Category Archives: Book Talk

WEEK FIVE: My NonFiction November 2019 WRAP

Ok, so this post is obviously really late, but sickness and life got in the way (as they do) and I totally missed posting my Week 5 Recap for Nonfiction November last year (here is my Week 4, Week 3, and Week 2 contributions). But I did want to get this out there as these books (and even some new-to-me bloggers) are still tops on my “to buy and to-be-read” list. I plan on starting Gretchen McCulloch’s book this weekend.

So firing up the old blogging way back time machine. . . going back in 3. . . 2. . . 1. . .

The guiding post from the discussion’s host (Nov. 25 to 29):

“Rennie from What’s Nonfiction is here for a second year – New to My TBR : It’s been a month 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!”

By far the one book I saw on sooooo many lists this year was Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. It’s one I’ve seen in bookstores (I mean how can you forget that cover), but never picked up. Just based on the frequency it was mentioned, it’s going in the pile. I mean you can’t get this many book bloggers on a Mr. Linky and be lead astray can you?

Moving on, these are the other books that piqued my interest over the past few weeks. I am looking forward to working though this list:

Thanks to all the bloggers that participated in Nonfiction November in 2019. It really is a highlight every year. Such a diverse and cool group of book bloggers talking about topics and books from all over the world. I hope you found some good reads for yourself this November.

Two Documentary Films for Bookish Folks

Here are two documentary films that I’m excited about and I am guessing, if you’re reading this blog, you’ll probably be interested too.

The first film is called The Bookmakers and runs about an hour. It features all kinds of folks that are working to keep books viable in this day and age. There are interviews with type setters and old world book artists as well as digital librarians and font folks. The trailer hooks me early! I hear that The Bookmakers documentary has been delayed due to all of the “stay home” stuff going on these days. I’m excited for this one to be out – eventually. Here’s the trailer:

A co-worker mentioned The Booksellers documentary to me the other day and I just love the visuals in the trailer. It was released back on April 17th via special streaming screenings online. Which is all very cool and handy these days. You can scroll through the film’s twitter feed and find a place to watch it. It looks like it’s running about $10 to stream it. This film has to be good. There are some pretty big names from both the bookstore and book trade worlds in The Booksellers. I’m hoping to find some time this weekend to watch.

It doesn’t hurt to mix in a little screen time with reading, does it? I hope you all are tucked away, feeling well and have plenty of books surrounding you. And I hope you get a chance to see these two films too!

Science Fiction as Philosophy – Avondale Library

Avondale Library

The Avondale Library is hosting a very interesting online video discussion group this week. Friday, April 3rd at 3pm, they will host and discuss Science Fiction as Philosophy, via the web and a Zoom video conference.

The video series discusses, “…how popular science fiction shows have tackled profound issues such as autonomy, sentience, pacifism, colonialism, racism, grief, morality, and much more.”

Which sounds pretty dang cool and everything that good speculative fiction works with. It has all the makings of a fun and informative online conversation. This new Sci-Phi Fridays series by the Avondale Library branch is based on The Great Courses materials.

The Great Courses has lots of videos and classes diving deep into topics like publishing, writing, genres, etc. It’s worth scanning their catalog to see if there is anything you’d enjoy. The post a lot of content on their YouTube channel. Most of it is medical and viral-related these days and some 5-minute teasers. But they have longer 30-minute videos (like this science vs. science fiction one on Doctor Who and Time Travel Paradoxes) as well as sharing the first video in a series they sell.

Doctor Who Avondale Sci Phi

You can get more information in the BPL Online post and do know that registration is required. It’s free, but I’m sure they have to be able to send out all of the zoom invites, etc. to facilitate the online video feeds and discussions.

With all that is going on in the world, I hope you are well and reading this post some place safe and able to stay isolated.

What Makes a Nonfiction Book a Favorite?

We’re in the homestretch of Nonfiction November and Leann from There There Read This is hosting this fourth week’s topic of Nonfiction Favorites. Here is the prompt:

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 favorite.

I have to admit that this one took some thought. It’s not an exact science for me. While the subject matter probably is the most important factor, I really enjoy it when an author has a specific lens they are looking through and makes that fact clear up front.

A few examples might be when a serious data scientist writes about romance and dating, in Dataclysm; or an engineer tackles something as mundane as a paper clip, like in The Evolution of Useful Things, or a historical writer tackles all of the insane (sometime literally speaking) details swirling around the birth or the Oxford English Dictionary, in The Professor and the Madman. All of these offer a unique perspective and some fresh light on the topics.

And, while all of the facts and data should be there and correctly referenced to give validity to the nonfiction book, I want to feel like I’m at a dinner party, sipping a drink, listening to someone share their experience and expertise. Non-fiction books get a bad rep because people automatically assume they’re going to be crammed full of stilted writing and beating the reader over the head with supporting facts. The bad ones do and often resemble text books. But put a creative writer in the hands of a good editor and you can get a real gem.

The last thing I really enjoy in a good non-fiction book has to do with page design. There has to be room on the page to make notes! And highlight and underline and circle and argue! As much as I appreciate books, I am of the mindset that to internalize what you’re reading/learning you have to chew it up before you swallow. This just goes better if there’s room for you in the book you’re reading. Plus, it’s just fun to pull a book off the shelf, after a few years, and skim back over your notes and thoughts.

Big maps and a good bibliography go a long way with me as well. Those aren’t ‘must haves’, like the above points, but for a nonfiction book to become a favorite, but they sure are nice. As much as I like a well cross referenced and annotated book, with a strong bibliography, I’m not really a fan of footnotes. I’d rather have all of the notes and “for further reading” information collected at the back of the book. That might seem picky, but it’s nice when you don’t have footnotes tugging at your eyeballs pulling you out of the immediate narrative all the time.

Hope your Nonfiction November is going well. Find a good book and stay warm!