Nonfiction November 2020: Week 1 – My Year in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November begins this week. 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.

 Week 1: (November 2-6) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Leann @ Shelf Aware): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I love reading non fiction but it takes me much longer to read than fiction, so it’s only been 11% of my total reading so far this year. And during this strange year I’ve found it hard to concentrate on reading, and even less motivated to write about what I’ve read. Reading nonfiction always takes me longer than fiction because of the detail involved but this year it’s been taking me even longer than usual.

I like to vary my reading but tend to lean towards reading memoirs, biographies and history. This year I’ve also been interested in learning not just about Covid-19 but also about the history of disease and its impact.

It’s hard to say which one is my favourite as they’re all so different, but Happy Old Me by Hunter Davies, which I read in February, entertained me the most. And if you like history, and biographies I can definitely recommend The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley, which gave me a different perspective on Queen Victoria. Louise reminded me a bit of Princess Margaret and also of Princess Diana – she really had an interesting and unconventional life.

These are the books I read and one I’m currently reading. The links on the titles below take you to my reviews on the books:

Happy Old Me by Hunter Davies, the third book of his memoirs, written when he was in his eighty-second year, after the death of his wife, author, Margaret Forster. It is part memoir, part self-help, as he got to grips with being old and living on his own. He writes openly and frankly, with a sense of humour and a zest for life. I really enjoyed it. Hunter Davies is a writer and journalist who has written more than 30 books, covering biographies, novels, children’s novels. These include the only authorised biography of The Beatles, many works on the Lake District, and Confessions of a Collector.

Writing Wild by Kathryn Aalto – part travel essay, literary biography, and cultural history. A fascinating book about 25 women writers covering two hundred years of women’s history through nature writing, including natural history, environmental philosophy, country life, scientific writing, garden arts, memoirs and meditations and does not aim to dismiss men’s contributions. 

The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley – a detailed biography about Victoria’s sixth child – her fourth daughter, born on 18th March 1848. There is so much detail about her life in this book, packed with intrigues, scandals and secrets. She had a difficult childhood, disliked and bullied by her mother and she often rebelled against the restrictions of life as a princess. Louise was unconventional, generous and charming to people she liked. She was a sculptor and several scandals arose about her, rumours of an illegitimate child and of her love affairs. The mysteries are still unresolved as Louise’s files in the Royal Archives are closed.

Blue Tits in My Nest Box by David Gains – this is a short book, packed with information. I bought it after my husband bought a new blue tit box – one with a camera. It gave us enormous pleasure watching a pair of blue tits make a nest in the box, lay eggs and feed the chicks and then fledge.

And Now For the Good News by Ruby Wax – written clearly in a breezy conversational style and covering a large amount of information. She emphasises the importance of compassion and kindness, of community and on working for the good of all. Above all she focuses on the benefits of mindfulness and on positive experiences.

The Virus in an Age of Madness by Bernard-Henri Levy – review to follow.

The Pandemic Century by Mark Honigsbaum – beginning with the Spanish Flu in 1918 this is a fascinating account of 100 years of pandemics. Review to follow.

I’m currently reading For the Record by David Cameron – his autobiography. I rarely read about politics, so this is a change for me. I’m interested to find out his views on the EU and Brexit, but haven’t got up to that yet. I never thought I’d say this, but I’d prefer the news to be full of Brexit talk instead of Covid-19!

By participating in Nonfiction November I’m hoping this will encourage me to read more nonfiction rather than picking up the next novel to read and I’m looking forward to seeing what others recommend.

11 thoughts on “Nonfiction November 2020: Week 1 – My Year in Nonfiction

  1. Lovely non-fiction post, Margaret. I could happily read most of them but especially want to read Happy Old Me. I must check to see if it’s available for Kindle. The Mystery of Princess Louise appeals too but I’ll pass on the pandemic ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you’ll enjoy Happy Old Me. The Mystery of Princess Louise took me ages to read, partly because I couldn’t concentrate on the detail.


  2. I often lean towards memoirs and biographies as well. They tend to be so inspirational. I haven’t been tempted by books about viruses or pandemics recently, it is a fascinating topic, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s taken me until now to even look at books on the virus or pandemics, although I have been watching TV programmes about Covid-19. now I want some light relief, and we’re in the second lockdown, (:

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve read some really interesting books, Margaret! Like you, I prefer reading memoirs and biographies when I read non-fiction. I’m also drawn to stories behind famous incidents. In fact, your post is reminding me that I haven’t read much non-fiction lately. That happens sometimes, and I really ought to focus a bit more on it.

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  4. I think many of us agree with you concerning what we do during this pandemic. I thought, now you have all the time you need, not so much else to do, and I will write a lot of reviews and posts. Nada! It seems so difficult to concentrate on something. I spend most of my days reading though, even if there are not so many reviews.
    You have some wonderful nonfiction here. I especially fell for and will check up, Hunter Davies. I have read several books by Margaret Foster. I like her writing a lot. Writing Wild sounds like another interesting book.
    Looking forward to seeing what people will read and what they love in nonfiction reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Margaret, I can understand how non-fiction takes you longer to read and so in these difficult times you have less of it. I hope you have been able to take come comfort from learning more about Covid-19 and other viruses, and I love the sound of The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley; so much so I think I will have to add it to my wish list! 📚

    This year, I have read a similar amount of non-fiction, but it has almost exclusively been Christian and theology based non-fiction, which has been a big comfort for me. If you want to check out my non-fiction reading more here is my Week 1 post: 🙂


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