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Welcome to the second week of Nonfiction November. This week we’re pairing nonfiction books with works of fiction. Our host this week is Sarah from Sarah’s Book Shelves. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a lot of fun. It reminds a lot of the bookish conversations I used to have with a former a co-worker. He was a voracious reader who read almost exclusively fiction, while I on the other hand tend to gravitate towards nonfiction. But despite our differing tastes, on numerous occasions our reading choices ran parallel. Specifically, he might have been reading a novel that was set in some country, or during the same time period as whatever nonfiction book I was reading at the time. Whenever our selections mutually aligned it led to stimulating conversations.
After letting my imagination run wild for a few days here’s what I came up with for fiction and nonfiction pairings.
Conclave by Robert Harris and The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church by John Thavis
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great America Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann and 1973 Nervous Breakdown: Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of Post-Sixties America by Andreas Killen.
A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam and The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide by Gary J. Bass
The Chosen by Chaim Potok and The Rabbi of 84th Street: The Extraordinary Life of Haskel Besser by Warren Kozak
Under the Frog by Tibor Fischer and The Bridge at Andau: The Compelling True Story of a Brave, Embattled People by James Michener
Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe and The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée
Native Son by Richard Wright and The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War by P.W. Singer and August Cole and The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been….and Where We’re Going by George Friedman
Partitions by Amit Majmudar and Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition by Nisid Hajari
The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad and I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai
The Mission Song by John le Carre and Consuming the Congo:War and Conflict Minerals in the World’s Deadliest Place by Peter Eichstaedt
Ok, enough of my silliness. Since I’m lazy, I’m going engage in a bit of self plagiarism and use my 2015 Nonfiction November post as a template for this year’s post. It feels like cheating but who cares.
What was your favorite nonfiction read(s) of the year?
Again, just as in past years this is a tough question. Interestingly enough, even though I’ve read some pretty good nonfiction in 2017, this year feels like a bit of a down year, nonfiction-wise, when compared to previous years. But keep in mind, last year some of the best nonfiction I read all year I read in November and December. As of right now, my three favorite nonfiction books of 2017 would be:
- Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan
- SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
- The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature by Adam Kirsch
However, there’s three nonfiction books I’ve yet to finish and each of them has the potential for making my year-end Best Nonfiction List. They are:
- October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Miéville
- The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark
- The Anti-Communist Manifestos: Four Books That Shaped the Cold War by John V. Fleming
What nonfiction book(s) have you recommended the most?
Again, another tough question. The book I’ve probably recommended the most this year would be Jane Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. If had to designate a runner-up I would nominate Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal. In addition to those two outstanding works of nonfiction I’ve probably recommended at least once this year each of the following books:
- Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe
- Europe: A History by Norman Davies
- Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky
- Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder
- Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum
- 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
- The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan by Rick Perlstein
What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?
Ouch, probably the toughest question of all. Right off the top of my head I can probably think of three reading goals. One, I want to read as much 20th century history as possible, with an emphasis on the period roughly 1970 to 1990. Two, because you really can’t understand the first half of the 20th century without reading up on the last half of the 19th century I’m hoping to read stuff like Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger: A History of the Present. Three, some of you might remember in one of my earlier posts I mentioned Tara Isabella Burton’s article in The Atlantic “Study Theology, Even If You Don’t Believe in God” and why theological studies are so important as a field of study regardless of a person’s religious outlook. Inspired by her words I plan on reading more books dealing with religion.
What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
My purpose is three-fold. One, I wanna see what kind of nonfiction books other book bloggers have enjoyed and in the process add some great books to my always expanding to be read list (TBR). Two, I’d love to discover at least a few new book blogs and get in a habit of reading them on a regular basis. Three, by participating in this year’s Nonfiction November I’d like to give my blog a little more exposure and if I’m lucky pick up a new subscriber or two.
Well, it’s a new week and that means a new edition of Five Bookish Links. After another week of wandering around the Internet, here’s my suggestions for bookish places you might want to visit.
- Anne Applebaum is a gifted writer and I love her books about Russia and Eastern Europe. I featured her in an earlier Five Bookish Links post and recently, she was interviewed on Fresh Air by Terry Gross about her new book Red Famine: Stalin’s War On Ukraine.
- There’s a reason Keith Lowe’s Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II is promoted on my blog as “highly recommended” and that’s because it’s the best damn book about Europe in the wake of World War II I’ve ever read. Check out his Five Best Books on the Aftermath of World War II.
- Two and half years ago I hit the jackpot at a book sale. Not only did I acquire some great books, but I also scored an autographed copy of Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. According to a short article that appeared in The Week magazine here are the six science books that inspired her.
- Years ago an op-ed piece appeared in the New York Times in the form of an open letter to incoming college freshman. In that piece, the author encouraged students to read up on a number of subjects including human consciousness. In keeping with that sound bit of advice, here’s a list of Top 10 Books about Human Consciousness by Adrian Owen from the Guardian.
- Some of you might be old enough to remember the cool looking covers produced back in the 80s by Vintage Paperbacks. Even if you aren’t old enough, you might have a few of them tucked away in your personal library. For more on not just the funky cover art of Vintage but also on the importance of reading I highly encourage you to read Jason Diamond’s outstanding essay on Longreads.