Category Archives: Book Column

Nonfiction November – Week Four

I’ve been participating in Nonfiction November this month and it’s been great. So many new-to-me bloggers in my RSS reader now plus plenty of new titles added to Mount TBR and to my wish list. Which brings us to the week four’s topic being hosted by Katie over on Doing Dewey:

New to My TBR: It’s been a week full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

So here it goes. It’s a list of all the books and sites that piqued my interest enough that I am now officially “on the lookout” for these books. Thank you to each blogger that participated and surfaced these books for me. There is so much noise out there these days and Nonfiction November turned out to be a great way to cut through that and find some wonderful recommendations.

  1. Story of Ain’t found on Feminist Texan Reads
  2. Mao’s Great Famine found on The Relentless Reader
  3. The Life of I found on Brona’s Books
  4. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer found on Savvy Working Gal
  5. Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer found on Book Addicted Blonde
  6. The Unpersuadables by Richard Storr found on Bibliophilopolis
  7. The Age of Wonder found on The Emerald City Book Review
  8. The Creators by Daniel Boostin found on Bibliophilopolis
  9. Bottled and Sold found on Ardent Reader
  10. Fluent Forever found on A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
  11. The Bilingual Edge found on A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
  12. Men We Reaped found on Books Speak Volumes
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I saw this banner in my local library this past weekend.

Nonfiction November (#nonficnov) was a blast this year. So many great books and book bloggers I had not heard of. Thank you to everyone who helped organize it and host all of the recap posts. So many great book blogs to scroll through.

Diversity in Reading

I am participating in the amazingly fun and fulfilling Nonfiction November this month. Lots of book bloggers are chiming in here and there with Becca (I’m Lost in Books) hosting this week’s question:

What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? What kind of books besides different countries/cultures do you think of as books of diversity?

This is a huge question for anyone to tackle. Our world suffers from too many folks living in echo chambers consuming only what reinforces their beliefs. Reading can change that. Being intentional about reading will definitely change that.

When thinking about diversity in reading I settled on two points: I like to read in pairs and I really like when smart people write about things outside of their life experience.

thomas_sowellWhen I say read in pairs, I mean to intentionally read both sides of the coin. Are you reading a smart philosophical book on humanism or atheism? Then follow it with a smart philosophical book on Christianity. Reading about the downfall of marriage in society? Then pick up a book by an author that carefully posits how they think society is evolving. Read people you disagree with. Argue with them and scribble in the margins. I really enjoy reading Thomas Sowell. Agree with him or not – the dude is smart and well researched. But I follow his books with (and really enjoy) Noam Chomsky who is on the other side of the political spectrum but just as smart, well researched and passionate.

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But stay away from blowhards. I do not care if you are reading about Christianity, homosexuality, women’s rights, food deserts, or politics every issue has blowhards (and for some reason we keep letting them wrote books). Do not read the blowhards. Do some research and read the smart careful compassionate writers from both sides. (My rule of thumb is that if an author has their face on the cover or back cover of their book – then I usually keep looking pass as they are trading on their personality and not what they are talking about. That’s not a golden rule by any means, but it’s a start.)

Speaking to my second point (smart people writing about things outside of their life experiences), I have a lot of books about the history of Western Civilization. Mostly written by white folks. But do you know which is my favorite? The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter. She’s African-American. The way she presented her thoughts and research was so refreshing. Nothing super earth shattering, but her understanding of the implications of how a people are formed and create culture were new to me. And I am convinced it’s because of who she is and her life experiences (plus all of her book learning). She’s a great writer. A smart writer. When you find one of those be sure to latch on.

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Diversity in reading is hard to do often out of my comfort level. But my life is richer for reading books and writers like these. I know I am more empathetic to folks that are “not like me” and hopefully more compassionate (hard to rate yourself on that one).

The world would be much improved if folks sought out diverse viewpoints rather than being satisfied with their comfort zone-defined bubbles.

 

Be the Expert: in Book Covers

Week One of Nonfiction November was fun and is responsible for adding nine books to my wish list this holiday season. This week’s topic is being hosted by Leslie and is listed as “Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert” where we are supposed to highlight some books we’ve read (or want to read) around a topic.

So for Week Two I would like to offer up the following books which will help you to Become the Expert in Book Covers. Please notice I did not say Book Cover Design or the History of Book Covers or Book Cover Production Engineer, but simply book covers. Some of the stories behind a few famous titles and covers are amazing and humorous. Also, how do you know if a book cover nailed it? What works? What doesn’t? Why? Should the designer have tried something a little riskier?

Here are three books that I recommend reading if you are at all interested in book covers/book jackets and the thought process/discussions behind the winners and losers.

First up is Chip Kidd’s Book OneKidd is as close to a rock star as you get in the book design world (he was asked to play himself in a soap opera for crying out loud) and this book doesn’t disappoint. It’s very large, colorful and gorgeous. Plus, it’s filled with all kinds of tid-bits and insights into the publishing world as Kidd shares hate mail from readers who dislike his covers, letters from authors as they flip/flop on whether a concept will work and rough drafts that lay at the bottom of the trash can. Many iconic covers, from the past 20 years, appear in Book One as Kidd shares how they came to be. Including the Jurassic Park dinosaur logo, Donna Tartt’s covers and dust jackets for Haruki Murakami.

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Another book worth reading is Wendell Minor’s Wendell Minor: Art for the Written Word. Minor has produced many iconic covers himself, but his are all painted and watercolor (as opposed to Kidd’s graphic designs). But this book does a great job sharing notes, letters and thoughts behind the composition of some of Minor’s more famous covers for authors like David McCullough and Pat Conroy.

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I have to admit to feeling a little teacher-ish about this last one, but to appreciate all of today’s book covers and to see how all the rules are being broken (I mean we are trying to be experts this week, right?) – it helps to gain a little historical perspective. That’s why I’d recommend Alan Bartram’s Five Hundred Years of Book Design. Yes, it sounds dry and boring. But if you like words… if you like books… if you’ve ever considered buying  a throw pillow because it has words typed all over it, then you will appreciate this book. The book is an odd tall narrow shape and features page after page after page of wonderful photos of (mostly) type-only book pages from Roman-times to modern-times. Once you get a feel how type and text is best stacked and what works and what doesn’t you’ll really start to notice jackets at the bookstore when the author’s name is too big or the title is just too off-center.

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Anyway, those are three books I’d recommend you check out if you’d like to become an Expert in Book Covers. I promise they are each filled with big colorful photos of books, words and dust jackets. Everything you need to get excited about book cover design and chat about them over a beer.

So catch up on all of the other bloggers posting this week for Nonfiction November over on Regular Rumination and by following the #nonficnov hashtag on Twitter.

A Life in Books – Super Cheap

Warren Lehrer’s A Life in Books came out last year. It’s 380 illustrated pages dripping with books and books-within-books, meta-short stories and this month they dropped the price to $6.99!!! I have no idea why. It’s usually $34.99, but be sure to check this one out if you like to read about books or know someone who does.

LifeInBooks_coverIt is an illustrated novel of a fella locked up in prison recounting his time as an upcoming author. This stroll down memory lane is accompanied by covers, back cover copy, reading samples, etc. of every book this fictional author ever did. Can you get a sense of the rabbit hole that is A Life in Books? Pretty fun. Here’s an interview with Lehrer if you want to get a better idea about what the book is about and why it’s been written/built the way it is. Here is the LibraryThing page as well.

Anyway, no affiliate link. I don’t get anything out of this other than saying “Holy heck, that’s a gorgeous colorful book-about-books on sale for $6.99″. Which is a pretty fun thing to say these days.

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