Nonfiction and Fiction Book Pairings

Nonfiction November 2020 Button

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Nonfiction November 2020 Button

This week for Nonfiction November, Julie at Julz Reads prompts us to create nonfiction and fiction book pairings:

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.

I have several ideas for this post but after my nearly four-year blogging break, I haven’t reviewed all the books that come to mind! Oh well. My explanations here will have to do for some of these choices.


My first pairing is The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos by Christian Davenport (link to my brief review on GoodReads) and The Last Astronaut by David Wellington. I’m currently listening to The Last Astronaut and I’m glad I’ve already read The Space Barons. I don’t keep up with a lot of space news so the nonfiction book filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. The Last Astronaut is a bit of a competition in the near future between NASA and KSpace, a private company that feels like a stand-in for SpaceX. While The Space Barons touts the benefits of privatized space exploration–accountability to share holders and competition should keep costs down and drive faster innovations–The Last Astronaut has me questioning what would happen if a private company was the first to make contact with alien life? It’s an interesting question to me.

Refugees of War/Violent Conflict

The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland (Link to my review) and Little Bee by Chris Cleave–The Bite of the Mango relates Mariatu’s appalling experiences at the hands of rebel forces, many of them child soldiers, in her home country of Sierra Leone. She fights to live and finds refuge against all odds. (If you’re looking for an excellent book about child soldiers, pick up A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.) Little Bee tells a fictional account of the titular character, a refugee from Nigeria with a story similar to Mariatu’s. But she arrived in England illegally and experiences even more turmoil after she thinks she’s found safety. These are excellent books exploring themes of immigration and refugees and the ways that innocents are caught up in horrifying events completely outside their control.

Prisoners of War

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (both links go to my reviews)–This may be an obscure connection, but bear with me. Laura Hillenbrand shares Louie Zamperini’s experiences as a prisoner of war in Japan during WWII in Unbroken. His story is by turns horrendous and infuriating. It’s a tough read. Flavia de Luce’s father and–how to describe Dogger? Father figure? Mentor?–were also prisoners of war in Japan in WWII. Flavia is a young narrator in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie so she doesn’t really know what they experienced, just that it was bad and left them both a little broken. Having read Unbroken, I have a better understanding of Colonel de Luce and Dogger and more patience with their frailties.

Those are my choices! Have you read any of these? Would you connect them to any other books instead? What connections did you create? Link your post at Julz Reads!

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  1. Ooh, I love all your pairings! I like pairings that are historical fiction and nonfiction about the same setting, but it’s fun to be able to come up with some more unique pairings too. Space Barons sounds particularly interesting.

    1. My book club chose The Bite of the Mango several years ago. I didn’t particularly want to read it because it sounded depressing but it turned out to be a good book. It should be required reading for people who demonize immigrants and refugees. We can’t even begin to imagine the horrors so many of them have lived through.

  2. Great pairings, I’m interested in the premise of The Last Astronaut, the only vaguely similar book i’ve read is The Martian which surprised me, and I think that might have the potential to do the same.

    1. I finished up The Last Astronaut since I posted this. I would recommend it but I don’t know that I would compare it to The Martian. I think the fact that this is a “first encounter” book changes the feel for me a lot. Otherwise, there are similarities in that the science doesn’t seem that far-fetched and the central conflict leans more psychological than physical, although there are elements of both.

  3. What great pairings! I’m not sure I can stomach the slant of The Space Barons, but it does sound fascinating. Little Bee has been on my TBR forever, and your nonfiction pairing seems like an important one.

  4. The end of Little Bee had me sobbing. A Long Way Gone was also so good – guess I should look at reading The Bite of the Mango.

    The way you’ve paired Flavia with Unbroken is brilliant. I love those books. I didn’t think I would love Unbroken but I couldn’t put it down.

    1. If you liked Little Bee and A Long Way Gone, you should definitely read The Bite of the Mango. I’m glad others can see the connection between Unbroken and the Flavia books! I was surprised by how much I loved Unbroken too.

  5. I particularly like your space pairings. I’ll add both those books to my list. My father was a NASA engineer and my husband builds rockets, so these are right up my alley!

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