Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year in Nonfiction

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!

In Week 1 (Oct 30 to Nov 3), take a look back at your year of nonfiction:
(The titles below link to my thoughts on the book.)
Jen Agg’s I Hear She’s a Real Bitch
Richard Bowen’s Mei Mei Little Sister
Commodore Ajith Boyagoda with Sunila Galappatti’s A Long Watch
Joseph Boyden’s Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont
Chester Brown’s Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography
Ivan Coyote’s Tomboy Survival Guide
Mazo de la Roche’s Ringing the Changes
Shirin Ebadi’s Until We Are Free
Louise Erdrich’s Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country
Negin Farsad’s How to Make White People Laugh
Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s The Urban Bestiary
Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on the Road
B. Denham Jolly’s In the Black
Scaachi Koul’s One Day We’ll Be Dead and None of This Will Matter
Sonny Liew’s The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye
John Lorinc, Ed (and others) How Toronto Got Queer
Kyo Maclear’s Birds Art Life
Javiar Marias’ Written Lives
Paule Marshall’s Triangular Road
Clem and Olivier Martini’s The Unravelling
James Maskalyk’s Life On the Ground Floor
Sylvia Plath’s The Unabridged Journals (edited by Karen V. Kukil)
Gregory Scofield’s Thunder Through My Veins
Bev Sellar’s They Called Me Number One
Drew Hayden Taylor’s Me Funny
Marcelino Truong’s What a Lovely Little War (Trans. David Homel)
Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook
Craig Walzer, Ed. Out of Exile
Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s The Right to Be Cold

Click here if you want to see the rest of the list (but no links to these: just titles).

…and reflect on the following questions – 

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? 

My favourite non-fiction read of the year so far is one of the volumes in McSweeney’s Witness series, Out of Exile (2008). These stories of dislocation and relocation, inside and outside Sudan, were immediately engaging. Gripping even. And while there are tragic elements, the diverse experiences of the contributors are so varied that you truly want to read on and discover how different or similar the next account might be.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? 

I gravitate towards books about books, books about writing, and literary memoirs, like Peter Orner’s Am I Alone Here?, which is the nonfiction book I have most often recommended this year; it’s a bookish collection of essays, about specific works which are meaningful to him (including a lot of short stories and literary fiction) and his way of exploring and revisiting them at key moments throughout his life. (It also inspired me to read some of his fiction and to locate some of the books considered therein.)

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

I haven’t read enough memoirs written by people whose life experience is dramatically different than mine. Not only the volume above, about life in Sudan, but others like Shirin Ebadi’s Until We Are Free (about the struggle to further human rights in contemporary Iran under Islamic fundamentalist control) and Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s The Right To Be Cold (about her efforts to draw attention to the devastating effects of climate change on northern peoples’ culture and customs) have reminded me how powerful and inspiring such reading can be.

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

By participating in non-fiction November, I hope to learn about some books and authors I haven’t explored yet and to share some of the non-fiction I’ve discovered and found rewarding. In 2016, I was disappointed by the amount of non-fiction I was reading, and I wanted to make a conscious effort to read it alongside fiction and poetry this year. Last week, when browsing in the library stacks, I found more temptations for this month’s non-fiction reading than novels and short stories to haul home with me. That’s a first!



  1. trav November 10, 2017 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Peter Orner’s ‘Am I Alone Here?’ is a new one for me. I’m going to have to check that one out. I really appreciate a solid essay collection.

    • Buried In Print November 20, 2017 at 8:31 am - Reply

      Initially, I thought they were going to be simply about books, but there is enough of his personality and life experience coming through that, gradually, you become invested in various aspects of his life until, in the end, you find yourself surprisingly engaged.

  2. Naomi November 7, 2017 at 9:12 am - Reply

    I don’t think you have to worry about your nonfiction numbers anymore this year – what a list! Mine is so woefully small in comparison that it doesn’t even count. I see so many interesting NF books at the library now that I’m in that section more than I used to be (and often stop to flip through them, and occasionally even bring one home), but my numbers have still not gone up… just my longing to read them all. 🙂

    • Buried In Print November 8, 2017 at 9:20 am - Reply

      When I started to make the list, I thought it would be a quick task; by the time I was half-way through, I was considering just making it a “best of” list, but, by then, I’d already spent so much time adding the links that I just kept going. Perhaps partly to convince myself that next year I won’t have to be so deliberate about my choices, can just let things unfold and see where the balance falls now that I am looking at non-fiction almost as often as fiction in bookstores and libraries (Well, almost! You know…)

  3. jessicabookworm November 4, 2017 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    Wow that is an impressive amount of non-fiction reading 🙂

    • Buried In Print November 8, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply

      I was surprised myself, actually! I knew I’d read “more” than last year, but didn’t realise just how much more.

  4. The Reading Life November 4, 2017 at 5:40 am - Reply

    I try to balance by nonfiction reading with my fiction. This month I am focusing a lot on German Literature and hope to read a new bio of Goethe and a work about Jewish life in the 1700s in Germany, told via a bio. I agree completely with this remark you made – “I gravitate towards books about books, books about writing, and literary memoirs,“

    • Buried In Print November 8, 2017 at 9:08 am - Reply

      Last November I told myself to remember non-fiction November for this, current November. And now I’m telling myself to remember German literature month for next November! Almost all the non-fiction (perhaps all, actually) that you read appeals to me, so I can see why that sentence would “speak” to you too!

  5. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) November 2, 2017 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    I like your point about memoirs, I really enjoy that type of reading too. Most of my memoirs tend to be written by Americans or Europeans, but there’s a lot more out there to explore.

    • Buried In Print November 8, 2017 at 8:54 am - Reply

      They’re just there. It’s so easy to read more of the same. And not that I intend to stop reading bookish books and literary memoirs, but there are plenty of other books to add to the stacks!

  6. Kristilyn November 2, 2017 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    I haven’t read a lot of non-fiction so I’m looking forward to discovering new to me authors, too. This is definitely the year I’ve gotten hooked on non-fiction! Good luck this month! 🙂

    • Buried In Print November 8, 2017 at 8:53 am - Reply

      I didn’t think I could get hooked on non-fiction, but apparently it’s possible. Glad to have company in that freshly hooked state!

  7. Life of a Female Bibliophile November 2, 2017 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Good luck with Nonfiction November! Reading this reminds me that I need to step it up on my nonfiction reading. I really enjoy reading memoirs the most when it comes to the genre.

    • Buried In Print November 8, 2017 at 8:43 am - Reply

      Do you have a particular kind of memoir you enjoy? I gravitate towards the lives of authors, but often enjoy others as well.

  8. Danielle November 1, 2017 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    I’m afraid to count how many NF reads I had this year. I suspect I can count on one hand! That said I am in the middle of two at the moment–a book of bookstore essays and a memoir–both of which I am finding totally engaging. Hopefully I will stick with them both and finish them (this year…). It looks like you have had a very diverse reading year, though I know what you mean–only reading one or two outside your comfort zone just makes you realize how much more is out there and what else should be finding its way onto your reading pile!

    • Buried In Print November 8, 2017 at 8:42 am - Reply

      That was my year last year, so I can easily relate. It’s not that you’re not avoiding it, you’re just not seeking it out, and the ficton TBR is so massive that you can spend all your time there, right? Yah, I get it. Reading memoirs about wartime in Sudan and then Kenya made me think about how long I could spend just reading just a single memoir like that for each country on a single continent and that’s what got me thinking about how few I’ve read. Of course, I guess I could have just marvelled at the fact that I’d read two more than I’d read before, but I tend to emphasise what remains!

  9. Susie | Novel Visits October 31, 2017 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    Wow! You are amazing! You have read so many nonfiction books this year. To me that’s such an accomplishment since I tend to gravitate toward fiction. I’m going to be carefully looking over your list.

    • Buried In Print November 1, 2017 at 7:42 am - Reply

      I can relate: this took a real effort as I am a fiction-first reader too, at heart, but it’s been a fantastic reading year. Sometimes I feel like a project like this just scratches an itch and then I return to my previous reading habits afterwards, but this time, I think the habit will stick, although suspect the balance will favour fiction/stories/poetry.

  10. lakesidemusing October 31, 2017 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    You’ve had an excellent year in nonfiction… so many interesting titles! This is the Story of a Happy Marriage was a favorite a couple of year ago and I really enjoyed My Life with Bob last summer. I think I would like Out of Exile. Did you ever read The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper? It’s set in Liberia and is almost a decade old by now, but it’s one I still think about.

    • Buried In Print November 1, 2017 at 7:39 am - Reply

      Those are both amongst my favourites too, partly for being bookish. I haven’t heard of Helene Cooper but that book sounds exactly that a story that would interest me; thank you very much!

  11. Brona October 31, 2017 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    I’m curious about The Right to be Cold – I haven’t come across it before. Climate change/environmental books do interest me a lot.
    Was the bio on Zora Neale Hurston a good one?

    • Buried In Print November 1, 2017 at 7:32 am - Reply

      Her story will be tremendously interesting to you then, as it’s not a typical book about climate change. She is first and foremost a cultural representative, representing her people’s right to live according to their traditions and customes, and they rely upon preserving the environment. So it is about the change in climate and how it has devastated some aspects of her culture, but it’s from a slightly different perspective than you’re likely used to, based on other reading on the subject.

      The Hurston autobiography I just loved: her voice is so clear and mesmerizing and although I had previously been interested in her work, after reading Dust Tracks, I wanted to read everything else she wrote! Have you read her fiction, or are you just curious?

  12. iliana October 31, 2017 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    You’ve had a fabulous year of non-fiction reading I would say! I need to keep some of these in mind as I explore some non-fiction reads this month. I’m going to the library tomorrow so let’s see what I find!

    • Buried In Print October 31, 2017 at 4:48 pm - Reply

      Even though I knew I’d been reading more of it, I didn’t realise quite how much more until I started to make the list for this event. I hope you find some good stuff at the library tomorrow, non-fiction and fiction too!

  13. Café Society October 31, 2017 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Yes, I think she is a remarkable writer. I read whatever she has published.

    • Buried In Print October 31, 2017 at 1:03 pm - Reply

      I wonder if there are other authors whose fiction you’ve enjoyed who might also entice you to try their non-fiction? That’s a way in, I suppose. (Not that I think one should have to read both!)

  14. Café Society October 31, 2017 at 3:26 am - Reply

    The only non-fiction book I’ve read this year (other than works needed for academic purposes) has been Maggie O’Farrell’s I am, I am, I am. And, if truth be told, in any other year it would probably have been none. I’m not a great non-fiction reader, I’m afraid.

    • Buried In Print October 31, 2017 at 12:07 pm - Reply

      I’m curious what drew you to that one, then, if you’re not keen on non-fiction generally. Have you enjoyed her novels?

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