Musings From A Bookmammal

Nonfiction November–Fiction and Nonfiction Partners!


become the expert

Throughout the month of November, Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness and Leslie from Regular Rumination are hosting a series of excellent posts promoting all things nonfiction. The topic of this week’s post prompt is:

Come up with a nonfiction book to pair with a fiction book. So, if you like [FICTION BOOK], then you should absolutely read [NONFICTION BOOK]!

(Please click on the graphic to find all the great  posts by other bloggers who accepted this challenge–or to add your own!) 

I found this to be a very challenging exercise-but also a very fun one! I was able to come up with several pairings covering a variety of topics–and even one triple! Ready? Here are my Fiction/Nonfiction sets:

 henry-and-clara booth-novel-david-robertson-paperback-cover-art   day lincoln was shot

Henry and Clara: a Novel by Thomas Mallon

Booth: A Novel by David Robertson

The Day Lincoln Was Shot by Jim Bishop

We all know the basic story behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln—but the two novels I’m listing here provide a couple of different takes on the topic. The first one blends fact with fiction to recreate the truly heartbreaking story of the couple—who were also stepbrother and stepsister–who accompanied the Lincolns to Ford’s Theater that night. I think that this fictionalized account of the events of that evening and its aftermath rivals any tragic modern romance.

The second novel tells the story of the assassination from the point of view of John Surratt, who knew John Wilkes Booth and was involved to some degree—still a controversy today—with the plot to kill Lincoln.

There are any number of nonfiction books about Lincoln’s assassination, but I’ve chosen to pair these novels with the classic The Day Lincoln Was Shot because it was one of the first nonfiction books to use the hour-by-hour, nearly minute-by-minute method of describing historical events. It’s also one of the first adult nonfiction books I ever read, and it was one of the books that forever hooked me on reading nonfiction.

charlottes-web  story of charlottes web

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic by Michael Sims

I know I’m not alone in my love for Charlotte, Wilbur, Fern, and the rest of the wonderful characters from this classic children’s book—which, of course, isn’t just for children at all. The nonfiction book I’m pairing with it is so much more than a biography of the author—it  traces his fascinating research into the lives of spiders and the painstaking work he did to make sure that everything—and I mean EVERYTHING–included in Charlotte’s Web was exactly right. If you loved the world of this book as a child, you’ll definitely appreciate the background provided here on how that world was created.

grapes of wrath  worst hard time

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan

I can still remember reading The Grapes of Wrath for the first time. (If you’ve only seen the movie, you MUST read the book–there is absolutely no comparison!) I read this epic novel in the late spring during my first year of teaching, and I can vividly recall grading papers and completing lesson plans at night—and then staying up way too late making my way to California with the Joads. I was pretty obsessed with this novel for quite awhile. My nonfiction partner—a National Book Award winner—takes a different view of this period of American history. It tells the stories of the people who opted to remain in their homes during the Dust Bowl. I’ll admit that I haven’t read this book yet—it’s been sitting on my TBR pile for several months—but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it and I’m hoping to dive into it soon.

last night at the lobsterNickel

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

This novel takes place during one final shift at a restaurant that will be permanently closing its doors at the end of the night. Told from the point of view of the restaurant’s manager, it’s the ideal complement to Ehrenriech’s nonfiction book about minimum wage workers in America. I’m a big fan of Barbara Ehrenreich’s books, and I also think that Stewart O’Nan is one of today’s most underrated novelists—so these two books are a natural pair.

little house big woods  wilder life

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve read the Little House series of books—but Wendy McClure takes her love of these beloved children’s novels to a whole new level. Her book traces her quest to visit all of the key places and landmarks mentioned in the series, as well as her attempts to immerse herself in all things “Little House”, such as learning to churn butter and twist hay sticks. I love this author’s writing voice—she writes humorously yet informatively about her journey to connect with Laura and the rest of the Ingalls family. It also includes a lot of interesting information about the “real” Laura that you won’t read in the Little House books. If you ever dreamed of having a best friend like Laura, you’ll love the chance to reconnect with those Little House days in The Wilder Life.

How about you? Have you read any of these books? Are there any fiction/nonfiction pairings that you’d like to share? I’d love to read your thoughts! And don’t forget to click on the graphic above to join in the Nonfiction November fun!

Author: bookmammal

I love books, reading, writing, cooking, eating, reading while eating, and sharing thoughts about all of the above–plus a bit more! I usually post about topics relating to books and literacy during the week, and then participate in a variety of non-bookish memes on the weekend. Please feel free to join in! Some random things about me– –I have multiple bookshelves in every room of my home except the bathroom. They’re all filled to bursting. They help to make my house my home. –I have two cats who I love dearly, but who I definitely do NOT dress in human clothing. Ever. –I’ve never had a cavity. –I make a mean spaghetti sauce. –I’m a newcomer to yoga and I love it. –My day is not complete without a little chocolate.

23 thoughts on “Nonfiction November–Fiction and Nonfiction Partners!

  1. Great pairings!

  2. I am more of a fiction person. But I love your pairing. Great post! 🙂

  3. You’ve done it to me again, I just have to get the book about E.B. White 🙂

  4. Correction: off to look for SOCW by Michael Sims.

  5. Good job! I found this topic really hard, but you’ve come up with lots of great suggestions.

  6. I remember trying to get through Grapes of Wrath when it was required reading freshman year of high school. I just couldn’t do it! It was the first time I “cheated” in school (I only read the turtle chapters and sort of fudged my way through the rest). I guess I should give it another go!

  7. SO many interesting pairings here! I think the ones that I’m most interested in are Henry & Clara and The Story of Charlotte’s Web. I almost included The Wilder Life and Little House on the Prairie as my combo, too!

  8. Wow! Those are all such great pairings. My TBR just got several books longer!

  9. Very cool pairings. The non-fiction books look interesting.

  10. Pingback: Nonfiction November Week 3 Round Up | Regular Rumination

  11. Wow, these are some great pairings! The ones on Lincoln sound especially fascinating to me. Given that the fiction books mix fact and fiction, pairing it with non-fiction to help you figure out which parts true would be really interesting.

  12. These are great! I feel like historical fiction lends itself to pairings, but you also found some creative ones. I think the Charlotte’s Web pairing sounds awesome.

  13. Pingback: Nonfiction November Week 4 – New Additions to My TBR | Regular Rumination

  14. I can’t believe I missed your post last week, but I’m going to catch up now! So many great pairings, I’m definitely going to check out the EB White book and The Wilder Life – thanks for bringing them to my attention!

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