Nonfiction November 2019: My Year in Nonfiction

It’s time! Nonfiction November is happening!


As in years past we have five wonderful hosts who will lead a prompt each week to get us all discussing nonfiction. The hosts and schedules is as follows:

  • Week 1: (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Julz of Julz Reads)
  • Week 2: (Nov. 4 to 8) – Book Pairing (Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves)
  • Week 3: (Nov. 11 to 15) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Katie at Doing Dewey)
  • Week 4: (Nov. 18 to 22) – Nonfiction Favorites (Leann of Shelf Aware)
  • Week 5: (Nov. 25 to 29) – New to My TBR (Rennie of What’s Nonfiction)

To kick things off, this first week we’re talking about nonfiction reading so far in 2019. If you’ve visited my blog before/follow me on instagram, you know that I love reading nonfiction. It’s not something recent that I’ve gotten into, it’s not a new reading niche for me, I didn’t have to learn to like nonfiction, I’ve been reading and loving nonfiction as long as I’ve been reading.

But it’s not always something that gets a lot of attention. Most people are more interested in fiction than nonfiction.

Still, so far this year 29% of my reading has been nonfiction (27 out of 94 books). I wouldn’t have said that I’d read more of any one genre or subject matter but looking back through my stats, it appears that I’ve been gravitating towards memoirs this year. I’ve also read a number of essay collections. In terms of subject matter, it looks like I’ve been reading more about race, LGBTQ experiences and true crime. A few biographies but not as many as usual.

(Some of my nonfiction highlights)

Easily my favourite nonfiction book of the year has been Amanda Jette Knox’s Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family. Not only did I learn a lot from this book but the overwhelming emotion in it is love. Even though I cried my eyes out reading it, I felt hopeful and weirdly proud that this family is Canadian. I’ve recommended it numerous times and am doing it again here.

Other memoirs that I read and loved included Becoming by Michelle Obama (obviously), Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run by Alexandra Heminsley (I was convinced it would inspire me to start running but it did not. Still, it was an enjoyable read that I have definitely recommended to others), and This Will Only Hurt A Little by Busy Philips (for the gossip).

Another book that fundamentally shifted something in me was 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Josephs. I can’t overstate the importance of this little book and really really think that every Canadian needs to read it if we’re going to get serious about Reconciliation.

Even though I didn’t read a ton of bios or history books this year, the ones that I did read were great (except for The Favorite by Ophelia Field, just watch the movie). Hitler and the Habsburgs: The Fuhrer’s Vendetta Against the Austrian Royals by James Longo focused on a story that I had never come across in all my Royals/WWII reading. I had no idea that Hitler had such a personal vendetta against the Austrian Royals! And if J. Randy Taraborrelli has a new book out, I need to read it! Jackie, Janet, & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill was a gossipy portrait of the women behind the legends and I thoroughly enjoyed every page. The most physically beautiful book I read this year was The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power, and Intrigue in an English Stately Home by Natalie Livingstone. Full colour portraits of the women who ruled Clivedon, every page in coloured ink, it was a complete joy to look at and read. Definitely not one you want to take out of the library! And for a beast of a book (657 pages), Simon Sebag Montefiore’s The Romanovs: 1613-1917 was incredibly readable and enjoyable. It had the potential to be stuffy but it wasn’t at all.

I tended to get a little obsessive about my reading this year. I started listening to The Dropout podcast about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos but I wasn’t getting the information fast enough so I went out and bought Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carryrou and man, did it scratch the itch. I also watched the HBO documentary right after that. The whole thing was an incredibly satisfying learning experience!

They aren’t necessarily grouped around any one topic but I’ve really enjoyed essay collections this year as well. I find that they are a great way to get an overview on any one topic or person. I’ve loved Alicia Elliott’s A Mind Spread Out on the Ground (incredibly raw, a lot of rage, it blew me away), and 90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality by Alllison Yarrow (was an eye-opening look at how I was socialized in my formative years).

I don’t think that there’s any one subject matter that I am drawn to over others or that I want to read more about. I’m such a mood reader that I tend to go to what strikes my fancy at any given moment. I have a biography of Kick Kennedy ready to go because I read a fictional account of her life this year and felt like I needed to read the whole story. I have an essay collection I want to read because I heard the author on a podcast and it sounded right up my alley. I will always want to read stories about experiences that are different than mine, Royals continue to be my reading kryptonite, and feminist nonfiction is something I never say no to.

I can’t wait to find a whole bunch of new titles to my never-ending TBR and to connect with other nonfiction readers about what is striking their fancy at the moment. I think this is my third year participating in Nonfiction November and I feel like I’ve been waiting to get started for months!

42 thoughts on “Nonfiction November 2019: My Year in Nonfiction

  1. I really want to read Amanda Jette Knox’s book. I don’t normally read this type of book when it comes from a cis perspective, but I’m always impressed by her tweets, so I think I’ll make an exception. 😊

    • I can totally understand that! I’m trying to be better about that myself. But she’s not trying to tell someone else’s story, she’s telling her story, full of the mistakes she made, the feelings she had…
      I would be so interested to find out what you think of it!

      • Oh yeah, I know she’s telling her own story, but that perspective is also one I don’t usually read anymore. (I’m not cis.) But I can imagine that she handles it very lovingly, because I’ve never seen anything else from her. ❤

  2. I read The Romanovs this year too, it was really good! I was impressed with how he managed the whole thing. That was just so much information but it all came together so well.

    I read Jackie, Janet & Lee last year, SO entertaining. I actually knew very little about Kennedy lives and although it was totally gossipy it was still a lot of fun. I also had no idea that Hitler had a vendetta against the Austrian royals and I’m super curious now!

    • I honestly don’t know how he did it. Althought the Romanovs in general seem to be a unique family in that they were completely batsh*t in the early years so any biography of them can’t really be too stuffy.
      Kennedy bios are always full of excellent gossip. I’m on a bit of a Kick Kennedy bender at the moment – I want to get my hands on anything I can about her.
      The great news about that Longo book is that it’s about 250 pages, maybe? It’s short. It does a good job of talking about the history of the vendetta but it ultimately made me want to read more about all of it.

      • I don’t know anything about Kick Kennedy! What’s a good one to start with?

        I know, I was really in awe of the Romanovs. I’d read Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Stalin biographies already so I knew he was a great writer and could manage a massive amount of information well, but to do an entire history of the Romanovs is kind of exhausting just to think about. And to make it so readable…amazing. And seriously, I knew they were batsh*t but the extent of it!!

        Ooh I love a good short book! Adding that one to my list, I can’t believe I never came across anything about that bit of history before!

      • I’ll let you know once I read about her on her own! I’ve read Kennedy bios and she’s always a part of them but not the focus. Her short life was a romantic rebellious one!
        There’s another book about the Romanovs that just looks at all the insane things they were involved in, it’s not even 300 pages…The Secret Lives of the Tsars by Michael Farquhar! Kind of hilarious.

      • Yes, let me know! Romantic and rebellious always sounds appealing.

        I’ve read the Farquhar one, that was a great one! I have another by him, about the British royals but I can’t remember the title of it. Have you read any others of his?

      • No! I didn’t realize he had more books – this was one of those random library finds for me. But now I see he has a whole bunch of similar titles that I maybe need to keep an eye out for.
        I’m in the middle of the Kick bio right now and I LOVE it.

      • The one I have is in storage at my parents’ so I can’t check which it is but based on cover images I think it’s Behind the Palace Doors. The bits I paged through were really amusing and the style seemed similar to Secret Lives of the Tsars. It seems like something you’d like!

    • It was. She was just in town here and the feedback I’ve heard is that she was ‘aggressive’ which we all know is just code for stepping out of line. I’m sure her collection isn’t for everyone but I personally feel like she’s completely justified in the rage that she feels! She’s a very talented writer, too!

  3. I passed along Love Lives Here to my wife, who is more interested than I am in the subject…not that I’m not, I just tend to read different kinds of of nonfiction. Becoming a is still sitting on my TBR shelves unread but maybe this November. Even though I am from the US, would I still understand the Indian Act book?

    • You should give it a try, maybe you’ll love it!
      I think the Indian Act book would give you a perspective on the kinds of things that Indigenous Peoples have been dealing with. I would guess that similar things were done to Indigenous Peoples in the US.

  4. I love reading books about running. I’m listening to one right now. I hate running. I’ve tried to change that and have come to accept that it isn’t going to happen. It doesn’t stop me from loving running books though!

  5. Love Lives Here sounds amazing! I’ve just added it to my list. My daughter has recommended Becoming countless times and I’d like to listen to it eventually. Bad Blood has been on my wish list for far too long.

  6. I remember looking at Love Lives Here earlier this year, but actually forgot all about it. I’m adding it to my nonfiction TBR list. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. ‘I feel like I’ve been waiting to get started for months’ – same! And now the event is here, I’m like ‘it’s sprung out of nowhere! I need to prep posts, I need more books, blog hop, where’s the time to read?!’ And November isn’t even here yet… Ha!

    I hope you enjoy all that you read in the month of November!

  8. I was obsessed with Bad Blood too- that book is SO well done. Adding Love Lies Here to my list- can’t believe I haven’t heard of it! And Busy’s memoir did give some great gossip 😉

  9. Thanks for posting your list – I have so many new ideas! I’m excited to add new titles to my TBR this month. Ten years ago I read only fiction, but it has become a much bigger part of my reading life. This past year 50% of my reading was nonfiction!

  10. Oh dear – this is definitely the post that has added the most books to my to-read list so far! Not only have you read a lot of books that sound interesting to me, a lot of them are ones I’ve not heard of before.

  11. Pingback: Nonfiction November Week 5: New to My TBR – What's Nonfiction?

  12. Pingback: Nonfiction November – Week 5 -New To My TBR | JulzReads

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