I think after a few years of reading we become savvy as to what works for us. I try to challenge myself now and then, but for the most part I’ve gotten a sense of what I’ll enjoy. For Nonfiction November, Leann at Shelf Aware asked us to go into more details about the books we love.
What elements appeal to you when it comes to Non-Fic books. How does a book become your favorite in that genre?
Recently I noticed that what I look for in Historical Fiction I also look for in Nonfiction, and that is a side of history I wasn’t familiar with. The genres present that information in different ways, but the crux is the same.
There’s just so much history that I and most people don’t know about, whether domestic or international. I’m always coming across books about events in history that I didn’t even know happened (and probably should’ve learned).
For Nonfiction I gravitate towards memoirs, as I’m more invested in the story. Two of my favorite memoirs I’ve read recently are The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui and Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.
In their unique ways, one through humor and the other as a graphic novel, each share their heartbreaking past with the reader. Noah was born in deeply racist system that saw him as a second class citizen, while Bui and her family had to escape from their homeland due to war. Both histories were recent, yet unfamiliar to me and I’m thankful to both for sharing their stories.
When it comes to memoirs, especially if the subject matter is heavy, I lean towards shorter works. A new favorite of mine is A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa, and the length of 160 pages was a good call. The author’s life in North Korea is harrowing experience filled with terror. I almost didn’t make it through the short memoir, but I’m glad I did. Ishikawa deserves his story to be heard.
What is interesting is that my first favorite Nonfiction book seems very different from the rest, but checks the same boxes. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson was a game changer for me. It’s one of the reasons I challenge myself to go outside my bubble now since it was such a winner. Thankfully when I first read it I owned the book and was able to highlight and take notes. Learning about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago alone was fascinating, but throw in the infamous H.H. Holmes and a murder hotel… it was everything I didn’t know I wanted.
There’s more favorites that I could go into but most of them are heavy reading, so I’ll leave them for another time. I guess I should try more humorous memoirs!