Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction


Nonfiction November is here again! Some bloggers have set aside stacks of nonfiction titles to read this month, others will celebrate by highlighting books they've read throughout the year, and everyone will be adding to their TBR (to be read) lists. Like last year, our hosts are offering weekly blog post prompts.  Kim is hosting this week's topic: My Year in Nonfiction.


How much nonfiction do I read?

Just over one quarter of my reading since last November has been nonfiction... and one third of that has been on audio.

What do I read about?

My biggest trend this year has been toward bookish or literary nonfiction:
- Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading  by Nina Sankovitch
- 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

As always, a fair dose of science and medicine...heavy on aging issues this year:
- Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?  by Roz Chast
- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End  by Atul Gawande
- On Immunity An Inoculation  by Eula Biss

Culinary/foodie nonfiction always figures prominently in my selections:
- Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen  by Laurie Colwin
- Zero Belly Diet  by David Zinczenko
- A Taste of Upstate New York: The People and the Stories Behind 40 Food Favorites  by Chuck D'imperio

I also love travel/adventure/history:
- Finding Florida  by T. Allman
- The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey  by Rinker Buck
- An Age of License: A Travelogue  by Lucy Knisley

A new discover this year is just for fun/ slump-busting light nonfiction:
- Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality  by Jacob Tomsky
- Lessons From Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris  by Jennifer L. Scott

What nonfiction book have I recommended the most?


An easy question. I have recommended Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande to everyone I know and even got my book club to read it. (my review)

What was my favorite nonfiction read of the year?


I enjoyed everything about The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck, especially the mules. 'Participatory history' is a term I had not previously encountered, but this account of a modern day mule-crossing is a darn good read. (my review)

What do I hope to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
I'd like to expand my reading horizons and add new books to my wish list. Learning what other bloggers recommend is the best way to do that.

Do you read much nonfiction?
What is your favorite/most recommended title this year?

Links to more "My Year in Nonfiction" posts can be found at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

46 comments:

  1. Loved reading this! And I've actually read two of the books you read - the Roz Chast and the Laurie Colwin. I love both of them. I have probably 3 times more nf than fiction on my shelves. This year so far, I have really enjoyed Heather Lende's books; Ben McIntyre's A Spy Among Friends, Donald Hall's Essays After Eighty, the Chast book, and my reread of Howards End is on the Landing.

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    1. Nan - I read much more fiction than nonfiction, but somehow the nonfiction stays on my shelves... probably influenced by my husband! Have been eyeing Heather Lende's latest and maybe I can fit it in this month. A reread of Howards End is on the Landing sounds like a good idea to me, too!

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  2. My favs for 2015, so far: Ordinary Light-A Memoir by Tracy K. Smith; Memoirs of Montparnasse by John Glassco; Vita's Other World-A Gardening Biography of Vita Sackville-West; Empty Mansions-Life of Huguette Clark by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell. Just started Grace-A Memoir by Grace Coddington, Creative Director of Vogue magazine. Looks like my NF tendencies are toward memoirs and travel, but I still have the Atul Gawande book on my reading list. :-)

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    1. JudyMac - Oh, I can't wait to check out those titles! I enjoyed Empty Mansions very much last year. That one was a read/listen combination for me. The audio was especially fascinating because I got to hear bits of the recorded conversations between Huguette and the author. She sounded quite very 'with it' to me! I will probably read Atul Gawande's other books in 2016.

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    2. Tracy Smith won the Pulitzer in 2012 for Poetry, and Ordinary Light was recently long-listed for the National Book Awards. Fantastic writer, would like to see her try some fiction.

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    3. JudyMac - Tracy Smith's book sounds wonderful! When I looked up the audio version, I found that she narrates it herself. Loved her voice on the sample and I've added it to my wish list. Thank you for the suggestion :)

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  3. I love memoirs so I usually get in my fair share of nonfiction. I really want to get to Being Mortal soon.

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    1. Kathy - I haven't read as many memoirs as usual this year. The foodie ones are especially appealing to me:)

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  4. I want to read the book on The Great Gatsby and The Oregon Trail looks really good too. I'm normally a big nonfiction fan but I don't think I've read all that much this year.

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    1. Katherine - Funny how we go in streaks with our reading habits. This has certainly been the year for classics and series for me!

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  5. So happy to hear good things about The Oregon Trail -- my library's book group chose it for one of our 2016 reads, and I'm really looking forward to it. I also love Laurie Colwin, I've read her food essays many times (and the recipes are usually good, too). Her short stories and novels are also excellent -- I especially loved "A Big Storm Knocked It Over."

    Another great nonfiction book about books is "When Books Went to War" -- I recently listened to the audio and found it really interesting. It's all about the impact of books on U.S. soldiers during WWII. As a librarian, I found it very poignant.

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    1. Karen K. - When Books Went to War sounds wonderful! I just listened to a sample on audible and added it to my wish list. You're in for a treat with The Oregon Trail. I never knew mules could be so fascinating ;-)

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  6. So many people have read Being Mortal this year! And I've heard good things about Heads in Beds.

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    1. Sarah - I've also added Waiter Rant to my wish list. It sounds like another fun/light nonfiction similar to Heads in Beds.

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  7. The Oregon Trail sounds like fun - i have images from the Little House in the Prairie in my mind :-)

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    1. Brona Joy - Those images wouldn't be too far off! ;-)

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  8. I love nonfiction and will be checking out the books you listed.

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    1. Vicki - Hope you find some that interest you :)

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  9. I also read a lot of non fiction. It looks like you read some great ones this year.

    I also love non fiction books about reading and writing.

    I want to read Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen soon.

    I also am intrigued by A Taste of Upstate New York. I cook a lot and love cookbooks. I live in downstate New York but I am frequently upstate. I enjoy the food there.

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    1. Brian Joseph - I really enjoyed A Taste of Upstate New York... so many familiar places and stories, but a few new ones, too. Here is a link to my post:
      http://lakesidemusing.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-taste-of-upstate-new-york-by-chuck.html

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  10. Oh, my gosh...I've GOT to read Being Mortal! As a hospital employee (and one who has worked with our palliative care team on end of life issues), this is very interesting and I need to make time for it. You've had some great ones this year; what a nice list! Looking forward to participating in this for the first time this year!

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    1. Running N Reading - Yes, you must read Being Mortal. I think you will find it very thought-provoking. I'll be reading Gawande's earlier books next year.

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  11. Love your post! It has reminded me to bump up Being Mortal and Oregon Trail. I'm so glad that I am reading more nonfiction nowadays. It didn't always happen. I'm also hoping for tons of recommendations this month.

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    1. Athira - I haven't always read this much nonfiction and it seems like every December I vow to read more in the upcoming year. I hope you are able to read both Being Mortal and The Oregon Trail... and I'll thank you again for your review of Missoula. I'll be listening to that in 2016.

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  12. I'm also really big on science and medicine books! I'm currently reading The Philadelphia Chromosome and I'd highly recommend it. Being Mortal and The Oregon Trail are definitely books I need to check out :)

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    1. DoingDewey - The Philadelphia Chromosome sounds right up my alley! How have I not heard of that book? I've added it to my wish list. Thanks!

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  13. Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking books are among my very favorites! For non-fiction, I like history, biography, travel lit, books about cooking or food (Elizabeth David, Jeffrey Steingarten), and books about domestic science. I need to look out for the Upstate New York book. I'm originally from Buffalo and will always consider Western New York to be my home.

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    1. Patience_Crabstick - This was my first experience with Laurie Colwin and now I want to read everything else she wrote! The Taste of Upstate New York was a lot of fun, and I'm sure many of the stories/foods/people would be familiar to you. My college roommate (and still oner my closest friends) is from Buffalo, so I've spent a fair amount of time there over the years.

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  14. I just started "The Oregon Trail" last night. I think it will take me forever to get thru it Why? Because already on page 30, I have to stop and read passages to my husband---because I'm sure he will love it and I feel the need to talk about it already!! It'll be a great read!

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    1. Debbie - LOL, I did the same thing! My poor husband got tired of all the little mule tidbits, but he still wants to read the book... and so does my FIL. Hubby better get started because I'm giving it to his father when we get to Florida:)

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  15. I badly want to read he Oregon Trail. I read Tolstoy and the Purple Chair when it came out and loved it.
    here is my post: http://wordsandpeace.com/2015/11/05/nonfiction-november-my-year-2015-in-nonfiction/

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    1. WordsandPeace - The Oregon Trail was excellent! It made me want to plan a trip to see many of the places along the way.

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  16. What a great list you've put together! I'm reading Being Mortal now and loving it. Can definitely see why it's a must read on your list!

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    1. Stacy - Oh, good! I'm so glad you're reading Being Mortal. It's not exactly a pleasant topic, but it really is one we all need to think about.

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  17. Yes I like nonfiction too, and plan to get to the Being Mortal book. I sometime like light nonfiction ones like My Salinger Year or Between You and Me and then other times I like ones with a little more with background like The Indifferent Stars Above or Lean In or whatever it is. All quite good

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    1. Thecuecard - Just like with fiction, there is such a range of nonfiction to fit all sorts of moods and needs.. and I enjoy all of it! I remember reading several very positive reviews of My Salinger Year. I'll have to take another look at that one. Being Mortal was so well done - I plan to read Gawande's other books soon.

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  18. Oh yes! I forgot about that Oregon Trail book. It sounds so fun. I don't think I've heard of participatory history either, but seems similar to the kinds of immersive journalism books I tend to like.

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    1. Kim - I love those immersive journalism book, too... and yes, I think they are similar.

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  19. I loved So We Read On, but didn't end up reviewing it.

    I forgot that I have Between You and Me sitting on my shelf. Maybe I will finally read it this month. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. Lindsey - I've been meaning to reread The Great Gatsby ever since... will get to it soon, I hope.

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  20. The Oregon Trail sounds great! I'm glad so many people are reading Being Mortal and talking about it.

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    1. Lu - The Oregon Trail was excellent... made me want to adopt a ovule of mules ;-)

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  21. I'm loving see what everyone is recommending and what which was everyone's favorite. Very rarely the same thing but always two books I'm bound to put high on my wish list.

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    1. Lisa - That's exactly why I love Nonfiction November!

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  22. I haven't been able to settle down and read ANYTHING this month! I've started and stopped so many books and nothing has grabbed my attention. I really should give The Oregon Trail a try. It has gotten so many good reviews.

    I loved Being Mortal and have recommended it to dozens of people. I also enjoyed Tiny Beautiful Things (Cheryl Strayed) and know it's one I'll read again. Heads in Beds was another entertaining NF selection. I think I read that one based on your review. I do so love memoirs and thought Paris Letters, The End of Your Life Book Club, Paris in Love, Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs, and Little Princes were all wonderful reads! I really need to get back to my stack of memoirs since those always seem to get me out of a slump.

    Love this post!

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  23. Les - I just loved The Oregon Trail, especially the mules, and would love to plan a trip along that route myself... not in a wagon though! I need to read Heather Lende soon.

    Nonfiction seems like the perfect way to get out of a reading slump. I discovered that last winter with Heads in Beds... light NF and memoir was the only thing that held my interest.

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