Nonfiction November – Week One

This month I am participating in a blog-centric Nonfiction November stream. It’s fun and I have already stumbled upon some new-to-me bloggers that I plan on keeping up with. Anyway… Week One was laid out by Kim over on her blog. So here it goes:

I have read ten non-fiction books so far in 2014, though I have another two in process. I really do enjoy nonfiction books. Get a good one and you’re hooked. It’s like deep diving into a super-compelling NPR story. The trouble is – it’s not always easy to find compelling nonfiction. The author and the book’s editor have to work really hard to take a book beyond simply offering a simple “hmpf, that’s kind of interesting” and “here is one factoid from history you didn’t know” prospect.

I have three favorite nonfiction reads so far this year:

nonficnov_glasscageThe book I’ve recommended most to folks is Nicholas Carr’s The Glass Cage. It was fascinating. My guess is if you are reading this post then you need to read The Glass Cage. It’s not too long and not hard to understand. But you will look at your computer, phone, car, TV and airplanes in a whole new light after reading this book. So much of our lives and work is automated these days. This shift happened so fast. What are the implications? Does anyone know? Just think about this – the same impulse/feeling you get when you misspell a word, because you know auto-correct will get it, is due to the same mental lull that has been attributed to airline crashes. You need to read this book.

nonficnov_everythingstoreAnother good read is Brad Stone’s The Everything Store. This is about the rise of both Jeff Bezos and Amazon. No matter what your opinion of Amazon, they are impacting the world around you in a major way. There is no better book on the Amazon industry than this one. Stone does a good job of balancing fear-mongering, the company’s relentless innovation and Bezo’s own story.  A very interesting read, even for folks not inclined to pick up a business book.

nonficnov_whatItalkaboutThe only other non-fiction book I gave five stars to this year was Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. What a great book. There’s nothing super-sexy about this book, but it’s so thoughtful and real. Parts of it read as if you are just plodding along, one foot in front of the other, having one of life’s best experiences. I’ve never read Murakami as I don’t think “magical realism” is my thing. But I know I am going to pick up one of his fiction books as this one was just so well written.

Kim also posed the question “What one topic have you not read enough of?” Two ways to read this question – what topic are you lacking in and which topic can you not get enough of. I want to learn more in the vein of Brooks’ The Social Animal and Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. I’m not sure what this top is called social science? social psychology? people as guinea pigs? Basically any book that discusses why we do what we do as a people is interesting. But the one thing I can’t get enough of is books – book culture, books as objects, publishing, history of books, writings, authors, books about books – that pretty much sums it up.

Nonfiction November is off to a great start and I am hoping to stumble on some new books to read in areas I haven’t considered before. I’m also logging new bloggers to follow, which is great. So that’s two wins right there. But, man, I underestimated the participation level of these folks! So much to keep up with this month.

Please do let me know, in the comments, if there is a nonfiction book you’ve read that left an impact. I might want to check it out myself.


Moss Rock Festival

Today is the last day of the Moss Rock Festival here in Birmingham. It starts at 10 a.m. and wraps at 4 p.m. Yesterday was windy and chilly, but lots of fun. The festival has grown quite a bit in the past couple of years. I scouted it out and found a few booths with books. Check them out if you’re walking around today there are some pretty fun books to be had.


The Hoover Library – they have a great booth with two tables set up crammed with used books. Hardbacks are going for $2 and paperbacks for $.50.

Five Star Trails: Birminghamauthor Tom Spencer will be signing at the Fresh Air Family booth (blue tent, in the kids craft section on the green) today.This hiking guide is the newest outdoor book to the Birmingham area and is published by local publisher Menasha Ridge Press (disclosure: this is one of the imprints I work for). Spencer did all of the research and writing and it is so well done. Check it out!

Birmingham Home and Garden – the magazine folks were there and they had a large beautiful almost-coffee-table-sized book on home decorating. Pretty snazzy looking.

Birmingham Magazine – if you swing by you can get a free magazine, but they also had four books on the South. Mostly Southern photo and photo-essay. I asked and they seemed to be for sale only if you get a subscription, but stop by if you’re interested and see if you get a different answer.

Let me know if I missed anything as I plan on going back to the Moss Rock Festival again today. Hope you all can make it as well. If you can survive the parking madness, it’s really worth it.




The “Why” of a Book Choice

I agree with the saying “You are what you eat”, and I think it is even true to say “You are what you read”.  Or more accurately, “You will become what you read”.

You eat a banana – you are not going to become a banana. You read a book – it’s in your brain. The seed is there. It can grow or wither. It can consume your soul and invade your dreams. This holds true for fiction and non-fiction books. This is why I’ve always been curious as to “why” someone makes a particular book choice. Saying “I just want to escape” only goes so far. That works better for television than for books. Reading is a different beast from the creatures on television and movie screens.

bookmarks_magThis is why I let out a big ‘YES‘ when I opened my mailbox and read the new Bookmarks letter from Jon Phillips, the magazine’s Editor. Phillips wants to start a new feature in the magazine. A page full of chunks of text from readers everywhere explaining why they are reading the book they are currently reading. Phillips sees value in this even beyond sociological curiosity. He rightfully picks up on the response many of us get when ask others about books:

“I’m not reading anything right now.”

I’ve always let the conversation hop topics at that point. Phillips takes the next step (which I am going to start doing as well), which is to ask:

“Well why not? What’s in the way?”

Just imagine the insights you’ll be given into your friends’ worries or your co-workers’ stress. What a great way to pick up on where they think they are and how they think they’re doing. What a great way to learn from and (hopefully) take a first step in helping those around you.

Phillips is asking anyone who wants to share “what you’re reading now and why” to email him Jon [at] bookmarksmagazine.com. I plan on contributing, but I also plan on posing his questions to folks I bump into this week. So send in the “why” of your book choice to Jon and the Bookmarks magazine crew if you feel like it!


Fun Stop Motion Book Video

The folks at Type books up in Ontario produced this stop motion video, called The Joy of Books almost three years ago and it’s still a good one.

What is it about sitting back and watching all the books go ’round? I also have to say that the whole “shelve your books by color” contingent is bolstered – it really works when the rainbow of book spines are moving along to the beat.

Creative people are cool. Creative book people are +1 beyond that though.


Books, Publishing and Birmingham