Nonfiction November: Nonfiction / Fiction Pairing

This week’s episode of Nonfiction November is hosted by Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves.


And this week’s topic is…

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.


Knowing that I was going to read Beryl Markham’s memoir West with the Night for an upcoming book discussion, I first dove in to Circling the Sun by Paula McLain–an historical novel about Markham’s life.


And while both are lyrical in style, with vivid descriptions of Markham’s free-spirited, adventurous life, Circling the Sun delves into the complicated relationships of Markham’s life. If you read only West with the Night, you’d have no idea of the messy love triangle among Markham, Denys Finch Hatton, and Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen). The fictionalized account, based closely on the facts, takes a good, long look at the underbelly.


It’s a bit like reading an autobiography and a biography of the same person, and getting the glossy version from the person’s own pen, while the outside account lays it all bare. Only when the outside account is a novel, there’s also some judicious editing that creates a better story arc. And I’m OK with that.


I found the reading of West with the Night all the richer for having spent time with the fictionalized Markham in the pages of the novel. And I was struck again by the remarkable ways in which fiction, too, can speak truth.

16 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: Nonfiction / Fiction Pairing

  1. Thoughtful pairing! There really is something stimulating about comparing a memoir with a fictional portrayal of a person. It gives you a more multifaceted understanding of their character, I think.

  2. Ha! I was thinking about posting this pairing too – after reading your post including West With the Night last week. Definitely on my list to read now because I loved Circling the Sun,

  3. Susie | Novel Visits

    I loved Circling the Sun, so would be interested to read Markham’s memoir. The two sound like a perfect pairing!

    • Debbie — Interesting and revealing! The difference between what someone tells about herself (and keeps private) vs the way someone else describes her behavior. Fascinating stuff for a book discussion.

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