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Because putting together book lists is my favorite thing – I’m really excited to be hosting this week’s topic of Nonfiction November – Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert:

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I’m going to break the rules a little bit and offer up a list that’s a combination of Be the Expert and Become the Expert – three books all about genes and genetics.

First, the two books I’ve already read:

The Family Gene by Joselin Linder

For years, members of Joselin Linder’s family have come down with a deadly illness that doctors cannot explain. As Linder struggles to understand her own mysterious symptoms – a blocked liver, swollen legs, and a heart murmur – researchers she spoke with suggested that the illness haunting her family may actually be a private genetic mutation. In the book, Linder explores her family’s medical history, the development of gene science, and what it’s like to be a young woman with a potentially fatal mutation making choices that would affect generations to come. I was gripped by this book from the first page, and will be recommending it often.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This book is one of my go-to recommendations for people who say they just aren’t interested in nonfiction because it is just so good. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman from Baltimore, was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Without her consent, cells from her cancerous tumor were biopsied and cultured, creating the HeLa cell line. HeLa cells, which have continued to reproduce continually, are known as an “immortalized cell line,” and have been part of many of the most significant scientific breakthroughs of the last 60 years. Based on extensive research and interviews with the Lacks family, this book is a masterful exploration of the intersections of medicine, class and race in the United States.

And finally, the book I am really curious to read now:

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Siddhartha Mukherjee is one of the best science writers out there right now. I’ve read his first book on cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies, but haven’t gotten around to his second, The Gene. In the book, Mukherjee looks to answer the big question posted by genetic science: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information? Mukherjee uses the story of his own family’s struggle with mental illness to explore the science and social history of genetic science and how the things we’re learning now may play out in the real world. He digs deep into the history of genetics, and looks forward to what we know now thanks to the mapping for the human genome.

And Now It’s Your Turn

And now, since I’m the host this week, it’s your turn to share your book lists. If you’re participating this week, feel free to link up your posts to the Mr. Linky below:

Thanks again to everyone who has participated so far. And don’t forget you can join us over on Instagram for our photo challenge using the hashtag #nonficnov. If you follow the hashtag, you’ll find the list of prompts. I hope you’ll join us!

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Something on Sunday: Back to Work!

Happy Sunday! A couple of weeks ago Jenny at Reading the End decided to launch a little project called Something on Sunday, a way to celebrate the little things in life and share some love for the things that matter most. She encouraged people to blog every Sunday “about something that kept you on your feet that week,” big or small, bookish or not, that’s happening right now.

My Something on Sunday for this week happens to be big, and sort of bookish — after almost seven months of unemployment, I got a job!

Since mid-October I’ve been working as the social media specialist for the Washington County Library system. It’s a new position for the library and for the county, which means I’ve had a lot of room to experiment and make the job my own. In general, I’m responsible for running the library’s social media presence, analyzing data about our digital efforts, and strategizing how to better support the work being done at the libraries in our system. It’s so much fun.

I feel like working at a library is sort of the dream for bookworms. This isn’t exactly where I expected to land when I began my career exploration in March, but it also feels like exactly the place where I should be. I’m still adjusting to the fact that my season of sabbatical is over, but I also feel like a kid in a candy store when I get to walk up to the cataloging department and sneak a peek at all the new books going out into the world… so it kind of all evens out.

The transition of going back to work full time has been a little rough. I feel like I’m having to learn to manage my time all over again (through something like the fourth or fifth major change in the last 18 months), but one thing I have now is a greater capacity to give myself a break. Things will settle out soon enough, and at that point I hope to be back here more regularly. Thank you all (again and again and again) for your patience and kindness and good cheer — this community is amazing and I miss being a more active part of it.

Also, I decided to try bangs… photos to come.

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Nonfiction November Week 2: Book Pairing

The first week of Nonfiction November was so much fun. I didn’t get to read all of the posts because of some life constraints, but the ones I did get to read were great. Thanks to everyone who has participated so far!

The second weekly prompt for Nonfiction November is Book Pairing, hosted by Sarah @ Sarah’s Book Shelves:

This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together.

Earlier this year, I had one of the best movie-going experiences of my life, Wonder Woman, which is the inspiration for today’s response. Before seeing the movie, I knew that representation was important, and that there’s something significant in seeing someone who looks like you on a screen doing the cool things we all love. But I didn’t really understand the emotional impact that representation can have until I had to hold myself back from cheering and crying when saw Gal Gadot pick up a truck and throw it at a bunch of German soldiers.

Ever since seeing the movie, I’ve joined the legion of new fans trying to understand this character and dig into her long history in the comic book world. Two books I’ve read this year that I really loved have been (fiction) Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo and (nonfiction) Wonder Woman Unbound by Tim Hanley.

On the fiction side Wonder Woman: Warbringer is a new take on Wonder Woman’s origin story set when Diana is a teenager. Like many other origins, this book begins with a rescue. The human Diana saves is Alia Keralis, another teenager who turns out to be a Warbringer – a descendant of Helen of Troy destined to bring an age of bloodshed to the world. With help from the Oracle, Diana realizes she can help save Alia and save the world, so they set out together to do just that.

Like all of Bardugo’s novels, the cast of characters in this book is just stellar. They’re vivid and funny and flawed and so fun to spend time with. This take on Diana’s first foray into the human world, complete with romance, technology, and friendship, captured the spirit of Wonder Woman in a satisfying way, while also updating her story to fit a new generation of readers. I adored it completely.

Wonder Woman Unbound is an academic’s look at the history Wonder Woman, from comics to the small screen (since it was published in 2014, it doesn’t include the recent movie). The book was a delight, a perfect mix of nerdy humor, data and close reads of the Wonder Woman comics published since the 1940s. Hanley convincingly argues that portrayals of Wonder Woman – more than those of most comic book heroes – reflect the motivations of a particular creator rather than the complicated, slightly subversive values of her original creator William Moulton Marston.

Hanley is a comic book historian, so his take on Wonder Woman can be a little academic in sections. There’s a whole chapter on bondage themes in the comics, which includes a number of charts tracking the specific instances and context for bondage references. The book is still absolutely readable, and in parts very funny, it’s just not the typical narrative nonfiction that I like to recommend.

Thanks again to everyone who has participated so far. And don’t forget you can join us over on Instagram for our photo challenge using the hashtag #nonficnov. If you follow the hashtag, you’ll find the list of prompts. I hope you’ll join us!

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Whew, October. It was a big, busy month that seemed like it flew past me with great speed. Thinking about Nonfiction November must have gotten me excited, because a good chunk of my reading this month was already nonfiction. I kicked off October with three great true stories, and managed to finish plenty during the Readathon as well. Here’s what I read last month:

  1. Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (nonfiction)
  2. The Family Gene by Joselin Linder (memoir)
  3. Reset by Ellen Pao (memoir)
  4. What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Ariman (short stories)
  5. A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo (nonfiction)
  6. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer (nonfiction)
  7. Lumberjanes, Volume 3: A Terrible Plan by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen (comics)
  8. Lumberjanes, Volume 4: Out of Time by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen (comics)
  9. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (fiction)
  10. After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry (memoir)

I am hard-pressed to pick a favorite — they were all great reads. The only book that felt disappointing was The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, but that was mostly because I was expecting a sort of rompy heist book, and it was instead a pretty serious look at the rise of Islamic extremism in Africa. Important, but just not quite what I was expecting. Someday I will get back in the practice of writing book reviews… this is just not that day.

A Look to November

Just as November was kicking off, two fiction books I’ve been on hold for at the library FOREVER came in… so I’ll probably be making time to read Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid this month. But other than that, my entire TBR is nonfiction! Here’s what’s in the queue:

  • The Return by Hisham Matar — I need to finish this one up before my book club meeting this weekend, so it’s top of the list.
  • Reading With Patrick by Michelle Kuo — I just got a notification this memoir about “a teacher, a student, and a life-changing friendship” came in for me at the library, so it’s top of the list too.
  • Code Girls by Liza Mundy — There no excuse for the fact that I stalled out half way through this book… it’s really good, I just stopped. So, I’m going to finish!
  • Bunk by Kevin Young — Graywolf Press nonfiction is so great. I am all in for a book on the history of hoaxes, alternative facts, and fake news.
  • Spineless by Juli Berwald — This is a book about jellyfish!
  • Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen — How many times do I have to say I am going to read this book about unruly women before I actually finish it. Only time will tell…

There you have it, a peek back at my October reading and a peek ahead to what I’m hoping to finish in November. If I can keep myself from wasting time on social media on my phone, I think it will be a great month of reading.

What books are you excited about in November?

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Nonfiction November is here! It feels a bit like the month snuck up on me, but Minnesota got our first snow of the season and I switched to my flannel sheets, so I guess that’s where we are with the year.

The first weekly prompt for Nonfiction November is Your Year in Nonfiction, and will be hosted by Julie @ JulzReads:

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?

A quick reminder on the weekly hosts — if you’re a blogger, make sure you link up your weekly post at Julie’s blog so you can be included in any round ups we work on this week. If you’re a reader, head over there to check out other posts responding to the prompt and, if you feel so inclined, respond to the prompt in the comments. And now, on to my answers!

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

Of course, I can’t pick just one – that’d be pretty much impossible. Five books I’ve loved this year are Portage by Sue Leaf, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith, and Evicted by Matthew Desmond.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

The book I’ve loaned out the most is Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, a look at a series of suspicious deaths of members of the Osage Indian nation in the early 1920s. As the murders in the ‘Reign of Terror’ grew to more than 20 people, the FBI (still a young agency) was called in to try and solve the case. This is a book that can really appeal to people who think they don’t like nonfiction, and people who love well-researched narrative nonfiction, which is why I’ve been able to recommend it so much.

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

Speaking of narrative nonfiction… I feel like that’s been a gap this year. I’ve read a lot of books I’d consider self-help or personal development, but not as many narratives on quirky or curious topics. I’ve got my eyes open for those this month.

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

This year has been another strange one for me. I was laid off in April and just started a new job in October, so I feel like I’ve spent a lot of the year without much of a routine. In addition to book recommendations and community, I’m hoping that this month will help me feel like I’m getting back in the groove of working and blogging and Instagramming and planning.

I’m really psyched to be kicking off this month already. If you’re participating as a blogger, be sure to link up your post at JulzReads

And if you’re not a blogger (or are a blogger who wants to up your Instagram game), we also have a little bonus way to participate we didn’t include in the announcement. Check out these prompts for a #NonficNov Instagram challenge that will kick off on November 1.

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