Here’s our prompt for this week:
Let 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.
A 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
I 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
That 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.
It 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?