Nonfiction November: Mini Reviews

Friday, November 7, 2014

Regular Rumination is once again hosting a month-long celebration of nonfiction books. Yay! I’m a huge fan of nonfiction. I feel like there are so many fascinating stories out there to be told and so many talented authors writing them.
Here’s a list of a bunch of my favorite nonfiction books that I posted last year, including breakdowns by category so there's something for everyone.
And here’s a few reviews of nonfiction books that I read this fall.
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair
My year of magical reading
by Nina Sankovitch
After Nina’s sister passes away at age 46, she decides to read a book every single day for a year. It was an effort to process her emotions and find something to focus on during that difficult time. The book is really a meditation is grief and memories of her sister. I wasn’t quite expecting a book on grieving and though it was a raw and intimate look at what she went through, I felt like it wasn’t quite what it proclaimed itself to be. I was expecting a little more about the actual books she was reading.
I did love her thoughts on the importance of reading, the way it is both an escape and a way to ground ourselves. For anyone that sees reading as a permanent part of your life and something you love, it’s easy to see it becoming your focus when other aspects feel as though they are spinning out of control.
I wish she’d talk a bit more about the actual challenges of reading a book each day and how that affected her enjoyment of each one. Did she find herself craving certain books or wishing for a day off? Did she wish she could sit and read a huge novel over the course of a week, but feel like she couldn’t because she had to move on to the next one? Regardless, it’s an inspiring endeavor and one that it would be incredible to attempt one day!
“We all need a space to just let things be, a place to remember who we are and what is important to us, an interval of time that allows the happiness and joy of living back into our consciousness.”
Here's the author's blog is your curious about her journey. 
My Kind of Place
Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere
Susan Orlean
I love reading travel books while I’m traveling. Sometimes when I read them and don’t have a big trip on the horizon it’s just an exercise in frustration. I read this one on a plane to Australia, which was perfect. There’s even one part about Orlean’s trip to Sydney during the 2000 Olympic games!
The book is a compilation of short stories and essays that have been published as articles in other magazines. It was a good mix of the author covering big events, exploring small towns, or trying new things in a foreign place. Orlean has a skilled way of finding fascinating gems. There are essays set all over the world, but even if you haven’t been there you can see what she sees. You’re flipping through records in Paris or talking to a cranky Australian about the traffic caused by the Olympics. There weren’t any essays that I think will stick with me forever, which is why my rating isn’t higher, but they were fun trips to take along with the author.
“All the while, the girls kept talking about their schedule. It was as if the strangeness of where they were and what they were doing was absolutely ordinary: as if there were no large, smelly drunk sprawled in front of them, as if it were quite unexceptional to be three Scottish girls drinking Australian beer in Thailand on their way to Laos, and as if the world were the size of a peanut-something as compact as that, something is easy to pick up, shell, consume, as long as you were young and sturdy and brave.”
The Motorcycle Diaries
Notes on a Latin American Journey
by Ernesto “Che” Guevara
Che Guevara became an iconic figure because of his work as a revolutionary in Cuba, but long before that he wrote this memoir about his travels as a young man. When he was 23-years-old, he and his friend Alberto left Argentina in the 1950s to travel through South America.
He chronicles his thoughts and feelings about the things they see and the people they met along the way. It’s impossible not to spend much of the book wondering which events helped plant the seeds that made him into the man he became. For example, his work in the leper colonies showed him a completely different side of humanity.
This was one of the few examples of a book that I thought was better as a film. There’s something about the stilted nature of Guevara’s narration that didn’t work well for me. The 2004 film allows that to drop off and shows the audience the beauty and pain of what he sees instead of trying to describe it.


annieb said...

The only one of these three I have read is Tolstoy and the Purple Chair and I read that a couple of years ago. I enjoyed it very much and also wondered how she pulled it off with participating in real life. I read a book a day for one month and succeeded and have tried it a couple of times since and failed. I am retired and have no husband or children to tend and still it was difficult. But, apparently it was her job for the time. I am a sucker for books about books and reading, but it seemed a bit like a gimmick even though I'm certain her grief was real. She used to have a blog which listed and reviewed all the books she read during that year.

Trisha said...

Thanks for the reminder about The Motorcycle Diaries. That is a book I haven't thought about in years.

Bybee said...

I think my library has Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I really enjoyed Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, particularly for something that you mentioned -- a reminder that reading can help ground us in times of crisis. I've always found that to be true for me.

Leslie @ This is the Refrain said...

I liked but I didn't love Tolstoy and the Purple Chair for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. I liked that it was an exploration of what reading can do for you when life is particularly hard, but it felt like there was something missing. I think it's what you mentioned. Thank you for joining in Nonfiction November!

Amy said...

These all sound interesting (especially My Kind of Place - I love travelling). Thanks for the mini reviews.

Brona said...

I have The Motorcycle Diaries on my TBR pile - I'll read it first, then see the movie, judging from your comments - thanks :-)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

annieb - I remember when you decided to do that challenge! I was so envious of your reading time. I would love to do that one day. I don't know how she had time to review anything!

Trisha - It's been on my TBR shelf for so long!

Susan - Hope you like it.

Kim - I particularly love rereading favorites when life it hard. They give me such comfort.

Lu - That's it, it felt like something was missing.

Amy - That was a fun one. She's the author that Meryl Streep plays in Adaptation.

Brona - Enjoy! The movie was just lovely.