Nonfiction November – Week 3

Diversity in Nonfiction:

or Reading down the Rabbit Hole

This week’s Nonfiction November discussion is about diversity in non-fiction. And this post is not about Alice-In-Wonderland-related-nonfiction (though that sounds great!), but rather, about the times when one thing leads to another leads to “oh, I must find out more about this topic.”

cork-w-books-300x300

This is a common reaction in my life – reading novels piques an interest in reading something else, visiting a historic site makes me want to read about that place, and so on. Books are generally my first resort (okay, Google is my first first resort when I need to know something, but I am often inclined to search for a book next).

Here’s a few examples of what I’m calling the diversity in my non-fiction reading pile (and to-be-read pile).

  1. You don’t always read about isolated dictatorships while reading Young Adult Fantasy, but that’s exactly what happened when I read Silvern by Christina Farley. The author manages to sneak in some really interesting tidbits about North Korea, which left me wanting to know more. Thankfully, shortly after that, I read this post by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness which gave me two books on North Korea to look into: Without You, There is No Us and Nothing to Envy. I’ve seen these two recommended and discussed on other Nonfiction November posts too!
  2. Sometimes, watching TV is a completely mindless activity (See: everytime J is working late and I turn on TLC). Other times, I learn just a little bit about something, and I need to know more. Case in point: The Borgias. I am not sure that I loved this show, but I was definitely intrigued – and watching The Borgias led to some more nonfiction on my TBR pile: Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy (recommended by my sister!) and The Borgias: The Hidden History.

  3. When I visited Monticello, we had the world’s worst tour guide leading us through Thomas Jefferson’s house. Thankfully, we had an amazing tour guide for an outdoor tour of Mulberry Row, where  many of Jefferson’s slaves lived and worked. After that visit, I read Master of the Mountain, which was both informative and frustrating in equal measures.
To quote my favorite fictional POTUS, "America isn't easy."

To quote my favorite fictional POTUS, “America isn’t easy.” (pic via http://ijpc.org/)

Between contemporary North Korea; Renaissance Italy, and Antebellum Virginia, I guess I’m looking at “Diversity in Nonfiction” in the broadest possible way – reading about experiences that are different than mine. I’d be hard pressed to find a nonfiction book on my shelves (physical or virtual) that doesn’t fall into this umbrella. Nonfiction books, at least the narrative-type nonfiction books that I’m interested in reading, tell the stories of people or places or events, and that’s pretty much guaranteed to include “different” kinds of people. I think when writing in a fictional world, it can be easier to leave out whole swaths of people, versus telling what actually happened. After all, as much as America may have tried this for years, we can’t actually talk about Thomas Jefferson without talking about the distinctions between his words and his actions, his Declarations of Independence and the people he refused to set free. Reading fiction can play an amazing role in opening up our eyes to new ideas (see my thoughts on diversity in fiction here) but reading (good) nonfiction will give you a whole new level of credibility when you want to talk about (or better yet, act upon) those ideas.

/end #nonficnov – On another note, Amanda and I are giving away one of our fave reads of 2014, The Cuckoo’s Calling! Details and signup here.

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10 Comments

  1. I so understand the rabbit hole reading thing. This happens to me a lot. I love biographies and often I read about people in the same time period. When I come across a name again and again, I start to want to know more. This happened most recently with Princess Louise.

    You should also read Escape from Camp 14 if you want to read more about North Korea. (Let me helpfully leave a link for you to read my thougths on it: http://thepaperbprincess.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/escape-from-camp-14/ _

    I think we talked about Lucrezia Borgia before. I wanted to like that book. I did not finish it. But I need to up my Italy reading – we’re planning our honeymoon there and I need to know stuff before we go!

  2. I do the reading rabbit hole thing all the time. I’ll read a book on a topic that piques my interest, then I come up with a whole reading list to keep on with that topic. Of course, I usually come up with another thing that makes me curious and head off in a different direction before I can read any of the books… but that’s the best part about being a ready. I think the two books on North Korea I shared are great compliments to one another.

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