Today marks the beginning of NONFICTION NOVEMBER—the second annual celebration of all things nonfiction! I participated last year and had so much fun meeting new bloggers and adding great nonfiction titles to my TBR list! If you’re into reading nonfiction and want to join in the fun, just click on the graphic to visit the first linkup. A new prompt and linkup will be posted every Monday throughout November. Be prepared, though—your TBR list will explode with great NF books!
This week the following prompts are presented:
What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
I’ve always loved nonfiction and I read a lot of it. So far this year I’ve read a total of 92 books, and 47 of them have been nonfiction. I never really have a plan for what I’m going to read during any given time, so it’s just by chance that half of my books so far this year have been nonfiction. For Nonfiction November, I’m not planning on exclusively reading nonfiction—but I’m hoping to find many more nonfiction titles to add to my TBR list. I’m also hoping to find new-to-me bloggers who share my love for books in general and nonfiction in particular!
What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
I have to be honest—this question is so unfair! There is no way that I can select just one favorite nonfiction title of the year! So–I’m combining these questions to describe the four NF books that I enjoyed the most this year and that I find myself recommending the most often. Ready? Here we go!
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.
If you love to escape by reading about the lives of the impossibly rich, or if you like a good modern day mystery, give this book a try! Huguette Clark was a reclusive New York heiress. Born in 1906, she grew up in incredible wealth, and after an extremely brief marriage (she returned home alone just days into her honeymoon) she eventually owned enormously expensive homes in California, New York, and Connecticut–yet they stood vacant as she lived her last twenty years in a simple New York City hospital room, despite being in excellent health. She gave away millions of dollars in money and gifts to charities, foundations promoting the arts, and to her employees–some of whom never saw her or spoke to her except via phone or through closed doors.
At her death in 2011, her estate was valued in excess of $300 million. However, she’d left TWO signed wills—one favoring her remaining family members (distant relatives from her father’s first marriage, most of whom hadn’t spoken to her in decades–she had no children of her own), and a second will leaving everything to her lawyers, long-time private nurse, and other employees. The question was, had she been in control of her decisions, or was she being controlled by the people she hired to care for her and manage her money? And why did she spend the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital, when even her doctors agreed that there was no medical reason for doing so?
When I finished this book, I immediately went online to do some research about what has happened with Huguette’s estate since the book was published—but I won’t share what I found, as I don’t want to create any spoilers for those of you who may choose to read it. This book was not only one of my favorite nonfiction reads of 2014, but it’s one of my favorite books of any genre.
The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown
I don’t “do sports” but I love reading about them. I’ve read lots of books about baseball and basketball, but I knew virtually nothing about the sport of rowing (or “crew”) before I started this book. It’s the story of the 1936 US rowing team that won the Gold medal at that year’s Summer Olympic Games in Hitler’s Berlin. The author paints such a vivid picture of the young men on the team as well as the skill required to excel at this sport–I had absolutely no idea! There’s a lot of anecdotal information about the Depression era that’s very interesting, and it also created a great interest for me about the 1936 Olympic Games.
I work in educational publishing and I’m always on the lookout for ideas on how to help kids learn to love to read. This book discusses in plain language how teachers (and parents) can help children become lifelong readers. Miller offers the opinion that many practices commonly used in classrooms—such as reading journals and contests—can actually work against helping children understand that reading should be a part of our everyday lives and not simply something to be done in school. She also provides practical suggestions on how educators can create an authentic book-loving culture in their schools. Many of the ideas presented apply to parents as well. I completely loved the message of this book!
Maeve’s Times: In Her Own Words by Maeve Binchy
I was sad to hear of Maeve Binchy’s death a few years ago–so imagine my delight when I learned that a new Binchy book was to be published this year! I was even more excited when I found out that it was to be a collection of nearly 100 of her columns that were originally published in The Irish Times, starting in the 1960s and continuing through 2011. Presented in chronological order, these pieces offer a whole new glimpse into Binchy’s writing style. I had no idea that she had been a columnist, and I devoured this book over a couple of marathon reading sessions in a single weekend. The topics range from humorous slices of life, to character sketches, to news reporting, to controversial opinion pieces. The only thing that tripped me up a bit was the very frequent use of Irish slang and terminology, which I don’t recall encountering too much in her novels. However, this makes total sense in that her columns were most likely intended exclusively for local Irish readers, while she must have known that her novels would find an international audience. I loved this book, and was so grateful to see an entirely new side to one of my favorite novelists.
Honorable Mentions/Just Missed The List:
Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe
Sous Chef by Michael Gibney
How about you? Have you read any of these? What types of nonfiction books do you enjoy? Please share—and please visit the first November Nonfiction linkup (just click on the graphic at the top of this post) for more great nonfiction titles!