Tag Archives: Nonfiction November

Nonfiction November: Nontraditional Nonfiction


During this third week (!) of Nonfiction November, our writing prompt focuses on “the nontraditional side of reading nonfiction.” This week’s host, Becca from I’m Lost in Books, elaborates:

Nonfiction comes in many forms There are the traditional hardcover or paperback print books, of course, but then you also have e-books, audiobooks, illustrated and graphic nonfiction, oversized folios, miniatures, internet publishing, nonfiction short stories, and enhanced books (book itself includes artifacts, audio, historical documents, images, etc.) So many choices! Do you find yourself drawn to or away from nontraditional nonfiction? Do you enjoy some nontraditional formats, but not others? Perhaps you have recommendations for readers who want to dive into nontraditional formats. We want to hear all about it this week!

I will admit that I often don’t think much about the various formats of the nonfiction genre (and fiction, for that matter).  When it comes to reading material, my approach isn’t always based on the packaging, per se, but rather the content inside.

Podcasts are the first nontraditional nonfiction format that immediately came to my mind. I’ve recently become a podcast fan and have written several posts about specific shows and episodes that I’ve found to be especially compelling.  I enjoy podcasts that feature personal stories — Death, Sex, and Money; Strangers; The Moth; and — before it was cancelled — The Longest Shortest Time. The storytelling is excellent and almost all of my favorite podcasts could be categorized as nonfiction in some way.

I also need to give a plug for Creative Nonfiction, the literary magazine. If you’re a fan of this genre — and especially if you write creative nonfiction — you need to be reading this publication. From the description on the CNF website: “Every issue is packed with new, long-form essays that blend style with substance; writing that pushes the traditional boundaries of the genre; notes on craft; micro-essays; conversations with writers and editors; insights and commentary from CNF editor Lee Gutkind; and more. Simply put, CNF demonstrates the depth and versatility of the genre it has helped define for more than 20 years.” I love that it has a global audience and is published right here in Pittsburgh.

Audiobooks seem to be the “nontraditional” form of nonfiction that most Nonfiction November participants mentioned. As my friend Trish from Love, Laughter and A Touch of Insanity wrote, I prefer to listen to nonfiction on audio. I’m not quite sure why that’s the case; regardless of whether a book is fiction or nonfiction, I like to have a print copy handy so I can refer to anything I may have missed.

If you need ideas for nonfiction reads, my nonfiction book reviews can be found here.

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Nonfiction November: Book Pairings


I’m participating in Nonfiction November, which is a month-long celebration dedicated to highlighting nonfiction books. Each week, the hosts of this event provide us with a blogging prompt. Leslie (Regular Rumination) is our host for Week 2 and our topic is book pairings:

Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be an “if you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

These two books immediately came to mind:

None of the AboveWhatever ...Love Is Love

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio and Whatever … Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves by Maria Bello each will be going on my list of best books I’ve read this year.

In None of the Above, debut novelist I.W. Gregorio (who is also a mother and surgeon) gives her readers a story that explores identity and acceptance. It’s told through the perspective of  18 year old Kristin who has just learned she was born intersex. (A definition, from I.W. Gregorio’s intersex resource page on her website: a biological condition in which people are born with bodies that don’t fit neatly into our understanding of what is male or female, whether it be because of their chromosomal sex, or because of their internal or external genitalia.)

The novel focuses heavily on Kristin’s emotional conflict. While processing the stigma associated with being intersex and others’ insensitivity, she struggles with identifying herself by the sum of her parts – no uterus, a short vagina, internal gonads – and finding the strength within to move forward with the support of caring people in her life and those qualities that shape who she is as a person.

This is a perfect complement to actress and activist Maria Bello’s memoir, Whatever … Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves. With a refreshing writing style that is personal, approachable and oftentimes funny, Ms. Bello shares quite a bit about her relationships with significant people in her life. While most names she shares are those who have been strong influences in her life, this is not your typical celebrity name-dropping, reality-television-esqe tome. That’s not Ms. Bello’s agenda here. Instead, she offers a chance for reflection about how one’s life experiences define the labels we place on people, especially ourselves.

To peel back the typical labels, Ms. Bello goes beyond the bedroom to explore the deeper questions of self: Am I a feminist? A humanitarian? A good enough mother? A writer?

(The answers are yes, yes, yes and hell to the yes.)

Visit Regular Rumination to discover more Nonfiction November book pairings!


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Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction


Nonfiction November is underway and once again, I’m participating in this blogging project hosted by Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness), Leslie (RegularRumination), Katie (Doing Dewey) and Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books).  For the month of November, our reading focus will be nonfiction books (or at least more of them than usual) accompanied by writing prompts about this genre.

It has taken me this entire first week of Nonfiction November to actually write this post. For real. It’s not like this is a particularly difficult post, but rather more likely that real life has gotten in the way of blogging (again).

Anyway, our writing prompt for Week One (November 2-6) focused on our nonfiction reading this year and our plans for this month.

Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

To date, I’ve read 14 nonfiction books this year.

Letters to a Young PoetUnder MagnoliaWhatever ...Love Is LoveSalt Sugar FatDon't Let's Go to the Dogs TonightLeaving Before the Rains CameWe Should All Be FeministsWildMen Explain Things to MeBelief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, MaybeTrue Stories, Well ToldThe Little SparkThe UnspeakableBig Magic

Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainier Marie Rilke
Under Magnolia, by Frances Mayes
Whatever: Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves, by Maria Bello
Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, by Alexandra Fuller
Leaving Before the Rains Come, by Alexandra Fuller
We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit
Belief is Its Own Sort of Truth, Maybe, by Lori Jakiela
True Stories, Well Told: From the First 20 Years of Creative Nonfiction Magazine, edited by Lee Gutkind and Hattie Fletcher
The Little Spark: 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity, by Carrie Bloomston
The Unspeakable, by Meghan Daum
Big Magic: Creative Living Through Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert

(How pathetic is it that I’ve only reviewed two of these? Quite a few are in drafts. Guess I’d better get those finished at some point.) I find nonfiction to be harder to recommend to people than fiction, because it is so tied to the reader’s specific interests.  At the same time, when people ask me for a book suggestion, I like recommending nonfiction because they might not have considered seeking it out on their own. Fiction sometimes seems to get more attention; unless it is written by or about a celebrity, or something scandalous, nonfiction can be almost forgotten.

Of the 14 nonfiction books I’ve read this year, the ones I’ve been recommending most often have been Whatever: Love is Love, Belief is Its Own Sort of Truth, Maybe; and Big Magic. All three will likely be among my best books of 2015. (Won’t be long now until those lists start circulating!)

The WitchesJoining them will likely be Stacy Schiff’s new book, The Witches: Salem, 1692.  I’m only on page 33, but so far this gripping account of “our national nightmare, the uncooked, overripe tabloid episode, the dystopian chapter in our past” is very well written — despite a tendency toward the dramatic, but that can be forgiven.

As for what I’m hoping to get out of this month, I’d like to read a few more nonfiction books.  In addition to The Witches, I’d like to start NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman. I would also like to finish more than a few recent issues of The New Yorker that I haven’t gotten to yet since I consider those articles to count for Nonfiction November too.

Want to see what other Nonfiction November participants are recommending and reading this month?  Over at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Kim has a post with all the books that people have said they’ve recommended most as well as a link to all of the first week’s posts.  

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currently … october 25



Currently …
I’ve decided to switch over to this format — which quite a few bloggers have been using for awhile now — for these Sunday posts. The Sunday Salon is perfectly fine but I feel like I’ve gotten away from the intent of the Salon. I wanted a structure that would allow me to capture more of the week’s happenings in addition to the reading, because during some weeks, this is the only post that I manage to write.

(Like many things, I’m probably over-thinking this.)

This was a busier week than usual, with several highlights.  A few weeks ago, I was in the right place at the right time (checking my email when a reminder popped up) and I snagged one of the few tickets to Margaret Atwood’s lecture and book-signing at our library. That was on Wednesday evening and it was a fabulous event. I have a separate post in the works recapping her talk, which touched on quite a few topics and issues while being very funny. (She has a very  dry sense of humor.)

This weekend some out-of-town friends were visiting Pittsburgh (they stayed in the cutest Airbnb in Shadyside!) and last night we went out to dinner at Shady Grove. I hadn’t eaten there before and they gave us a private area upstairs, which was perfect for our group. The menu is your typical bar/pub food: salads, burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, etc. Something for everyone.  I had a very good black bean veggie burger with sweet potato tater tots.

Reading …
The Edible WomanStill reading Margaret Atwood’s first novel, The Edible Woman. It focuses on Marian, whose age isn’t quite specified (at least not yet) but you get the sense she’s in her early 20s and a college graduate (“What can you do with a B.A. these days?” is an occasional phrase that a character says). She works for a market research firm and is in a serious relationship with Peter, who is 26.

This feels similar to The Handmaid’s Tale in that it is a brilliant, ironic commentary on a bigger theme — in this case, how society’s expectations and pressures are such that they have the power to consume us. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, this proves to be extremely prescient. (This was written in 1969.)

I’m hoping to finish this tonight, but the Eagles game currently on TV might hinder that a bit.

I’m trying to catch up on more than a few months-old issues of The New Yorker.  In the August 10 issue, Michael Cunningham — another of my favorite authors — has a short story called “Little Man” which is based on the fairy tale “Rumplestiltskin.” It’s part of his new collection of short stories coming out next month, which I cannot wait to read.

Anticipating …
The Husband and I actually have a date night planned for Tuesday night! We have tickets to see Ringo Starr, which we are looking forward to.  We bought the tickets several months ago and we’ll probably treat ourselves to a nice dinner downtown before the show.



Nonfiction November returns next month and will once again be hosted by Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness, Leslie of Regular Rumination, Katie  of Doing Dewey and Rebecca of I’m Lost In Books. All the details are here. This is always a great event for those of us who are nonfiction enthusiasts, so expect a few additional posts here focused on nonfiction reads.

I’m participating in a few local blogging events happening next month, which I am very excited about. I’ll have separate posts about those, too.

One thing I’m not going to be doing this year is NaNoWriMo.  There’s just too much else happening and with everything else going on, I won’t get much done.

Hard to believe November is next week!



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Nonfiction November: Diversity and Nonfiction

Nonfiction November 2014

For week three of Nonfiction November, this week’s host Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books) suggested we look at a topic that is getting a lot of attention in the literary world, diversity. Rebecca asks:

Diversity and Nonfiction: What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to a book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? What kind of books besides different countries/cultures do you think of as books of diversity?

What immediately comes to mind when I think about diversity in nonfiction is all of the things Rebecca mentioned – the setting, the subject matter, the author’s experience.  I tend to think of it as a reading experience that broadens one’s horizons and understanding of something (a country, a subject matter) that one may not have considered before or gained an appreciation for.

I thought that I would share some books I’ve read that I would consider to meet the diversity in nonfiction criteria. In looking through them, there are quite a few of the same themes. Women’s issues. AIDS. Food. Parenting. Special Needs. Politics.  (I could probably do well to expand my horizons (there I go, practicing what I preach) on the fiction front, too, but that’s a different post.)

That said, a few “diverse nonfiction” books that might be worth adding to your TBR list, if you haven’t read them already (links take you to my reviews):

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, by Randy Shilts

Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, by Francine Prose 

Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard, by Liz Murray

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot 

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Nonfiction November: My Year In Nonfiction (so far)

Nonfiction November 2014

Nonfiction books are kind of like that relative who you really should invite to Thanksgiving Dinner but somehow, you never quite get around to calling.  Or, maybe you do remember to extend the invite, but that person is the last on your list.

And then – who’da thunk it? – turns out that person has the best stories, the best dessert, and you can’t wait to see them again.

That’s what a good, satisfying nonfiction book can be like.


If you don’t believe me or if that hasn’t been your experience, then may I humbly suggest you check out Nonfiction November. It’s a blog thing (because, you know, ALL THE BLOG THINGS HAPPEN IN NOVEMBER) hosted by Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness fame, along with co-hosts Leslie (Regular Rumination), Katie (Doing Dewey) and Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books).

Nonfiction November is a month-long celebration, with nonfiction book reviews and weekly discussion topics. On the Monday of each week in November, one of the hosts will put up a post with the weekly discussion topic. The post will have a place to share links with responses to the topic OR reviews of nonfiction books that are posted during the week. On the Friday of each week, the weekly host will do a roundup of submissions to peruse.

I should probably get started on this week’s writing prompt:

Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Favorite nonfiction read of the year:
Without counting memoirs in this category, I’ve read 11 nonfiction books this year on topics such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show; growing and eating local food for a year; Hurricane Katrina; memoir writing; The Sopranos (and how it and other cable shows changed television); gluten and how it affects the brain; introverts; thyroid disease, and how places at the Jersey Shore (the real one) got their names.

Of those, I think my favorite would be these two (which are also the nonfiction book/s read in 2014 that I’ve recommended the most): 

Grain BrainGrain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers, by David Perlmutter.
I’ve been gluten-free (more or less) for about 16 months now, and this book has been eye-opening to see how gluten’s inflammatory properties can have such a detrimental effect on so many aspects of one’s life. Speaking for myself, I have definitely seen a reduction in my migraines (to the point where I am considering going off one of my medications), my energy level, and my stomach woes.

Handling the TruthWe were on vacation this summer when some writing inspiration struck, and I needed Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart.  As in, I needed it immediately.  Problem was, it was sitting on my night table, 500 miles away and not among the 9 books I had brought with me.

So I downloaded the e-book.

Because when you absolutely need a certain book, you need a certain book, amiright?

One topic or type of nonfiction I haven’t read enough of yet? 
Not sure. Although my numbers seem lower than usual, I actually think I read a pretty wide variety of nonfiction, considering. If I had to choose, I’d probably say history – but that’s kind of not my thing. It depends what era of history because, let’s face it, some are more interesting than others.  (I’m more inclined to read about, say, women’s history than the Civil War.) Perhaps more books about Pittsburgh’s history. That I could definitely get into.


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Fiction + Nonfiction = A Perfect Match for Nonfiction November

Nonfiction November 2013

When I heard about Nonfiction November, I knew I wanted to participate. This is absolutely right up my alley, as I love nonfiction books and the bloggers who are behind this project are two of my favorites. (That would be Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness and Lu from Regular Rumination.)

I missed participating in the first two weeks of November, but I’m jumping in at Week Three, with the discussion topic of recommending a nonfiction book with a fiction book.

Two books that immediately came to mind: And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, by Randy Shilts along with Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

And the Band Played OnTwo Boys Kissing

I believe that the AIDS epidemic is such an important period of time for people to read about and understand – especially people who didn’t live through the fear and the stigma that defined so much of the 1980s and beyond. (That’s one of the main reasons why I’ve set my own still-in-progress YA novel in that era.)

From my review of And the Band Played On (I don’t have a review of Two Boys Kissing yet, although I thought it was phenomenal):

“It’s more than a bit disconcerting reading And the Band Played On thirty years hence. It’s like going back to the future. It’s like reading a mystery novel where you know the clues – and you just want to reach into the pages and stop people and time in their very tracks, to shake them, to warn them about what’s ahead. Because we know – the good and the bad. Things are so different now and we know so much now that we didn’t know then, especially in the very early days, which are really, really tough to read about.

In his majestic young adult novel Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan does what I hypothetically wanted to do with And the Band Played On: reach into the pages of the past and pay it forward bigtime into the future. Teenagers Craig and Harry are trying to set a world’s record for the longest kiss. Narrating their story are anonymous, once-closeted, now-bemused voices from a past and an era defined by an epidemic that turned young men like Craig and Harry into instant ghosts.

“There is a nearly perfect balance between the past and the future. As we become the distant past, you become a future few of us would have imagined.” (pg. 1)

Imagine, indeed.

You can see more Fiction-Nonfiction Book Pairings at the Nonfiction November link at Regular Rumination

What are some of your favorite Fiction-Nonfiction book pairings?


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