Nonfiction November, Week 4: Nonfiction Favorites

In Week 4 of Nonfiction November,  Katie @ Doing Dewey brings us Nonfiction Favorites.

She says: 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.

 

First, can I say I love this question?

Especially since I was recently pondering this very topic. A few weeks ago, while talking about books with the Dear Man, I said something and then realized it was abundantly true: I think narrative voice is the most important element for me as a reader.

It stopped me in my tracks, that’s how true it was.

If I enjoy the writer’s voice, I’ll read nearly anything. Here’s proof:

I’ve read and loved these books, which are about topics I wouldn’t say I enjoy reading about:

 

Sports

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

Over Time by Frank Deford

An Accidental Sportswriter by Robert Lipsyte

 

Police Life (too gritty for my sensibilities, I always think, but then… these books)

Blue Blood by Edward Conlon 

The Job by Steve Osborne 

 

I think their lively narrative voice is the reason I dearly adore reading books by journalists. They get right to the point, and they keep it punchy.

 

So, my fellow nonfiction fanatics… I read for narrative voice. What nonfiction books should I add to my TBR?

Nonfiction November, Week 3: Be the Expert/Ask the Expert

(Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash)

This week Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness brings us Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert!

Here’s our topic: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 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).

 

Self-improvement books make me very, very happy.

When I look back on the ones that have made me the happiest, these books wing their way to the top of the list. These five authors are my gurus.

Starting with the most sweeping and challenging…

 

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown   

Probably Brene Brown needs no introduction. But if her work is new to you, the quickest way I can sum it up is:

Warm. Honest. Challenging. Hopeful.

 

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin  

While I’ve never officially done a happiness project, I’ve definitely been a lifelong dabbler in the science. Rubin, who now has an entertaining podcast along with her sister, breaks happiness down for us here, and she does it by making herself the experiment. It’s informative, it’s fun to read, and it’s inspiring.

 

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

The latest self-improvement Big Impact book I’ve read, Deep Work asks us to slow down and go deep. And as a multi-tasking whirlwind (actually, I’m hooked on stacking and nesting tasks, cuz we all know multi-tasking doesn’t work), I resisted this concept like my stubborn toddler self used to dig in her heels. (People who know me now find this unfathomable, but this is the way I was.) But once I gave it a try, I was on board. And now I’m one of those annoying converts who can’t stop proselytizing. This stuff works.

 

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Ever since I read Getting Things Done the second time (about 2 years ago), I’ve been following this system, and I don’t know how I lived without it. It’s made me both more organized and less stressed. That subtitle don’t lie, my friends.

 

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley 

Narrow the focus to writing, and this book is my hands-down favorite. Handley is encouraging and she’s wise and she makes me want to be a better writer. And she makes me want to actually sit down and write. (Sometimes that’s half the battle. Am I wrong?)

 

So, good people of the Interwebs… What self-improvement book changed your life? 

Nonfiction November, Week 2: Book Pairing

(Photo by Dominik Schröder on Unsplash)

This week, our host, Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves, brings us this topic…

This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. 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.

Looking at the books I’ve read this year, the fiction and nonfiction books that leap off my list and into one another’s arms are…

 

  • Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (that would be the nonfiction)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman (that would be the fiction)

The thing that binds these two books is the response to grief — specifically, the death of a spouse. And that’s a really sad and scary topic. But both of these books are empowering, even though they’re also honest about the pain of that type of loss.

Though certainly not read-alikes, they could be companion books. I wouldn’t mind reading both of them for book club, to discuss the different ways we deal with loss.

Nonfiction November, Week 1: Your Year in Nonfiction

Hello, my friends, and welcome to Nonfiction November — one of the best holidays of the year!

Each week this month, I’ll be posting on Monday to play along.

This week, our host is the darling and clever Julie of JulzReads.

And she gives us these topics:

 

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions…

First, here’s my year in nonfiction thus far:

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman

On Writing by Stephen King 

Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing by Jennifer Weiner 

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking  

Lovable Livable Home by Sherry and John Petersik

Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope by Wendy Holden

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home by Amy Dickinson

March: Book One by John Lewis

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything In Between by Lauren Graham

The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

George Rogers Clark: I Glory in War by William R. Nester  

Find a Way by Diana Nyad 

Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages by David Ross

Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan

United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath  

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer 

32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line by Eric Ripert  

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul  

Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe’s America by Andrew Ferguson

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman by Nora Ephron 

You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown

Encounter with an Angry God: Recollections of My Life with John Peabody Harrington by Carobeth Laird

My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

 

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

I seriously love the nonfiction, so this is a tough one. But when I look over the list of nonfiction books I’ve read so far this year, the one that stands out is Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home by Amy Dickinson. This book did all the things a book is meant to do: it made me laugh and cry, it made me stay up past my bedtime, and it made me happy to be alive.

 

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

We’ve got a tie here, folks. And I’m realizing that my answers reveal way too much about my inherent dorkiness. You’ve been warned.

First: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

(Full disclosure: I’m writing this post during a 40-minute bout of deep work. It’s nice in here.) This book is gradually changing the way I approach aspects of my work and my life, and it’s making both better. Did I resist change at first? Yes, I did. Am I glad I powered through? Darn right.

 

Also first: The U.S. Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell

I’m not much of a graphic novel reader, so for me to be handselling one all over town means this book is pretty stinkin’ amazing. I loved this book’s Schoolhouse Rock style, and I loved that I kept getting verklempt about our government while reading it.

 

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

As I look over my nonfiction reading for the year, the books that make my heart sing tend to be memoirs and essay collections. I don’t necessarily gravitate to memoirs, so this feels a bit surprising. I’d be OK with reading more memoirs next year.

 

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

I can’t wait to expand my TBR with suggestions from other bloggers. Last year JoAnn of Lakeside Musing inspired me to read My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, a book I really enjoyed.

I’m looking forward to more discoveries this November!

Why I love Brene Brown

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown

3 words: narrative, thoughtful, engaging

Oh my goodness. Brene Brown.

I seriously can’t say enough good things.

When I want to feel both encouraged and challenged, she’s my go-to writer. For me, she appeared out of nowhere just when I needed her research to help me out.

And life just keeps offering ways to use the ideas she puts out there.

When she spoke at the American Library Association conference, she talked about and directly demonstrated the concepts in Braving the Wilderness, and she brought us along with her:

“People are hard to hate close up. Move in.

Speak truth to BS. Be civil.

Hold hands. With strangers.

Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.”

We were all singing together and it was beautiful as all heck.

So she’s walking the walk and inspiring others to do the same. It’s hard work, y’all. (I sometimes slip into Brene Brown speak when I’m thinking about her.)

But there’s such warmth and humor here, too. This part made me smile out loud:

“After fifteen years of this work, I can confidently say that stories of pain and courage almost always include two things: praying and cussing. Sometimes at the exact same time.”  (pp. 24-25)

She spoke about that at ALA, too — the fact that some organizations ask her not to cuss, and others ask her not to mention God. But she’s gonna do both, doggone it.

It’s hard stuff, this living a good and decent life. And she makes us realize that to do it really, really well is super hard and super rewarding.

Give this book a whirl if you like…books that explain society and challenge us to be our best selves, reconnecting with yourself and others, cultivating integrity, showing up as our true selves

What book or author showed up in your life just when you needed them most?

 

 

 

 

Deep Work is deep work

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

3 words: game-changing, thoughtful, practical

The book that’s most challenged me recently? Here we have it.

I’ve both craved and resisted the message of this book, which is:
In order to do our best work, we need to restructure things so we can work without distraction.

And I seriously love a good multi-task. Or at least a good layering of activities. (As I type this paragraph, I’m at the track, stretching my calves before a run. I’m guessing Newport would say this is fruitful time for germinating ideas but not for doing actual work.) So this new method does not come naturally to me these days. Especially with the tug of email and other distractions.

But when I’ve tried it in small doses, it’s been abundantly fruitful. Some tasks require focus, and when I give myself permission to go into the thinking cave, I’m surprised by how much I accomplish.

Newport’s method requires larger scale changes than I’ve made thus far, but I’m implementing it in small ways to gather my own evidence that it can work for me. And then I’ll experiment with other ways I can expand it.

Examples:

  • Logging out of email while I spend 40 minutes dedicated to a project at work
  • Placing my iPhone in another room when I’m working on a project at home
  • Clearing my workspace so I’m not distracted by clutter (sometimes. I do this sometimes.)

So far, so good. So far, so amazing.

Give this book a whirl if you like… productivity, diving deep, focus, denying distractions, taking back control , living a rich life

My fellow self-improvement junkies… what habits are you trying to build?

 

Inspired: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

3 words: inspiring, youthful exuberance, triumphant

If I’m having one of those pitiful days when I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, thinking about this book will pop me right out of it. Not because it guilts me that my problems are actually darn puny, but because this story’s as inspiring as all heck.

William Kamkwamba and his family and his village in Malawi faced hardships (think: near starvation in a drought year), and “he started retreatin’ and readin’ every treatise on the shelf.” (OK. That’s actually Hamilton, but: Same Concept.)

He had a fascination with science and a yearning to learn and a scientist’s mind. And he writes lovingly of the books he’d check out over and over again from the small school library, so he could learn about physics.

And then he decided to build a windmill.

(Side note: these rhapsodies about reading and windmills and learning occasionally had me verklempt.)

And to build the windmill, he had to work for it. There was garbage scavenging for parts like the soles of shoes — just to hook up a tiny lightbulb so he could read after sunset. (We can understand this, can’t we, readers?)

And then he dreamt of using windmills to pump water to help alleviate the ill effects of dry years.

From starvation to science. This is seriously inspiring stuff.

Give this book a whirl if you like… stories of hope in grim circumstances, the quest for learning, self-sufficiency, perseverance

What book has most inspired you lately?

I found my Strengths, and my Strengths won

 

My Strengths mug!

Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

3 words: descriptive, practical, personalized

Oh my goodness. When I was running a couple of months ago, I heard an episode of Side Hustle School where a guy started selling customized mugs that list a person’s top 5 strengths from Strengthsfinder. And I was all, “Must Have Mug.” (I’ve also been meaning to go for the Strengthsfinder thing for a while now, but it took a mug to tip the balance. Because: mugs.)

So I bought the Strengthsfinder 2.0 eBook via the Gallup website, which also includes the strengths evaluation. And I got my list of 5 strengths.

And now… back to the podcasts. I’ve been listening compulsively to the Gallup’s Theme Thursday podcast, especially to the episodes dealing with my 5 strengths. Oh, my.

The coolest thing is that when you buy this book, you gain access to the Strengthsfinder quiz, which reveals your top 5 strengths. And you also receive these great info sheets that tell you how to use your strengths to their best advantage.

Totally worth the $15 price of the eBook!

This book is full of concrete tips for each strength. While the sections about my key strengths spoke to me directly, it was also fascinating to read about all the other strengths. One nice feature is that each strength chapter contains a section called “Working with others who have [that strength]” — which makes each section more relevant to every reader.

So now I’m writing goals that align with my strengths, and I review them while sipping tea from my customized mug. It would be embarrassing if it weren’t so enjoyable. (Maybe it’s more embarrassing because it’s so enjoyable?)

Give this book a whirl if you like… personality types, building on your strengths, self-improvement books

What’s your favorite book about personality types?

Making the Constitution completely fascinating

(Photo by Jomar Thomas on Unsplash)

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell

 

3 words: educational, lively, page-turner

Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans!

While it’s fair to say I’m primed to love this book (political science major and Hamilton obsessive), there’s so much here to love.

But… I’m not a natural reader of graphic novels, so in order for this book to really work for me, it had to perform on a pretty high level. I need to be won over by a graphic novel, and this one accomplished that feat.

As I was reading, I couldn’t believe how fun the author and illustrator made this book. Yes, it’s about the Constitution, and yes, that could be on the dry side, but… they make it interesting. And colorful and visually engaging. I kept thinking of Schoolhouse Rock, and that ramped up my fondness even further.

The author makes the Constitution and the Bill of Rights downright relatable, and he makes it relevant. We learn the Why.

I gotta say: pretty darn fascinating.

But then, I’m also the reader who occasionally got verklempt while reading this book, because: our government!

It’s messy and sometimes it doesn’t look like it’s working well at all, but it’s built strong enough to endure some serious crap. And that’s a serious comfort, my friends.

And if you need a soundtrack, of course Hamilton provides one.

Give this book a whirl if you like… nonfiction graphic novels, American history, the Schoolhouse Rock approach to learning, the “why” behind the American system of government

 

My fellow readers… what book would you recommend for the 4th of July?

Boone boon

Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan

3 words: myth-busting, detailed, literary

Travel-inspired reading: I’m kind of hooked on it.

 

Anyone else with me on that?

At the reconstructed fort

When the Dear Man and I were canoeing in Kentucky, we also visited Fort Boonesborough.

It’s a place where Daniel Boone lived and dramatic things happened there.

So: we history geeks were into it.

Result: I wanted to read a Boone biography.

During our visit to the truly spectacular Paris Public Library, I asked the wonderful librarian to recommend a biography of Boone, and she suggested the Robert Morgan. I’m so glad she did.

This book, written as it is by a novelist, is seriously narrative. Morgan’s one heck of a talented storyteller, and his writing is downright lovely.

Original site of fort

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed being immersed in this story.

Even beyond the drama (being captured by Native Americans and absorbed into the tribe as the son of the chief — who knew?!) Boone’s life offers plenty of food for thought.

There’s some major irony here. Boone loved hunting and exploring, but his efforts led to the destruction of what he valued most. By opening up the West to settlement, there went the hunting grounds.

And when a biography of Boone was published during his lifetime, he became a folk hero and lived with the weirdness of early 19th century fame.

Morgan’s warm, compassionate portrait paints Boone as a decent, talented man who was deeply loved by his family and friends. And that’s an angle I hadn’t really considered — the man’s personal life. Morgan brings him very much to life, and he made me care about this man whose legend has obscured his humanity.

 

Give this book a whirl if you like…exploration, stories of loners, the frontier, early American history, a nuanced and balanced view of a historical figure

 

So, good readers… have you ever read a book because of a vacation inspiration?