This week’s focus is non-fiction favourites, hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey.
What makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.
One of the first non-fiction books I remember loving was Charlotte Gray’s Sisters in the Wilderness about the early Canadian settlers and writers, Catherine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie.
Prior to that, I would collect non-fiction but with the exception of diaries or letters, I tended not to read them.
They were simply books that some smarter version of me might like to have on hand to read in the future, right after I finished “just one more novel”.
Another which dragged me in was Merilyn Simonds’ The Convict Lover, which relied upon letters and papers discovered in an attic in the late 1980s, written between a schoolgirl and a convict in the Kingston Penitentiary. It read like a novel: I loved it.
Voice and presentation make all the difference to me. With a topic I’m interested in already, I’ll settle in. I’ve read some fairly academic books about feminism and publishing, activists’ lives and social justice, and I’ve enjoyed them.
But without any previous interest in the topic, I require my nonfiction to be written with a style and techniques more commonly associated with fiction. I want narratives with my facts, and illustrations or photographs for bonus points — and, yes, there should be more of those in fiction too, why not?
Some books with a humourous approach have resonated strongly with me. Like, for instance, Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian and Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black. Both are filled with cultural and historical information, but they manage to entertain along the way.
Which isn’t to discount the importance and resonance of more serious books on these subjects, like Samantha Powers’ A Problem from Hell and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Because not everyone responds to humour in the face of genocide and injustice.
This week’s non-fiction reading: Leslie T. Chang’s Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China. Engaging and narrative driven: just my style!