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
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.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
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.
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures by Maureen Corrigan
A photograph of a person, or people, is effective. Here are three titles from my wish list:
by Jenny Nordberg
Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura
Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
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!