My Year in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November 2020 Button

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Nonfiction November 2020 Button

Katie at Doing Dewey, Leann at Shelf Aware, Julie at Julz Reads, and Rennie at What’s Nonfiction are co-hosting Nonfiction November. This is my first time joining in! This week’s discussion prompt, hosted at Shelf Aware is:

Take a look back at your year in nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

My general goal is to read one nonfiction book a month and I’ve read eleven so far this year. Well, I’m 85% finished with Hole in the Sky, but I’m counting it. I think I’ve done pretty well.


My favorite nonfiction book of the year (so far) is Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright. Jessica at Book Ouroboros recommended it to me and I was honestly shocked by how much I enjoyed it. I haven’t reviewed it yet, but Wright’s humor and insight had me riveted to the pages. Look at this quote, located only 1% in:

Because when plagues erupt, some people behave amazingly well. They minimize the level of death and destruction around them. They are kind. They are courageous. They showcase the best of our nature. Other people behave like superstitious lunatics and add to the death toll.

I mean, really. Can anyone sum up 2020 better than that? And Wright published this in 2017. I guess there really is nothing new under the sun and we do repeat history that we’ve conveniently forgotten.

Topic That Appealed to Me:

In glancing through these titles, I can make a case that history has interested me this year, even among titles that don’t appear to be historical at first glance. Lies My Teacher Told Me, Out of the Silence, American Heiress, The Unidentified, Get Well Soon, That Wild Country, The Canon, Hiking Oregon’s History, and Hole in the Sky have at least an element of history in them.

Most Recommended:

I recommended Get Well Soon and Lies My Teacher Told Me the most. The first one is fascinating to me. The latter is eye-opening. The author of Lies is a historian who highlights the ways that our high school history textbooks, which are primarily written from the viewpoint of White European males, cause cultural and educational damage, and are quite often just flat-out wrong.


My primary goal for Nonfiction November is to post my backlog of nonfiction reviews. I’ve only reviewed two of these eleven titles so far (I Should Have Honor and The Book of Awesome). I read a couple of them too early in the year (before I revived my book blog) to have anything meaningful to say about them, but I should be able to post something coherent about the remaining five or six.

Are you joining in Nonfiction November? What have been your favorite titles so far this year? Be sure to link this week’s discussion post at Shelf Aware!

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site.

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  1. I am a few chapters into Lies my Teacher told me and I know that I’ll need to get my hands on a physical copy of this book. I got a history degree in college and that was the first time I heard many (many!) things about the US and every year I learn more about what I don’t know because of those darn history book lies! I’ve added The Book of Awesome to my TBR – it looks like the perfect book to remind me of all the wonderful things still in my control.

    1. I don’t know if you’ve gotten this far into Lies yet, but the author mentions exactly what you said–when he teaches college history, a lot of time is spent correcting the fallacies that these books teach! It’s so frustrating! I like to think of myself as an educated person but so much of the information he presents was new to me, even with the sheer amount of books I read.

      The Book of Awesome is perfect for 2020. Sometimes it’s the little things that keep us going.

  2. Ooh I’m very curious about Get Well Soon and Lied My Teacher Told Me. I love learning historical facts and anecdotes. I haven’t read much nonfiction this year, which is a shame, because I want to – and I even have books I really want to read soon.


    1. This year has been so weird, I know my reading has been affected. I’ve mostly skewed toward lighter, less thoughtful reads, with a few obvious exceptions. I highly recommend Get Well Soon. Lies My Teacher Told Me was good as well.

  3. Well, my first thought was that Get Well Soon looked like something I would not want to read right now, but the little excerpt you shared changed my mind! Thanks for the suggestions. I’m going to look for it. I’ll also look for Lies My Teacher Told Me.

  4. Thanks for the recommendations! I’m adding Get Well Soon and Lies My Teacher Told Me to my TBR list. My own history education was horrible – I’m constantly finding out how much of what I learned was inaccurate.

  5. I’ve been hearing good things about Lies My Teacher Told Me for probably a decade and I’m not sure why I’ve never picked it up! I think it might be because I prefer more focused history books, about interesting forgotten corners of history. Get Well Soon sounds fascinating. I’ve not read any books about disease since Covid became a thing, but I might be up for it soon 🙂

  6. I’d like to read Get Well Soon! That one looks really good. So timely. Lies was also so eye-opening. Also entertaining. And I’ve been wanting to read Colin Dickey’s new book for a bit now. I definitely need to get my nonfiction reviews up. That’s a great goal. Good luck this month.

  7. Thanks for sharing your favourites Jen, I’ve added Get Well Soon to my WTR list. I imagine Lies would be interesting, and the concept is no doubt relevant here too.

    Looking forward to more NonFicNov posts!

  8. Get Well Soon has been on my TBR for a while, but I didn’t even consider reading it this year. (It sounds really appropriate, though. Maybe I should see if I can get a copy for this month.) I enjoy reading non-fiction, but I don’t think I’ve ever set myself a goal for reading NF. I think I want to add that to my 2021 goals. Need to figure out what a good goal will be.

  9. I also intended to read one nonfiction book a month this year and I was surprised to look back and see that I read more than 20. There were so many good ones but I especially loved An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. Get Well Soon sounds amazing!

    1. I wouldn’t have chosen it either, especially this year, but Jessica is an old friend from high school and a librarian so I trusted her judgment when she recommended it. I’m so glad I did! I hope you like it!

  10. I’ve ended up reading quite a bit of Plague Lit the past few months, so I’m keen to check out Get Well Soon. Your quote has been said in every single book I’ve read so far, in different ways to refer to the particular epidemic it was concerned with. And each time I finish with the thought that we really do not ever learn from history.

    1. I would have guessed that plague lit would be too realistic for me right now but it was oddly comforting to know that we’ve been down this road over and over again and we’re still here. It also helped that Wright is just funny.

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