Non-Fiction November: Fiction/Non-Fiction Book Pairings

Annnnnnd it’s Week 2 of Non-Fiction November!

Non-Fiction November is an annual appreciation of all things non-fiction hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Julie at JulzReads, Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves, Lory of Emerald City Book Review, and Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

This week Sarah is hosting fiction/non-fiction pairings. That is:

It can be a “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.

This year I tried to think about this BEFORE the week started. Read on to see what I’ve come up with.

Guns in America

Early this year I broke my heart over Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America. He picks a random day and looks at all the deaths of children on that day – there were 10 on the day he chose, but on average, there are seven.

This summer, everyone was talking about Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give. And for good reason. This book about the aftermath of the shooting death of a teenage girl’s friend is wonderful. I was so invested in this book right away – I loved Starr and her family and Thomas does an incredible job writing about something very difficult in a way that’s totally accessible.

Indigenous Peoples

I’ve already told you all about Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga. It’s one of the most important and eye-opening books I’ve read this year. It really made me think long and hard about the things my country has done to these communities.

Earlier this year, thanks to Canada Reads, I’d read Katherena Vermette’s The Break. The book did not fare well on the show thanks to super closed-minded male readers but it really made an impact on me. A woman is raped in Manitoba in the ice and snow. Another woman hears something and calls the police. The Break is about that rape’s aftermath, rippling out through an entire family. It touches on family and community and culture and also how forgotten and ignored Indigenous Peoples, especially Indigenous women are.

Bodies

I will always read everything that Roxane Gay writes and even I was blown away by the force of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. In it she lays bare her life and her struggles with her own body and the way the world reacts to it. She talks about being gang raped at 12 and how ever after she made her body big so that it would be safe. About how humiliating it can be on planes, at events, at the grocery store when people take food out of her cart. I read this with my book club and it was one of the best discussions we’d ever had.

Last year I read and loved Dietland by Sarai Walker. Plum, our heroine, is biding her time, getting through her days, until she gets her weight loss surgery. Soon she notices that she’s being followed by a girl in striped tights and eventually gets pulled into a feminist group intent on disrupting the world with their actions. This group wants to show the world that their definitions of beauty, of womanhood, are dangerous and outdated. It’s the story of a girl learning to be comfortable in her own skin, no matter the size and kicking ass along the way. A delight.

Ballet

I’m flipping the order here – I’ve actually read The Chosen Maiden but I have not yet read Bolshoi Confidential. I am hoping to this month!

The Chosen Maiden by Eva Stachniak is the fictionalized account of the lives of the Nijinski siblings, Bronia and Vaslav. It charts their lives through the Twentieth Century alongside their accomplishments in dance. It’s a story of dance but also family and the costs that can come from working with those closest to us.

Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today by Simon Morrison promises to be a gossipy read about ballet. And if you know anything about ballet, you know that it can be a brutal world. Remember that director who was attacked with acid? Morrison talks about that. Prima ballerinas, professional audience members, faked credentials; I’m getting excited to read this just thinking about it.

Alright, now I’m going to hop around and add more titles to my list thanks to everyone else’s recommendations! If you’re interested in participating, or just lurking in the wings, head on over to Sarah’s Bookshelves to find out more.

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15 thoughts on “Non-Fiction November: Fiction/Non-Fiction Book Pairings

  1. The Hate U Give was so well done! I’ve seen several books paired with it, but Another Day in the Death of America sounds like it may be the most relevant… and the saddest. I discovered Roxane Gay this year through Bad Feminist. Hunger is on my list.

    • Oh I want to see what other books it’s been paired with! I thought about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me as well.
      Isn’t Bad Feminist so great? She’s got two more books coming out and she’s also edited an essay collection. I can’t wait. Have you read An Untamed State? It’s fiction and it’s incredible.

      • Between The World and Me is one of the other pairings I noticed this week… it was a favorite last year. I have not read Gay’s An Untamed State, and now I’m kicking myself for not buying it when it a was a kindle daily deal not too long ago. Glad to have your recommendation. I wasn’t sure her fiction would be as good as her nonfiction.

  2. I remember when I first saw the cover of ‘Dietland’ in the bookstore… it’s such a smart concept and very well done. I’ve not heard of the ‘Seven Fallen Feathers’ before. It sounds like a tough read, but eye opening. Thank you for mentioning it.

  3. I love all of these pairings! You’ve made me want to go out and read them right now!

    I’m looking forward to your review on the ballet book. My older daughter has been taking ballet for 10 years now, and even with kids in a small town it can get pretty competitive (putting it nicely). Luckily, my daughter doesn’t get caught up in all that stuff – she just dances
    because she likes it, and has no serious long term plans.

  4. What great pairings! I put Dietland with Shrill, but Hunger seems like an even better match. I loved Bad Feminist, but I’ve yet to pick up anything else by Roxanne Gay. I definitely need to get to Hunger 🙂

    • Oh I like that pairing too! Should be a triple – for the full picture, all three should be read. You absolutely need to get Hunger. And really anything else she’s written – she has two more books coming out next year, she’s edited a collection of essays on rape AND her fiction is incredible.

  5. Curses! (I used that instead of what you know I would normally say) You’re making me add to my TBR! The Bolshoi book sounds fascinating as do both of the books about indigenous people. And I’ve not read Hunger yet, so there’s another one.

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