Monday, November 3, 2014
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.