Non-Fiction November 2018: Week One (Charles C. Mann)

Non-Fiction November is hosted this year by Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness), Julie (JulzReads), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Katie (Doing Dewey) and Rennie (What’s Nonfiction).

It’s a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction with a different prompt and a different host each week.

Week One is hosted by Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) and poses these questions: What was your favorite non-fiction 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 favourite non-fiction read of the year is also representative of the kinds of books I’m most drawn to reading right now: stories that ask hard questions and encourage me to take another look at the world around me from a different perspective, so through this event I hope to offer and receive some suggestions.

Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus (2005; 2011)

So, basically imagine reading a book about how everything that you learned in Social Studies class in elementary school (even History classes, when you were an older student, a young adult even) about North America before 1491 was wrong: that’s 1491.

Much of the time I was literally reading jaw-dropped and wide-eyed. Many times I found myself flipping to the back to peruse the end-notes and not because I am enough of a scholar to absorb the details of the scholarship elaborated upon there, but because it read SO differently from what I understood to be true that I wanted to simply glance at the research to remind myself that this was not fiction.

For instance, in just a couple of pages, Mann presents evidence about the city of Calakmul in the Mexican state of Campeche (its proper name was later discovered to be Kaan), which was built on a low ridge and housed as many as 50,000 people and sprawled across 25 square miles with thousands of acres of farmland beyond (the region’s total population may actually have been as high as 575,000 but even the smaller figure amazes me).

Kaan’s origins may extend back to 400 BC but it doesn’t appear in the historical record until 500 AD. And, yes, there is a historical record dating to that time.

Of course it might be easier to stomach the idea that there was very little development on the continent when European settlers landed and claim the land and its resources; but how differently might we think if we understood those cultures to be developed and advanced and pervasive?

Have you read any of Charles C. Mann’s books? Are you reading with Non-fiction November in mind? Or, are you always in non-fiction November, even in the other eleven months of the year?



  1. Katie Wilkins (@DoingDewey) December 14, 2018 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    I’ve not read any of Mann’s books, but they regularly catch my attention! Like you, I’m looking for nonfiction that makes me think and re-think, so I really appreciate the recommendation.

    • Buried In Print December 17, 2018 at 4:58 pm - Reply

      I was just leafing through his latest on the “new” shelves at the library over the weekend; it looks really good (AND really long) too!

  2. […] B.I.P @BuriedInPrint […]

  3. hibernatorslibrary November 4, 2018 at 10:22 am - Reply

    You make 1491 sound very appealing. I wonder if I should add it to my queue.

    • hibernatorslibrary November 4, 2018 at 10:24 am - Reply

      Ha! Funny thing. It already is in my queue for mt Dewey Decimal challenge.

      • Buried In Print November 5, 2018 at 4:27 pm - Reply

        Heheh How many times I have done exactly that…traipsed off to my TBR, eager to add a “new” title, only to discover that it’s already living there! 🙂

    • Buried In Print November 5, 2018 at 4:26 pm - Reply

      You definitely should!

  4. Amanda November 2, 2018 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    This sounds really interesting – though something that would be infuriating too. Its so hard to read about how much was lost (and still is).

    • Buried In Print November 3, 2018 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      Because there is so much history and detail, science and information, I found I got swept up in the scale of it all; the frustration didn’t strike hard (only simmered) until I finished reading.

  5. lakesidemusing November 1, 2018 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    I haven’t read Charles C. Mann, but this sounds fascinating. My overall reading numbers are down this year, but I’m holding steady at just over one third nonfiction… the best recommendations come from Nonfiction November!

    • Buried In Print November 3, 2018 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      I hope you find lots more recommendations this year as well: it’s a fantastic way to gather recommendations for the year ahead!

  6. Kelly @ STACKED November 1, 2018 at 6:32 am - Reply

    Oh, this sounds really good!

  7. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) October 31, 2018 at 8:00 pm - Reply

    This sounds super interesting! I want to put together a book list of all the books about a single year, it’s good little nonfiction niche. Thanks for joining us this month!

    • Buried In Print November 1, 2018 at 7:51 am - Reply

      Maybe it’s just my bias speaking grins, but I think it would be excellent to include novels and fiction from that year as well, to really give a flavour of the times. (Like the events Kaggsy and Simon host, but a year to match the non-fiction explorations.) And thank YOU for your part in hosting and organizing!

  8. Naomi October 31, 2018 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    I bought this book for my mom about 10 years ago. I thought it sounded so interesting. I haven’t borrowed it and read it myself, though. I haven’t read any of his books – The Wizard and the Prophet also sounds good!

    • Buried In Print October 31, 2018 at 1:27 pm - Reply

      I wonder if she ever got around to reading it? Maybe she’s looking for a new home for it by now!
      I was just looking at that one in the library the other day: it does look good.

      • Naomi October 31, 2018 at 7:25 pm - Reply

        I think I noticed her reading it a couple of years ago…

  9. whisperinggums October 31, 2018 at 5:56 am - Reply

    Hang on Buried – it’s still over two hours until November starts here, so it’s many hours off for you! Are you cheating or something?

    It’s really strange. Last year I read a lot of non-fiction as I think I noted in my yearly wrap-up and was pretty frustrated with how little fiction I’d read, but this year, I’ve only read a small handful, and all, but one, have been biographies or autobiographies. The two biographies were particularly good. But, I am currently reading a history, You daughters of freedom by Clare Wright which, with any luck, I might finish by the end of the year. It’s about the achievement of women’s suffrage in Australia in 1902, and the role Australians played in the achievement of suffrage elsewhere in the world, particularly in New Zealand.

    Oh, and no, I haven’t read any Charles C Mann books. I’m afraid I haven’t even heard of him!

    Woo hoo … Safari completely clagged when I tried to post this comment (which I fortunately saved just in case), but it looks like I’m going to be able to post in Firefox. Maybe Safari is the problem. Has your developer tested on Safari?? Surely s/he has?

    • Buried In Print October 31, 2018 at 11:20 am - Reply

      You know I’m always looking for a way to squeeze in some unauthorized bookchat!

      Perhaps simply thinking to yourself that you wanted to read more fiction took you further in that direction than you’d intended; I find myself in that predicament often as well, an intention to respond to an imbalance resulting in another, but different, imbalance! Biography and memoir are my go-to for non-fiction reading as well – other than books about reading and writing – and I have to make a point of pulling myself out of that (not that I’m saying you should!) for a writer like Mann. Then, I’m always glad that I did, but I don’t necessarily keep it up. (In fact, I rarely do.)

      I’ve had that experience before myself, when I was regularly working with another computer (and, yes, ironically with MAC products) with access changing depending which browser I am using, but I don’t understand what impacts the change – something to do with security settings and the passing back-and-forth of information if I recall correctly. It’s definitely one of the common browsers to test with, but this whole commenting thing seems to be another layer of confusion with protocols. I’m starting to think I should take a course! 🙂

      Very glad you were able to break through, somehow!

      • whisperinggums November 5, 2018 at 3:53 am - Reply

        Ah, it was the response to this that went poof!

        I think I said that what most directed my reading last year to more non-fiction were the review books I received, rather than any intention one way or another. I enjoyed them all, pretty much, but was sorry I’d missed so much fiction as a result.

        I think I also said that it has to be something more than Mac and security because I comment successfully on several other WP blogs – some free (like mine) and some hosted. It MAY, of course, be Mac and security but it’s something particular to the implementation here that causes the problem. It seems that I’m OK as long as I don’t try to comment via my iPad, but sometimes I forget!!

        • Buried In Print November 5, 2018 at 4:49 pm - Reply

          That’s something I noticed as the years went on, how much my reading choices were being dictated by review copies. And I am very picky, insisting on queries first, etcetera. And it was all very good stuff. But, even so, almost 40% of my reading was via contacts with new materials being published and that was too close to half for me to feel entirely okay with it (and my backlist ever-growing). But I do miss the sense of being “in the bookish loop”.

          Hmmm, so maybe it’s device-related, rather than operating-system related? You’re on the same network (IP address in all those scenarios)? If you are, then I agree; I wouldn’t think it is security-related per se either. The next time I have an opportunity to inquire about the tablet factor, I will do so, and I do recall, in the meantime, many instances in which I have been unable to do something on my tablet that I could easily do on my PC. I’m sorry it’s still causing you a hassle: I know how frustrating that kind of thing is and appreciate your perseverance for the sake of a little bookchat!

  10. iliana October 30, 2018 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    Oh this sounds fascinating! I’m really excited about Nonfiction November and hope to pick up a couple of new reads.

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