Monday, November 3, 2014

Nonfiction November


Nonfiction November is the first book blogger "event" that I plan to join -- yay, participation! This one is co-hosted by Sophisticated Dorkiness, Regular Rumination, Doing Dewey, and I'm Lost in Books

I'm really just going to dip my pinky toe into this project. My goal is to read two nonfiction titles this month, which feels deeply ambitious for a fictiony-type like me.  I am embarrassed to admit that I have only read four so far this year.*   I am frankly stunned that the number is so low (I read 11 in 2013).  Thanks to my Goodreads list for keeping me honest.

Clearly, I don't gravitate to nonfiction. That said, many of the books that knock me off my chair tend to be nonfiction. A couple of years ago, one of my bookclubs chose Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, which is an account of a World War II POW. The subject matter was outside of my usual reading zone, and I put off reading it until the last minute. But it ended up being the best book I read that year – a marvelous surprise.

One title that I really liked this year was Fink’s Five Days at Memorial. This book is a narrative account of the five days when people were trapped in a hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Over the course of those days, many patients die. The question is whether some doctors and nurses intentionally killed patients, and whether those decisions were ethical.

Five Days at Memorial is exactly the kind of nonfiction that I enjoy – social journalism. There’s a plot and good pacing and thick (in this case, thick and humid) description. It is also a book that sparks conversation – the ideas it tackles really matter.

I’m always struck by readers who are the opposite – those who read mostly nonfiction and very little fiction.  You know who you are – I saw you out at the beach this summer lugging around your copy of  Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty First Century. It weighed down your beach bag but probably made for a great pillow. 

Anyway, wish me luck. 

(I’m starting off the month by reading some YA fiction – not a great indicator of success at this  challenge. But I’m going to change gears soon. Oh yes I am.)

*This year’s total does not include all of the nonfiction I read for work (journal articles, books I assign and re-read, etc.). It also does not include Ann Patchett’s essay collection, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, because I skimmed it too lazily to get cosmic credit for it. Nor does it include Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams, which I haven’t finished yet.  And, just for the record, if I were allowed to include “surfing the internet,” my nonfiction total would be really, really high.

14 comments:

Shannon @ River City Reading said...

Glad to see you're joining us!! I really loved Five Days at Memorial and you're right that it sounds like one that you're totally going to enjoy. The Empathy Exams is on my list for this month, too, so I'm looking forward to hearing what your final verdict is.

jennifer said...

Thanks! I just started blogging a couple of weeks ago, so hopefully I'll manage to pull this off. ;)

bookmammalmusings said...

I adored This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage--I hope you can find time at some point to explore those essays!
I read an excerpt of Five Days At Memorial and decided not to read the book--I know it's an important book but I thought the details would be too upsetting. Maybe someday ...

jennifer said...

I love Ann Patchett -- I think I wasn't in an essay collection mood when I tried it the first time. That actually happens to me a lot with essay collections and short story collections -- I peter out about half way through.

Amy said...

Ahhh I tend to, by the end of the year, balance out my nonfiction reading, but I'm definitely a "drags around nonfiction to the beach" type of reader. And I'm frankly confused by the rest (read: almost everyone else) who isn't ;) heehee. Happy to see you joining, I hope you enjoy what you read! Five Days at Memorial sounds really fascinating! And also - I hope you love The Empathy Exams!

Jennifer Hartling said...

Unbroken and Five Days are two of the best nonfiction books that I've had the pleasure to read. So you have great taste ;) You've got that going for you! Lol

I'm glad you're joining in! Have a great nonficnov!

ebookclassics said...

I'm so close to finishing the audio book for Unbroken. The story has had me on the edge of my seat for days! Hope this event inspires you to read more nonfiction. Happy reading!

jennifer said...

Thanks, everyone!

Trish said...

Definitely don't feel embarrassed or bad! We all read what we love to read and that's all we can do. :) I really loved Unbroken as well, though I'm not sure I can see the movie.

Do you enjoy audiobooks? I find that they're GREAT for nonfiction.

jennifer said...

I haven't really tried audiobooks, except on long car trips with the kids. That's a great suggestion!

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

Five Days at Memorial is such a wonderful, maddening book. I love social journalism too. I'm glad you're joining us for Nonfiction November!

jennifer said...

Thanks! Me, too!

janceereads said...

I hadn't heard of Five Days at Memorial, but I love book that touch on sociology and all that wonderful journalistic type stuff. Can't wait to read it!

jennifer said...

I thought the first section of the book read like a novel -- gripping!