My participation in Nonfiction November is usually a bit catch-as-catch-can – that is, I often don’t manage to complete every week’s topic – but I do like to start off as though I might, so here I am.
Nonfiction November, as most of you know, is hosted by several bloggers. This year, Week 1 – Your Year in Nonfiction, is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, with the same questions posed for us to consider as last year.
I’m not sure why, but for this nonfiction-November year (that is, from last December to now), I’ve read about 25% more nonfiction than I read in each of the previous few years that I’ve participated. 45% of this reading has been life-writing, 45% essays, and the rest has been “other” non-fiction.
What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?
Favourites are always hard to identify, because I tend to get something out of most of what I read. However, if pushed, I’d say Carmel Bird’s Telltale (my review), because bibliomemoirs are always going to appeal to me, and when such a book is written by a favourite writer as Carmel Bird is, then it’s a no-brainer. I loved so much about this book, as my review and follow-up post make obvious.
Honourable mentions are many, but let me just name three, Gabrielle Carey’s Only happiness here (my review), because I am a fan of its subject, Elizabeth von Arnim; Mark McKenna’s Return to Uluru (my review) because it increased my knowledge of Australia’s history and relationship with our First Nations people; and Jess Hill’s See what you made me do (my review) about domestic abuse, with particular exploration of coercive control, because I learnt a lot about something I thought I already knew quite a bit about.
Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?
Last year, I wrote in answer to this question that when it comes to nonfiction, my main interests are literary biographies, nature writing, and works about social justice/social history. Nothing has changed in terms of my preferences, but I should add something I didn’t say last time, which is that in terms of nonfiction forms, I do like essays, and there are always a few in my reading diet.
This year, the greatest proportion of my nonfiction has related to literature in some way. Besides the books by Carmel Bird and Gabrielle Carey mentioned above, I have read several fascinating essays from the anthology edited by Belinda Castles, Reading like an Australian writer. One of my posts from that book was about Emily McGuire’s essay on epiphany in an Elizabeth Harrower short story. It has proved very popular on my blog this year. I’m not sure why but I wonder whether the word “epiphany” has attracted search engine hits?
What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
Again, as I wrote last year, this is hard, because with nonfiction, even more than fiction, what you recommend depends greatly on people’s interests. I have, though, recommended all those books I named under my favourite nonfiction book of the year.
I have also talked much about my most recent read – which is also, really, a “favourite” contender – Biff Ward’s The third chopstick (my post). Given it is about a time my peers and I lived through when we were young, and given it is written with such humanity and heart, it’s natural that I expect to be talking about and recommending it often in the months to come.
What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
What I am not specifically looking for is more recommendations – not because I am not interested but because I have too many books to read already without adding to the pile (physical and virtual). However, what I always get out of participating in blog events like this is book talk on topics that particularly interest me and, sometimes, meeting new bloggers whose interests are similar to mine (albeit, as with my book piles, I don’t really need more bloggers to follow. I hope that doesn’t sound unkind, but I think many of you understand the quandary! We love the book talk, but it also takes away from the book reading!)
Besides this, I’m always interested discussing wider issues regarding nonfiction and nonfiction reading: Why do we read nonfiction? What do we look for? What makes a good nonfiction read?
This year, with us all having come through a pretty tough few years, there’s the question about whether trying times see us seeking more nonfiction that might help us understand what we are going through or less because we want to escape into an imaginative world. What do you think?