Thursday, September 1, 2016

Nonfiction Tag

Welcome to the very first tag I have ever created.  I realized this summer that while I read mostly fiction, I really enjoy many nonfiction books I've read lately.  I tend to read a certain type--memoirs and "literary" nonfiction--that is closely related to the story-telling I love in fiction.  Still, I don't see nonfiction getting as much blogger love.  This is my attempt to address this.

If you are interested, consider yourself tagged.  Let me know if you complete it, and feel free to borrow my graphic, which I made on Canva, because I'm super fancy like that.  

A book well outside your base of knowledge

Natural Home Heating: The Complete Guide to Renewable Energy Options by Greg Pahl
We went through a "maybe we'll build a home!" phase many years ago, and I read many, many books on architecture, green building, and design.  This book stands out, not for the pretty pictures of the Not So Big House series, not for the quaint wisdom of A Pattern Language, but for delivering on its title in a manner both thorough and understandable to the lay person.

A book that you refer to often

A cookbook would be the obvious choice (in my case, the marvelously titled How To Cook Everything, which nearly lives up to its name), but I'm going to push it a little further.  Oregon Geographic Names is something I've consulted infrequently, but over a period of 30-some years.  The first editions were researched and written by Lewis L. McArthur in the 1920s.  His son, Lewis A. McArthur revised and re-released an update in 1974, and has continued to keep it updated since then.  My dad was acquainted with Mr. McArthur, Jr, and my husband and I received an autographed copy for our wedding.  In this book, one can read about the controversy surrounding the changing name of Naughty Lady Meadows, formerly Whorehouse Meadows, or how the neighborhood my daughter's school is named after is an amalgam of the original postmaster's two daughters' names.  One can also read about the naming of Teardrop Pool on top of Oregon's second highest mountain, the South Sister.  This is a big deal because the namers of this pool were three little girls who a couple of years later became my big sisters.

A book you were assigned to read and found fascinating

Beyond Culture by Edward T. Hall
I read this as part of my MAT program in 1996, when it was already twenty years old.  Some of the notions are even more dated--or obvious--now, as is Hall's habit of writing "man" to mean "people."  But I loved the way he looks at "small c culture" of time, space, and essential approaches to life as opposed to the "big C Culture" of art, food, music, and language.

A book that would start a great book club discussion

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
This book is both incredibly specific and humanely general.  By detailing the miscommunication and disagreement between American doctors and a Hmong family regarding the treatment of a small child's epilepsy, Fadiman reveals much about twentieth century history, immigration, living in a mult cultural society, western medicine, and other topics that matter as much today as when the book was first published twenty years ago.

A book you could (or do) re-read annually

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
This book has freed me to be the teacher I want to be.  Also, the reader, writer, and all-around book nerd I was born to be.

An essay or poetry collection

I used to read a lot of essay collections.  Favorite essayists include Anne Lamott, Ursula Le Guin, Po Bronson, and Barbara Kingsolver,  One collection that was particularly interesting is How We Survived Communism (And Even Laughed) by .  First published in 1991, it is not as dated as I wish it were, given its themes of oppression both political and personal.   was a journalist in Yugoslavia.  Remember Yugoslavia?  It just occurred to me that younger people might actually NOT.  Weird.  Anyway, as someone who spent 1992-1996 in another former Soviet Satellite, much of her work really resonated.  Plus, feminism.

Graphic novel (or other unusual format)

I can't say enough good things about two graphic novels that taught me what little I know about the natural and man-made disasters of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.  They are called Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans and A. D.: New Orleans After the Deluge.  ("Graphic novel" is a weird thing to call nonfiction, but "Graphic Nonfiction" sounds questionable at best.)

A book someone recommended to you

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen.  My dad tried to get me to read this for a long time before I caved, just to make him happy.  What a surprise to find that I, too, loved this story of learning to race sled dogs.  Keep the kleenex handy for the postscript.

A book about books, writing, or writers

Weirdly, this is by an author already on this list.  I have only read these two books by her, and they are really different from each other.  Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is a sort of literary memoir.

A book that made you either laugh out loud, or cry actual tears.

This is easy, since one book did both--Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by cartoonist Roz Chast.  It's a graphic novel memoir (which is an awesome new genre I've been reading a lot of lately) dealing with the aging and eventual death of her parents.  I have BEEN THERE.  That's where the crying came in.  Also, she's hilarious, and her family is uniquely messed up, as most are.  That's where the laughing came in.  Guffawing, even.


  1. I’ve never met someone else who has read Winterdance. I was completely obsessed with that book (and most of Gary Paulsen’s other books) when I was in middle school. I tried to get my friends to read it, but they wouldn’t.

    I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t read enough nonfiction, but I’ll try to do this tag. I probably won’t get the post up for a few weeks, though.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. Neat idea! I will try to do this, although probably not this month. I've read a LOT more nonfiction since I started blogging, so it will be interesting to see what I can fit into the categories.


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