Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

Once again, it’s that time of year when book bloggers around the globe come together to celebrate the wonderful world of nonfiction. As a life-long nonfiction fan, I always look forward to seeing participants’ posts and learning what outstanding works of nonfiction everyone has been reading. I always come away from this collaboration with yet more books I wanna read, in addition to discovering new blogs and even picking up a new subscriber or two.

Week 1: (November 2-6) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Leann @ Shelf Aware): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

As for favorites from this year, four books immediately come to mind. Both on my blog and in conversations with others I’ve recommended all of them. Look for each one of them to make my year-end Favorite Nonfiction List.

In 2020 I read a trio of excellent older books. Two were memoirs by women wrongly imprisoned by Communist leaders, and the other a vivid account of the Battle of Berlin. Reading older books like these reminds me just how important it is to never judge a book by its publication date.

  • Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng (1986) – Imagine spending six and half horrible years in solitary confinement as an innocent casualty of a power struggle between two rival government factions. 
  • Journey into the Whirlwind by Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg (1967 reprinted 2002) – After years of loyal service to USSR and its ruling Communist Party college instructor Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg was condemned to years of suffering in the Gulag.
  • The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan (1966) – One of the best books on the Eastern Front I’ve read in years. 

Lastly, 2020 is the year I dived into the writing of Russian-American author, New Yorker contributor, LGBTQ advocate and authoritarian critic Masha Gessen. Last year I enjoyed her 2016 book Where the Jews Aren’t: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region and so I thought this year I’ll explore more of her stuff. I was not disappointed. 

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. But over the next few weeks I hope to share more thoughts about what I’ve read in 2020. 

17 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

  1. Looks like you’ve had a great and varied nonfiction reading year! You’re reminding me yet again that I really need to read The Future is History. I try to tackle at least one longer book about Russia every year and this year I didn’t do one. Maybe I can fit it in before year-end. I’m glad you loved Journey Into the Whirlwind too. Her second memoir is so worth reading as well if you can get a secondhand copy of it (I found on Thrift Books last year).


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