Nonfiction November 2022: Book pairings

Week 2 of Nonfiction November and hanging in. This meme/blog event/reading month/challenge (what do we call it?) is hosted by several bloggers, with Week 2: (November 7-11) – Book Pairing, being hosted by Rennie (of What’s Nonfiction). The challenge is to pair a nonfiction book with something else – a fiction title, another nonfiction work, or even a podcast, film, documentary, TV show, etc. There just has to be some link in terms of subject matter or topic. I really enjoy this week of the challenge, because it’s such fun to do and is also fun to see what other bloggers come up with.

The no-brainer

Since much of my nonfiction involves literary topics – literary biographies or memoirs, for example – this pairing challenge is really very easy. Take, for example, Carmel Bird’s bibliomoir Telltale (my review). There are so pairing possibilities, because in it she discusses books she’s read and written. So, for this year’s no-brainer – I did one last year too – I will pair her bibliomemoir with… Hmm, with what? Because here’s the challenge: she mentions so many books. However, if I limit it to those I’ve reviewed, which is my preference, that narrows the field. And, if I narrow it even more to those books by her that I’ve reviewed, I’m getting to something quite manageable.

Book cover

So, after a little consideration, the one I’ve chosen for my pairing is her Field of poppies (my review), because, as I wrote in my post, it has many of the hallmarks of her writing, including “all manner of allusions and digressions, underpinned by a clearly-focused intelligence”. This, of course, we also find in Telltale. Unfortunately, though, I am away from home, so I don ‘t have my copy of Telltale with me to share some of Bird’s comments about this novel. However, I do remember her discussing mining, and how she had referenced it in her work, including in Field of poppies.

This year I have also read several literary essays, and each of these could be paired with their source novel or story, such as Ellen van Neerven’s essay (my post) on Tara June Winch’s Swallow the air (my review).

But, rather than list all those, I’d like, as I also did last year, to give myself something that’s more of a pairing challenge, so here is …

Another pairing

My most recent nonfiction read was Biff Ward’s part memoir, part social history, The third chopstick: Tracks through the Vietnam War (my review). This book covers both her experience as an antiwar protestor and her later decision to meet and understand the men who went to war – the Vietnam Vets. In those meetings, she comes face-to-face with the traumas (the PTSD) many of them suffered on their return and, with their permission, she shares some of this experience with us.

Josephine Rowe, A loving faithful animal

Not a lot of fiction, comparatively speaking anyhow, has been written about this War, as I discussed in my recent Monday Musings – and I’ve read only a little of that. However, I have read a little, and one of those is Josephine Rowe’s A loving, faithful animal (my review), which deals very specifically with PTSD from this war and its intergenerational impact. It’s a strong, and unforgettable novel and worthy of pairing with Biff Ward’s book.

For those of you doing Nonfiction November, I’ll see your pairings I’m sure, but, if you’re not, I’d love to see what you would pair – if you’d like to play along.

18 thoughts on “Nonfiction November 2022: Book pairings

  1. Hi Sue, a great link with Carmel Bird books. My link is Found, Wanting by Natasha Sholl (n/f about grief), and Lost and Found by Brooke Davis (fiction about a young girl and loss).

  2. Interesting pairings. For Vietnam, maybe you could look at The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai. It is broader than the conflict with the US – giving a sense of the country’s turbulent history 1920s to the 1980s,

  3. I can’t think of a bibliomemoir per se. Such writers as John Lukacs, Guy Davenport, and Edward Dahlberg have had interesting things to say about the effects of their reading, but in an essay or in a chapter of a memoir. There are book-acquisition memoirs, such as Larry McMurtry’s Books or Jacques Bonnet’s The Phantoms on the Bookshelves, but they don’t quite match up. How about Clive James’s Cultural Amnesia–more about books than a memoir, but with bits of personal history here and there?

    To pair with Ward’s book, I’ll choose Frederick Downs’s The Killing Zone; I could as well choose Larry Heineman’s Black Virgin Mountain, but a) I’ve read all of The Killing Zone, and b) I once met Downs at a 10K footrace: he was the guy with a Colorado tee shirt and an artificial leg.

  4. There used to be a blogger who would pair a book with a music playlist to get you in the mood for that book, or to touch on themes from that book. I always thought that was super clever, but I had a feeling that it took a lot of time to do because you have to sit there and think about all the different songs you know, and what they mean, and how they make you feel.

      • I cannot. I think the blogger I’m thinking of (Napoleon Split) would consider the overall mood of the book and pair it up with a song, though I’m not sure she would listen to them at the same time. More like, “If you enjoy the mood of this song, you’ll enjoy this book.”

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