Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

Well, here we are. November! Did you ever think we’d make it this far?

There’s other noteworthy things happening but around here, it’s all about Nonfiction November!

This year it’s hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey, Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction, Julie @ Julz Reads and Leann @ Shelf Aware. Each of them will host a week and we all get to benefit from some really great nonfiction discussions and fill our TBR with new titles! There’s also an instagram challenge that you can get in on.

Week 1: (November 2-6) – Leann will be kicking things off with 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? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November? 

One thing that the pandemic *was* really great for was reading. Especially in the early days when we didn’t really know what was to come, we didn’t know enough to be really fearful. I’ve read 116 books so far this year and 33, or 28%, have been nonfiction. I usually roll into November with around 29% of my reading being nonfiction so I’m super consistent.

I don’t think I can pick one favourite that I read this year. I read a lot of really excellent nonfiction! It started off really strong with Mary Laura Philpott’s essay collection, I Miss You When I Blink. She wrote about things I felt that I didn’t have words for. I made a lot of friends read that one afterwards and looking back now I honestly can’t believe it was *this* year that I read it! The same thing happened with Glennon Doyle’s Untamed. I think she fundamentally shifted something in me with that book and I’m a full Glennon convert now.

I read and loved Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns for the first time this year. I took it out from the library and that was a mistake. I did not make the same mistake when Caste came out this summer. I loved that one too! Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond was such an eye-opener about the cycle of poverty and how imprisoned in it so many people are in that system.

The best true crime book I read this year was definitely Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe. Another library book I wish I owned! I read about Jessica Simpson (Open Book), Meghan and Harry (Finding Freedom), The View (Ladies Who Punch), about Instagram (No Filter) and Pixar (To Pixar and Beyond) and all of them were really good!

I also read a lot of parenting books this year because my kid is now at an age where I really need to learn what I’m even doing. I loved The Whole Brain Child and No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, looking at how a child’s brain development can inform interactions and successful discipline. They were really illuminating. I loved the validation of The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in an Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon and wanted to learn more about how to still see people this winter by reading There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids by Linda Akeson McGurk.

The worst nonfiction book I read was absolutely, no question Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.

I’ve never laughed louder at nonfiction than reading Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. I have Wow, No Thank You on deck for this month and I cannot wait.

I think out of all of the books I read this year I recommended Glennon Doyle’s Untamed and Jesse Thistle’s From the Ashes the most. You already know about Untamed, From the Ashes is a memoir about an Indigenous man cut off from his culture, abused as a child, his addictions and homelessness and his redemption. The book was selected for Canada Reads this year (a big deal up here!) and I will never get over that a man who picked up a book for the first time as an adult has now written one, and one that is this good.

I for sure read a lot of memoirs this year: I was also drawn to social justice type books: Medical Bondage by Deirdre Cooper Owens, Evicted by Matthew Desmond, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. It seemed that the harder the world burned, the more I wanted to learn about how we got here. I have a number of these that I still want to read and I’ve been saving them for this month.

As for what I’m hoping to get out of this Nonfiction November, it goes without saying that I’m going to discover a whole host of new amazing titles for my TBR. What I’m really excited about is getting to talk about nonfiction with all of you! It’s the total highlight of my reading year!

See you next week!

40 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

    • It was really helpful to reframe my outlook on what’s possible on a rainy day. There’s no reason we need to stay inside if we have the right clothes! But it’s also a super privileged way to look at things because that’s not accessible to all.

  1. I’m curious why you disliked Talking to Strangers so much. I work in an Indie bookshop and it’s a regular request from customers (as are his other books) but I’ve never read one. I also noted that in Humankind, Bregman was not as convinced of Gladwell’s view on things either.

    • I have read all of his books and before this one, I really liked them. His books have had a big impact on me! But this time…one example that comes to mind: he made it seem like alcohol and not rapists are responsible for high instances of rape on campuses. He also talks about Sandra Bland, Jerry Sandusky and Amanda Knox. He posits that what happened to Sandra Bland was a case of the police officer not knowing how to ‘talk to strangers.’ Which. WOW.
      The bloom is off the Malcolm Gladwell rose for me.

  2. What a great recap of your reading year. I still read aloud to my son (he’s fourteen) and I’d like to see what that author has to say about it – though I’m curious how one fills up a whole book with the topic. Glad you found the pandemic good for your reading, it rather knocked mine for a loop but I think I’m recovering.

    • That’s amazing! The book would say that you’ve set him up really really well! It’s not a long book – less than 300 pages for sure.
      I’m glad it’s getting easier for you to read…hopefully that gets more true soon.

  3. “my kid is now at an age where I really need to learn what I’m even doing.” — Hahahahaha!!!

    I don’t have kids so I was surprised to read reviews of the No Such Thing As Bad Weather book. I grew up in Arizona and we were outside a lot, except on the super scorching 100F+ days and bad weather days were our FAVORITE days to be outside, playing in the mud and the rain. I didn’t realize parents of today don’t let their kids play outside. Why? Also curious to know why the author of the book was fined for letting her kids play in a creek. Was it private property and they were trespassing? Was the water polluted and not safe to wade in?

    Wow! So many great recommendations in this post! I added a bunch of them to my Goodreads and several of them were already ON my Goodreads TBR so I really should get crackin’ on ’em.

    • I’m sure the rainy days were a relief! I can’t imagine playing outside in heat like that!! I think there are probably lots of reasons we’ve told ourselves make sense – the book focuses on places where it gets COLD in fall and winter. Mostly, kids aren’t really ‘allowed’ to play without their parents nearby so parents have to also be outside. I don’t remember the creek fine – sorry!
      The amount of times I go to ‘add’ a book to goodreads to find I’ve already done that…

  4. Evicted and the Other Wes Moore are very good. Finding Freedom was an absolute joke-lol. It’s being used against Markle in her court case in London. Hidden Valley Road was my favorite nonfiction (so far) this year. GREAT LIST!

  5. No wonder you’re having a hard time picking a favorite – you’ve read so many good books this year! I just finally finished reading Caste, which was phenomenal. Say Nothing, The Five, and No Filter were all pretty awesome too. Unfortunately, I’ve not read most of the others on your list and want to add pretty much all of them to my to-read list! In particular, I’m planning on moving from California back to the NE US soon, so There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather could be helpful 🙂

    • Yeah I think you might want to get to There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather sooner rather than later! That’s a big change!!
      I really appreciated that The Five was so much about the victims and how they ended up living in Whitechapel, rather than about what was done to them. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for that to happen.

  6. There are some great books in there. Looking forward to Warmth of other suns and Caste. Samantha Irby is my favorite. So hilarious. Say Nothing was my favorite read last year. So so good. So many of yours I have on my list. And now a few more to add! Thanks.

    I am reading The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson right now and it’s really good.

  7. Wow — love this list and I think I just added about 5-10 new-to-me books to my list. I’m very intrigued by many books in this book – I Miss You when I Blink, There is no such thing as bad weather, We have always been here, to name a few. Great list and thanks for sharing!

  8. We read so many of the same books! I had never read Samantha Irby before and, like you, I was scream laughing. I now have all her books on hold at the library.

    You probably already do this, but Glennon’s IG feed is awesome. So is Abby’s.

  9. I can always count on you to plump up my already overflowing nonfiction list! You make them all sound so good! I’ve actually read two of them – We Have Always Been There and From the Ashes – both of which I loved. Jesse’s story is pretty amazing, isn’t it?

    • I love that Canada Reads seems to be branching out into nonfiction! Both of them were so good.
      I think there’s so much more accessible nonfiction than there used to be. It feels like there’s something available for everyone.

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