in this past year, but when I did, it was exactly what I needed. And Mama Makes Up Her Mind is such a lovely read. I often don’t reread books, but I keep thinking I’m going to revisit it sometime soon. Highly recommended!

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  17. I need to read some books about food! That’s been sadly lacking in my reading diet lately. Hot chicken, mmm…

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    1. You can never go wrong with a good food book. One that I read last year that I cannot recommend highly enough if you haven’t read it: Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. It’s probably my favorite in the genre.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I just love Bailey White! I haven’t read Mamma Makes Up Her Mind for years, but I remember loving it. She’s like the nonfiction version of Fannie Flagg, another southern favorite.

    Happy Nonfiction November

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    1. That is such a great way of describing her! I can’t even remember how I found her book, but I was so glad I did. Completely charming from beginning to end.

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  19. What an interesting variety, I’m curious about a few of them! Thanks for sharing

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    1. I hope you find a couple of new favorites on here!

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  20. […] Sealand: The true story of the world’s most stubborn micronation and its eccentric royal famil… […]

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  21. […] Hot, Hot Chicken: A Nashville Story, by Rachel Louise Martin – Christopher @ Plucked from the Stacks […]

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  22. […] The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Jeff Baham from Christopher @ Plucked from the Stacks […]

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