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: 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.
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.
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 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.
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!