Choosing Nonfiction: Nonfiction November

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I’ve been missing in action for quite a while (again? as usual?) but I was hoping to get settled into a routine in time for Nonfiction November. I’m not quite there yet, but I am here for the second week of this annual nonfiction lovefest. Apparently the event almost didn’t happen this year? I’m out of the loop. So big thanks to our new hosts for stepping in! Our host this week is Frances at Volatile Rune and her topic is Choosing Nonfiction.

“What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book? Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to? Do you have a particular writing style that works best?”

Quite honestly, especially at the end of the year, I’m trying to find books to meet Shelleyrae’s Nonfiction Reader Challenge prompts! Her topics often push me outside my comfort zone, which I appreciate.

When I’m choosing nonfiction on my own, I usually look for books with a strong narrative flow. I struggle with nonfiction if it’s too dry or gets too lost in footnotes or if the author just doesn’t have a writing style that pulls me in and makes me want to read more. That usually means I read a lot of memoirs and biographies. I rarely read books by or about celebrities; I prefer books about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances or explorers or travelers or thought leaders, or something along those lines. I also love nature writing though sometimes straightforward science writing can put me off if the author’s style isn’t engaging. The same can be said about history books, though I do enjoy them when the narrative style catches my attention. I’ve been trying to add more books about social justice and historical events that didn’t make it in my school history books over the past few years as well.

“When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you? If so, share a title or cover which you find striking.”

I’m definitely influenced by covers when I’m choosing my fiction reads but I don’t think nonfiction covers affect me quite as much. If I flip through a book and see too many complicated diagrams, I’ll actually put it back on the shelf! I do like this cover of Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, which I read earlier this year. I believe the photograph was taken around the time the men had to abandon ship. The harsh lighting against that seemingly eternally-dark Antarctic sky makes it look like a ghost ship. I can’t imagine what those men went through, and I feel the cover speaks to that.

Mary Roach’s book titles tickle my funny bone (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex are two of my favorite titles, though I haven’t read the latter yet). Sam Keene’s quirky titles appeal to me too (The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements or Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us).

Be sure to visit Volatile Rune to share your own answers and/or read what other bloggers have to say! Next week’s prompt is hosted by Liz at Adventures in Reading, Running and Working from Home, who asks us to pair nonfiction with fiction.

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  1. Mary Roach’s book titles are great! I recently read my first book of hers: Packing for Mars. However, I was sad to discover that it wasn’t really about getting ready to go to Mars so much as it was about all the history of spaceflight up to the point when it was written. I still enjoyed it, but it felt like a very misleading title.

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