Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Non-Fiction November - Week 1

Wahoo!

Here it is - Nonfiction November - one of my favourite times in the book blogging year.

Hosted this year by Julie (JulzReads), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Katie (Doing Dewey), and Rennie (What’s Nonfiction) — Nonfiction November is a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction. Each week, there will be a different prompt and a different host looking at different ideas about reading and loving nonfiction.


Week 1: (Oct. 29 to Nov. 2) – Your Year in Nonfiction 

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions: 
What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year?

Good question
I haven't read as much non-fiction this year as previously, only 14 titles in fact.
 But my favourite book this year has been Richard Lloyd Parry's Ghosts of the Tsunami.


In preparation for a trip to Japan to celebrate my 50th birthday, I read a lot of books set in Japan.
This account of the 2011 tsunami was moving, informative and absorbing from start to finish.

Huge tsunamis recur along the Sendai plain every 800-1000 years, but lesser ones can occur every decade. The most destructive, with 22 000 deaths, was the 1896 Meiji Sanriku Tsunami. Another one in 1933 killed 3000 people. The 1960 tsunami that was result of the largest ever recorded earthquake off the coast of Chile (9.5 magnitude) killed 142.
 
'Tsunami stones' mark the high water point of previous tsunamis. However the 2011 undersea megathrust earthquake was the biggest to ever hit Japan (9.0-9.1 magnitude). It was also, 'the fourth most powerful in the history of seismology. It knocked the Earth six and half inches off its axis; it moved Japan thirteen feet closer to America. In the tsunami that followed more than 18 000 people were killed. At its peak, the water was 120 feet high.'

The tsunami was not just one big wave like the painting above (or even the design on the front cover of the book) suggests, but a series of pulses, 'washing in and washing out again, weaving over, under and across one another.'
 
The elderly were more likely to die than the young - 54% of the dead were over 65 years of age.
All but one school in the area got all their children to safety.

Normally I read a lot of memoir and biographies, but somehow I've managed to get through this last year with only a couple to my name. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman was the stand out, although I also enjoyed Raina Tegemeier's Smile and Sisters. It's a curious thing that the 3 memoirs I read this year were also all graphic novels. One of the things this meme has shown me over the years, is that graphic can be a great way to access non-fiction.

And in case you were wondering, my LEAST favourite non-fiction title this year was David Sedaris' Calypso.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

Travel and Japan featured strongly this year.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

The book I've recommended the most at work this past year is Rosamund Young's reissue of The Secret Life of Cows - a delightful little book full of anecdotes and illustrations about cows.


I was expecting a light-weight self-help book with lots of swearing, but it's more than that.

TSAONGAF is not only Manson's hard-won journey into becoming an adult, but also Buddhism 101 heavily laced with the F-bomb! 
Manson's wraps up Buddhist thoughts about suffering, attachment and letting go ever so sweetly and succinctly in his title. The rest of the book expands on these ideas with humour, clearly articulated anecdotes and catchy phrases.

For all the young women in your life, I highly recommend The Wonder Down Under by Nina Brochmann & Ellen Stokken Dahl. Not, as you might first think, a book about Australia, but a fun, engaging book about women's health.

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

My main wish this year is to finally finish several of the half-read non-fiction titles by my bed -

  • Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon
  • The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne
  • Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father by John Matteson
  • Basho: The Complete Haiku by Matsuo Bashō and Jane Reichhold
  • Rusted Off: Why Country Australia Is Fed Up by Gabrielle Chan

Waiting in the wings, I also have Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales.


Join in by answering the questions above, via the Instagram photo challenge for Nonfiction November, co-hosted by (@kimthedork) & Leann (@Shelf_Aware_) and/or tweeting your thoughts with #NonficNov

33 comments:

  1. Reading books surrounding a place you're going to visit is a great idea - Japan to celebrate your 50th birthday sounds like a birthday plan! I hope you had an amazing time.

    Last year I read The Secret Life of Owls.. I wonder if it is the same, but about owls, as the cow book.

    I hope you're able to get to all the books you want to during Nonfiction November; it feels great completing a book that has had a lingering bookmark. Happy reading!

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    1. Thanks Jade.
      Japan was an amazing experience, esp the cherry blossoms - I suspect we will return again and again (it's only a 9 hr flight from Sydney - so very do-able). There was so much more to see and experience as we only visited one of the 4 main islands.

      The Secret Life of the Owl likes quite similar to my cow book, although the cow book is more anecdotal about one families relationship with their herd.

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  2. You've successfully sold me on three nonfiction books, Bron. I hope Amazon is sending you a cut of my spending there.

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  3. I listened to the audio of The Secret Life of Cows and really enjoyed it. I might have to find a copy of the book to see the illustrations, that's one of the few things that I hate (well find really disappointing) with audio books. I've bought The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck but haven't got around to reading it, perhaps I need to bring it up the list... I'd bring Any Ordinary Day out of the wings and put it front and centre- it's really good, I've nearly finished the tea sipping version of the audio.

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    1. Nancy loved it too - she's reading more AWW in the Netherlands than I am right now!

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    2. I cannot say enough 'goods'about "An Ordianry day".
      This week I took went for a long walk with a good ex-work friend I see
      only a few times a year. We enjoyed a lunch and I toasted our glasses of wine with
      the words: Here's to an ordinary day...they are miraculous!
      Thanks to you Brona I've discovered the Australia zeitgeist. Your writers have a characteristic taste and outlook that is embedded in your Australia DNA. That produces great non-fiction reads as An Ordinary day (Sales), Cardinal (Milligan), Feeling the Heat (Chandlar), Trauma Cleaner (Krasnostein)and a very touching memoir How to Get There (Mackellar in Tasmania). I hope to read many more AWW in 2019!

      Delete
  4. t add to your Japanese nonfiction shelf, a book I just discovered: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33357041-ikigai

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    1. The idea of Ikigai (a reason for living) sounds very intriguing - a Japanese version of Hygge perhaps?
      The cover of the book is gorgeous too :-)

      Delete
  5. Interesting that you didn't like Calypso! Do you just not like Sedaris in general or was there something about this one in particular?

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    1. I started off enjoying his sense of humour & perspective (he's only a wee bit older than myself, so i could relate to a lot of his growing up/cultural stories) but as the book went along I found his humour and stories were becoming mean, verging on cruel and self-serving. By the end, the bits I didn't like outweighed the bits I enjoyed.

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  6. Of all your selections Richard Lloyd Parry's book Ghost's of the Tsunami is the one I'd like to read.
    I know exactly where I was when the tusnami hit. The images unforgettable.
    I read: Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father...interesting.
    I'm sad to say The Complete Maus....is on the back burner. I keep it on the table next to the reading chair...so if I feel the urge...I'll get reading it again!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Graphic novels are not for everyone Nancy, and I'm still surprised that I've embraced them so happily!

      I really hope that I finally finish Eden's Outcast this month...it has been lurking half-read for way too long (2 yrs now I think)!

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  7. Oooh, now I have to get involved in NF November! I'd forgotten. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. I got myself organised this year & copied all the weekly questions into 5 draft posts when I spotted the first call up last month...I just have to answer them now! But every time I open up my dashboard, I see them sitting there waiting patiently for me :-)

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  8. 14 non-fiction titles is a lot more than I've read this year! I would like to read Ghosts of the Tsunami and I think The Secret Life of Cows sounds like a lovely, fun read. Good luck with finishing some of those half-read books.

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    1. I finished the Mary Wollstonecraft/Mary Shelley book last night so feel that #NonFicNov is off to a very promising start :-)

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  9. The Tsunami book sounds fascinating, though I don't know if I'd read that in preparation for a trip to Japan. Maybe it's more like if I couldn't go, and wanted to feel better about it...but maybe you're braver!

    And I really need to read Maus.

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    1. I felt the only way to face all the natural disasters that Japan is prone to was head-on! Reading books like this help me to understand that if I should ever find myself in a situation where the tsunami alarms start ringing is to get out of there, to high ground, straight away. Don't hang around to watch, take video's or assume we have time to get away later. Get out now.

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  10. That's so cool that you've been reading a lot of books set in Japan - great way to get ready for your trip!

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    1. It adds to the anticipation factor BEFORE I go, then continues the love AFTER I return as well as giving me ideas about where I'd like to go next time :-)

      Win/win!

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  11. That's a good tip about nonfiction graphic novels. I have found some fabulous memoirs that way! The Tsunami book sounds so good!

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  12. I had no idea this was an annual thing- so excited to participate down the line!

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    1. I think this may be our 6th year of NonFicNov - you're welcome to join in as little or as much as you like. Some years I only get around to putting up a post for one or two of the weeks. This year I'm hoping to hit all 5 :-)

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  13. I have been a little skeptical of reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Its description says that it is aimed at millennials - which I am not. But I might give it a try if it's not only targeted at a particular group of people whose culture I don't fully understand.

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    1. A lot of it is about becoming an adult as seen through a Buddhist lens in our modern world (ie millennials). But it's a phase we've all been through and it was nice to read this & feel myself to be on the other side, calmer, wiser yet empathetic to those still trying to work it out.

      I'm also very interested in/drawn to Buddhist thinking & it was fascinating to see a modern interpretation on many old ideas.

      It's also a fairly quick, easy read, so it's not a huge investment of time.

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  14. Ghosts of the Tsunami is on my mental TBR, but I think I'll need to shore up my heart a bit before reading. ^^;; I love that you're reading a lot of nonfiction about a place before you visit! If you'll be coming to Kyoto check out Exploring Kyoto by Judith Clancy - it's 31 walks that cover the "must-see" attractions as well as sights that are off the beaten path. Here's to an amazing November!

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    1. I spotted that a new edition of Exploring Kyoto was coming out this year, but it's publication date was a week AFTER we flew out!
      I'll save it for our next trip :-)

      Delete
  15. You have so many good books listed in this post! Ghosts of the Tsunami sound stunning, but I think I need to prepare a bit before picking it up. The Secret Life of Cows also sounds totally delightful, I love books like that. Thanks for joining us this year!

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  16. I think you're brave to pick up The Secret Lives of Cows! I think I'd not have done it, but you make it sound delightful.

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  17. How interesting--reading nonfiction in graphic novels! I may have to give it a shot. I've only read one graphic novel--basically ever--but I find them an intriguing medium and I'd love to try a few more. I have a new reading goal for next year--thanks!

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  18. Oh - The Secret Life of Cows DOES sound delightful! And would make a great gift for my daughter-in-law who was raised on a diary farm. I think I'll read it too - more common ground with her.

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  19. I'm completely intrigued by The Secret Life of Cows. Reading through the comments above makes me think I should add Any Ordinary Day to my wish list, too!

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