One of my reading resolutions last year and this year was to read at least one nonfiction book every month, and I’m always looking for more nonfiction to read, so a book challenge that only deals with nonfiction gets my attention. I follow Olive from abookolive on YouTube, and that’s where I first heard about Nonfiction November, a reading challenge she hosts with Gemma from Non Fic Books. This is the second year for the challenge, and while they’re emphasizing that it’s really about encouraging people to read more nonfiction than they normally would in a month, they have shared four broad categories to guide book selections: New, Fascinating, Controversial, and Important.
The New category can be interpreted in many ways such as a new release, a book you’ve recently acquired, or a topic that is new to you. My selection is Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. It was released in June 2016, so it’s a fairly new release, and I just got my hands on it a couple of days ago from my local library, so it’s definitely new to me. Anything described as part memoir and part analysis of the Appalachian region is going to get my attention, and after just reading the introduction earlier today, I think I picked well.
The Fascinating category is probably the easiest one because any book, author, or topic you find fascinating is eligible. This is the pick that’s the most subject to change according to my mood as the month progresses, but right now, I think I’ll be reading The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards. I became aware of this book when it won an Edgar Award from Mystery Writers of America in the best critical/biographical category earlier this year. The subject is detective fiction between World War I and World War II and the writing group known as the Detection Club that included Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and many other well-known writers.
Anything that might spark a debate or result in differing opinions can fit this category, and it can range from a biography of a person who people either love or hate to a book that has a title or cover that might raise some eyebrows. I’m choosing Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell. Thomas Sowell is an American economist and social commentator, and I think anyone outspoken on those topics is going to be a little controversial, and this book’s topic of how public opinion is shaped and the consequences of that shaping can also result in a heated debate. I’m looking forward to finally reading the hardcover edition that’s been on my shelf for years.
Like the other categories, this one leaves a lot of room for making a selection. People may read something to improve their lives at work or at home, to foster a new habit they want to establish, or to become a more educated and informed person. I’ll be reading What Have We Done by David Wood about the emotional trauma military veterans bring home with them after multiple deployments in long wars. I think it’s important to have an understanding of the human cost of war and to listen to those people who have served our country to the detriment of their own lives and families. We can’t be blind to their sacrifices even if we can’t see the wounds with our eyes.
While browsing the hashtag #NonfictionNovember2016 on Twitter, I came across a blog-centered event with the same name using the hashtag #NonficNov, and it looked so interesting that I thought I’d participate a bit in that as well. It’s probably a better fit for me as I have a blog but no YouTube channel. I don’t think I’ll ever be much more than an interested BookTube lurker, but I’d definitely like to revive my blog. The hosts who will be providing weekly discussion posts are:
- Katie at Doing Dewey
- Lory at Emerald City Book Review
- Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves
- Rachel at Hibernator’s Library
- Julz at Julz Reads
The first week’s discussion post asks us to reflect on the following questions.
- What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?
- What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
- What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?
- What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
Favorite Nonfiction Read
While I normally struggle to name my favorite anything unless we’re discussing colors (purple!), I can easily state that my favorite nonfiction of 2016 has been When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning. It’s a quick read about the history of the Armed Services Edition (ASE), a line of books specifically designed for members of the American military during World War II. The mix of social history, book design, publishing, and World War II worked so well for me. I can understand the criticism I’ve heard about it being a better topic for an article rather than an entire book, but I was never bored by the extra material that some people consider extraneous like the early book drives and donations from the public.
Another reason that this has to be called my favorite is that it reignited my interest in the works that were republished as ASEs like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and drove me to other nonfiction about World War II. The bulk of my nonfiction reading has been related to World War II in some way this year, and that’s largely due to this book. Also, it was one of those books where I was constantly stopping to read some fact out loud to my husband, and we had some great conversations about the topic even though he has yet to read the book.
Most Recommended Nonfiction
Whenever I hear someone talking about the website FiveThirtyEight and election predictions, I find myself suggesting Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise because his book has some great discussion of the statistical principles behind the analysis.
Nonfiction to Explore
I have physical and virtual shelves filled with books that cover a variety of topics that could be lumped under the general label of natural history, and I would love to make those a priority in the coming months.
Hopes for Nonfiction November
I don’t think my hopes for Nonfiction November are different from the majority of responses I’ve read so far. I hope to find several more books to add to my TBR stacks, discover new blogs to follow, and make connections with other readers through their blogs and social media. I’ve already made progress on those first two items.
My next post will probably contain a list of the books I plan to read for the Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge. I missed the summer challenge, but I’m definitely returning for my second winter challenge.