In my Monday Tally a few weeks ago I linked to a website called Five Books. The website is a collection of book lists by experts on particular topics and has the tagline is “The best five books on everything.” Their description says,
Become an instant expert
Every day an eminent writer, thinker, commentator, politician, academic chooses five books on their specialist subject. From Einstein to Keynes, Iraq to the Andes, Communism to Empire. Share in the knowledge and buy the books.
One of the reasons I was intrigued by the site is the idea of reading books on a particular topic or theme in order to build an expertise in something. This is a theme that runs through my reading – when I find a topic I’m curious about, I end up reading a lot of books on that subject until I get burned out on it (example: “back to the farm” memoirs). This love of themes is part of why I love putting together Narrative Nonfiction 5 lists.
But could I really be an expert on anything?
There are some genres I know a lot better than others. I think I’m a terrible YA reviewer because I have nothing useful to say, but I’m a lot better on particular types of nonfiction because I’ve read enough of that genre to make comparisons when I review.
There are also book topics that I know more about. For example, I’m pretty familiar with books about women living in the Middle East. I’ve read quite a few memoirs and nonfiction books on the topic, and when I pick up a new book on a similar theme, I see connections and similarities between the stories.
I could even do my own five books list on the topic “Life as a Woman in the Middle East.” I’ve never studied it, but I’ve read a bit and have some ideas. At this point, that list might include:
- The Woman Who Fell from the Sky by Jennifer Steil
- Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni
- All the Fishes Come Home to Roost by Rachel Manija Brown
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I don’t think I’m the only blogger that reads on a theme or genre or topic enough to be familiar with how it works. Someone at the Book Blogger Convention said that all reviewers are experts in at least one thing – “The Books That I Like” – but I think we could all be experts of a sort, or at least passionate learners on something.
Here’s my question – what topic/genre/whatever are you an “expert” in, and/or what five books would you suggest for someone who wanted to learn about that topic too?