Nonfiction November is now in its second week. Our host this week is Katie at Doing Dewey (be sure to visit her for links to participant's posts) and the topic is book pairings.
Nonfiction November Week 2: (November 8-12) – Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II by Liza Mundy sent me down a rabbit hole of WWII reading, code breaking, and finally Bletchley Park. As I said in my review:
This is my kind of narrative nonfiction! It strikes just the right balance between hard history and human interest. Mundy's research is thorough, her writing is great and I learned about something completely new. I wasn't at all familiar with this fascinating story of women recruited from colleges (primarily the Seven Sisters) and trained by the government to break codes during WWII.
A short time later I read The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. I don't read much historical fiction these days, but really enjoyed this story. It's about three very different women who form an unlikely friendship while working at Bletchley Park during WWII. I approached this as a read/listen combination and was always eager to return to the story... and it never felt like 600+ pages!
There are still several more books, fiction and nonfiction, on this topic I'd like to read before too long.
BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY: A MEMOIR and INFINITE COUNTRY
The titles and subject matter (life as an illegal immigrant) are similar, but Beautiful Country: A Memoir by Qian Julie Wang and Infinite Country by Patricia Engel are very distinct works.
I read Infinite Country last spring. It is a short, impactful novel about one family's immigration experience... their struggles and hardships in both the U.S. and Colombia, and the separations that result. The book really packs a punch and it's difficult to read at times. [Trigger warning for sexual abuse]
Infinite Country does much more than simply tell a good story. It caused me to think more deeply about the issue of immigration and to look at it from a different perspective. To me, that's the difference between a good book and great book. This will end up being one of my favorite novels of the year.
Beautiful Country: A Memoir was a read/listen combination for me, with the audio version read by author. Qian Julie Wang, along with her mother, left China for NYC in the early 1990s when she was seven years old. They came to join her father, who had arrived a few years earlier.
It's a sad story about an undocumented child coming of age in a big city, while facing hunger, poverty, and racism. However, compared to Infinite Country, this book on the gentler side. Books, reading, and libraries played an important role in Wang's life. Her love of the written word added an uplifting aspect to an otherwise bleak existence and certainly increased my enjoyment of this memoir. Wang, now in her 30s, went on to attend Swarthmore College and Yale Law School. She had considered writing a memoir for years and finally tackled the project during the pandemic.
Do you ever pair you nonfiction reading with a novel on the same subject?