Tagged: #NonFicNov

Nonfiction November Week 4: Stranger than fiction

This week’s prompt is hosted by Christopher of Plucked From the Stacks, and I had a hard time with this one! We are to highlight “great nonfiction books that almost don’t seem real” and I wasn’t sure where to take it – nonfiction that in fact turned out not to be real (A Million Little Pieces) or at least disputed, or nonfiction that presents itself as fiction (thinking of genre benders like The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard and Flights by Olga Tokarczuk), or to stop overthinking it and say Bad Blood.

And I will say Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, for all the reasons everyone else is saying it. How this woman scammed everyone around her for so many years is, indeed, stranger than fiction. For extra surrealness, I’m following her trial on Twitter. Another book along these lines (though in a very different setting) that I’d love to read is My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams, though I get the sense that most of the best details are in the author’s original article. And finally, I eagerly await Bitcoin Widow by Jennifer Robertson, the wife of deceased (maybe) bitcoin mogul and pyramid schemer Gerald Cotton. I hope that there are some jaw dropping revelations, though I won’t hold my breath; if she really helped him fake his death, she’s certainly not going to spill in a book.

And I’ll leave it there. I’m off to read other entries. Start with this week’s host, he’s got some doozies, including the book that inspired the prompt, The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute by Zac Bissonnette. What a title!

Nonfiction November Week 3: Be the expert on tech pessimism

This week’s #NonFicNov prompt is hosted by Veronica, who has given us a few options: you can be the expert, ask the expert, or become the expert on a topic of your choosing. I informally put out a “ask the expert” call in my previous post, and it was answered! If you also want to learn more about Iceland, look no further. This week, I’m going to be the expert on tech pessimism, or to be more precise, on the many, many ways in which social media is harmful.

I’m not really a tech pessimist, or if I am, I’m deeply in denial, seeing as I tweet an average of 250-300 times per month. And yet I’m drawn to these books. I read them, agree with them, vow to change my ways, take week or month-long social media breaks, and then go right back to where I started. I see my Twitter addiction like my (long dormant, but never really gone) smoking addiction; the only way to beat it is to go cold turkey and to never give it an inroad. But unlike smoking, I can’t fully give up social media and neither can you, probably.

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Nonfiction November Week 2: Book Pairings

This week’s #NonFicNov prompt is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey,  and she challenges us to pair a nonfiction book with a novel. She suggests a historical novel paired with the real history, which is the best place for me to start. In the run up to publication of The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, third and final book in the Wolf Hall series, I took in a pre-Broadway run of Six in late 2019, and reread the first two books in early 2020. I was so ready. Unfortunately, my reading experience ended up being seriously dampened by early pandemic anxiety. A reread will be in order. But to make myself feel better, I indulged in a couple of Tudor nonfiction titles.

So if you liked the Wolf Hall series, you should check out:

  • Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of Henry VIII by Gareth Russell. Juicy and scandalous, but scholarly enough to bring some real insight into what the Tudor court was like for an eligible young woman.
  • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives is a little drier at times (he has a lot to say about her possessions, textiles and drinking vessels and prayer books and whatnot), but not without controversy, as theories abound about who Anne really was and how much agency she really had. But this does seem to be the authoritative account, and has been since 1986.

And speaking of royals, fans of Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle, or specifically the first book, Quicksilver, which is all I read, should check out the real life story of a minor character in Anna Keay’s The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth. He is portrayed as a lecherous rake in Quicksilver, and well, he basically comes across as the same in Keay’s history, but with some nuance. Great fun, and illuminating, if you read historical fiction set in this time.

Reading history (and not just royal history) to clarify and illuminate novels would be a fun project! It’s got me thinking about the world literature I’ve loved this year, like Independent People (20th century Iceland) and Demons (19th century Russia), and how they could probably be appreciated better with more background knowledge. I have a bit of a TBR going for Russian nonfiction, but wouldn’t know where to begin with Iceland.

I hope others are able to go beyond Katie’s suggestion of historical fictions/history, but I’m drawing a blank! I thought about suggesting various anti-social media books to go with Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts, but I’m going to save that for next week’s prompt…