In My Stacks, May 2016

How much of your reading is non-fiction? Does it fluctuate, or are you committed to reading (or not reading) it?

When others were participating in non-fiction November last year, and actually reading a lot of the books that I’d been kinda-half-sorta thinking about reading, I realised that tending towards fiction had shifted into reading almost entirely fiction.

May 2017 Nonfiction ReadingThe thing is, there are always novels to pull my attention away from these other important and serious and overtly edifying choices.

My goal? Increase my non-fiction reading to 15% and focus on finding new areas of reading interest so that I would find the non-fiction shelves as inviting as the fiction shelves.

The Artist’s Library by Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer (2015) contains chapters on how the library can serve as a source of inspiration or a place to work creatively (also practical chapters on how to start an arts organization and work on your business in the library). My favourite image is that of a fingerprint in which the whorls and marks are shaped by the names of books and authors. Light and easy, this is great for dabbling.

Maya Angelou first appeared on the Oprah show in 1993; that’s the first time I encountered her, and she brought a presence to the stage which I found so striking that I had to learn more; I bought my copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings shortly afterwards. Just a glimpse of a volume like Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration (2008) and I would have been all-the-more smitten. So many photographs and copies of pages from her memoirs: this volume makes a terrific companion for reading Maya Angelou’s autobiographies. (I just looked at the pictures!)

Lynn Knight’s The Button Box (2016) contains twenty-eight chapters, each titled for a particular kind of button which opens the door to a discussion of a chapter in women’s socioeconomic history. It’s tremendously accessible although readers who yearn for more detail could track the sources in the voluminous pages of reference materials at the back (endnotes and selected bibliography, fiction and non-fiction). “Favourite dresses, best coats, everyday overalls, children’s clothes, their buttons reach across the generations and the large and small stories of women’s lives.” VMC and Persephone devotees: you will love this!

Readers of Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s Crow Planet will be especially pleased to discover more talk of the feathered in The Urban Bestiary (2013). Also included is talk of the furred and the rooted, along with some helpful images (for identifying pawprints or determining whether scat belongs to a mouse or a rat or a squirrel). Her tone is inviting and informal and the volume is also entertaining, particularly when she shares anecdotal information about humans’ common fears and obsessions about creatures alongside stats which reveal these are both unjustified and irrational. I read this one straight through and then reread some parts afterwards.

Kimmerer Gathering MossIn writing Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses (2003), Robin Wall Kimmerer draws on knowledge received from the plants themselves, from her training as a scientist, and also from an affinity for the traditional knowledge of her Potawatomi heritage. “Mosses and other small beings issue an invitation to dwell for a time right at the limits of ordinary perception. All it requires of us is attentiveness. Look in a certain way and a whole new world can be revealed.” She has a way of making analogies and issuing invitations to readers into her passion for moss which looks easy but obviously takes years of study and attention. Although I was known to snap photos of moss long before I requested this book from the library (there was a long wait and I haven’t finished in a single borrowing term), this slim volume has given me new words and new ways to see and listen. “Finding the words is another step in learning to see.”

The Island of Knowledge by Marcelo Gleiser (2014) landed on my TBR thanks to brainpickings. It’s the most challenging read in my stack, but this makes sense because this is a book which takes over where science leaves off. Not being much of a science-y reader, you might think this would make me more comfortable. Instead, this is the kind of volume which requires that I read even the first sentence of each paragraph – the introductory sentences – twice (at least), let alone the later sentences which build upon the introductory idea. “To what extent can we make sense of reality?” he asks. To what extent can I make sense of this book, I answer. But, then, I try again.

But, then, Stephen Buchmann’s The Reason for Flowers (2015) is science-y, so not all is lost. There are definitely words in here which make me slow down – like ‘pollinators’, ‘hybridizing’, and ‘glandular’) but also talk of mythology, marketing and murals. For every ‘thorax’ there is a ‘chocoholic’, with talk of state emblems and online shopping alongside talk of insect activity and DNA. Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire was one of the first non-fiction books to tempt me beyond the fiction shelves (it’s still a favourite) and this volume is just as accessible, although longer and more specific (whereas Pollan’s was shorter and dealt with only one flower and three other kinds of plants). This is one I will need to renew, but I don’t wonder whether I’ll be able to finish it either!

A Long Watch: War, Captivity and Return in Sri Lanka by Ajith Boyagoda and Sunila Galappatti (2016) landed on my stack thanks to 2016’s International Festival of Authors. Sunila Galappatti’s discussion of her experience writing the story of Commodore Ajith Boyagoda’s experience as the highest-ranking detainee of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka was gripping and her struggle to capture his voice and his story fascinates me. This is not a long book, but it is a challenging story (as it should be). Galappatti Boyagoda A Long Watch

Barbara M. Walker’s The Little House Cookbook (1979) exists because Laura Ingalls Wilder’s frontier stories contained so many scenes with delicious meals. A lot of them included pancakes! The cookbook also includes some of Garth Williams’ illustrations (for additional charm) and the ingredients and instructions have been adjusted so that what was once prepared on hearth and old-fashioned stove can be readily replicated with modern kitchens. The recipes typically contain a snippet of the original story with some explanation when substitutions and alterations are required for today’s cooks and sometimes a bit of historical context.

Kathryn Laskey and Meribel Knight’s Searching for Laura (1993) will immediately appeal to bookish folks who imagine tracing the literary footsteps of their favourite characters. Meribel Knight was five years old when her mother first started reading her the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books. So, years later, when the family planned an RV trip to the real-life Plum Creek and Walnut Grove, Pepin and De Smet, it seemed like a dream come true. But these characters lived more than a hundred years ago, and what Meribel discovers looks very different. The photographs her father, Christopher Knight, snaps of the holiday are perhaps meant to capture a kind of quiet musing, but there is sadness there too, it seems.

Kristin Petrovich’s Elemental Energy (2016) snuck into the stack not only because it has a pretty cover, but because the whole book is pretty. It’s like a Dorling Kindersley book for grown-ups about crystals and stones, so how could I not. There are sections on acupressure and massage, creating elixirs and detoxifying. It’s great for browsing and brings a whole new meaning to the idea of bringing home stones from the beach.

Samarra Khaja’s Sew Adorkable (2015) includes fifteen projects which are perfect for the “chic geek”. Even though I haven’t sewed anything since the tenth grade, and don’t expect to take up the habit because it would interfere with my excessive bookishness (hard to read and sew at the same time, right?), I had fun browsing the projects. My favourites were the cover for a tissue box, which looks like a typewriter (the tissues come up like pages of paper) and the shower curtain which looks like binder paper, with blue lines and a pink border. So cute!

Davis Qigong through seasonsIf you’re looking for an introduction to qigong, Ronald H. Davis’ Qigong through the Seasons (2015) might serve you well. The format is slightly over-sized and he takes time to explain elementary concepts, from ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ to the ‘five phases’. There are chapters on mindfulness and meditation, food and chronobiology, as well as long sections on each of the four seasons. The diagrams for movement are stick figures – which comes off as charming rather than cheap (a long way from Namaslay, see below) – and for those new to the forms perhaps best used in conjunction with some supplementary videos online, but the tone is no-nonsense and down-to-basics.

Candace Moore’s Namaslay (2016) might have immediate appeal for fans of her website, but I stumbled into the book and borrowed it because I liked the format, with large-scale photos with arrows pointing out detailed information about positioning and focus which I can use in my fledging home practice. Overall, it feels like there is more emphasis on the perfect asana than I find comfortable; the text accompanying each pose often includes suggestions for modifcations and occasionally these are also pictured in a second photograph (the book as a whole is helpfully divided into beginning, intermediate and advanced), but the focus seems to be on the goal rather than the process and, as a beginner, I don’t quite feel included. Nonetheless, she says all the right things in the segments which are about her personal journey and the tenets she believes underscore a healthy and nourishing practice, so maybe I am simply intimidated by the glamour.

What non-fiction have you been reading lately? Or, thinking about reading, if you’re more of a fiction-lover too?

If you had to read something out of this stack, which would you choose? (Or, have you already read one/some?)

Does any one of these make you want to recommend another specific book to me?

If you made reading goals for this year, how are you doing so far?

2017-07-20T18:03:10+00:00

31 Comments

  1. […] How to Make White People Laugh Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s The Urban Bestiary Isabel Huggan’s Belonging Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on the Road B. Denham […]

  2. Starr griggs June 20, 2017 at 1:16 am - Reply

    I don’t read as nonfiction as I would like to. Fiction is easier simply because I can get through the book faster. But I’m working on changing that, I would like to read one nonfiction book a month until it becomes a habit then add more in. Bubba’s always, there’s so many books and so little time….

    • Buried In Print June 20, 2017 at 7:38 am - Reply

      One each month seems like a reasonable goal, but I hear what you’re saying about how hard it is to change the habit, even when the goal is reasonable. It’s the thinking that’s hard to change. And when what you’re thinking is “oh, that novel is going to be so much fun”, it’s hard to reach for the other book instead (and maybe you’re not having warm and fuzzy feelings about that one). Good luck!

  3. Rachel May 15, 2017 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    The Laura Ingalls books sound particularly interesting to me. I’ve been striving to read more non-fiction every year since 90% percent of what I read is fiction. I do enjoy reading memoirs or in-depth books about a certain historical era/events. Right now I’m reading “Unmentionable” by Laura O’ Neill. It’s a pretty humorous and informative book about women in the Victorian era. Good luck with your non-fiction reads! 🙂

    • Buried In Print May 16, 2017 at 6:38 am - Reply

      That’s what I read last year, and I had a great reading year; it’s only that I really thought I was reading in another way and now I’m curious what will happen when I begin to explore more determinedly. It’s easy to fall into ruts and allow your life to become more and more narrow, filled with only more of the things you’ve already decided are comfortable and easy, so I want to balance out that tendency. I’ve looked at Umnentionable: it does look fun! I’ll enjoy reading your review!

  4. Stefanie May 15, 2017 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    I read nonfiction regularly and it ends up being about 35-40% of my annual reading. I have read Gathering Moss and it is excellent. I had no idea moss was so fascinating until I had read that book. Kimmerer’s other book Braiding Sweetgrass is also fantastic. I just finished a new book by Valerie Luiselli called Tell Me How it Ends about US/Mexico/Central American immigration. Slim but packed with a punch.

    • Buried In Print May 16, 2017 at 6:31 am - Reply

      We should start a fan club for that book; it seems an ideal candidate for a small but committed group of fans, dedicated to moss-ness everywhere. Hee. I’m so glad to know that Braiding Sweetgrass is just as good; that one has fewer holds on it and I’m very eager to sample it. There’s an interesting article on “Writers & Company” with Valeria Luiselli; I haven’t read anything by her yet (only flipped through) but her work does sound interesting and particulary the one that you’ve just finished is timely.

  5. iliana May 14, 2017 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    I don’t read a lot of nonfiction. I mean, there are a ton of nonfiction titles that interest me but when it comes to picking up a new book I always gravitate towards fiction. I haven’t heard of any of these that you mentioned but there are several that interest me. I need to make a visit to the library and pick up some nonfiction titles!

    • Buried In Print May 15, 2017 at 10:00 am - Reply

      I remember starting to wander the non-fiction stacks; I think it might have been Sharlene‘s foray into a particular reading challenge (do you remember posting about something like that, Sharlene? making the same kind of discovery? you around? :)) and that day sticks in my mind (including the specific library branch) because it had never occurred to me to wander amongst *those* shelves. But it wasn’t a habit, just something I did when I had an unexpected amount of time to browse in a library and got bored with the fiction and every other section first (including the kits you rent and fiction in other languages!). This year I’ve been forcing myself to browse the “New NF” section whenver I pick up my holds (and not the fiction) and when I am picking up something in the stacks, I wander throughthe surrounding aisles, which is how I’ve come across many of these books actually!

  6. Isabella May 14, 2017 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    I read almost no non-fiction, and I feel terrible about it. But when I do read non-fiction, I find it very rewarding, like I’ve really accomplished something, learned something. For most topics, I’m happy to read an article, essay, or review on a subject, but I falter at book-length. Novels I like to read one at a time, and what I start, I finish; this approach doesn’t work for me with non-fiction, but I’ve yet to develop a strategy to incorporate more non-fiction into my life.

    The other thing is that (can I say this?) I find most non-fiction boring. Of your list, only The Island of Knowledge interests me. I’ll pick up books on subjects I already know something about, so they feed my bubble. I’m much more open-minded with fiction.

    • Buried In Print May 15, 2017 at 9:53 am - Reply

      Thanks for leaving a comment, and hello there! I’m curious whether you feel terrible because you intend it to be otherwise, or for some other reason? What troubles me in these kinds of situations is that I had a particular intention but then discover that my actual habits don’t support that, so I feel like I’ve let myself down. Which is what brings me to, as you’ve said, “develope a strategy”, but a revised one. I think when it comes to non-fiction, I’ve never spent a lot of time reading it, so I haven’t had the same kinds of opportunities to be bored (or rewarded, as you’ve said), not enough to be able to predict well when I will or won’t love a book. Whereas I’ve spent a lot of time reading fiction and am a pretty good guesser now. But they’re all books, I say to myself, right? So my reading brain expects there to be more overlap, and perhaps that’s just not the case.

  7. Wendy May 13, 2017 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    I only read a couple of non fiction books a year. however, this year my first book of the year was Kyo Maclear’s “Birds Art Life” and I loved it and I’m pretty sure I will read it over and over again. I just started The Brain on fire by Susannah Cahalan. As I type this I’m now realizing that I like memoirs. Two other favourites include “A widow’s story” by Joyce Carol Oats and Amanada Lindhout’s story in A House in the Sky. The Urban Bestiary book sounds interesting. I’m really surprised that some of the readers commenting read more than one book at a time – several!

    • Buried In Print May 15, 2017 at 9:43 am - Reply

      Thank you for reminding me about that Kyo Maclear book; I’ve enjoyed her fiction (The Letter Opener) and her children’s books, but I’d forgotten about this one. I’m on the hold list now, but if I see a nice copy before that comes in, I might just buy it instead, as you’ve said it’s worth rereading many times! I found My Brain on Fire very interesting; it read rather like a novel in terms of pacing because her experience in the allopathic medical system and her struggle to find a way to cope with her situation was horrifying and suspenseful by its very nature. I have both of the others on my kinda-someday list, but your recommendation nudges them upwards for sure: thank you very much!

  8. Mel u- The Reading Life May 13, 2017 at 12:13 am - Reply

    I normally read from four to six books at a time. I make it my goal to read at least 25% nonfiction. Right now I am reading a book on the interactions of Indians and British in 18th century England and a marvelous book on the efforts to preserve Jewish books from the Nazis in Poland. I read a lot of Yiddish and Indian literature so these books increase my understanding. I am very into literary biographies and the 21th century is seeing a lot of books in this area, more than I can keep up with.

    • Buried In Print May 15, 2017 at 9:37 am - Reply

      You’re not the only one aiming for 25% non-fiction, and I wonder if you plan it (like Rebecca’s stacks of alternating books) or simply monitor and aim to adjust the balance periodically through a reading year, or whether it kind of just happens because you have so many literary biographies piling up and you move a little more slowly through them than through the fiction. Whenever I read your biography reviews, I immediately want to read “that one”, and I could actually see getting quite hooked on that reading niche, because they would begin to fit together so nicely as you move from one country’s writers to another’s and from one timer period to another.

  9. Naomi May 12, 2017 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    Many of these appeal to me! But I’ve learned by now that that doesn’t mean that I’ll read it. Right now the one that appeals most is The Button Box – what a cool idea. I also think I’d like the Urban Bestiary and Gathering Moss. I didn’t realize you were interested in moss. I will never forget the moss cave in The Signature of All Things (even though I know that was fiction and I didn’t actually see it). There’s also some moss in Lab Girl. I can’t remember – have you read that one?
    Like Susan, if I’m reading nonfiction, it’s usually secondary and much slower going than my main read. But there have been many exceptions – Lab Girl, for one. And Black Berry, Sweet Juice – I would even read that one again!

    • Buried In Print May 15, 2017 at 9:33 am - Reply

      Even though I do have a few pictures of moss around here that I’ve snapped because it looked colourful, and even though I sweep and weed around those lovely green patches on the patio, I never actually thought I was interested in moss, but I guess am. So now I am doubly intrigued in the Gilbert and Lab Girl books, both of which were on my TBR already but down a bit (publication date for the former, hold list for the latter). This one has a perfect link with some of my other reading these days (mindfulness, focus, intricacy etc.) so I think it’s even more appealing just now in that way. One of *those* finds!

      Even though BBSJ was the book that landed Lawrence Hill on my TBR, I’ve only read his fiction (and only The Book of Negroes by virtue of CR, even though I have others – also I recenty caught up with the mini-series). I heard him read from BBSJ shortly after it was published, at the Eden Mills Festival that year (cue: plans to attend Woody Point SOMEDAY), and if it had been fiction, I probably would have followed through on my plans to actually read it. *sigh* (I’m sure your review will tempt me!)

      • Naomi May 15, 2017 at 11:21 am - Reply

        I was surprised by how easy and enjoyable it was to read, even though it’s written about something that is usually considered a heavy topic!

      • Naomi May 15, 2017 at 11:22 am - Reply

        Oh, and I should also say that I loved, loved The Signature of All Things! I don’t know why, but I just assumed you had read it already.

        • Buried In Print May 15, 2017 at 11:46 am - Reply

          As soon as I saw your comment, I remembered that you had loved it, but I still haven’t made it there yet. Maybe I’ll request it from the library. *laughs*

  10. Rebecca Foster May 12, 2017 at 11:13 am - Reply

    I looked back at my stats from last year and see that I was at roughly 50% fiction, 40% nonfiction, and 10% poetry. I almost always have 10-15 books on the go at one time, and try to alternate my fiction and nonfiction reading. I’ve even been known to arrange my print book stack so there’s a nonfiction book in between every pair of novels. My nonfiction reading is overwhelmingly memoirs, though I do also enjoy popular science, travel, theology, languages, food writing, etc. (Of course, lots of memoirs incorporate some of those genres.) From your stack, I’m most interested in Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s books (we have several unread ones of hers on the shelf, and I have Mozart’s Starling on my Kindle) and Gathering Moss.

    • Buried In Print May 12, 2017 at 12:06 pm - Reply

      We read similiarly, except you read more non-fiction obviously. I arrange my print stacks into patterns too. But with other categories (not non-fiction!) like short stories and various reading projects interspersed, to create the illusion of progress in multiple directions (but of course I add as many books to the TBR as I read, so no real progress in that sense). And even though I have that many books in my stack (sometimes a couple more), about half of them are active reads and the others are in various stages of finishing (deliberately spinning them out, or following a schedule of some sort, or near-stalling). I feel fairly certain that you would enjoy Gathering Moss, but I suspect it’s difficult to find overseas, from an American academic press. Nonetheless it’s been through many printings, so perhaps something second-hand? I’m on the lookout for my own copy as well, but, meantime, am waiting for the library copy to come back my way, and reading further in A Long Watch today.

  11. raidergirl3 May 12, 2017 at 9:25 am - Reply

    *Many* in my NF reads this year have been wows. Canada by Mike Myers, the March books by John Lewis, Al Franken’s Lying Liars, The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Argo, Eat Pray Love, Lab Girl. As I read more and pick better, I’m getting better reads. It was last year in my slim pickings that I had few outstanding reads.

    The Canada150 goal was set because I’ve seen people trying to do some goal for Canada150 and I wanted to as well. This year I turn 50, so I feel an affinity for Canada’s centennial and just wanted to do something, reading feels obvious. I’m not matching it up with the 11th Canadian Book Challenge, because it is from July to July and I’m counting on my 2017 year. It will kind of coincide.

    I pick NF that I think I’ll enjoy, not necessarily to learn. As long as it’s easy reading, I’ll try it. (I’m a lazy reader, lol)

    • Buried In Print May 12, 2017 at 11:53 am - Reply

      That makes sense. I remember early days reading literary fiction and not finding a fit, and oh boy, I read a lot of really disappointing (for me) mysteries, when I first dipped my toe into those reading waters, but it just took time to find some hand-holds, so I expect I’ll find some new favourites (authors and/or subjects) before long. I remembered how much you loved Mike Myers’ book: I’m watching for it on the “new” shelves (the ones that don’t require reservations, that is, as my queue is filled with – you guessed it – fiction)!

      I’ve yet to pick my theme for Canadian Book Challenge #11. Of course now I’m tempted to say non-fiction, but that seems like a recipe for failure at this juncture, when the habit is still fledgling. Usually I choose certain writer to explore in detail, which sometimes includes some non-fiction (memoir, or lit crit) but this time I’m thinking that a subject might be more fun, because then I could read fiction and non-fiction for it, like, say, gardening, but not that one. Hmmmm. *thinking*

      And it sounds simple, but you’re right: fun reading means more reading!

  12. raidergirl3 May 12, 2017 at 8:04 am - Reply

    I was like you last November – I had only read around 10-12 nonfiction all year (and none were outstanding), and was so intrigued by all the titles that I wasn’t reading so I decided to try to read NF. So far this year, I’ve read 32 NF books!
    My new Canada150 goal is to read (at least) 13 NF and 13 fiction this year.
    I’ve got a huge TBR of NF, because each new book opens up a new direction of more books – sounds familiar, eh? And I’ve heard of exactly none of the books you’ve listed here. The Laura Ingalls Wilder books appeal to me the most here. Good luck in your reading!

    • Buried In Print May 12, 2017 at 8:41 am - Reply

      It makes sense that if we’re not reading widely in a field that we’re not necessarily going to stumble upon amazing reads in that slim pickings pile, eh? How many novels does one read, good novels, before one stumbles into a “wow” reading experience? Surely in your 32, at least one of those has been a “wow”. (At least, I hope so.)

      Is your new reading goal for the 11th Canadian Book Challenge? Or something else? I’ve just finished the 10th challenge, with my indigenous reading choices, which has, as you’ve mentioned, only ended up adding books to my TBR. Once I started reading poetry and memoir in that vein, I realised how much I was missing, and sheesh! (Out of 18: 1 graphic novel, 2 short story collections, 4 novels, 7 poetry, 4 non-fiction).

      That’s the way that I’m trying to approach this, not exactly borrowing randomly, but trying to find some new non-fiction niches, hoping that naturally creates a new and exciting facet to my TBR lists and stacks. Each of the books pictured here made me want to explore more, and that’s a good feeling. (Who knew: moss?!) The Little House books are the most bookish ones here: of course you’d like those!

  13. Susan Osborne May 12, 2017 at 4:15 am - Reply

    I try to read a piece of non-fiction alongside the many novels I consume. I tend to read it much more slowly, often only a chapter a day, and I’m a bit of a butterfly in what I choose. The most interesting non-fiction book I read recently was Will Ashon’s Strange Labyrinth which I loved, all about Epping Forest – erudite, entertaining and informative. Good luck with your plans to read more.

  14. Lisa Hill May 12, 2017 at 4:14 am - Reply

    I read a lot less NF than fiction because even though I usually learn something from novels, they are entertainment and relaxation for me. NF books tend to be ones where the main purpose is for me to learn something I want to know. So while there’s well over a thousand reviews of fiction on my blog, there’s only about 400 NF. And some of those are literary biographies anyway.
    Before I retired, I would read NF over weekday breakfasts (15-20 minutes per day) and novels at night (an hour or more every day). These days because I don’t have that routine, I read even less NF. As it happens I am doing a stocktake of my TBR and I have culled quite a few from the NF shelves because issues that seemed so crucial when I bought the book have faded from importance. For example, after 9/11 I bought a book of Granta writings called ‘What we think of America’ because I was interested in different responses to the tragedy. But now things have changed so much that I think everything this book had to say would be out of date in the post-Obama era of Trump.
    But I think you’re raising an important point with this post. Previously I often kept up with current affairs or new discoveries or whatever by reading reviews in the print newspapers. Sometimes I bought the book, but more often, I didn’t need to, because the reviews were so good (having adequate length as well as being quality responses from people with expertise). But now newspapers are reducing space for these reviews and I realise that the time may well come when we will have to rely on blog reviews, as we mostly do for novels now. The problem is, that while it’s easy to find coverage of the best of what’s new in fiction via the litblogs we all follow, where is the review blog that offers expertise across a wide range of NF issues? I follow three terrific Aussie historians who blog, but I don’t know who to follow for more wide-ranging subjects. It’s food for thought…

    • Buried In Print May 12, 2017 at 8:20 am - Reply

      That’s so interesting, because I assume you haven’t given up on breakfast, so perhaps there was something else about your working-life which encouraged you to read non-fiction, rather than simply the mechanics of breakfasting? But when it comes to forming habits, linking activites can be very helpful, so finding a particular activity with which to associate non-fiction reading should be a grand place to start. Many days I will take 15-20 minutes to sit and read a short story – on a break, or with a snack – so maybe I simply need to set that aside for a time and try non-fiction instead, until it no longer feels like an effort. (I didn’t always enjoy short stories either!)

      Like you, I don’t tend to count literary biographies as non-fiction either, but they are non-fiction too; maybe because they don’t feel like work? Or, because they wrote fiction and consideration of that work takes up a good amount of ink? What do you think? In an earlier post, when I was first observing how little NF I read last year, I noted that most of what I had read was either memoir or bookish-stuff. They feel easy. They don’t make the same demands on me as a reader. But perhaps that’s true of any NF topic, once one reads in it for a spell?

      Also like you, I tend to buy the ones that I think will help me solve a problem (educate me about a trend or a conflict that I don’t understand) and then when that particular problem receds into the background I am less interested in that book because the sense of urgency has faded. I recently culled a couple of volumes of poetry written in protest about the same time period your Granta collection considers. (They’re still interesting, right? But in a historical sense. And I was buying in the spirit of must-understand-now. The fatal flaw in that plan being that I did not follow through with the must-read-now part of that deal. Which I’m guessing you struggled with too, as you’ve culled this one also.) But then I couldn’t even tally the amount of fiction I read which considered the same time period!

      I suspect the dedicated press would still satisfy you for non-fiction reviews, but they are perhaps slanted towards other parts of the world (Times Literary Supplement, New York Times Review of Books, etc.) which often puts me off a little too. Do you read any of those? In my case, part of me has already decided that non-fiction is for some other reader, a more adept and more serious reader of some sort. Even if I had a dozen fantastic review sources right here in front of me in this moment, I’d likely grab the David Mitchell I’m readng instead! So, for me, I”m not sure it’s about the availability of quality review sources (although I completely agree with your observations that coverage in the media has declined demonstrably) but more about my willingness to pursue the matter. Although maybe I would be more tempted if there was more general chatter about it…

  15. Booker talk May 11, 2017 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    Despite good intentions I seldom seem to get around to reading any of the non fiction books I have. I buy them because they sound interesting but then I can’t seem to find the right time to actually open them. i did begin reading a book called The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England about three weeks ago but all I have managed so far is chapter 1

    • Buried In Print May 12, 2017 at 7:41 am - Reply

      I can relate to that: there’s always a more interesting novel there. No good time to pick up the less interesting volume! And, of course, there is a lot of truth in novels, even when they are missing facts, so one still feels quite informed.

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