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Non-fiction November 2019, Weeks 4 to 5

November 23, 2019

Meme logoAs for my first Nonfiction November post this year, I am concatenating my last two posts, and posting them in the middle of the two weeks.

The meme is jointly hosted by Julz (Julz Reads) (Week 1), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves) (Week 2), Katie (Doing Dewey) (Week 3), Leanne (ShelfAware) (Week 4) and Rennie (What’s Nonfiction) (Week 5).

Week 4: (Nov. 18 to 22) Leann (Shelf Aware) Nonfiction favourites:

What makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? 

I’ll start with what I don’t look for, which is tone. That is, I don’t look for any particular tone over another. The important thing is that the tone matches the subject. I am not put off by serious, sad or confronting tones, but I can also enjoy (who doesn’t) a humorous tone. I also don’t gravitate to memoir, though I do read a select few each year. This year, for example, I’ve read Ros Collins’ Rosa: Memories with licence (my review), Anita Heiss’s anthology Growing up Aboriginal in Australia (my review), Vicki Laveau-Harris’ The erratics (my review),  and Jocelyn Moorhouse’s Unconditional love (my review).

What I do look for are subject matter and author’s approach or style. My favourite subject matter would have to be literary biography (and to a slightly lesser degree, literary memoir) but none of this year’s books have been such. I like essays, of which I’ve read a few this year, some stand-alone, some in collections. And I particularly like reading authors who explore form, who don’t stick to the tried-and-true. This doesn’t mean I don’t read and enjoy the tried-and-true if it’s well-written and a topic I’m interested in. Two standout non-fiction books this year for me were:

  • Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic (my review), which she says is not a collection of essays, though I’m not sure what else to call it. This is a humane, provocative books that forces us to rethink those axioms, those cliches that we too often resort to in an effort to not confront uncomfortable truths and situations.
  • Clare Wright’s You daughters of freedom (my review) for its well-researched but highly readable history of the women’s suffrage movement in that late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, and Australia’s significant role in it. Wright has done a wonderful job of bringing a hidden history to the fore.

Note: I have only included books I’ve read from November 2018 to October 2019. Any read this month will be in the running for 2020’s meme!

Week 5: (Nov. 25 to 29) Rennie (What’s Nonfiction) New to my TBR:

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

I’m afraid that I haven’t really had time to take note of many books posted by other meme posters, though I have read several posts. So, I’m listing here a small selection of non-fiction books I am keen to read, not just ones that have appeared via this year’s meme:

  • Larissa Behrendt’s Finding Eliza: Power and colonial storytelling, which is in fact old on my TBR but which I’m going to make a concerted effort to read by next Nonfiction November.
  • Peter Carey’s Wrong about Japan, because I love Japan and am interested in what Peter Carey has to say. Brona (Brona’s Books) posted about this in her Be the Expert post.
  • Annie Cossins’ The baby farmers, because I’m interested in colonial Australian women’s history. Shelleyrae (Book’d Out) included this in her Be the Expert post.
  • Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell’s Half the perfect world: Writers, dreamers and drifters on Hydra, 1955–1964, which won this year’s Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Nonfiction. It’s about the post-war international artist community on the Greek island of Hydra, which included our Aussie literary couple, Charmian Clift and George Johnston.
  • Chloe Hooper’s The arsonist, which has been shortlisted for several awards and has been on my TBR most of this year. It seems an absolute must given the early start to this year’s bushfire season here down under.

And there you have it. Another Nonfiction November completed in two posts. I apologise for not giving it the attention it deserves, but I am glad I was stimulated by the meme to spend a little time thinking about nonfiction this month.

Any nonfiction favourites you’d like to share? (Not that my TBR pile needs them, mind you, but other readers might like to hear of them!)

10 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2019 8:37 pm

    I’ve got too many reviews piled up to continue with the last two weeks of this, so well done you, I say, for getting this one done!

    • November 23, 2019 9:02 pm

      Thanks Lisa … I wish I had too many reviews piled up. I only have one to do!

      • November 23, 2019 9:04 pm

        I’ve just finished one, and then there’s two more, and I’ll probably finish another book tonight. I need to read a chunkster to give myself a break!

        • November 23, 2019 10:15 pm

          You’re a machine, Lisa! (I mean that in the best way! Certainly not saying you are machine-like!)

        • November 24, 2019 12:31 pm

          Well, I don’t have as many responsibilities as you do!

        • November 24, 2019 2:27 pm

          Even so! 🙂

  2. November 24, 2019 6:57 am

    I agree about tone. All sorts of different styles work. The tone just has to match the subject matter.

    All of the books that you mentioned sound interesting. The Daughters of Freedom looks interesting for several reasons. I understand that Australia was ahead of most of the world when it came to women’s suffrage.

    • November 24, 2019 8:33 am

      Yes, we were, Brian. So sad to see how far we have fallen since then in terms of socially progressive politics.

  3. November 24, 2019 8:32 am

    I’ve chickened out of this week’s prompt because I don’t have any particular requirements beyond an interesting subject and quality writing. You know it when you see it and when it’s not there, the book is a chore….

    Like you I don’t go searching for a specific tone

    Thanks for the reminder of Chloe Hooper’s The Arsonist, just put this onto my list.

    • November 24, 2019 8:35 am

      You can just say that Karen! That’s pretty much me too … I just filled it out a bit!

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