Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Non-Fiction November - Week One


Week 1: (Nov. 2 to Nov. 6) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Leann of Shelf Aware
  • Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
Well, what a year it has been since last we last talked about Non-Fiction together.
I will NOT use the word unprecedented, but it has certainly been weird and unusual!

My reading year, was obviously, disrupted by Covid. I had a period of time where I found it hard to concentrate properly, where I sought out comfort reads and known authors. 

My working life had a non-Covid related hiccup early in the year, but mostly, I have worked right through bushfires, floods and now, a pandemic. Making animated book recommendations whilst wearing a mask has become a new skill to add to my CV!

My favourite non-fiction reads for 2020 can be divided into pre-Covid and Covid.

Fathoms wins hands down as my Covid pick, while A Month in Siena was the pick of the Pre-Covid stack. Whales and art appreciation; nature and beauty; environment and history; what's not to love. And they both have really orange covers!


The environment has been my main reading theme this year. 

I started The Cloudspotter's Guide in desperation during our summer bushfires. After months of smoky skies, I was hanging out for a sight of blue skies and white fluffy clouds. Fathoms jumped out at me because of the whales. After slow reading Moby-Dick last year, whales will now always call my name. 

I am also part-way through Vesper Flights, a collection of lovely essays about birds and nature by Helen MacDonald, and the very beautifully produced Phosphorescence by Julia Baird.

Social issues also felt important to me this year.
From books about lockdown and Covid, to Black Lives Matters and human nature.

Normally I read a lot of biography/memoir, but this year only three titles fit that bill. I'm part way through a fourth by Gabrielle Carey about Elizabeth Von Armin called Only Happiness Here. And I've just started a fifth by Raynor Winn called The Salt Path, which combines memoir with nature.

History also took a back seat this year, although I'm almost finished The Golden Maze (about Prague) by Richard Fidler and I've just started A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman. Judging by it's size and tiny print, I may still be talking about this one for NonFicNov 2021!

My Covid Non-Fiction:
My Pre-Covid Non-Fiction:

My aim for this year's NonFicNov is to finish the several half read books by my bed and review them! As many of them are also Australian titles, I will be able to combine them with my very own AusReading Month, also running throughout November.

30 comments:

  1. Good idea to divide your books pre- and post covid19!
    The virus has had an huge impact an everyone's lives and reading plans.
    I will put your 2 favorites on my TBR list non-fiction 2021!

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    1. They are very different books Nancy, but both are very lovely. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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  2. I've added The Invention of Nature, Fathoms, and Cloudspotter's Guide to my TBR. Thanks, Bron. It's been a difficult year for all of us, I think.

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    1. If I had to name an all-time favourite non-fiction book, then The Invention of Nature would be very close to the top.

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  3. I've just added the Hisham Matar to my TBR list as well. I somehow missed your comments on that earlier. It sounds fascinating.

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    1. It really is Reese. Thoughtful and generous, with lots of discussion about beauty and nature, love and loss and letting go. All my favourite topics :-)

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  4. Fathoms and A Month in Siena sound good. Siena is a lovely city I would like to revisit with more time. I read about the massive whale beaching in Tasmania a few weeks ago and was so saddened.

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    1. Certainly reading Matar's book has now put Siena high on my travel wishlist...if we're ever able to travel freely overseas again!!

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  5. Fathoms looks amazing - I need to add that one to my list. I am a big reader of nature and environment books usually, although this year my reading took a swerve.

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    1. I also found Fathoms quite poetic - very much in the narrative non-fiction mould.

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  6. Thanks for participating again! I know exactly what you mean about the lack of concentration this year. I think a lot of us feel that way.

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    1. I've found my ability to concentrate on reading again, by my blogging attention is still all over the place. It will be interesting to see if I can maintain a good blogging schedule for a whole month to fit in AusReadingMonth & NonficNov & NovNov & MARM & GermLitMonth !!

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  7. I love how you divided this list! The world and life this year does feel very much separated by that division, it's hard to look at it any other way.

    I loved Intimations, definitely a highlight this year, and it surprised me how much I actually liked reading about the pandemic while still in the middle of it! I liked Fathoms but it didn't win me over as much as I wanted it to. I preferred Philip Hoare's The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea. Have you read it? I think it'd be up your alley! A Month in Siena sounds lovely.

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    1. Thanks for the tip about Hoare's whale book, I already had it on my wishlist as Giggs referred to it in Fathoms, although I first learnt about it when I was slow reading Moby-Dick last year.

      I've read quite a few Plague Lit books now this year; Intimations was the last in a run of 4-5 books. One I started, I had trouble stopping. I found comfort in knowing that people had lived and survived and eventually thrived after previous epidemics. Weirdly I found hope and company by reading these books. It helped to be reminded that this year is not, in fact, unprecedented and we are not unique or special or singled out. We are just the next in a long line of peoples who have lived through tough times.

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  8. I definitely think of my reading as pre- and post-corona... Fathoms and A Month in Siena both sounds like fantastic books!

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    1. Yes, I can make a similar division with my fiction reading too.

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  9. Fathoms has been a popular read in 2020. I’ve read both Truganini and 488 Rules for Life, and like you I’m combining NonFicNov with AusReadingMonth when I can :)

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    1. I'd be keen to include some non-fiction titles in my novella roundup if you have any suggestions.

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  10. Fathoms is one of my favorite books I've read this year too! And I also enjoyed picking up Intimations. I wasn't sure about reading about our present moment, but I ended up finding it enjoyable to hear someone else talk about an experience we're sharing and to describe it as well as Zadie Smith does.

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    1. It took me a while to jump into Plague Lit too. I had The Plague by Camus on my shelf for quite some time. It took until July or Aug before I could go there...and once I did, I couldn't stop! I suspect I know what my 'expert' topic will be for week 3 :-)

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  11. I think many of us feel the same as you do. I also had problems concentrating on anything but the pandemic. Now, I have reached a time when I do nothing else but read (more or less). It does not generate any real reviews do, that would be too much effort.
    I am also joining the Nonfiction challenge (my post is still to come for this week). I will add Gabrielle Carey's book about Elizabeth Von Armin on my list. I have only read My German Garden by her, and really loved it. Would like to read more by her, but don't seem to find them. A biography would be fine in the meantime.
    I read Barbara Tuchman in the 80s I think. It is an excellent retelling of the troubled times of the 14th century. It did also make me change my mind about the dark Middle Ages. They were not dark at all. Quite the contrary.

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    1. I found a few of von Armin's books on Project Gutenberg if you're happy to read her books on a reader.
      Like you, the reviewing part has been hard this year. I now have six (Aust) books waiting to be reviewed. I have all this half finished posts that don't feel quite right yet. I guess I've got 23 days to get on top of this!

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  12. I've been doing nature and BLM themed books, too, I think that's probably more common than just us, too. I wish some of my non-fic was Australian too, missed a trick there!

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    1. Fathoms would be the one I'd recommend Lyzzy, nature and Australian in one hit :-)

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  13. A Distant Mirror has been on my TBR pile for awhile now. I start it and realize it's so big and that tiny print is intimidating! Good luck.

    Invention of Nature has also been on my list. Glad you enjoyed that one. But what a bummer the young adult graphic novel is not up to snuff. Good luck on your nonfiction reading!

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    1. I hope you get to The Invention of Nature soon, it is one of my all time favourite non-fiction titles.

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  14. I could use a hopeful book about humankind! Adding that one to my list.

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    1. Hope you enjoy it (see what I did there :-)

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  15. so glad you are reading A Distant Mirror, fascinating study, loved it

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    1. It will be a long term project, so glad it will keep interested!

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