Nonfiction November: My Year in NF

November is a busy themed month – I’m starting with Nonfiction (I’m never sure with it should be Non Fiction, Nonfiction or Non-Fiction!), but I shall go with all one word or NF…

Week 1 (30th Oct – 3rd Nov) Your Year in Nonfiction: Celebrate your year of nonfiction. What books have you read? What were your favorites? Have you had a favorite topic? Is there a topic you want to read about more?  What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November? (Heather at Based on a True Story)

I’m down a bit on nonfiction reading this year, currently running at 15/102 books read (last year I had read 27/118 – 23%). I have several NF novellas as possibles lined up for #NovNov though, which will bump it up a little. The fifteen I have read have all been interesting reads, and over half I’ve scored highly at 8.5/10 or more.

I’ve read a different mixture this year too – just the one medical memoir (Kay), but two about movies (McEwen and Dyer), two about lifestyle (Highmore and Jones), one true-crime (O’Connell), one classic travel (Heyerdahl), two psychology (Liming and Dahlen/Thorbjørnsen), one facts (Cock-Starkey), and a variety of memoirs (Dury, Rothschild, Rogers, Taylor and Royle). However, many of those memoirs include reportage and other digressions, and some of the others include moments of memoir – to use a neologism coined by Nicholas Royle – they’re ‘memoirish’.

I have particularly loved those memoirish books his year: Mark McEwen’s essays on his favourite films and how they have shaped him; Mark O’Connell’s reportage plus talking about how his investigation into a true crime affected him; Hannah Rothschild on her aunt Nica; Geoff Dyer on his scene by scene obsession with Tarkovsky’s film Stalker; Jude Rogers on how music makes us feel (my NF highlight so far); Catherine Taylor evoking the sociopolitical scene of the 1970s-1980s; and Nicholas Royle’s own personal obsessions with David Bowie and Enid Blyton which he combined into a series of lectures (out end of this month and to be reviewed then!).

Here’s my full list – looking at it – what can you recommend me to add to it?

  1. Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time by Sheila Liming – RC NF (8/10) Shiny Review
  2. Weights and Measures by Claire Cock-Starkey – RC (7/10) Review
  3. Lifestyle Revolution by Ben Highmore – RC (8.5/10) Shiny Review
  4. Cary Grant’s Suit by Todd McEwen – RC (9/10) Shiny Review
  5. Chaise Longue by Baxter Dury – O* NF (9/10) Review
  6. The Kon-Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl – O NF (8/10) Review
  7. More. Numbers. Every. Day. by Micael Dahlen & Helge Thorbjørnsen – RC NF (8.5/10) Review
  8. The Baroness: The search for Nica, the rebellious Rothschild by Hannah Rothschild – O* NF (9/10) Review
  9. Zona by Geoff Dyer – O* NF (9/10) Review
  10. Undoctored by Adam Kay – O* (20B#6) (8/10) Review
  11. The Sound of Being Human by Jude Rogers – O* (20B#7) (10/10) Review
  12. A Thread of Violence by Mark O’Connell – RC (20B#11) (9/10) Review
  13. The Stirrings by Catherine Taylor – O (9/10) Shiny Review
  14. Divide by Anna Jones – RC – (8/10) Review
  15. David Bowie, Enid Blyton and the Sun Machine by Nicholas Royle – RC

27 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: My Year in NF

  1. Rebecca Foster says:

    For your music and pop culture interest: Dickens and Prince by Nick Hornby is an amusing biographical essay, and novella length too. And Michel Faber has a music-themed book just out.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      The two were a lockdown thing for him, but he finds some great links and juxtapositions in his musings. there is a direct connection with Blyton too which I shan’t spoil further. The ‘sun machine’ comes from Bowie’s Memory of a Free Festival from his first album.

  2. A Life in Books says:

    Nicely wide-ranging selection in your list. I take ages reading non-fiction but have three to recommend: Rachel Morris’ The Museum Makers, a memoir which might suit you; Iain Dunt’s How to Be a Liberal which both depressed me and made me feel better and Peter Ross’ A Tomb with a View which you’ve probably read already.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’ve just looked up the Rachel Morris – and added it to my wishlist, the Ross was already on it. However, the Dunt doesn’t tickle my fancy. Thank you for the recommendations.

  3. Elle says:

    Interesting that Royle groups Bowie and Blyton, because they both lived in Bromley (where I currently live)! Bowie was born here, and Blyton moved as an adult. Must be something in the water.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      That Bromley/Beckenham/Croydon thing resonates through the whole book… (I’m from the Croydon area too).

  4. Calmgrove says:

    I’ve read precious little nonfiction recently – Arthur Koestler’s The Roots of Coincidence, plus a couple of faux narratives – so I’ll try to fit some in November, one of which I have coming up in Witch Week. The only one on your list I know is the Thor Heyerdahl 😐

  5. Brona's Books says:

    Hannah Rothchild’s book about her aunt has caught my eye – Nico was an interesting woman. I spotted the fiction title you had on your review of it as well which sounds promising…and gives you a nice pairing start for week three 🙂

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      It’s just one chapter in his selection of films that influenced him – and Grant’s suit in North by Northwest really struck a chord. This essay collection was delightful.

  6. Liz Dexter says:

    Hooray for Jude’s book; I’d recommend Michel Faber’s Listen further to that one, though I have only heard him talk about it and read bits out so far.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’m a big champion of Jude’s writing – I subscribe to her substack (may have a gift sub if you don’t have one). I’ve just acquired the Faber. Looking forward to reading it.

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