4

Non-Fiction November: New to my TBR

And here we are, the final day of November, the last post for Non-Fiction November. This month long celebration of all things non-fiction is 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 is hosted by Lory at Emerald City Book Review.

A whole month of non-fiction bingeing begs the question: what books made it onto your TBR List?

This year I actually kept track! These are the books that replaced the ones I read this month (and then some because it was not a strong reading month for me!):

Thanks again to Katie, Julie, Sarah, Lory and Kim for hosting another great month of non-fiction. Even though I definitely didn’t get as much non-fiction reading in as I wanted or hoped to, the non-fiction that I did read was pretty great.

(Any event that gets Catherine @ Gilmore Guide to Books to read non-fiction is a success!)

And I’ve added some great new titles to my TBR juuuuuuust in time for Christmas.

 

Advertisements
10

Non-Fiction November: Non-Fiction Favourites

Week 4 of Non-Fiction November is upon us! This month long celebration of all things non-fiction is 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, Kate at Doing Dewey is hosting a discussion on what makes your favourite non-fiction titles your favourite:

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.

I’ve had to have a bit of a think about this one. It’s tough to nail down what I loved about my favourite non-fiction titles.

I love stories and really, that’s just as true about my fiction reading as my non-fiction reading. I love non-fiction about women, especially women who were ahead of their time in some capacity. I love biographies of Princesses or Queens, Duchesses, Countesses, actresses who didn’t take any sh*t, women who fought fascists and Nazis and lived to tell the tale.

I love non-fiction where you can tell that the author totally geeked out while writing it. Those non-fiction titles tend to have a really strong author voice running through them. Erik Larson, Malcom Gladnwell, Gretchen Rubin all come to mind. Even Sheryl Sandberg. I recently read a joint biography of Marguerite de Valois and her mother, Catheine de’ Medici, where the author’s footnotes were pure gold. One of them even referenced a preferred sexual position with the note that the reader should “look it up.”

Ultimately I love gossip. And I know I say that I a lot. But I love non-fiction books that make me feel like I’m getting the inside scoop. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish either – especially not for more academic authors. When it’s done well, it can make reading a 500 page book about people long dead so exciting and fun.

And now, here’s a list of some of my very favourite non-fiction titles for you:

27

Non-Fiction November: Be the Expert

It’s already Week 3 of Non-Fiction November! This month long celebration of all things non-fiction is 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.

And this week it’s Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness hosting Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert:

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I’ve elected to Be the Expert again this year. Because this year I wanted my non-fiction reading to be more frivolous than it’s been recently, I’ve decided to focus on Hollywood this week. And while there is tons of interesting non-fiction on modern aspects of Hollywood (I do really need to get my hands on some of those Scientology books one of these days…), I’m looking at old Hollywood Stars.

My love of Hollywood Stars started on Sunday  afternoon movie marathons with my grandmother. Which led to reading biographies of Shirley Temple and Audrey Hepburn when I was a tween. Before I became obsessed with Royal Women, Hollywood Movie Stars were my jam.

So if you’ve  been looking for some delicious, gossipy books, read on!

marilyn

If you’re going to read biographies about Hollywood you cannot go wrong with anything written by J. Randy Taraborrelli. He is one of my absolute go-to biographers. His portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor really stand out for his ability to actually get to the person at the centre of their myths. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth are really worth your time. (I also wholeheartedly recommend his biography of the Hilton family – the Zsa Zsa time alone is worth it).

 

 

avaAva Gardner: Love is Nothing by Lee Server. Oh this one was full of scandal! Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney, Howard Hughes – Ava Gardner bewitched them and then some. Ava was a firecracker who was ahead of her time in many ways. I had an idea of Ava going into this book and finished it feeling like she’d been misrepresented for years and years.

 

 

 

natashaIf tragedy is more your thing, might I suggest Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood by Suzanne Finstead? A child star whose mother was ultra protective after being told her daughter would die in dark waters, burdened with being the bread winner in her family, and ever after seen as a precocious child star, Natalie Wood’s life was ably and sensitively covered in this book. I’ll never forget the detail that Christopher Walken was on the boat the night she died.

 

 

me and my shadowsSpeaking of family tragedy, Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir by Lorna Luft was one of the early celebrity memoirs I bought for myself. Lorna Luft is Judy Garland’s daughter and her telling of growing up with her beautiful, talented, but ultimately damaged mother is one that will stick with you for years.

 

 

 

joan

This summer, thanks to Feud: Bette and Joan, I became obsessed with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I cannot recommend The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine enough as it was the inspiration for the show and contains the most delicious gossip I’ve ever read in a biography. I haven’t yet read a book about Bette, but the one I read about Joan, Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto made me see Ms Crawford in a completely different light. Incidentally, Spoto has also written a biography of Audrey Hepburn that I read years ago.

 

In keeping with my brand, there are no male movie star biographies listed here. It’s just not as interesting to read about the white men who had the world at their feet. It was like reading about Grace Kelly – so beautiful, so boring. She did everything she was supposed to her whole life.

So there you have it: an old Hollywood biography starter pack. Are there any you’ve read that you think I should give a spin? I’m always looking for more.

And don’t forget to check out Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness to see what other Non-Fiction Novemberites are reading about!

15

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.

24

Non-Fiction November: My year in Non-Fiction

Last year I tentatively decided to participate in Non-Fiction November for the first time. This year, I’ve been looking forward to it all year long.

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,

Let’s get to it!

The first week, hosted by Julie @ JulzReads, asks us to reflect on our non-fiction reading so far this year!

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

We all know that it’s impossible to choose one favourite book at any time. This is no exception. I’ve read some really great non-fiction this year. These definitely stand out:

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

I read Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud early in the year and I’ve recommended that one to a lot of people. At the very least to read the essay on Kim Kardashian and pregnancy which is a real stand out. More recently, I’ve been preaching about Seven Fallen Feathers. The story of these Indigenous youths that we all turned our backs on is one that needs to be known more widely. We can’t keep pretending that these problems don’t exist in Indigenous communities and that we didn’t have a hand in creating them through racist policies.

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?

This year I’ve read more socially conscious non-fiction. Which is great because that’s something that I wanted to do more of this time last year. BUT. Reading those kinds of books on top of the state of the world can be quite draining. I think this month I would love to read more ‘frivolous’ non-fiction. I want to read more about royals (my fave!), biographies, about women in the past. I think I need a bit of a break from the social commentary that feels a bit like little glass slivers cutting me.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I want to clear some of my non-fiction TBR! So far this year, 30% of my reading has been non-fiction (which sounds great until you realize that my reading numbers overall are just lower so a greater amount of them are non-fiction) but I still have so many books sitting on my shelves. I have books about royal parents, Leni Riefenstahl and Marlene Dietrich, housewives in the 1950s, ballet at the Bolshoi, a few biographies of Queen Victoria and books about women and families fighting fascists in the 1940s.

I’m also really looking forward to interacting with other non-fiction readers. And for every book that I clear from my TBR, I look forward to adding three in their place from recommendations by other participants!

Does this sound like something you want to get in on? There’s still time? Check out the schedule here. There’s also a book swap if you sign up this week!

9

Non-Fiction November: Be the Expert

This week as part of Non-fiction November, we’re thinking like experts. We’re either being the expert, asking the experts or becoming an expert.

I have been most looking forward to this week, hosted by Julz @ Julz Reads.

For as long as I’ve been reading, I’ve been obsessed with Royals, mainly female Royals. I’ve read about Tudors and Yorks, Romanovs, Stuarts, Windsors, even a Bernadotte or two. I’ve read about minor German duchies, Spanish Infantas, French Queens, and Austrian Empresses. I’ve read about Elizabethans, Georgians, Edwardians, and the Restoration.

I will forever be drawn to Royals.

Here are some of my favourite  books about Royal women (in no particular order):

The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. I’d read a lot about Nicholas and Alexandra by the time I read this one. Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia were always mentioned as their lives intersected with their parents’. Their deaths at such young ages meant that they were never really known as their own people. Rappaport’s book was the first time I was introduced to the sisters as individuals. The whole thing is of course, totally sad, because ultimately you know how their story ends.

The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley. Princess Louise, was the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. She was unusual in that she convinced her parents to let her have an artistic education. She was quite a talented sculptor, married a commoner (as much a commoner as the era would allow anyway, he was still in line to a Dukedom), and spent part of her life in Canada when her husband was appointed Governor-General. The province of Alberta is named for her.

Anything by Julia P. Gelardi. She is, hands down, my favourite Royals biographer. She has written three books looking at multiple Royals. Five Granddaughters, which looks at the lives of the Queens of Norway, Russia, Spain, Romania and Greece, each of whom was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria; In Triumph’s Wake, which looks at the lives of incredibly successful Queens (Victoria, Maria-Theresa and Isabella of Spain) and their very tragic daughters (Vicky, Marie-Antoinette, Katherine of Aragon); and From Splendour to Revolution, which takes on some of the Romanov women, from 1847-1928. Anyone of them is so very worth your time – I can’t even pick a favourite.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. Catherine was Empress of Russia but she was also a woman. Massie’s portrait of her manages to do justice to both sides of this august historical figure.

Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams. Before reading this, my knowledge of Josephine was that she was always really well dressed. Williams introduced me to a completely different person, a woman who was born on a remote island, who kicked and scratched her way through life. It was exquisitely researched and I loved every page. (Williams is actually a prolific author. She has many books about royal woman, as well as fiction books like the WWI series that starts with The Storms of War. I totally read it – also quite good)

The Reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann. The first time I ever became aware of Empress Elisabeth of Austria was when I was actually in Austria. Her portrait, the Winterhalter one of her in a white dress with diamond stars in her hair, is everywhere. I bought this biography of her while I was there. Empress Elisabeth wasn’t supposed to marry Franz-Joseph, her sister was. But he fell in love with Elisabeth and she with him. Life at the very formal Austrian court turned out to be a lot to handle for a young woman raised in an informal Bavarian household. She spent the rest of her life searching for ways to avoid court life, to live as free as possible away from the gossip and the rules that otherwise governed her life.

Well those should get you started should you feel the need to better acquaint yourself with some of these Royals. If you know of a good one, please let me know. I’m always looking for more.

26

Non-Fiction November: Fiction/Non-Fiction Pairings

This week’s Non-Fiction November topic is fiction/non-fiction pairings. This week is hosted by Sarah at Sarah’s Bookshelves and she’s got a number of great pairings waiting for you on her site.

I’ll be honest – I’m still not 100% myself. I find myself distracted and emotional (not unusual to well up over a tweet these days) and focusing on non-fiction hasn’t been easy. I’ve actually taken a one-book break from non-fiction, just to try and get my bearings back.

That said, I did put together a couple of fiction/non-fiction pairings. They may be a little more serious than I would have come up with had things turned out differently last week.

Fiction: The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. Ani FaNelli has worked really hard to build her new life on the ashes of what happened to her at a prestigious high school. But as she prepares to marry the perfect man, she starts to come to terms with her past and her facade starts to crumble.

Non-fiction: Missoula: Rape and and the Justice System in a College Town. Jon Krakauer looks at the very real ramifications of the astounding rates of (reported) sexual assaults on college campuses. This epidemic had seemed to gain ground in the right direction in the past 12 months. Let’s hope that that wasn’t all for nothing.

 

Fiction: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I’ve recommended this charming story many, many times. Even as recently as last week. If you haven’t already, please read this lovely tale about an old man who is so very done with the world, only to be confronted with the good in humanity.

Non-fiction: The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen. This book is a great way to begin to understand the Scandinavian mindset. The author leaves Finland for love in America and finds it difficult to adjust to her new life. Her book focuses on four key relationships – parents and children, men and women, employees and employers, and government and citizens – and how they shape America and the Nordic countries. I just read today that the Swedish government wants to provide tax incentives for those that fix their possessions rather than tossing them. I would caution those of you living in the States to read this one right now. It might be really tough on you.