Nonfiction November: A Look Back at My Year in Nonfiction

This coming month, starting early today, I’m participating in Nonfiction November (for more information on the event and hosts, click on the image at right). Week 1: (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1) – 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? 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?

I will be honest that I wasn’t sure I was going to participate in this, but earlier this month, I did see former host Kim of the blog Sophisticated Dorkiness mention the event on her Instagram feed and it got me thinking about it. Then a few other bloggers I follow mentioned it too, and now I’m feeling the blogger pressure. PLUS more importantly, I want to participate because this year I’ve read more nonfiction than in other years. I’m also hoping to read at least one nonfiction book a week in November, although I’ll be happy if I read only a few.

Altogether this year, out of the 28 books I’ve read total, 11 of them are nonfiction or 39 percent. Here are the 11, in order of when I read them:

  1. The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  2. Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields by Julia Kasdorf and Steven Rubin
  3. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  4. All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
  5. Calypso by David Sedaris
  6. Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Taylor Brown
  7. All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot
  8. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
  9. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
  10. Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
  11. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

The Library Book was my first read of the year and was a great way to begin the year. I’ve been reading the Herriot series over the last couple of years and have the next two, The Lord God Made Them All and Every Living Thing, to read in the next couple of months, maybe into next year. Travels with Charley was a reread. Almost all were excellent, with four in particular standing out among the rest: The Library Book, Born a Crime, Hunger, and Born to Run. The best, by a slight margin, was Born to Run, perhaps because I had been gifted the book as part of a book blogger gift exchange a couple of years ago and never gotten to read it.

As you can tell, I don’t have one single topic to which I’m attracted. However, among my “to-be-reads” are more than a dozen books on race in America. I have collected them, mostly from Kindle deals, over the last year, year and a half. I have yet to get to them, because I’ll be honest (again) that I’m having a hard time reading political nonfiction right now with our current political climate. Unfortunately, like many Americans, it makes me frustrated to the point of disengagement. I know I will get to these books, but I think it’s going to be slowly, rather than all at once, in one large binge-read.

I’m also reading one nonfiction book right now: Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises by Lesley M.M. Blume. I started it during this past Saturday’s Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon during which I also re-read The Sun Also Rises. I’m not sure what else I’ll be reading for nonfiction during November with my next several planned books being fiction, but that always could change, depending on my mood.

Whether or not you’re participating or not in Nonfiction November, I’ll leave you with the same questions as this first week of the event: What was your favorite 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?

67 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: A Look Back at My Year in Nonfiction

  1. I really loved The Library Book too! I could tell how much the author loved libraries and all of her tangents were fascinating to me. I think any reading you do for the event or even just doing the discussion posts is great. All of us who help host intend it to be fun and laid back 🙂

  2. I was surprised how much I enjoyed Born a Crime. I love watching Trevor Noah on The Daily Show and didn’t realize his background was so difficult. Bruce Springsteen’s book surprised me too! I’m not necessarily a fan but I am now. I read Hunger and then read another of Roxane Gay’s book after that; loved them both.

    Barbara Taylor Brown is one my favorite authors. I’ll read whatever she writes. I’m adding The Library Book to my list now. Great list, Bryan!

  3. I think Educated by Tara Westover was my favorite nonfiction read of the year (I tend to like memoirs). I was actually holding The Library Book in my hands at the bookstore the other day, but I ended up putting it back. Maybe I’ll go back for it!

  4. I have been reading James Herriott books too! Did you know that PBS is doing a Masterpiece series on his books next year? I will be watching that! His books are interesting and very funny!

  5. Great list! As you know The Library Book also made my list. Loved Travels with Charley! I’ve heard great things about Born A Crime and I must read it! Been itching to read Leaving Church for a while.
    Happy reading!

  6. I still have the Library Book sitting on my wishlist from all the times I heard it mentioned last Nonfiction November… I really want to get to that at some point!
    I hope you enjoy taking part & happy reading!

  7. I loved Born A Crime, too… listened to it last year. The Library Book has been on my wish list ever since it came out. Maybe I’ll get to read it in 2020. Adding Born to Run to my list now. Glad you decided to join the fun this month!

  8. Most years, about 10% of my reading comes from nonfiction. (The one exception since I began blogging was 2015, which was really peculiar with 27%, and most of my favorites coming from nonfic.) This year has been typical (6 of 54 reads) and honestly it’s been a mixed bag, with only half of those ones I enjoyed. I’ve never actually participated in this event because I don’t read enough nonfiction, but I always think of November as nonfic-month, and always read at least one nonfiction as a token nod. This year it will be Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagowski. Emily Nagowski wrote one of my favorites of 2015, that weird year, so I’m hoping this will be just as wonderful.

  9. I’m so happy to hear how much you liked Born to Run. It’s one I’ve been considering, but hesitate because it’s so long.

  10. I absolutely loved The Library Book, and Born a Crime and Hunger were favorites too. I really liked Calypso as well but it wasn’t as much of a favorite as some of his others.
    The James Herriot books bring back memories! I read so many of those as a kid.

    1. David Sedaris came and gave a talk/reading of some of his work last week at our local university. He is so funny in real life that if he should come to somewhere near you, you should try and go. We laughed so much… 🙂

      1. I saw him in 2017, it was such a highlight! My friend and I were both almost in tears in laughing. I just love him. I’m so glad you got to see him too, it’s a wonderful experience!

  11. I’ve often wondered if the James Herriot books would hold up to an adult reread. I loved them so much in my late teens/early twenties, I’d hate to spoil that memory, but you’ve given me hope. And after reading Karen’s comment above, I hope our Australian ABC also repeats the TV series.

  12. I’m finishing up a couple James Herriott book as well, but I don’t know if I’ll do them for Nonfiction November since I’m also supposed to do a National Novel Writing Month in November too. :/

    1. I think I saw something about that in our monthly PBS guide! I never watched the original and have not read the books so I guess the revival will be my first introduction to Herriot.

  13. You have read some wonderful nonfiction this year. I keep thinking about Born a Crime, and then last week I saw the author on an episode with Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld…and I became even more interested in reading it.

    I’m not really sure what I’m reading for Nonfiction November. I started with the book I wanted to read the most, The Secret Wisdom of Nature, but it’s just so-so. The Village Effect, which I also started, is also just okay; I think it would have made a better short piece than an entire book. I hate that feeling, like I’m just going through the motions in reading.

    1. My wife loves Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I’ve watched a few and enjoyed, with the last one being with Eddie Murphy…I don’t like going through the motions either. I’m trying to be better about that.

  14. I haven’t read James Herriot since I was a kid, and loved them so much then. I’m lowkey doing the #ThankfulAThon in November too, so I might have to revisit his books for that.

    My favorite nonfiction book this year is Pema Chödrön’s Welcoming the Unwelcome.

        1. #ThankfulAThon takes place all month in November
          #ThankfullyReading is officially Thankfully Reading Weekend and takes place Thanksgiving weekend. I just tweeted Jenn @ Jenn’s Bookshelves to see if she’s hosting it again this year since I actually have Wed, Thu & Fri off this year.

  15. I remember reading James Herriot’s series I think in middle school? It would be so much fun to go back and reread them. Welcome to a fellow Nonfiction November first timer!

  16. Oh I love James Herriot!! My mom bought that series for me when I was growing up and I have to admit to some confusion over some of the words and animal parts, but they were a huge influence on my life. I reread them all the time. Such a great man and series.

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