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.
I’ll start with one of my favorite books, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The World State has create a stable global society by making citizens so happy and superficially fulfilled that they don’t care about personal freedom. Henry Ford has become such an important figure because of the popularization of assembly lines that people use Ford in phrases the way some people in our society use Lord, such as the year of our Ford. Interestingly, Henry Ford tried to create a colony called Fordlandia in Brazil just a few years before Huxley wrote his novel, and you can read about Ford’s attempts in Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin. As a bonus nonfiction pick, Aldous Huxley wrote a collection of essays under the title Brave New World Revisited about 25 years after writing Brave New World in which he took a look at how society had either moved away from or toward the society he imagined in his fiction.
My next pairing is another in which the same author wrote both works. If you only know John Steinbeck’s fiction, I recommend reading his nonfiction. East of Eden is a fictional story about the intertwining lives of the Trasks and the Hamiltons in Salinas Valley in California, and Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters is a collection of daily letters he wrote to a friend as he was writing the novel. Getting a glimpse into Steinbeck’s life and his writing process adds a lot to the experience of reading East of Eden.
Another favorite of mine is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I first read it years ago as a teenager, but I had no idea that part of it may have been based on the life of the author’s own father until I read The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. Alex Dumas, the father of Alexandre Dumas, was born in Haiti, the son of a marquis and a slave, and he was briefly sold into slavery by his own father before eventually being brought to France and enlisting in the army. This biography is a fascinating look at both the man and the country for which he fought.
I recently read The Proud Tower by Barbara W. Tuchman, which is a collection of essays about society and government in the early 20th century before World War I, and it reminded me so much of Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. I guess any novel about the start of the 20th century would pair well with The Proud Tower, but Fall of Giants covers a lot of the same ground because it’s an epic story about five families from the United States of America, Germany, Russia, England, and Wales.
Last week I posted about the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge 2016, and one of the categories for the challenge is a nonfiction/fiction pairing, so I thought I’d also include my selections for that. I’ll be reading The Golden Age of Murder, a history of a network of crime writers known as the Detection Club, by Martin Edwards and The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the first book featuring Hercule Poirot, by Agatha Christie, one of the members of the Detection Club.