I’m taking part in Nonfiction November 2019 again this year. It runs from Oct 28 to Nov 30. Each Monday a link-up for the week’s topic will be posted at the host’s blog for you to link your posts throughout the week.
This week’s topic is:
Nonfiction Favourites hosted by Leann @ ThereThereReadThis. We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favourites. 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? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favourite.
The subject of a book is what attracts me in the first place. To be a favourite for me it has to be readable, informative, and based on verifiable facts. It goes without saying really, but I like a nonfiction book to have an index, footnotes or end notes and at least a list of sources, if not a bibliography.
One the other hand I also really enjoy reading nonfiction books that are full of opinions, thoughts and reflections. Examples are books about books – Susan Hill’s two books – Howards End is on the Landing and Jacob’s Room is Full of Books, and personal memoirs, such as Karen Armstrong’s The Spiral Staircase, about her early life as a nun and her subsequent life after she left the convent, embarked on a spiritual journey and began her writing career.
Above all, I like books that make me think, whether they are nonfiction or fiction.
My favourite nonfiction book this year so far is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
This is a fascinating, but harrowing biography of Henrietta’s life and death. She died of cervical cancer in 1951. Her cancer cells became known as HeLa cells and have formed the basis for much medical research and drug development ever since. It is also a history of the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and considers the ethical issues around ownership of her cells and the distress, anger and confusion this caused her family.
Looking back to previous years these are just some of my favourites:
Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This is well researched, clearly written and full of fascinating information. I knew before I read it that I’m an introvert and this book confirmed it. Of course there are varying degrees of introversion, just as there are of extroversion and Susan Cain goes into this in some detail. She includes personal details, case studies, and anecdotes from people she interviewed which means that this is more than a factual account. It’s a well balanced examination of the differences between introversion and extroversion.
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (first published in 1991), Jung Chang’s book about her grandmother, her mother and herself, telling of their lives in China up to and during the years of the violent Cultural Revolution. Her family suffered atrociously, her father and grandmother both dying painful deaths and both her mother and father were imprisoned and tortured. It’s a personal story, reflecting the twentieth century history of China. A remarkable book, full of courage and spirit.
Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War by Susan Southard is an amazing, heart-wrenching book. This must be one of the most devastatingly sad and depressing books I’ve read and yet also one of the most uplifting, detailing the dropping of the bomb, which killed 74,000 people and injured another 75,000. As the subtitle indicates this book is not just about the events of 9 August 1945 but it follows the lives of five of the survivors from then to the present day.
And finally, although there are plenty of other books I could have selected, a book about trees:
The Man Who Climbs Trees by James Aldred, a professional tree climber, wildlife cameraman, and adventurer. He explains how he discovered that trees are places of refuge as well as providing unique vantage points to view the world. It is not only full of information but also beautifully written and absolutely fascinating. If you have ever wondered how wildlife/nature documentaries are filmed this book has the answers. His travels brought him into contact with dozens of different religions and philosophies all containing ‘profound elements of truth’ that he respects very much, concluding that ‘spirituality is where you find it’ and he finds it ‘most easily when up in the trees’.