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April BAND Discussion: Quirky Nonfiction

by Kim on April 30, 2012 · 16 comments

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BAND — Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees — is a group organized to promote the joy of reading nonfiction. We are “advocates for nonfiction as a non-chore,” and we want you to join us. Each month, a member of BAND hosts a discussion on their blog related to nonfiction. 

It looks like I’m sneaking my post in for our April BAND discussion is just the nick of time, which is pretty silly since I’m really excited about the topic that Care (Care’s Online Book Club) suggested for this month: quirky nonfiction. Care explains:

How do you define QUIRKY? and do you read it?

quirky |ˈkwərkē|
adjective ( quirkier, quirkiest )
characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits :  her sense of humor was decidedly quirky.

I like to read nonfiction on odd subjects. I define quirky as a book about a single subject that at first thought might prompt a question of how anyone could find enough stuff to write an entire book?

I love, love, love quirky nonfiction. Whenever people ask what kind of nonfiction I like to read, I almost always respond that I’ll read books on any topic as long as the writing is good.

Since I started blogging, I’ve read quite a few books on what I think are strange topics:

I think what I love most about quirky nonfiction is that it teaches me about something or someone that I otherwise would never learn about. And more often than not, the people or subjects that become the center of a quirky nonfiction book are people who are pursuing a passion with such relish that I can’t help but cheer for them. I always find those books a lot of fun, and a nice break from nonfiction on more serious topics.

I also have quite a few quirky nonfiction books on my shelves just waiting to be read. Some of the ones I”m most looking forward to are:

  • Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky — As the title suggests, a history of salt
  • My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs — Testing out lots of weird and random stuff
  • Three Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger — The story behind a three-game baseball series
  • Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart — Behind the scenes of the flower industry
  • Home by Tracy Kidder — The story of building a house
  • Eels by James Prosek — The history and story of freshwater eels
  • Running the Books by Avi Steinberg — A memoir of being a prison librarian

So there you have it, some of my favorite quirky reads and some of the possibly-strange topics I want to read about next. What are some of your favorite quirky books to read?

UPDATED TO ADD: This post started to get a ton of spam, so I had to turn comments off. Apologies!

Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm April 30, 2012 at 8:30 am

I couldn’t resist commenting on a post that says ‘quirky’ so many times. :)

I didn’t enjoy Candyfreak, but I loved Word Freak.

The most quirky nonfiction I’ve read recently is probably Arctic Obsession: The Lure of the Far North. I really loved that one.

Kim May 2, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Of course not! I loved Word Freak so very much. It was just delightful.

Care April 30, 2012 at 9:45 am

Such wonderful stuff on this list!

Kim May 2, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Thanks! Great topic!

Trish April 30, 2012 at 10:25 am

After reading Care’s post I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as I’m not sure I”ve read a lot of quirky non-fiction. I guess the title that immediately comes to mind, though, is Home by Bill Bryson. Certainly a varied and unusual topic!

Kim May 2, 2012 at 7:32 pm

That’s a great example. I didn’t love that book (Bryson and I don’t get along, it seems), but it’s a pretty quirky book.

softdrink April 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Eels? Seriously? An entire book on eels??

Kim May 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Yes! I have a weird soft spot for books about ocean creatures, I think.

Jenny May 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I love it that people are interested enough in these weird random topics to write entire books about them. There’s something so hopeful about that, somehow. Not just that the world is full of information, but that it’s full of people who are passionate about things you wouldn’t expect, people who can make you care about things you would never bother trying to care about on your own.

Kim May 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I love that too. The competitive bird watching book I mentioned was like that — I was just so delighted that this hobby existed and that someone cared enough to write about it.

Vasilly May 2, 2012 at 7:14 am

I love this topic! I loved Moonwalking with Einstein and will add The Neighborhood Project to my reading list.

Kim May 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm

The Neighborhood Project was such a good book, and I don’t think I managed to convince enough people to read it because it sounds sort of weird at first. But it was totally fascinating — science explaining community development!

Maphead May 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Very cool! I I enjoyed Salt and I hope you end up liking it too. I can’t wait to read your review of Eels since I’ve been wanting to read that book for about a year or so.
Have fun!!

Kim May 2, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I am highly confident I’m going to love Salt once I finally get around to reading it. Now that it’s on my shelf, that’ll help.

Suzanne May 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

My Life as an Experiment is great; in fact, I think all of Jacobs’ books would qualify as quirky.

Last year I read a book called Kosher Nation which was about all aspects of Kosher food — the religious tradition of it, the difficulties of keeping kosher, etc. It was fascinating.

Kim May 2, 2012 at 7:37 pm

That’s a good point. He writes about a lot of quirky things that I deeply enjoy.

Kosher Nation sounds great!

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