Sunday, November 18, 2018

Nonfiction November: Reads Like Fiction





Hooray, Nonfiction November is here! Nonfiction November is a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction. Each week, we’ll have a different prompt and a different host looking at different ideas about reading and loving nonfiction.

Week 4 (Nov. 19 to Nov. 23)
Reads Like Fiction (Hosted by Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?)
Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques?

Nonfiction doesn't have to read like a novel for me to enjoy it, but my favorite nonfiction books do. In nonfiction, the most important thing is truth. But the second most important thing is meaning, and I generally need story to get meaning.

And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

I love to read through books of information, like encyclopedias and dictionaries; no one would mistake an encyclopedia or a dictionary for a novel. What I love about reference books like these is the feeling that all the important things have been collected and shared in one place. 

What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? 

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great MigrationUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and RedemptionEncyclopedia of an Ordinary LifeThe Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball DreamsThe Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme CourtGod Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star StateThe Glass CastleLeonardo da VinciAntifragile: Things That Gain from DisorderWoman: An Intimate GeographyThe Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through JapanThe Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

For Adults:
God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright
The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
LeRoad Trip: A Traveler's Journal of Love and France by Vivian Swift
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Resistance by Laura Hillenbrand
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier
The Roads to Sata: A 2,000 Mile Walk Through Japan by Alan Booth
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

And let's add two more that I finished this week:
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
The American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee


Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the WorldRadioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and FalloutRedwoodsThe Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques CousteauOne Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles DarwinBird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and WhyLet's Hatch Chicks!: A Day-by-Day Chick Hatching Guide for KidsDolphin Baby!Ella: Queen of JazzSchomburg: The Man Who Built a LibraryIf the World Were a Village: A Book about the World's PeopleLives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought)

For Children:
Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World by Katherine Halligan
Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout
Redwoods by Jason Chin
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky
Bird Talk: What Birds are Saying and Why by Lita Judge
Let's Hatch Chicks: A Day-to-Day Chick Hatching Guide for Kids by Lisa Steele
Dolphin Baby! by Nicola Davies
Ella: Queen of Jazz by Helen Hancocks
Schomberg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford
If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World's People by David J. Smith
Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes by Kathleen Krull








Wednesday, November 14, 2018

My Favorite Quilts at the 2018 Houston International Quilt Festival

Next year the festival will celebrate its 45th anniversary. I first went to the Houston International Quilt Festival nearly thirty years ago. Quilting has always been special to me. Grandma Ashley taught me to quilt when I was in college. She showed me how to use a template ("a tem-plate," she called it, with her beautiful northern Louisiana voice) to cut out each piece. Then we sewed each piece together to form a quilt top. We layered in some batting and a back, and then began to quilt the pieces together. That was my first quilt.

I've since made many more, and now there are all sorts of quilting kits and quilting machines and quilting computer programs. 

I still go to the Quilt Festival for one reason, though: to see the amazing quilts fashioned by people all over the world. 

Here are my favorites from this year's festival.



































Writing: Great Thoughts on Practice

“Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it.”
---Ray Bradbury 

"Exercising is a good analogy for writing. If you’re not used to exercising you want to avoid it forever. If you’re used to it, it feels uncomfortable and strange not to. No matter where you are in your writing career, the same is true for writing. Even fifteen minutes a day will keep you in the habit."—-Jennifer Egan 

"You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well. —-Jennifer Egan




“Every morning you climb several flights of stairs, enter your study, open the French doors, and slide your desk and chair out into the middle of the air. The desk and chair float thirty feet from the ground, between the crowns of maple trees. The furniture is in place; you go back for your thermos of coffee. Then, wincing, you step out again through the French doors and sit down on the chair and look over the desktop. You can see clear to the river from here in winter. You pour yourself a cup of coffee. 
Birds fly under your chair. In spring, when the leaves open in the maples’ crowns, your view stops in the treetops just beyond the desk; yellow warblers hiss and whisper on the high twigs, and catch flies. Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.”
—-Annie Dillard

“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.”
---Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book Lovers Heaven

One of these days, I am going to die.

I hope I will go to Book Lovers Heaven.

Here are some things I hope will be there:

Good reading chairs.


Book pencils.


Games of Bookopoly.


Lego librarians.


Book-scented candles.


Old card catalogs used for storage.


Literary tattoos.


Book Lovers Memory Challenge games.


Book quilts.


"Fully relax while reading your favorite book."


Book shoes.

Good coffee. 

An amazing library setting.


Who would like to go to Book Lovers Heaven with me?
Do you have other ideas for furnishings that I have left off?









Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each Tuesday That Artsy Reader Girl assigns a topic and then post her top ten list that fits that topic. You’re more than welcome to join her and create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list as well. Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! Please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own post so that others know where to find more information.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Nonfiction November Be the Expert: My List of the Best Books for Writers About Writing









Hooray, Nonfiction November is here! Nonfiction November is a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction. Each week, we’ll have a different prompt and a different host looking at different ideas about reading and loving nonfiction.

Week 3 (Nov. 12 to Nov. 16)

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Hosted by Julie at Julz ReadsThree 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 an expert on lots of odd genres of nonfiction books.

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

I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was five. I wrote it on a Rainbow Tablet. It was a collection of stories. Each story was on a different color of paper.

My friend and I wrote books together when I was in elementary school. We wrote mysteries with a main character named Walter. He was, as I remember him, bumbling. None of our Walter stories have survived, but I remember my friend and I laughing hysterically as we spent entire summer afternoons writing about Walter's adventures.

I've always kept a journal and I have taken writing classes off and on at the community college and through the Inprint Teachers as Writers program for over thirty years.

But the truth is that I'm not so much a writer as I am a reader of books about writing.

In honor of Nonfiction November and NaNoWriMo, here is my list of The Best Books for Writers About Writing:


Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Art and Fear: Observations of the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor
Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life by Natalie Goldberg
If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit
You Must Revise Your Life by William Stafford
Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Writing Mojo by Grant Faulkner
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry
Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to Be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are
Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg
The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach by Robin Behn
Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, illustrated by Maira Kalman
by Sol Stein
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard


What kinds of nonfiction are you most familiar with?
Are you a writer? Have you read any of these?
Do you have any books to add to my list?