Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year in Nonfiction


Nonfiction November, a celebration of all things nonfiction co-hosted by Sophisticated Dorkiness, is back for Year Two. During each week of November, bloggers are invited to post about their nonfiction reading year. This week’s topic:

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?

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

That’s easy! Hands down, my favorite nonfiction read of the year is Sarah Ruhl’s 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write, a book recommendation from Austin Kleon (whose Steal Like an Artist I also finally read this year).

100 essays i don't have time to writeIt’s hard to pin down just what I love so much about Ruhl’s collection of essays. They’re idiosyncratic and quirky and witty and often profound—and also very, very short. A couple of pages each. So very perfect for my challenged attention span. For subject matter, Ruhl focuses on the theater, where she makes a living as a playwright, and motherhood. Only one of those subjects is particularly interesting to me, yet I found her musings and observations about theater to be entirely compelling. I don’t think this is a book for every reader. But if you’re interested in what it means to be deeply invested in an artistic calling while trying to be fully present as a mother, it’s a book you should check out.

What nonfiction book have you recommended most?

Also easy! Bessel Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score. I read this book in December, 2014, and have recommended it dozens of times in the months since.

body keeps the score You probably need to have a special interest in trauma to be the right reader for this book. It’s written for a general rather than academic audience, but it’s still fairly heavy lifting. Still, it’s a must-read for parents, counselors, and teachers who work with traumatized individuals. Van Der Kolk shares the results of a lifetime of research and work with patients who experienced trauma. The information Van Der Kolk shares about recent developments and discoveries in neuroscience is especially fascinating. I learned so much about my son from reading this book.

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?

Anything that isn’t a graphic novel or middle-grade. The majority of nonfiction I’ve read in 2015 has been either graphic novel nonfiction (why can’t we come up with a better term for this?) or middle-grade nonfiction. I’ve missed the kind of narrative nonfiction published for adult readers that I have read and loved so much in the past, but that kind of reading requires a depth of attention and focus that I simply haven’t had this year.

tomboyTwo titles from the types of nonfiction I have read a lot of this year that I’d recommend to all readers: Liz Prince’s Tomboy, a graphic novel memoir that tackles gender stereotypes and identity, and Untamed, a middle-grade biography of Jane Goodall.



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

I feel like 2015 has been the year of the perpetual search for my reading mojo. I’m hoping that other people’s reading lives will inspire me to read more myself. And even though I’m not reading much, I still love adding to my TBR list.






6 responses to “Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year in Nonfiction”

  1. Zezee Avatar

    I’m not participating in Nonfiction November but I plan to read “Gulp” by Mary Roach before the end of the year. I picked up Ruhl’s book earlier this year, I believe (or was it last year? It was shortly after it was published), and I enjoyed reading it but didn’t complete it. I was in between books at the time and jumping from one to another to see what I’m in the mood for.

  2. Scott Day Avatar

    Without a doubt, my favorite nonfiction book this year is Swan. For me, reading this book is like being bathed in beauty. There are time when I don’t want to put the book down. But I must eat and sleep. Another nonfiction book I’m enjoying tremendously is The Soul of an Octopus.I’m always looking for books about the natural world that affect me as powerfully as Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek. Fortunately, I found one in The Soul of an Octopus.

    1. Annette Pimentel Avatar

      I just read Swan and was bowled over, too. Such a beautiful, beautiful book!

  3. Elizabeth Gordon Avatar

    I haven’t had much time to read nonfiction that meets my interests but I am adding The Body Keeps the Score to my list. It sounds really interesting. In preparation for becoming a future teacher, I hope to have a deeper understanding of the experience that trauma victims face during their recovery. This book sounds like it will be a good place to start. Although I am not a fan of graphic novels as far as I know (I have only read a handful), I think I will try Tomboy. I clicked through and looked inside the book for a preview and I am pleasantly surprised. It seems very witty. I want to understand the importance of creating your own identity (especially for adolescents) so I think this will be a good one. Thanks so much for the post!

  4. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) Avatar

    That Sarah Ruhl book sounds rather delightful. I love the idea of super short essays — it’s hard to say something profound in a short space, but so great when writers actually can.

  5. […] reflection on my year of reading nonfiction for Nonfiction […]

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