Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

I know we’re only six days into Nonfiction November, but I am already loving it. I just finished my first book,  Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson, and it was SO GOOD. I’ve always been fascinated by archaeology, and this book provides some great insight into what being an archaeologist is really like. But anyway, on to the discussion!

This week’s Nonfiction November discussion is hosted by Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness.

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay! I want to put a copy into the hands of every person I know. Her essays about feminism, race, and culture are just so smart and thoughtful and provocative, and everyone needs to read her.

As for nonfiction with a more historical bent, In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides was fantastic. It chronicles the USS Jeannette’s doomed 1879 attempt to be the first naval expedition to reach the North Pole. It’s unputdownable nonfiction that reads like a novel.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. (Raise your hand if you saw that one coming.) I have so much love for this collection of Strayed’s best Dear Sugar columns for The Rumpus. I’ve written about it quite a few times and given away copies on the blog twice. (And when I met Strayed briefly, I was a hot mess.) While I was living at home after college, I might have written out a paragraph from this book and taped it over my desk, where I read it over and over, like a mantra. It has gotten me through some tough times, and I really believe it has something (or many somethings) for everyone.

I also find myself telling everyone to read Packing for Mars by Mary Roach pretty frequently. So. Much. Fun.

What is one topic of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?

Oh man, so many. I’ve only started broadening my nonfiction horizons in the last few months. Before this year, almost all of the nonfiction books on my shelf were memoir. I loved reading the stories of interesting people, and I was afraid history books would be dry. (I still kind of have that fear.) Recently, though, I’ve been discovering tons of interesting nonfiction on fascinating subjects. I really want to read more popular science-type books, contemporary feminist works, books about women in history, and literary takes on history. (I realize this is more than one type of nonfiction, but I never promised to play by the rules.) I love the kind of book that makes me turn to the boyfriend and say, “hey, did you know?!”

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

TBR explosion. I’m hoping to get some great recommendations! And also to dive into some of the nonfiction titles that have piled up on my shelves.


34 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

  1. As I said in my own post: I DEFINITELY recommend On Writing by Stephen King and Is that a fish in your ear? by David Bellos. Have you read them? You should. 🙂 I should also read more non-fiction, but I already do so when studying, so next to that I like to pick up fiction to compensate 😉

  2. YES on Tiny Beautiful Things mantras! I’m seriously considering getting mine as a tattoo (and I’ve never wanted a tattoo of anything). It’s one of my go-to history recs, but The Skies Belong to Us is fantastic and my husband really loved Hampton Sides’s book on finding Martin Luther King’s killer, Hellhound on His Trail.

  3. Every book you mentioned are ones I would like to read. I’m really looking forward to reading In the Kingdom of Ice, and, between you and Shannon, I think I’m starting to get the hint about Tiny Beautiful Things.:) I hope you continue loving your Non-Fiction reads!

  4. If you haven’t read it already, then I recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I never knew DNA research could be so fascinating. I also have The Women Who Wrote the War to read, about the first female war correspondents. I’m looking forward to reading that one.

  5. I can’t wait to read Lives in Ruins! I was a teen in the ’80s, so of course I have an Indiana Jones fixation. So archeology=hot intellectual, adventurous guys unearthing spectacular treasures! Ok, seriously, I am looking forward to it.
    I haven’t read Bad Feminist, but I LOVED Gay’s novel, An Untamed State.

  6. Oohh, I didn’t realize this Marilyn Johnson book was out! I loved her This Book is Overdue! and she herself is one of the loveliest authors around. Definitely getting a copy!

  7. I’ve been reading wonderful things about Lives in Ruins. I bought Bad Feminist but haven’t read it yet–maybe this month. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that I haven’t read Cheryl Strayed’s books yet. I clearly need to remedy that too!

  8. TBR explosion, lol. That’s what is happening to mine. I’ve compiled a list as long as my arm over the last couple of days. 😉 I agree with you about Tiny Beautiful, it’s an absolute beauty of book. I need to get my hands on a copy of Bad Feminist.

  9. Tiny Beautiful Things! Love it. I loved Packing for Mars too, although I read it while I was on a plane which was perhaps not the best idea 🙂

  10. I love reading memoir, but I’m definitely trying to read other kinds of nonfiction, too. I’ve been loving all the Tiny Beautiful Things love this week. 🙂 Thank you for joining us for Nonfiction November!

  11. I would love to be a part of a conversation when any Mary Roach book comes up. So interesting. I don’t know how she does it. Her and Bill Bryson. I can read anything they write. I had not heard of the Hampton Sides book. I will have to look that up… once it warms up. Reading about isolation and freezing temps during the winter months is almost too much for me.

    • I’m actually not a fan of Bill Bryson. His sense of humor just doesn’t always gel with me; I feel like a lot of his jokes defy logic and kind of insult the intelligence of his readers. But everyone else seems to love him!

      Oh, the Hampton Sides book is a great summer book! I agree that it’s too chilly for winter reading.

      • I can see how you’d have that opinion of Bryson. I’ve never admitted this but, when I’m reading Bryson, I hear his voice as that of Kelsey Grammer in the “Frasier” TV show. Every watch that? Very pretentious. Very snooty. But very funny.

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