Armchair BEA ~ Topic of Choice: Non-fiction!

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It’s Friday and time for Armchair BEA‘s Topic of Choice. While I love novels and adore short stories, I’d like to spend a few minutes on a “genre” that doesn’t seem to get a lot of love from the book-blogging community: Non-fiction.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that everything is narrative. We’re creatures of tale-telling. For better or worse, we make sense of the world by framing things in the form of stories. We want cause and effect. We want a beginning, a middle, and, most importantly, an ending.

When we watch sports, we like to hear about the athlete’s back-story and give dramatic structure to a game’s ebb and flow. We want scientific inquiry to be discrete, and while story-telling is good for creating hypotheses, it’s bad when we need to re-evaluate conclusions. Who wants to continually re-write the ending? One of the most interesting aspects about dealing with a chronic illness is the fact that the story of my arthritis has no conclusion and people are uncomfortable with that. When we talk of being sick it’s in terms of “getting better” and “beating it.” It doesn’t quite make sense when there is no good ending.

I’ve also found non-fiction to be more satisfying lately because, as an author, I need to know how the world works. I believe in a orderly world. If you know the systems, you can apply them. I’d really like to write a historical fiction about Omaha in the early 1900s involving several magicians who lived at the time. Not only has my research included them, but the city, the magic and technology of the era, economics, religion… It’s a long list of stories within stories!

So, here are links to some of the non-fiction I’ve really enjoyed, the best of best perhaps. Click on the covers for links to Goodreads.

History

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
Review
Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear
Review
The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous 19th Century Chess-Playing Machine
Review

Other Topics

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Review
The Devil: A Biography
Review
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
Review

Memoirs

Bad Luck Officer
Review
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Review
Chocolate and Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
Review

Do you blog about non-fiction? What non-fiction surprises have you read?

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20 thoughts on “Armchair BEA ~ Topic of Choice: Non-fiction!

  1. I’m a big fan of nonfiction, too, and have read several that you list. Have you read The Mummy Congress? I loved that book. Such an interesting topic. I’m with you on short stories, too, which is why I came up with a short works reading challenge (fiction and nonfiction). I’m always encouraging people to try both genres.

    1. My husband finished Flash Boys not long ago, and got me reading The Big Short. I kind of find economics and the stock market to be intimidating, but Michael Lewis makes all so interesting!

  2. I loooooooooove non-fiction, and I find that it’s a wonderful slump buster for me when I can’t quite get excited about fiction. Recently I’ve loved Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies, by JB West. This time last year I was loving The Glass Castle and The Astronaut Wives Club. Stiff is an all-time fave, so I’m excited to see it on your list.

    1. Stiff is one of those books that honestly changed the way I looked at life, or in this case death. I’d like to be a useful corpse. 😉 The Right Stuff is one of my favorite not-quite-non-fiction books, so The Astronauts Wives Club has been on my TBR list for sometime.

  3. I don’t read enough non-fiction, but I blog about it if I do (& at the same ratio of books read to books blogged about that I do for fiction I’d guess). The Erik Larson book was one several friends and I enjoyed. At least I did until I learned one of Holmes’ victims was murdered a couple blocks from where I used to live. Yikes! 🙂

    1. He’s probably the first non-fiction writer that I read that seemed to really want to tell a story. He changed my opinion and I’ve been more willing to take some non-fiction chances.

  4. My ratio of fiction to non-fiction isn’t very good, but it’s only because I get through fiction so much faster. LOL! Most of the non-fiction I read are mostly about health and the flawed medical industry, writing, and spiritual books.

    Once in a while, I read some really interesting books about something I never thought about before; The Scent of Desire by Rachel Herz is about our sense of smell, very well-written and eye-opening (smell-opening? LOL!) If you’re interested, my review is here: http://www.hazelleevaughn.com/2007/11/21/book-review-the-scent-of-desire-by-rachel-herz/

    I’ve read Stiff and I’ve been meaning to read The Devil in the White City. I’m probably going to have to shut myself up in my room after the Armchair BEA, and binge on all the books recommended!

    1. Yeah, I’m a pretty slow reader and I get slower when I’m reading non-fic. I recently finished a book on Tesla that I think I started in December! Usually, I have a non-fiction book going in the background.

  5. I love that you chose to talk about nonfiction today. I’m a big fan! I wish I could read more of it but there aren’t as many nonfic books as there are fiction. But I’m always looking for the next great nonfiction read. I just finished Tom’s River by Dan Fagin and it was excellent!

    1. Tom’s River sounds excellent! (Is it weird that when I’m looking at non-fiction books I get much more excited about subjects I know nothing about? I know nothing, really, about industrial dumping… Geronimo!

  6. Stephanie

    This is a great topic. Non-fiction rarely makes an appearance on the blogs that I visit. Truth be told, I don’t talk about it either, and I avoid the genre. I don’t know why really. I too have read some amazing titles.

  7. I’ve long wondered why we don’t see more non-fiction on book blogs. Is there something about fiction readers vs. non-fiction readers that makes the one group want to blog about books more than the other.

    I read and blog about non-fiction, though not as much as I think I do. Usually, my non-fiction reading runs towards history which is almost always like reading a story. Sometimes another subject will find a way in. I’m currently reading Kevin Starr’s California and loving it. There’s an occasional memoir/biography reviewed on my blog as well.

    1. I suppose non-fiction could be seen as harder to review because there isn’t the sort of plot, characters, pacing checklist that can lead to a structured review. California sounds good. There’s nothing better than reading a book written by someone who is unabashedly passionate about a subject. Which is most non-fiction writers.

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