Tuesday, November 8, 2016

NonFiction November Week 2: What Should I Read Next?


Nonfiction November moves into Week 2 with a focus on selecting nonfiction. Rachel has hosting duties this week, so link up your post and find links to others at her blog, Hibernator's Library. This week's topic:
Choosing Nonfiction: What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book? Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to? Do you have a particular writing style that works best? When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you? If so, share a title or cover which you find striking.

What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book?

My personal "Big Three" include:
- interesting subject matter
- great writing... no dry, textbooky prose, please!
- if I'm listening, a good narrator


Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to?

I'm interested in a wide range of topics, but return most frequently to:
- food/foodie memoirs
- books about books and reading
- medicine/medical research/history
- social history
- travel


Do you have a particular writing style that works best?

I love narrative nonfiction, but am also a fan of journals and letters.


When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you?

I try not to let a pretty cover influence my reading choices and, for nonfiction that's fairly easy. It seems like publishers don't try as hard as they do with fiction. In fact, some of the best nonfiction I've read over the past couple of years have uninspiring, downright boring covers.


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi


A little color and an interesting font or graphic can make a big difference.  I liked both of these books.




A photograph of a person, or people, is effective. Here are three titles from my wish list:


by Jenny Nordberg


I also like covers that give a sense of place, like these from books I enjoyed:



by Katherine Boo 
The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett*
The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt

* Thank you, Susan, for catching my error. The Voyage of the Narwhal is actually fiction! I meant to include the cover image for In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides in the above collage.



And finally, I really love this cover of The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits, mostly because it reminds of Persephone endpapers.


As for titles...
I rely on the title, especially what comes after a colon, to tell me what the book is about, so they are much more important than the cover. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach has it all - great title and cover, plus it's a good read!


What influences your nonfiction choices?
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36 comments:

  1. You loved The Big House?! I did too! I read that so long ago and literally have never heard another blogger mention it...so glad to see you do so! So true about the boring covers.

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    1. Sarah - I'm starting to think we are reading twins or something! Yes, The Big House was an excellent book and one I know I'll read again one day.

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  2. I'm not that thoughtful when I select a book. I usually grab one that someone's recommended or that sounds interesting.

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    1. Kathy - I definitely should have included blogger recommendation in this post!!

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  3. I personally like the text based "boring" covers for nonfiction. I don't know why. It's something that I would never be drawn to in fiction. Your another one who likes foodie book. I didn't even know that foodie memoirs was a thing. I'll have to give one a try.

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    1. Toady - Maybe the text only covers indicate a more serious subject? I'd never pick up a novel with one of those covers, lol.

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  4. I like this post, JoAnn. So many good titles for me to investigate also. Did you read all the ones you mentioned, or are they also on your to-look-for list? Just wondering, because if you read them and mentioned them here then I will certainly consider them.

    I practice "cover lust"... {shamefully hangs head}. If I'm skimming through books in a store or an online site, covers make me stop, look again and think about it. Not meaning bright colors or fonts, but the actual design. It can, and should depict something of importance from the storyline.
    Thanks!

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    1. Rita - I have not read the three books with people on the covers, but they are on my wish list. I also haven't read The Folded Clock, but want to buy it based on the cover. I've read all of the others... the top three are the most recommended. The three books with the boring covers I might have passed over without blogger recommendations.

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  5. I so agree with you about the 'after colon' title. It's often the hook for me.

    And I think I have to read Stiff!

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    1. Debbie - So much information in those ofter the colon titles, and they're often quite witty, too. Stiff was a good read, but there was one scene that freaked me out... near the beginning. You'll know which one if you read it ;-)

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  6. I have Between the World and Me on hold at the library.

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    1. Vicki - Such a thought-provoking read... and sad, too.

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  7. You are so right about The Folded Clock's cover art! I don't read a lot of nonfiction but when I do, I tend to read the same topics you've listed. I love a great travelogue or books about books. I feel like I need to add some nonfiction to my reading list after reading your post :)

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    1. Iliana - The Folded Clock is even more appealing in person... may have to treat myself to a copy for Christmas ;-)

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  8. I really like non-fiction and I tend to pick authors over topics. For example, I'll read anything by Bill Bryson, Erik Larson, Simon Winchester, Claire Tomalin, Tony Horwitz, almost regardless of subject, though I guess part of why I like them is they pick topics to write about that interest me. I also like gardening books.

    Enjoyed reading what motivates you in the non-fiction area--I also like to read books about books and reading :)

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    1. JaneGS - I like several of those authors, too. Seems like whatever topic they choose to write about is interesting. There are still a couple of unread Bill Bryson books on my shelf, as well as Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz (still haven't read him!)

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  9. The Underground Girls of Kabul is a great one for your wishlist. Such a fascinating book! Your best books with the boring covers are all on my own list to read soon. I know they'll be good I just need to get off lighter nonfiction and ready for those topics.

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    1. Amanda - Seems like The Underground Girls of Kabul was a popular choice during Nonfiction November last year (or was it the year before?) ... I still need to read it!

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  10. Oh yes, the stuff that comes after the colon is generally the best part of the title. A creative yet descriptive subtitle is awesome.

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    1. looloolooweez - Sometimes it's the creativity of the subtitle that really grabs my attention.

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  11. I think some of your "boring" cover examples are really nice examples of design. I ca be really put off by covers, especially if it looks like someone's just plopped a stock photo with some not very well placed text on top!

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    1. Ellie Warren - Good point... I dislike stock photo covers on novels. It also drives me crazy when different titles use a variation of the same same image.

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  12. The new Zelda F. movie is not based on the novel Z (as I first thought) but the bio by Nancy Milford, a Pulitzer and National Book award finalist. Now that makes it a worthwhile non-fiction pick. :)

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    1. Arti - I'm glad to hear that... would much rather read the Mitford biography.

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  13. I think I am your nonfiction reading sister! Thank you for sharing all your wonderful thoughts about nonfiction.

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    1. Deb - I just bumped Nothing to Envy up my wish list after seeing your review!

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  14. I picked up a very nice copy of The Big House at a book sale a couple of years ago. I'm very drawn to it and hope to read it before the dust gathers too much! I spent loads of time on Cape Cod in my youth and in my twenties when my Dad had a house in Osterville, on the warm-water Nantucket Sound side. Makes me even more interested. Enjoy your picks!
    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

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    1. Judith - If you've spent time on Cape Cod, I'm sure you'll enjoy The Big House. I'd like to reread it at some point.

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    2. JoAnn,
      I've had a hard time reading since early November, so with your enthusiasm, I think I'll pick it right up!

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    3. Judith - Let me know what you think. It' so evocative of time and place!

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    1. Reviewsbylola - I still get shivers imagining the scene for the 'practice' facelifts!!

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  16. Oh boy, my TBR is just going to explode, eh? Your Big Three is very much mine too! I struggle to get through dry textbooky prose, which is a bummer because there are many of those in my wishlist too.

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    1. Athira - Audio makes textbook prose much easier for me to digest. That's the only way I can take in that type of book.

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  17. For nonfiction : subject matter & writing & narrative influence my choices. The Mary Norris book was a pretty fun audio read by the author. But isn't Andrea Barrett's book historical fiction? It's good. I'm enjoying Springsteen's autobiography now. Hope the election hasn't made you disappear. It feels awful I know.

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    1. Susan -ACK!!! YES, Barrett's book is a novel!!! I was looking for a cover type... and had In the Kingdom of Ice pulled up. Not sure how I ended up with The Voyage of the Narwhal. Thank you... I'll edit the post.

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