Category Archives: Book Talk

Week 4: Nonfiction Favorites #nonficnov

This week’s portion of Nonfiction November is hosted by Katie over at Doing Dewey Decimal and the prompt is an interesting one:

Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your 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? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

It’s tempting to click through all the replies and tally everyone’s responses. It would be interesting to see how the majority of people answer this question of “what make one of your nonfiction reads a favorite?”

But before I get to clicking around, I’m better answer myself.

Subject matter is everything. I need a nonfiction book to tackle a subject head on. I want a deep dive. Lots of books spend too much time with clever chapter titles and the like, which can be fun to a degree. But I don’t want to flit about and float through a nonfiction read.

Now please don’t hear me say “text book” when you read the above few sentences. I’m not looking for dry. Another thing I am not looking for is chronological. I enjoy a good timeline in a book and I LOVE when there is a map printed just inside the front and back covers, but very rarely does a nonfiction read benefit from being told in historical sequence. That’s a great way to report the news to point to the truth, but not the best way to weave a story to highlight the truth and give context to the truth.

So if I can stumble upon a nonfiction book that is a topic of interest, isn’t told chronologically and is all about giving context, more than likely, I’m going to read that book. If the book also has some humor sprinkled throughout then it’s just about a certainty.

Having said all that. . . I find myself wondering what books have I read that fit that description? Well, here are three that pop into mind:

And I am looking forward to clicking around and reading everyone else’s responses. Nonfiction November is a good time.

I hope everyone in the States had a restful Thanksgiving holiday today and squirreled away some minutes with a good book. And to everyone else I hope you found some reading time too!

Bookmarks Magazine

It’s a special day when my issue of Bookmarks magazine arrives in the mailbox every couple of months. It’s one of the few magazine subscriptions that I have held onto over the years and I can say with certainty that I will keep it as long as they stay in print.

I’m always surprised how many bookish friends are unfamiliar with the magazine. Have you heard of it?

It only comes out 6 times a year, but every issue is dripping with bookish info. At their core, they are a book review aggregator. For every book listed in each issue, they offer a brief synopsis, their collection of snippets from well known newspapers and online book sections, and a brief synopsis rolling up all of those  reviews they read and collected.

I have to say it’s been fun reading the reviews over the years and having a sense of how The NY Times and Washington Post and Huffington Post may differ on genre’s or authors or writing techniques. You really start to get a feel for the people behind the reviews, simply by paying attention to the trends over time.

Every issue always features a Book Club. This is always the first thing I turn to in each issue. It’s fun to read how all of the book clubs got started and how long they’ve been together. It’s also neat to read which books worked and did not work for their group discussions.

Bookmarks magazine also runs features each month. These spend a few pages talking about an author and their work as a whole, going title by title. Or (November/December 2017 issue) they’re focusing on “Books for Library Lovers”, which is a topic I will show up for!

If you keep up with the ‘book space’ then you’ll probably recognize 40% of the names, books, stories, etc. in each issue. I mean, all those books and authors are popular for a reason. But the rest of it is made up of reader-submitted lists, collections, recommendations and of course, the aggregated book review list.

It’s so fun. I’m always looking for other Bookmarks readers to converse with.

Do you read Bookmarks magazine?

Book Review: Want Not

Jonathan Miles’ novel Want Not came out 4 years ago, and it seems  even more relevant in 2017. It is my book club’s pick this November and I’m anxiously waiting our next meeting. If everyone read it, I expect there to be no lull in the conversation. It’s really good. And it’s good in that non-thriller sort of way. Which makes it really, really good.

It’s a patient book, drawing out three story lines that all circle this notion of over consumption and waste in America. Watching how the waste and excess of things our culture creates affects families, lovers, businesses, and society as whole, is truly thought provoking.

The story bounces back and forth between homeless folks intentionally “living off the land” of New York City, picking through the trash bins, a professor of linguistics having to get rid of all the things left behind from his divorce while dealing with his ailing father and the owner of a credit card debt collection agency, living in a McMansion neighborhood of a few houses, because the rest haven’t been developed.

One of the more interesting parts linguistic professor’s story is his project of having to write the warning signs for a nuclear dump. It’s to be an underground dump full of excess and spent nuclear materials that remain lethal for 10,000 years. So it’s trash that can kill.

But what language do you write the warning in? Very few languages last more than a few thousand years, what will they be speaking in 10,000 years? He and his cohorts debate symbols, colors, art, language and hieroglyphics. With that comes the realization that most of what archeologists dig up is just trash from thousands of years ago.

Jonathon Miles is probably best known for Dear American Airlines. That book was good and made me chuckle. But Want Not was better in a couple of ways. Want Not made me laugh out loud as well as really think about what society is doing to this planet and each other as we over produce a bunch of junk. It’s rare to find a book that makes you laugh while thinking big thoughts.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to folks who want to meet some really quirky characters dealing with some thought provoking issues. I’m betting it’s going to be a great book club pick for us.

Have you read Want Not?

Thanksgiving Eve = Busiest Reading Day

The day before Thanksgiving has been declared the busiest reading day by Barnes & Noble. They’re basing this fact on research done during a survey project they had done.

Busiest Reading DayTheir numbers show that more than 75% of Americans will read a book, newspaper or magazine during Thanksgiving travel this year and that more than 70% of them say reading makes their travels more enjoyable and relaxing.

I always travel with a book and magazines. I often leave my magazines at the airports, on planes and such. I guess I hope the next passenger will appreciate the magazine as much as I did, but maybe they just think “how rude!” of me for leaving my used magazines laying around.

I’ve even stumbled on BookCrossing books in the past. Even though I was not interested in reading either, I thought it was awesome that someone would pay money for a book and then leave it out so that serendipity can play a hand in landing it in the lap of another reader.

I’ve yet to leave a BookCrossing book out and about, but I probably should.

Anyway. . . one of the quirkiest numbers to come out of the Barnes & Noble study is that:

25% of Americans think bringing a great book for Thanksgiving could get them out of an awkward family conversation.

I’d have to think about that one. I’m picturing sauntering into dinner with some kind of book holster (is there such a thing?) clipped to my belt, ready to draw my paperback at the first sound of an uncomfortable topic of conversation.

Today, I picked up Matthew Weiner’s (the writer/creator behind the TV show Mad Men) first fiction book Heather, the Totality and it’s only 138 pages. I’m not sure that’s long enough to keep anyone out of many conversations.

Hope you’re planning on reading something good next week.