Every November for a few years now, a group of bloggers have coordinated a focus on nonfiction for bloggers in November. They set up a plan of topics, one per week, with a different blogger being responsible for each week, as follows: Leann (Week 1) (Shelf Aware), Julie (Week 2) (Julz Reads), Rennie (Week 3) (What’s Nonfiction), and Katie (week 4) (Doing Dewey).
This year’s schedule was:
- Week 1: Your Year in nonfiction, involves looking at our nonfiction reading this year, thinking about our favourites or topics that have particularly interest us or books we’ve most recommended.
- Week 2: Book pairing, involves pairing a nonfiction book with a fiction title (on whatever criteria you like).
- Week 3: Be the expert/Ask the expert/Become the expert, involves, as it sounds, reflecting our own expertise, asking others to help with books about something we’d like to know, or choosing our own reading plan for something we’d like to learn.
- Week 4: New to my TBR, involves – well, it’s obvious isn’t it, except the idea is that they’re books that participating bloggers have posted about.
Now, I have taken part in this week – in a sporadic sort of way – before, writing two combination posts in the Novembers of the last three years. I planned to do the same this year, but haven’t! So, instead, I’ve decided to do one post for my last Monday Musings of the month, which means of course that I’ve added an extra criterion: all the nonfiction I talk about has to be Australian. Here goes.
Your year in nonfiction
I haven’t read a lot of nonfiction this year – I haven’t read a lot this year, full stop – but most of the nonfiction I’ve read has been by Australian writers. For Week 1, I’m going to choose three books, that I have already or would thoroughly recommend to others.
- Chloe Hooper’s The arsonist (my review): another excellent sociopolitical true-crime exploration by Hooper, this time of an arsonist behind Victoira’s catastrophic Black Saturday fires in 2009.
- Rick Morton’s One hundred years of dirt (my review): I have since taken more interest in his journalistic writings in The Saturday Paper.
- Helen Garner’s Yellow notebooks: Diaries, Volume 1, 1978-1987 (my review): the first volume of Garner’s edited diaries that will be published over the coming years. I loved the insights it provides into her writing practice, her way of seeing the world, and her thoughts about all manner of subjects (including herself!)
This one was easy because I paired them in my blog post for the second book in this pairing. I paired Gay Lynch’s historical novel, Unsettled (my review), with poet John Kinsella’s memoir Displaced (my review).
This pairing is both superficial and complex. It’s superficial because both have single-word titles which encompass multiple meanings, that are both literal and metaphorical. However, it is complex because these are very different books – in form and subject matter. But, fundamentally, both deal with colonialism, with the settlement of Australia by Britain, and with the ramifications of that for both the colonisers and the colonised.
Be/Ask/Become the expert
Regular readers here will know something of my year and will not be surprised that ageing is the topic of most interest to me this year. It’s one that I’ve been interested in for a while but that has become a matter of rather more immediate relevance this year, with the death of my lovely nonagenarian mother and the move of my centenarian father into aged care. So, for this section I feel I’m a bit of an expert, but would like to become more of an expert too!
Consequently, I was one of those who supported adding Griffith Review’s issue on ageing, Getting on (issue no. 68) (my review) to my reading group’s schedule this year. The book, as I’ve come to expect from Griffith Reviews, did not disappoint with its excellent collection of thoughtful and informative reportage, alongside memoirs and fictional responses to the subject.
I do of course want to increase my knowledge of this subject, which is also becoming closer to me personally! Consequently, I would like to read Robert Dessaix’s latest book, The time of our lives, about which I posted recently after zoom-attending a Yarra Valley Writers Festival event on this book.
I would love to hear of any other nonfiction books you’ve read on the subject that you would recommend.
New to my TBR
I don’t read a lot of biographies, though every year I read a few, including, this year, Desley Deacon’s thoroughly researched and beautifully produced book on Judith Anderson (my review). My main biographical interest, however, are literary biographies, and a few have been published this year that interest me. They have been posted on by bloggers but I didn’t notice them in Nonfiction November posts:
- Gabrielle Carey, Only happiness here: In search of Elizabeth von Arnim (Zoom conversation reported by Lisa, ANZLitLovers)
- Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell, Searching for Charlotte (reviewed by the ResidentJudge!)
And, Lisa (ANZLitLovers), in her My Year in Nonfiction post, mentioned a couple of books that interest me: Danielle Clode’s The woman who sailed the world, and Debra Adelaide’s Innocent reader (which is already on my TBR).
And that, in the nick of time, is my contribution to Nonfiction November 2020.