Non-Fiction November Week Four: Favourites

2017’s Nonfiction November is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Julie at Julz Reads, and Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness!

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!

2017-11-22T11:52:25+00:00

25 Comments

  1. Deepika Ramesh November 29, 2017 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    I have been reading a lot of non-fiction these days, but they are mostly on animals, and some of it are memoirs. I love your suggestions here and thank you so much for sharing. I am sad that I didn’t participate in Non-Fiction November. Maybe, next year. 🙂

    • Buried In Print November 30, 2017 at 4:19 pm - Reply

      What kinds of books about animals have you been reading, related to health, or simply to their lives in general? Do you also enjoy fiction with animals in it? And, only dogs? grins Maybe you will want to participate in Non-Fiction November next year; I’ve meant to before, but this is my first time doing so. Also, then I realised that I wanted to take part in German Literature month too, so now I will have to plan for that to happen in next November!

  2. Alley November 26, 2017 at 11:41 am - Reply

    I love me some non-fiction with a humorous edge (and fiction with a humorous edge. Humor in general) so will need to check out The Inconvenient Indian.

    • buriedinprint November 27, 2017 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      I predict that you will love his style. There is, if you are buying, a new edition, the Illustrated edition, which has some absolutely gorgeous plates and images to accompany the text. I was almost wishing that I hadn’t already bought the original in hardcover when it was new!

  3. whisperinggums November 24, 2017 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    I am just drafting my post for the last two weeks – being too lazy to write one for each week, and I see that you have written exactly what I’m writing regarding liking my non-fiction to have a narrative style. (I do like humour too, but am not mentioning that!)

    • buriedinprint November 27, 2017 at 2:47 pm - Reply

      Sometimes weekly events are a challenge to manage, alongside one’s own reading. Fortunately this event fell after my busier posting months (with the CanLit prize lists preoccupying me earlier this season). I’m off to check your post now!

      • whisperinggums November 29, 2017 at 6:09 pm - Reply

        This is the comment I tried to respond to on Monday but I have no idea now what I said, though I think it was something about agreeing regarding managing weekly events. I think I had some pearl of wisdom on the topic but it mustn’t have been very pearly because it’s gone!

        • whisperinggums November 29, 2017 at 6:14 pm - Reply

          OK here is something for you to consider. When I clicked “post comment” on the comment just posted above, I got the following message:

          “This is not a secure form, This form will be sent in a way that is not secure. Are you sure you want to send it?”

          I said yes, or continue (forgotten the actual word I had to click) because I know your site is fine, but I don’t get this on other blogs. I’m really not trying to whinge! If I’m the ONLY one who gets these things happening then we’ll just have to live with it, but since I use pretty standard systems here I have to assume that it’s not just me?

          • Buried In Print November 30, 2017 at 4:17 pm - Reply

            I’m very sorry, WhisperingGums, I don’t have a solution at this time. When I look up this announcement online, I see it has something to do with working between a site with an http address (mine) and a site with an https address (yours) and something to do with caches and certificates, but I’m not sure what of this – if anything – is relevant to our dilemma. A friend who is due for a visit later this month can probably answer this question for me, so please know that I haven’t forgotten the matter (and if you discover any other clues feel free to leave them here), and I’ll be making inquiries. Was the last comment you left, on the 24th, equally problematic, or does it seem – sometimes – to magically work?

            • whisperinggums December 1, 2017 at 1:08 am

              I’m completely confused by now Buried re when it works and when it doesn’t. I tried to reply to this comment this afternoon from my laptop, but from that drop down list of comments you get on your own blog showing recent comments on your own blog and replies to comments you’ve made on the WordPress blogs. I replied to a few and they were fine, and then tried yours and it failed (the way it did last time I tried from the app on my iPad). I’ve never seen that happen from that list on my laptop before (at least as far as I can remember). Also lately – and it’s happening now – when I’m commenting via your own blog, the page keeps jerking a little up and down. I just don’t see that happening anywhere else.

              I;m afraid though with my using so many different ways to comment on blogs, I can’t be categorical anymore about whether any one method always works, but right now I’d say I have experienced problems every way I’ve tried.

            • whisperinggums December 1, 2017 at 1:21 am

              BTW My husband suggests that this could be the issue. I’m assuming yours is a self-hosted blog and that you don’t have the required certificate. He says you’d need to get an SSL certificate. It seems that we free WordPress sites have this provided by WordPress. I asked him why others haven’t complained to you. Of course some may just have given up, but he says it can be bowser specific – ie different browsers will handle this non-secure transfer differently, they may not worry about the issue. I access you either via the WordPress app or the Safari browser on my laptop or iPad.

              (BTW he also says the bouncing up and down is caused by the horizontally scrolling list of related posts in the middle of the screen between the post and the comments section.)

        • Buried In Print November 30, 2017 at 4:04 pm - Reply

          Maybe it’ll come back to you when you’re next in the midst of managing a reading event or challenge or project or whatnot! For me, it’s crucial to plan, because otherwise I just trundle on with all my regularly scheduled reading” insert TV announcer’s voice on top of the “new” things for the event, and that becomes overwhelming immediately, because my stacks are unwieldly at the best of times.

  4. […] Buried in Print points out that an engaging writing style is even more important when reading about a topic you’re not specifically excited about, even if you’re willing to read something drier on a topic you love. […]

  5. iliana November 24, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    It was fun to see what others have listed as their favorites and it seems that a big theme was books that read like novels. That’s definitely try for me. I’ve not heard of The Convict Lover but sounds fascinating.

    • buriedinprint November 27, 2017 at 2:46 pm - Reply

      Guess the whole narrative thing goes deep. The variety of topics that appear in other people’s lists fascinates me!

  6. annelogan17 November 23, 2017 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    Ok I’m extremely intrigued by Merilyn Simond’s Convict Lover. I’ve met her a few times, and I thought I was mostly familiar with her work but I’ve never heard of this one-I must check it out!

    • buriedinprint November 27, 2017 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      I’m also a fan of the whole “discovered old papers in the attic” kind of story to begin with…

  7. Laila@BigReadingLife November 22, 2017 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    How to Be Black was so good!

    I’m bad at reading “serious” nonfiction. I am much more likely to read a memoir or a book of essays than any other kind of nonfiction. I have so much on my TBR that I keep meaning to get to, and then I just never do. I’m determined to do better in 2018!

    • Buried In Print November 23, 2017 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      It was just hilarious, and pointed: informative and entertaining. That’s just the kind of resolution that put my non-fiction reading into high gear this year, so I bet you’ve got some fantastic reading ahead of you in 2018!

  8. kaggsysbookishramblings November 22, 2017 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    Although I’m not formally taking part in this, I find myself currently reading Margaret Atwood’s “Strange Things”….

    • Buried In Print November 23, 2017 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      You raise a good point in that I have followed many a favourite author into non-fiction, even when I was actually deliberately steering clear of it (as opposed to recent years when I “meant” read it but neve actually got around to doing so very often). That’s not an especially compelling read, as I remember it, but I did enjoy it well enough. Is it adding any titles to your TBR?

  9. A Life in Books November 22, 2017 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    I prefer my non-fiction accessible but informative. Siddartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of Maladies is a good example of what works for me or Christofi Ribbat’s In the Restaurant which I read and very much enjoyed recently. It’s about telling a story, I suppose.

    • Buried In Print November 23, 2017 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      The narrative is definitely the most important element in hooking my interest too. Told well, I become interested in almost any topic. Leslie T. Chang’s Factory Girls is basically a collection of narratives, these young women’s stories, where they’ve come from and where they thought they were going (in finding work in the city): it hooked me right away, even though I wouldn’t have thought it was a riveting subject for my stack of reading.

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