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Nonfiction November Week 3: Book Pairing

by Kim on November 18, 2013 · 14 comments

nonfiction november 2013 Welcome to week three of Nonfiction November, a month-long celebration of nonfiction I’m co-hosting with Leslie of Regular Rumination! Throughout the month, we’ll be reading and writing about nonfiction, and encouraging other readers to join us through a series of post topics.

I had so much fun reading all of the posts from last week, when readers shared lists of nonfiction on a topic they’ve read a lot about. There were some great lists, several on topics I’d never even thought to read about.

This week we’ll be talking a little bit about fiction and nonfiction:

Book Pairing: Match a fiction book with a nonfiction book that you would recommend.

I have to admit, I struggled with this topic (which seems silly since I helped come up with it). I wanted to try and pair fiction that I loved with nonfiction that I loved equally as much. This proved a little challenging since a lot of the fiction I have adored falls along the science fiction/fantasy/mystery spectrum while my nonfiction often focuses on politics/journalism.

After some time staring at my bookshelves and comparing them to my Goodreads list, I finally came up with a pairing that I’m excited about: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Extra Lives by Tom Bissell.

ready player oneReady Player One was one of my favorite books of 2012. The audio book was so good that I listened to is a second time at the beginning of this year. And I’m tempted to listen to it again over the holidays. It is a ridiculously fun book:

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

I’m not entirely sure what it is I love about this book, other than that it is just fun. Wade is a wonderful, self-depricating, genuine and lovable main character and his quest is just a rollicking fun read. I love that the book comes to a pretty nuanced conclusion about the importance of relationships and how they develop in real and virtual worlds.

extra lives by tom bissellExtra Lives is a more serious book than Ready Player One, but I think the books pair well together because author Tom Bissell comes to a similar conclusion about the role of video games in life that Ready Player One does (games are great, but real life matters too).

In the book, Bissell does a series of close readings of several popular video games — Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3, Mass Effect — to give readers unfamiliar with video games a sort of overview of the gaming landscape. He writes about the increasing complexity of games, the limitations that games face as storytelling devices and as art, and the people who are responsible for the making of today’s most popular games. It’s a great blend of criticism, journalism and memoir.

I’m not really a gamer (although I dabble in some Nintendo DS and Wii games), but I’m really curious about how games work and about gaming culture. From that perspective, I thought this book was a perfect sampler of gaming, written by someone with a background in books — something I’m much more familiar with. Bissell is also not an unabashed champion of games and, in fact, is pretty pessimistic about the ability of games to transcend many of their inherent limitations. It was an interesting (and quick) audio book that I think is a good read for gaming beginners.

Another book on my TBR pile that I think matches well with Ready Player One is Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf. According to Wikipedia, the book is a mix of “travel literature, memoir and immersion journalism” that looks into various gaming subcultures including Dungeons and Dragons, LARP, medieval reenactments, World of Warcraft and Harry Potter. I think it sounds like a lot of fun, although since I haven’t read it I can’t say more than that.

Some housekeeping notes:

  • Leslie is the host for this week, so head over to Regular Rumination to leave a link to your post and check back there Friday for a wrap-up.
  • Don’t forget, you can include links to nonfiction reviews as well as discussion posts on this week’s post.
  • If you’re chatting about nonfiction or sharing posts on Twitter, make sure to use the hashtag #nonficnov.

This month has been amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone participating, commenting and reading. It’s been so much fun so far, and we still have two weeks left!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon @ River City Reading November 18, 2013 at 7:03 am

Such a great pair! I hadn’t heard of Extra Lives, but it sounds like a really interesting one…especially because I loved Ready Player One so much.

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Vasilly November 18, 2013 at 9:21 am

Nice pair of books! I still haven’t read Ready Player One and now I’m adding Extra Lives to my tbr list. Extra Lives reminds me of Reality is Broken by Jane McDonigal. It’s about gaming but in a more positive light.

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Kim November 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I’ve heard of Reality is Broken. I remember being really excited about it when it came out, but it fell off my radar since then.

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Care November 18, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Tom Bissell!

(I hope this works, I’m signed in to WP on my ‘other’ account to see if this works. Sure was a lot easier to leave comments in the ‘old days’.)
– @BkClubCare

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Kim November 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm

It did work :) Have you read some of Tom Bissell’s other books? This was my first one.

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Julie Merilatt November 18, 2013 at 6:13 pm
nikki / click clack gorilla November 19, 2013 at 7:05 am

I did the exact same thing with Ready Player One! Read it, listened to it, and sometimes I just listen to snippets of it from time to time when I want to put something on. Great book, interesting rec, thanks!

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Kim November 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Ready Player One turned into one of my unexpected favorite books. It just makes me happy to listen or read.

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Athira November 19, 2013 at 11:50 am

That’s an interesting pairing. I loved Ready Player One and I would be interested in seeing what Extra Lives is all about.

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Jenny @ Reading the End November 20, 2013 at 7:20 am

I’ve had Extra Lives on my list for a while! I only haven’t read it yet because I’m concerned a lot of it would be lost on me — I’ve played computer/video games maybe a total of ten times in my entire life, so I don’t really have the vocabulary for it.

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks looks interesting, although I think the title is unfortunate. :p

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Kim November 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I’m not really a gamer myself, so I wondered about that too. But I didn’t think anything felt too far outside my comfort zone. Bissell spends a lot of time on character and story, which are familiar to bookworms like us :)

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Katie @ Doing Dewey November 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Ooh, what great books! I love gaming but haven’t read any non-fiction on the subject, so I’d love to check out the books you mentioned. I didn’t play any games in the 80′s so I’m not sure I’d get the references in Ready Player One, but it sounds like an interesting idea :)

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Kim November 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I’m not an ’80s buff either, but not getting a chunk of the references didn’t bother me at all.

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