Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Books I'd Give to Readers Who Have Never Read...Oh, Dear...Nonfiction


Top Ten Kinds of Books I'd Give To Readers Who Have Never Read Nonfiction 

I know you. You hear the word "nonfiction" and you shut down. You visibly shudder. You loathe it. You know what nonfiction is. You got enough of that in college. Ugh.

Give me a chance. I've been where you are. I wasn't a nonfiction aficionado either. 

Then I found the good stuff. The amazing nonfiction. The nonfiction that reads like fiction.

Let me share some of my favorites with you. 

Travel.
Old travel books read like a list of where-to-go and what-to-do, but that's old travel books. If you haven't read a travel narrative lately, I urge you to try The Roads to Sata (I just finished this one yesterday and it is a must-read) or Lost on Planet China or Dark Star Safari or Shooting the Boh. You can take a trip anywhere in the world for the cost of a paperback.


   

Memoir.
Oh, there is nothing like a good memoir. It's powerful and amazing and, somehow, it's also true. I have a long list of memoirs I recommend, but if you are new to memoir, I'd send you in the direction of The Glass Castle. Then go on to try Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. And The Last Shot. Maybe The Year of Magical Thinking.

    


Moving-and-Starting-Over Books.
You might call these travel. You might call these memoir. I call them MASO books. People decide their lives need a reboot and off they go to a run-down house in the wilds of Arkansas or an old castle in France. These are magical. Try Still Life With Chickens or Nine Hills to Nambonkaha or The Olive Farm or 36 Views of Mount Fuji.

    

Religion.
Anne Lamott. You say you've tried books on religion and they are awful and pedantic, as if they were written by the people who persecuted Christ rather than Christ himself? I say, Try Anne Lamott. She writes out of her own life experiences and she's authentic and quirky and hilarious and sad. Try Anne Lamott. Traveling Mercies. Help, Thanks, Wow. Grace (Eventually). And Francis Chan's Crazy Love is fantastic, too.

     

History.
Oops. You are halfway down the street. Running. Wait. Give history a chance. There are some amazing history books out there. If you are new to history, or you have a bad history with history, I urge you to try Unbroken. Try Unbroken, just try it, and you will be an instant history convert. Later, you might try Devil in the White City and Isaac's Storm and Seabiscuit and The Warmth of Other Suns.

    

Foodie Nonfiction.
Yes, cookbooks, sometimes, but also food narratives (Yes, that's a genre!) Try old ones like M.F.K. Fisher's An Alphabet for Gourmets or new ones like Jam Today and Candy Freak.

    

Biographies.
I hate celebrity bios. Abhor them. I was late to the game with biography. (Here's where that came from: When I was in sixth grade, I was crazy about Sound of Music. I had to have a bio of the real Maria from the Scholastic book order. What a disappointment!) Then I found Kathleen Krull. Yes, she writes biographies for children, but who cares? They are fabulous. Start with her Lives of series (I'd suggest Lives of the Artists first) and go on to her bio of Wilma Rudolph and then find her Dr. Seuss and you will not stop. Kathleen Krull can tell the story of a life.

     

Writing How-to Books.
I'm not talking about textbooks. Trust me here. Put down the latest from Writer's Digest and spend ten bucks on Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott again) or Writing Down the Bones or Letters to a Young Poet. That's all you need.

    

Creative Nonfiction.
It is a term that is batted about in the book world, with strong feelings both for and against, but I will encourage you to give it a try, though you shouldn't go into it expecting The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth. Here's my favorite collection of short pieces: The Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction.


Maira Kalman-ish 
I don't even have a name for Maira Kalman books (Draw-and-Write?) but try this kind of book anyway. Maira Kalman draws great pictures and thinks aloud about the world, and she's mesmerizing. Principles of Uncertainty. And the Pursuit of Happiness. There's another coming out in the fall. And let's just hope she's busy drawing and painting and writing right now. In that same vein are Le Road Trip and Relish.

  



I have other new nonfiction categories like Books-about-Books and Road Trips and Let's-Shake-Up-Education and Odd Pets, but I'll save those for another Tuesday.



I bet you have recommendations for me. I'd love to hear them!



Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

37 comments:

  1. Well I do shudder at the mention of non-fiction. But I guess history and travel books are a good bet.

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    1. You are the perfect person to read my little list, then! Please, please, try one or two of these!

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  2. Great list! I do think too many people turn their noses up at non-fiction when they should really give it a chance. I don't read heaps of non-fiction, but I'm a history lover so I do have several history books and some historical memoirs that I find really interesting. :) I recommend trying out one of Ian Mortimer's non-fiction titles; he's written both The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England and The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England, and he makes history so accessible!

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    1. I'm add those to my wish list. Thank you, Jess!

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  3. The closest I've come to non-fiction has been memoirs - which are always suffer a bit of artistic embellishment. I should probably give some of these a go.

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    1. Yes, I hope you will. Not all nonfiction is awful!

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  4. I love non-fiction. Great picks! I don't have any overlapping books- but I went with books that I'd recommend to social and religious conservatives, so religion was kind of an overlap. :)

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  5. Ha--yes, fiction lovers are notorious for balking at nonfiction. I often have to take a very deep breath before starting a nonfiction book!

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    1. I blame those of us who work in schools! We give nonfiction a bad rap.

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  6. Great list! I love J. Maarten Troost's travel memoirs but have yet to read the one set in China even though I have it on the shelf. Same with Bird by Bird. I love foodie books so I'll have to check out the 3 you mention. I don't think I've read any of them! I love Tony Horwitz's travel/history books. If you like Troost I think you'd like him though his book Confederates in the Attic wasn't a favorite.

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    1. I love Tony Horwitz's books, too. (I don't remember reading anything from him in a while...I must go check and see if I've missed something.)

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  7. I LOVE non-fiction, but haven't read any of these (I did read The Year of Magical thinking, but it's not pictured). I am adding Anne Lamott to my list of books to try. She looks very fascinating!

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  8. Yay for nonfiction! I don't read enough nonfiction I think because of my studies but I really enjoy them from time to time, especially from the history section. Love that you included the writing books because I was looking up Lamott and Goldberg's books just last night! Great lists :)

    My TTT

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    1. Writing Down the Bones is a writing fear buster.

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  9. I have The Glass Castle on my shelf but haven't picked it up yet. I really enjoyed Letters to a Young Poet.

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  10. I picked nonfiction, also, but your list is much more comprehensive. I am a fan of Anne Lamott, too. Gosh, now I want to go back and reorganize my list like yours. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

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  11. I've heard tons of great things about The Glass Castle and someone recently recommended The Year of Magical Thinking to me. I don't often read non-fiction but the few I have I have enjoyed. All of these look super interesting, I'm definitely adding them to my TBR. Thanks for this fantastic list!

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  12. I guess we all decided to add Jeannette Walls to our non-fiction lists! :) I love how you did sub-genres. Wonderful.

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    1. The Glass Castle was extraordinary. Sad, but, somehow, not.

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  13. Candy Freak sounds like my kind of read as I have a sweet tppth like you wouldn't believe!!

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    1. It is a fun nonfiction book. No one could say it was stodgy.

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  14. You are spot-on in your history recommendations. Isaac's Storm was the one that got me on my latest non-fiction streak. I'd like to add a word of encouragement to others who are trying history or other non-fiction for the first time: use the old give-it-at-least-a-100 pages rule. Isaac's Storm started out slowly for me -- got a bit lost in some of the meteorology at first-- but the quality of the writing drew me in and by the time the storm hit, I was gripping the edges of the book. Some parts were just jaw-dropping.

    A few other history titles I'd recommend:
    In the garden of beasts : love, terror, and an American family in Hitler's Berlin / Erik Larson.
    The boys in the boat : nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics / Daniel James Brown.
    One summer : America, 1927 / Bill Bryson (if there is one writer who can make non-fiction entertaining, it's Bryson!)

    In the Foodie category, Ruth Reichl's first autobiographical book, Tender at the bone, is also a great read.

    I'm also a huge fan of the very real, highly quotable Anne Lamott!

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    1. I love Bill Bryson but I was so sure that I'd never be interested in this latest book from him that I passed it on. Darn!

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  15. I'll be the first to admit that I don't read non-fiction very much, although I've already read two this year and plan to read another one this month. I have wanted to read Bird by Bird and I've thought of reading Unbroken.

    My TTT Post

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  16. Letters to young poet seems really cool, definitley will be giving that a shot :)http://perksofbeingreaders.blogspot.com/2014/08/ya-contemporary-novels-about-real-life.html

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  17. I also did non-fiction! My list is so completely different than yours, but I'm glad I found another non-fiction lover. It really is very underappreciated, especially since it's so broad. You can find something in just about any topic you want. :)

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  18. I think this is a great topic! I do like to read non-fiction, I really do, but it just goes so slowly for me. But I think I would definitely pick up on those travel books, or how to write books (even though I don't write). Also, I think I would definitely add the Quiet book to the list, by Susan Cain. It's about psychology, but explains it really, really well. I highly recommend it.

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  19. I tend to shy away from non-fiction unless it's something in particular I'm looking for. You have a great list there that I will have to check out. Thanks for sharing.
    Sharon @ Sharon's Book Nook!

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  20. You have my attention by mentioning non-fiction that reads like fiction! I only read the occasional humorous memoir but some of these books do look tempting! Thanks for steering me in the right direction.

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  21. I love traveling books, I love to know new places to go and the different cultures out there. Memoirs and biographies are the same for me about the fact that need to be an interesting charater for me to read it, I like to read them but because the protagonist calls me in some way. Food book are awesome; I like to eat, so wherever come with food, I'm into it!

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  22. I love nonfiction--read it exclusively for years. I didn't know Anne Lamott wrote spiritual titles. I'll have to check them out. I loved her writing craft book, Bird by Bird.

    Thanks for visiting The Book Connection on Tuesday.

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  23. I do read nonfiction now, but I am going to go through these as I was a reluctant nonfiction reader for so long.

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