Nonfiction November – Nonfiction Favorites

Here’s our prompt for this week:

NonfictionNovember-e1506979820517Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites. 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?

To suss out my proclivities I’m going over my favorite nonfiction reads over the past few years.  I haven’t found a magic bullet but there are some factors that will propel a book up my list of favorites.

Amazing Writing

22253729A nonfiction book doesn’t need to leave literary style behind!  It can be as elevated David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster or as grounded as Nina MacLaughlin’s Hammer Head, but great sentence level writing will get me every time.

Getting My Study On

605663I love reading to learn and some books have blown my mind wide open.  There’s Whipping Girl, an own voices take on transwomen and femininity, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes about the business of death in the United States, and Tears We Cannot Stop, an African American minister’s sermon to white America.

Primary Source Documents

27507970That may not sound exciting, but stick with me!  Documents from their time, often with analysis or historical background, can be transporting.  Charleston Syllabus pulls together everything from slave’s first person accounts to Constitution of the Confederate States to give an overview of the history of black people in America and how we arrived at our current state of affairs.  War Diaries is the personal journal of Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking, which she wrote during World War II.

…and Fire

351219It doesn’t make sense considering how terrified I am of flames, but I am drawn to books about fire.  It can be a well-known historical fire (Triangle: The Fire that Changed America), a fire lost to time (The Circus Fire), about what it’s like to watch for fires (Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout) or fight them (The Fire Inside).

Do we match up on any of these likes?  What makes a nonfiction read a favorite for you?

19 thoughts on “Nonfiction November – Nonfiction Favorites

    1. Thank you so much! I do recommend Consider the Lobster, especially as an introduction to DFW. I don’t know if I’ll get along with his fiction but the essays are amazingly crafted – literary and funny and smart and and thought provoking all at once.

      I have read American Fire and liked it a bunch, so your recommendation is right on! 🙂

      1. Oh that sounds perfect, I’m more excited to read it now. I love essays like that, And I couldn’t remember if I’d already seen American Fire on your blog, glad you liked it!

  1. I just finished up Smoke Gets in Your Eyes! Great one. I’m reading her newest book right now. Great list of favorites. I’ll have to add more to my list.

    1. I really liked Triangle – the way it covers not only the fire but also the social movements of the time. And the trial scenes are riveting!

  2. Great breakdown of what makes nonfiction work for you! I’m totally with you on primary documents. I especially like when an author does a good job using primary sources to share or speculate on the feelings of the people they’re writing about. It can really bring a story to life!

    1. Yea for another primary document lover! It’s amazing how little things, such as a turn of phrase that you don’t hear anymore, add so much depth and character.

  3. I am totally with you on primary source documents. Thought I was the only one who did that haha. I’ve read everything from pamphlets to journals to letters from history – I feel like it’s such a good way to get to know what was happening and what the way of thinking was during a different period of time.

  4. An amazing story draws me in, too … I love it when a non-fiction book reads like fiction and I forget that the story is true and not made up. You have some great recommendations!

  5. Oh, my gosh, Tears We Cannot Stop was SO GOOD, right? I haven’t come across too many people who’ve had it on their lists, so I’m thrilled to see that it impacted you, as well. I love the topic of fire! I’ve never thought of this before, but these sound interesting!

    1. It’s amazingly good – I’m so glad you love it, too! So many good social justice books have come out in the past year or two, there are still a bunch that I need to get to.

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  7. I really like the phrase ‘good sentence level writing’. I find describing what makes good sentence level writing for me one of the hardest things to describe in reviews, but it’s key to my enjoyment of a book. And I definitely share your love of learning from the nonfiction I read 🙂

    1. Good sentence level writing is so hard to describe! I’m pretty sure I’ve borrowed the phrase from someone else because the best I can usually come up with is “words so pretty, much wow”. 😉

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