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Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

nonfiction november 2014Welcome to the first week of Nonfiction November! I am excited to be your official host this week.  Throughout the month, my co-hosts and I will be reading and writing about nonfiction, and encouraging other readers to join us through a series of post topics and a couple of readalongs.

Our topic this week asks you to look back on the year and share some thoughts on your reading life:

Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

As I was looking through my books read for the year, I realized that I’ve actually been reading less nonfiction this year than I have in the past. My normal split is about 60 percent nonfiction, 40 percent fiction (it’s been that way for the last three years). This year, I’m at about 50-50. I blame that on a bit of blogger burnout — when I want to read something without worrying about reviewing it, I read fiction. But I’m hoping that this month will swing things back to closer to normal!

There are lots of ways to approach this week’s prompt. I decided to go with survey-style:

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

It’s really hard to pick a favorite, but two that stand out in my mind were Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr. and Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

I’ve recommended The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison several times. I’ve also gotten quite a few people to read How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor. Another favorite is Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty. All three of these are among my favorites.

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?

Relatively speaking, I haven’t read many memoirs this year, only about 10 out of 85 books.  I’m also very low on reading nonfiction by authors of color, only seven for the year. I don’t really care about reading more memoirs, although I would love any recommendations, but I am working to read more by authors of color.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I really just want to spend the month nerding out with people about some of the great nonfiction that’s being written right now. And I’m hoping that the celebration will help people who are nervous or reluctant to read nonfiction find a book to pick up and enjoy.

Now, It’s Your Turn

Before we get to the Mr. Linky, a couple of quick programming notes:

  • I’ll be doing the wrap up, so check back here sometime on Friday to see a summary of what everyone has been writing about.
  • Our readalong posts for The Restless Sleep and Cleopatra: A Life will go up on Wednesday, Nov. 19. Follow this link to find out more about the readalongs.
  • If you’re talking about Nonfiction November on Twitter, please use the hashtag #nonficnov for your posts so we can find them. Happy reading!
  • A big shout out to my co-hosts: Leslie (Regular Rumination), Katie (Doing Dewey) and Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books). Leslie will be your host next week.

Welcome to Nonfiction November, everyone! I am so excited to see where this month goes.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sarah @ Sarah's Book Shelves November 3, 2014, 6:28 am

    I’ve read a book about Jackie Kennedy by Sally Bedell Smith…she’s so good at writing women! I’ve also heard great things about Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, but the topic sounds so weird that I haven’t decided if I’m going to read it or not! Excited to participate in NN for the first time!

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 7:50 pm

      She really is! I saw that biography when I was browsing at the library and almost brought it home with me.

  • bookmammal November 3, 2014, 6:28 am

    Thanks so much for hosting the first week of Nonfiction November 2014!
    Empty Mansions made it onto my list of top NF for this year, too–and I’ve got a copy of Elizabeth the Queen sitting here just waiting to be read.

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 7:50 pm

      I thought that biography was just so fun. It’s probably not as critical as it could have been, but I didn’t mind the gentle tone since it was so interesting.

  • Nupur November 3, 2014, 6:45 am

    I don’t have a book blog so I’ll answer the questions here if that is OK!

    What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?
    Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing
    by Anya von Bremzen

    What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
    Relish by Lucy Knisley (a graphic memoir) because it opened up a whole new genre for me.

    What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?
    History.

    What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
    Recommendations for some good non-fiction reads!

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 7:53 pm

      Of course, thanks for participating! I read Knisley’s first book, but I haven’t gotten to Relish — I’m glad it’s great!

  • Leila @ Readers' Oasis November 3, 2014, 7:59 am

    Well, I feel like I haven’t read enough nonfiction this year to make a post of my own on the topic. But I’m going to try to read a few titles this month to participate . . . I’m anticipating Lives in Ruins, which is out later this month. And I’m going to try to read Avi Steinberg’s The Lost Book of Mormon, and possibly Stacy Shiff’s Cleopatra for the readalong.

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 7:53 pm

      I finished up Lives in Ruins in October — it’s really pretty delightful. I heard great things about The Lost Book of Mormon too!

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes November 3, 2014, 8:13 am

    Ooh, I’m hoping to read Empty Mansions and Empathy Exams this month! I loved Smoke Gets in Your Eyes as well.

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 7:54 pm

      The Empathy Exams is so great!

  • Jess - A Book Hoarder November 3, 2014, 8:59 am

    Oh man I forgot that I wanted to read How Star Wars Conquered the Universe. Thanks for the convenient reminder. I may have to add Empty Mansions to my list as well.

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 7:54 pm

      Read it! I’ve shoved that one at a bunch of people and everyone seems to have enjoyed it.

  • Andi (@estellasrevenge) November 3, 2014, 8:59 am

    I’m so glad this day is here!!!! I love nonfiction so much, and I haven’t been reading as much of it this year as usual. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes will probably be a fave of the year, for sure. So good!

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 7:54 pm

      Wasn’t that one fun? I didn’t think I’d love a book about a crematorium so much.

  • CaroG November 3, 2014, 9:12 am

    I am so happy I learned about this! Sharing with you guys is the best incentive a girl can have, and I always end up with the best recommendations!
    Thanks for hosting

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 7:55 pm

      Thanks for participating! I add so many books to my TBR last November — I expect the same this time around.

  • Amy Reads November 3, 2014, 9:20 am

    The Empathy Exams is also the one I’ve recommended the most – isn’t it just fantastic? From it I immediately went and read Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others, which was equally amazing.

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 7:56 pm

      I thought about picking that one up, but I was worried that it would suffer in comparison since I loved The Empathy Exams so much. I’m glad that wasn’t the case for you!

      • Amy Reads November 4, 2014, 6:46 am

        I think you’d like it – it was definitely very different from The Empathy Exams, but it was equally fascinating. Another book that makes you think about every day things in a new light.

  • Julie Merilatt November 3, 2014, 9:43 am

    I’ve asked for Smoke Gets In Your Eyes for my birthday, and I plan on gifting Star Wars to my hubs for Christmas…

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 7:57 pm

      Star Wars is such a good nerd book. I hope your hubby loves it.

  • Trish November 3, 2014, 9:54 am

    I’m so so excited for this month! And I can’t even imagine 85 nonfiction reads (though my total count for the year is about half that, so…). I’m looking forward to all of the recommendations and definitely have Smoke Gets In Your Eyes on my list.

    When I’m reading fiction, I tend to be aware of race and ethnicity but not so much when I’m reading non-fiction. Wonder what the difference is. I was disappointed to realize, though, how few women sit on my non-fiction shelf. And most of the women there are in the form of memoir.

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 8:01 pm

      Oh no, not 85 nonfiction read, I think I’m at about 85 books total… maybe 42ish nonfiction?

      I was pulling together a list of nonfiction by authors of color for Book Riot and I was amazed at how few I had on my shelves. It can be difficult to find them, even when you’re trying.

  • BermudaOnion(Kathy) November 3, 2014, 9:57 am

    I picked up Empty Mansions at BEA and let my mom read it first. She loved it and passed it on to my sister. It sounds like I need to get that book back soon!

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 8:02 pm

      Yes, it’s really great!

  • Iris November 3, 2014, 10:37 am

    I definitely hope this month will make me more comfortable with nonfiction reading outside of work, so I’m glad to see that listed among the goals of the month :)

    This is the second time I see Empty Mansions mentioned (as well as Smoke Gets in your Eyes but I don’t think I could handle that). I definitely want to check it out.

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 8:09 pm

      Empty Mansions is one of those really odd true stories that I just love. It’s a much easier read than Smoke Gets In Your Eyes :)

  • Shannon @ River City Reading November 3, 2014, 12:36 pm

    Thank you so much for hosting again! I’m so glad to see The Empathy exams popping up on so many lists, since it’s one I plan to read this month :)

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 8:11 pm

      I hope you love it!

  • Melissa November 3, 2014, 12:38 pm

    I haven’t been writing as much on my blog these past few months because I’ve been focusing on my final semester of school and writing my portfolio, but I made damn sure to set some time aside for Nonfiction November. :) When I went to the Texas Library Assoc. convention earlier this year, I bought a huge stack of books and a lot of them are nonfiction. I have yet to read even one of them!

    I really want to read Empty Mansions. It’s been on my TBR list ever since last year’s Nonfiction November! It looks so good! So does Smoke Gets in your Eyes; I’ll have to check that out.

    • Kim November 3, 2014, 8:13 pm

      I’m so glad you will be able to join us! Blogging through school is really hard. I hope you find some time to read :)

  • Bill Dedman November 3, 2014, 1:08 pm

    Thank you for your kind review of Empty Mansions. We’re bowled over by the reaction from readers.

    In addition to the 75 photos in the book, we’ve posted hundreds of photos on our website, showing Huguette Clark, her family, her homes, her paintings, and more. That website is http://emptymansionsbook.com/.

    The site also has info for book clubs, and updates on the upcoming film version of “Empty Mansions.”

    Also, information about the resolution of the estate case is in my articles at http://nbcnews.com/clark. (Information about the end of the legal case is also in the paperback book, in all new copies of the hardcover book, and in updates for the electronic book.)

    You can keep up our with updates on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/investigative.reporter.

    Thank you again.

    Best regards,

    Bill Dedman, co-author, Empty Mansions

  • Andrea (aka rokinrev) November 4, 2014, 8:30 am

    Kim, I just finished “A Lady in France” and my hope is to soon read “A Dangled Caret” two memoirs from members of the We Love Memiors facebook group. “Lady…” is realy good. I reviewed it on GoodReads and Amazon

  • Stefani @ Keep It Wordy November 4, 2014, 9:16 am

    What a fun challenge, that also reminds me I should read more nonfiction next year!

  • Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader November 4, 2014, 11:00 am

    Empty Mansions is on my list now for sure. More than one participant has mentioned it. I don’t even remember hearing about it before! There’s just one reason why this event is awesome 😀

    Thanks so much for hosting!

    • Kim November 9, 2014, 9:50 pm

      I saw that one in several lists — that’s cool!

  • Sharlene November 4, 2014, 4:05 pm

    I’ve yet to read any of the books you’ve mentioned! But some of them like the Star Wars one, are on my list! Thanks for hosting this month, I’m excites to join in

    • Kim November 9, 2014, 9:50 pm

      How Star Wars Conquered the Universe was really wonderful.

  • Sharlene November 4, 2014, 4:32 pm

    Grrr meant “excited”!

  • Emma @ Words And Peace November 4, 2014, 8:02 pm

    I’m not participating, because I read nonfiction as it come to me. I’m currently listening and loving every minute of The Innovators by Isaacson. Just finished the amazing 1oo Places in France Every Woman Should Go, awesome travel essays, literary style not your usual tour guide, and not just for women!! so far 16/85 books read this year are nonfiction. my favorite is probably going to be the 100 Places. Though I also loved a lot France on the Brink

    • Kim November 9, 2014, 9:52 pm

      I’ve heard good things about The Innovators — glad you’re enjoying it!

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing November 5, 2014, 5:35 am

    Empty Mansions was one of my nonfiction favorites this year, too. I especially appreciated the audio version because it included the phone conversations between Huguette and nephew – so interesting to hear her voice!

    • Kim November 9, 2014, 9:53 pm

      That’s neat! I love when audio books go a little above and beyond to really utilize the format.

  • Jay November 5, 2014, 6:42 am

    Thanks for hosting! I only hope I have time to do this in addition to my participation n the “No Shave Novemeber” movement… 😉

    • Kim November 9, 2014, 9:54 pm

      It might be tough to balance the two :)

  • Holly November 5, 2014, 7:36 am

    I’m excited about NFN! I am also already adding to my TBR list from the comments here. I think Empty Mansions and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes are moving up in the list!

  • trav November 5, 2014, 9:46 am

    I have seen Empty Mansions about town, but never picked it up. It’s on my list now. I am hoping to gather a solid list of reads throughout this month. Thank you for helping put Nonfiction November together.

  • Carrie November 5, 2014, 4:39 pm

    Thanks for hosing, Kim!

    I loved both Empty Mansions and Elizabeth the Queen. They were both top tens for me last year.

  • Christina November 8, 2014, 4:27 pm

    I’m the opposite — when I want to read something without worrying about reviewing it, I read fiction. There are just some nonfiction books I can’t possibly find the words to review either because I’m too close to the topic or the content is too controversial. I tend to have a 40-60 split, nonfiction to fiction as a result.

    I read Empty Mansions based on your recommendation earlier this year. Such an interesting book — part mystery, part history lesson on the gilded age.

    • Kim November 9, 2014, 9:55 pm

      That’s how I am too — when I want to just read (and not think too much) i tend to great fiction. I still don’t write about all nonfiction books, but I do usually read them with an eye to what I might end up writing.

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey November 9, 2014, 12:01 am

    I’m excited to nerd out about nonfiction this month too! Memoirs are actually a larger part of my nonfiction reading than I’d like. I think I’d like to replace them with more diverse nonfiction reading, perhaps picked up by browsing at the library.

  • Guiltless Reading November 11, 2014, 7:06 pm

    Dang I am slow with this linking up business 😉

  • Kerry M November 13, 2014, 7:52 am

    Sorry to be so delayed in posting my link-up… the week(s) just got away from me! It was fun to go back and look at the nonfic I’d read this year though–reminded me of how many excellent titles I had picked up!