Nonfiction November ~ Week 1

Nonfiction November is a month long focus on reading nonfiction books. It’s hosted by multiple bloggers this year. Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness is the host for week one.

The topic this week asks participants to look back on the year and share some thoughts on their reading life.

Here goes!

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? 
I’ve only read six nonfiction titles so far this year, which seems a bit low compared to previous years, but I haven’t done any number crunching yet. They are:

  1. Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James
  2. Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir by Frances Mayes
  3. Rowing Against the Wind by Angela Madsen
  4. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  5. Hiroshima by John Hersey
  6. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

It’s tough picking a favorite out of this group because they were all good, solid books, but since I’m tasked with choosing one I’ll go with Anne Frank’s Diary. For starters, its been on my TBR forever. It’s one of those books I didn’t want to read for a long time and then I wanted to read it, also for a long time. It was amazing to finally read it and I’m glad the 40-something version of me read it rather than the teenage me, because I don’t think it would have been as profound or as moving to my younger, less thoughtful self. Unless, perhaps, my reading experience was in the hands of the “right” teacher. And by “right” teacher I mean someone who is not only an excellent teacher of teens, but someone I had a crush on. Like most people who’ve read Ann Frank’s diary, I was stunned and felt ill when it ended so suddenly. It was a sublime reading experience for me, both joyful and horrific.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? 

Probably The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus by Richard Preston. I’ve recommended it to people I know well and to complete strangers back when I was a bookseller. I’ve never had someone come back and tell me they just couldn’t get into it. It’s one of those books that makes you feel like you’ve been through the wringer and also learned a few things along the way. I want more people to read In The Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathanial Philbrick, which is probably my favorite nonfiction book of all time (movie based on the book is coming out in December). Also  literature lovers and writers might be fascinated by Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg. Perkins edited F. Scot Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and Ernest Hemingway, among others. Read the book now before the movie starting Colin Firth as Perkins comes out (supposedly in 2016).

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? 
True crime or nonfiction about crime and crime fiction. I’m a fan of crime fiction, but there’s something about the idea of reading true crime that makes me shudder. I once flipped through a book about suicides and murders in the 1930s or 1940s and almost passed out in the middle of the bookstore. Seriously, I had to sit down and breathe for a while. I’m currently dipping my toe in the water by reading Stolen Years: Stories of the Wrongfully Imprisoned by Reuven Fenton. It’s a collection of ten short biographies about people who’ve served years or decades in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
To reignite my reading and my blogging. I’ve read some good books this year, but I’ve been rather listless about both my reading and blogging. I’m looking forward to having a focus this month and seeing what everyone else is reading & recommending.

Do you have any nonfiction reading plans this month?


  1. It has been some good reading. I was just lamenting that it hasn't been a strong reading year for me, but now that I start looking back on what I have read, there's been some really fine reads. I wonder if not reviewing/blogging about what I've read has made it seem like a weak year. I haven't thought as deeply about what I have read.

  2. Yes, it is. I had just read Moby Dick shortly before receiving an ARC of In the Heart of the Sea, so it was perfect timing. I think I appreciated both books so much more for having read them around the same time.

  3. I haven't read Anne Frank…mainly because Holocaust lit does not appeal for many reasons. Saw the play a couple of times, so I have a pretty good idea what it's about.

    The Hot Zone's been sitting on my shelves for decades, it seems.

  4. Honestly, I don't think teenage me got as much out of Anne Frank as I might today. As is, I feel as though I've read WWII books, fiction and nonfiction, that have moved me more, but I think it's probably worth a revisit. I'm not a huge fan of crime fiction, but I'm definitely more nervous about reading true crime. It's just scarier and more depressing to me than crime fiction!

  5. I actually stumbled upon Anne Frank at my grandmother's house and started reading it because I loved WWII and diaries when I was quite young (middle school, if not younger). Little did I know. I definitely think reading it that young impacted me more than if I'd read it now as an adult who took in-depth classes on WWII.

  6. I have only read Diary of Anne Frank on your list! But I really need to read all of The Hot Zone – I say all, because my biology teacher we had in high school would read a portion of it to us each year and it was always a highlight!

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