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A (Possible) Nonfiction November Reading List

nonfiction november reading list

Inspired by an article by Anne Boyd Rioux about gender equity in nonfiction, Shannon (River City Reading) recently made it one of her goals to read more nonfiction by women. Rioux’s article, in written in response to the overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male, includes these really frustrating facts:

A recent study in Mayborn also showed that among all of the major prizes in nonfiction over the past 20 years, only 20 percent were won by women and five percent by people of color. The study also found that these results don’t simply prove jury bias; the percentage of books by women submitted to the major competitions was only 30 percent last year.

Like Shannon, I know that my nonfiction choices are dominated by men. And since payin attention is the best way to actually do something about it, I decided to borrow Shannon’s goal for my personal reading list for Nonfiction November. Once I started looking at my shelves, I realized I have a ton of great books by women to choose from. Here’s what’s on my stack (in addition to my book in our readalong):

  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (2010) – This is a book that looks at the way the War on Drugs is disproportionately hurting communities of color. Given what happened this summer in Ferguson, this is a must read.
  • Sex and the Citadel by Shereen El Feki (2013) – “As political change sweeps the streets and squares, the parliaments and presidential palaces of the Arab world, Shereen El Feki has been looking at an upheaval a little closer to home – in the sexual lives of men and women in Egypt and across the region.”
  • Factory Man by Beth Macy (2014) – A look at how one local manufacturer helped save a small town. I found this one randomly at the library and I’m intrigued.
  • The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (2014) – This one just arrived in the mail yesterday, and I am so excited about it. In short, “An investigative journalist uncovers a hidden custom that will transform your understanding of what it means to grow up as a girl.”
  • Minneapolis Madams by Penny Petersen (2013) – Apparently Minneapolis used to have a thriving red-light district run by politically powerful madams. Sounds interesting!
  • The News Sorority by Sheila Weller (2014) – After decades of male dominance, three women – Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Christiane Amanpour – have made it into the boys club. I’ve been excited about this one since I got it in the mail.

So there you have it – lots of great nonfiction by women to choose from. And just as an FYI, reading nonfiction during November isn’t a requirement for participating in our little celebration – it’s just something that I’m excited to do to try and get back into my nonfiction reading groove.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • BermudaOnion(Kathy) October 24, 2014, 6:59 am

    I listened to Factory Man and talked about it to everyone as I did. I think you’ll like it.

    • Kim October 26, 2014, 12:39 pm

      I’m glad to hear it’s good — I picked it up on a whim at the library because it seems like it’s right up my alley.

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes October 24, 2014, 9:23 am

    Woohoo, reading women! Those all look like great choices.

  • Leila @ Readers' Oasis October 24, 2014, 9:56 am

    Great list! I really don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but I think I’m going to have to read The Underground Girls of Kabul. I’ll go reserve a copy at my library!

    • Kim October 26, 2014, 12:41 pm

      I started it this weekend — it is really good.

  • Trisha October 24, 2014, 2:08 pm

    Minneapolis? Really? That seems odd for some reason. Ah, geographical stereotypes.

    • Kim October 26, 2014, 12:41 pm

      I agree! That’s why I grabbed it at the bookstore when I saw it. That idea seems strange to me.

  • Shannon @ River City Reading October 24, 2014, 2:20 pm

    Thanks for sharing my post! When I crunched the numbers, I ended up being about 50% women for nonfiction this year, but almost all of them were memoirs. There’s nothing wrong with memoirs at all but I really want to give the ladies who write hard nonfiction some more attention (especially after reading the criticism of Karen Abbott for not “revealing her sources” in Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, which I’m pretty sure was almost all based on her gender). I’m almost all set to read strictly women for Nonfiction November (woohoo!) and it’s super exciting. I’m so glad to see The New Jim Crow on your list, since it’s one I’m really interested in.

    • Kim October 26, 2014, 12:43 pm

      That review of Abbott’s book was so gross. I didn’t do any number crunching to see what percent of my nonfiction was by women, but I imagine it’s not a huge amount (especially if you ignore memoirs). It’s going to be a good focus for the month.

  • Teresa October 24, 2014, 4:17 pm

    FACTORY MAN! I haven’t read it yet because it came due at my library before I could and now has a wait list, but I’ve got to get to it. I grew up not far from where it takes place. Plus, the author was my writing teacher, and she’s a big part of the reason I’m confident enough in my writing to take it public on a blog. She’s is a great journalist, able to get at the human dimension to a story and share it with compassion. I was thrilled to see that she has a book out.

    • Kim October 26, 2014, 12:44 pm

      That is so awesome! That makes me even more excited to pick up this book — the human side of this particular type of story is really important.

  • Sheila (Book Journey) October 24, 2014, 5:01 pm

    I love good non fiction! The Minneapolis one has my eye!

  • Jeanne October 26, 2014, 1:13 pm

    A friend of mine tells me I must read The New Jim Crow. Maybe if you read it, it will spur me to keep up, or at least follow your example.

  • Aarti October 27, 2014, 10:03 pm

    It really is hard to find non-fiction by women that is not memoirs or biography! It is hard to find non-fiction by POC, too – talk about a genre dominated by white males! Another book you might like is called Factory Girls, about Chinese girls working in the big cities in the late 1990s/early 2000s. I found it really interesting.

    • Kim October 30, 2014, 9:46 pm

      Nonfiction really is dominated by white men — the National Book Award finalists list is evidence of that. But clearly there are lots of great options to choose from!