Week 4: (Nov. 18 to 22) – Nonfiction Favorites (Leann of Shelf Aware): We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.
This is a difficult question that I don’t know the answer to. So let’s explore what I like about specific books. One book I really liked last year was American Overdose. It’s about the root causes of the opioid epidemic. This book did seem to jump around a bit in topic (something I don’t appreciate much) but it made up for that by covering each topic with a lot of heartbreaking and eye-opening details. It was the fantastic research, the topic, the newness, and the incorporation of personal stories of real people that made this book so great.
Crazy, by Pete Earley is another nonfiction book that I really loved. It’s about the failure of the mental health system, and the use of prisons as places to lock up mentally ill people. This book, too, had eye-opening and heartbreaking detail. But this one was partly memoir partly investigative journalism. I loved the way Earley incorporated the story of his son into the beginning and end of the narrative. It made the story pop because it was so personal.
Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson is another fantastic piece of non-fiction. Since this is memoir and not investigative journalism, there weren’t any eye-opening and heartbreaking details (which I apparently enjoy), but it was really funny. And I could relate to the mental illness aspect of the book, having bipolar disorder.
So: eye-opening & heartbreaking details, good journalism (if it’s journalistic), a personal touch, humor.