Nonfiction November: 2018 So Far

Nonfiction November 2018

I seem to keep coming back to my blog whenever this time of year rolls around because I enjoy Nonfiction November so much. It’s a wide open reading challenge that fits in well with my own desire to read and share more nonfiction. This year’s hosts are Katie at Doing Dewey, Julie at Julz Reads, Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves, Katie at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?. Each week, one of the hosts will provide a link-up post with questions. For this first week, the host is Katie at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and we’re looking back at the year so far.

As November starts, I’ve read 26 nonfiction books (20% of my total books read), and most of those have been ebooks I’ve borrowed from my library through Overdrive. At the beginning of the year, I had a loose goal to read at least a couple of nonfiction books each month, and I’m happy to see that I’ve done that. My reading overall dipped quite a bit this summer, but I’ve been back to more typical reading the last couple of months. I’d like to end the year with about 25% of my read books being nonfiction, so that’s probably my main goal for Nonfiction November.


Cover for I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell

I have to say I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell has been my favorite nonfiction so far this year simply because it’s the only one I’ve already read more than once. I don’t normally listen to many audiobooks, but I happened to see this one available at my library right when it was released without a waiting list on Overdrive, so I grabbed it until I could get my hands on either an ebook or physical copy. I listened to all six hours over two days and then read the ebook in one sitting a few weeks later. Some of those stories still pop up in my mind in certain situations, and I go back to my notes to reread passages. I heard of Maggie O’Farrell because of her fiction, but I would definitely recommend this over This Must Be the Place, the only novel of hers I’ve read.

We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall.

Rounding out my top three so far are Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard and The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Both of these books highlight my love of nonfiction that weaves several threads into one story. It’s always fun to see how the different parts will come together as the book progresses.

Most Recommended

The world cannot be understood without numbers, and it cannot be understood with numbers alone.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund is a great book for making you think about how you think about the world and why you think that way. I recommend it not because I think Hans Rosling had all the answers but because I think we’re all better when we think critically about how we take in and use the information thrown at us from every side.

People often call me an optimist, because I show them the enormous progress they didn’t know about. That makes me angry. I’m not an optimist. That makes me sound naive. I’m a very serious “possibilist”. That’s something I made up. It means someone who neither hopes without reason, nor fears without reason, someone who constantly resists the overdramatic worldview. As a possibilist, I see all this progress, and it fills me with conviction and hope that further progress is possible. This is not optimistic. It is having a clear and reasonable idea about how things are. It is having a worldview that is constructive and useful.

Personal Trends

My nonfiction reads this year have been from several topics of interest, but I guess one general trend has been numbers. I’ve read about personal finance, world economics, behavioral economics, and big data statistics though none of those reads have been favorites. The idea of those books seemed to interest me more than the actual content, but I have read and loved books of that type before and will continue to pick up any that sound interesting. I just might need a bit of a break from them right now.


I haven’t read nearly enough nature writing in recent months. I’m craving some memoirs that share personal observations about the natural world and big books about natural history. If it’s about plants and/or animals, then I want it!

8 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: 2018 So Far”

  1. Factfulness sounds like a book I could use right now! It reminds me of medical statistics you hear thrown around about infectious disease deaths plummeting over the last century. Yes, there are bad things going on, but so much good, too.

    I don’t read a lot of nature books but I read The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich last November and absolutely loved it. She went to Wyoming for an assignment and never left, and her writing invites us to inhabit and know it on its own terms.

    1. I just looked up The Solace of Open Spaces, and it sounds amazing! I skimmed the sample at Amazon, and it sounds like her experience with Wyoming will have me thinking about the years I lived in Alaska. Thanks so much for the recommendation.

      Factfulness talks a bit about medicine and about how bad news is more likely to reach us while gradual improvement is not considered news at all, so it does sound like something that might be relevant.

  2. I’d not heard of Factfullness, but it sounds fascinating! And I actually read The Library Book during this event and I really loved it too. I’d been dubious, because The Orchid Thief wasn’t my favorite, but I thought the author’s writing style was much better in this book.

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