A to Z Challenge: N is for Non-Fiction

NA little late this time, but for the letter N in the A to Z Challenge I have a genre instead of one book, and a genre… I don’t really read.

It’s not that I don’t like non-fiction, but with so many great fiction books out there, they seem to always fall to the end of my reading list. But every once a while I skip the fiction and pick up some non-fiction, and three very different books always pop up in my memory.

The first non-fiction book I remember to have read was “Children of the A-Bomb: Testament of Boys and Girls of Hiroshima” by Arata Osada. I found the book on the shelf of my high school library, and since back then I was fascinated with everything Japanese, I picked it up without hesitation. Arata Osada collected stories of people who survived Hiroshima’s destruction and were at the time the bomb dropped, still children. Their testimonies not only allowed me to look at the tragedy from a different perspective, much more personal one than dry numbers of the historic accounts. It wasn’t an easy read, with some dreadful and heartbreaking scenes described on the book’s pages, but I never regretted picking up this book. And even though details blur in my memory already, it did stay with me for 20 years now.

The second book that made an impression on me was recommended to me by my friend. Anne Fadiman’s “Ex Libris: Confessions of a Reader” spoke to my bookworm nature, but it wasn’t only the fact I could relate to many of her reader problems or quirks. It was also Fadiman’s style, light and full of amusing anecdotes, making each essay a lot of fun to read. I’ve also read her other collection of essays, and found it also entertaining, though I couldn’t as readily connect to some of the topics.

Polish hardcover edition of Anne Fadiman's book.
Polish hardcover edition of Anne Fadiman’s book.

Third of the non-fiction books that left a lingering impression on me is again touching a serious issue. Written by Svetlana Alexievich, “Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster” is a collection of accounts by people whose lives have been affected by the reactor’s meltdown in one way or another. Not all of the stories circle around the accident itself, and explore also less direct effects of it. From Alexievich’s interviews we learn about the extent of misinformation of the officials, of the lack of knowledge or procedures, on the common people’s persistence to live in the irradiated zone. The mosaic of the stories paints the Chernobyl accident better than dry historical account would. I’m not surprised Alexievich got a Nobel prize for another of her works.

Polish edition of the "Voices of Chernobyl".
Polish edition of the “Voices of Chernobyl”.

There some non-fiction books on my TBR list (and that doesn’t include writing craft books), and I’ll eventually get to them, but if you were to recommend me one non-fiction (and non-writing craft) book to me, just a single non-fiction book, what would it be?

6 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: N is for Non-Fiction”

  1. My recommendation – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. If you haven’t come across it, get hold of a copy. It’s a remarkable, shocking book…

  2. I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic last month and absolutely loved it. It’s not a writing craft book, but it’s about allowing more room for creativity and inspiration in one’s life, and the different qualities that creative individuals should practice to reach that goal. Susan Cain’s Quiet is also a wonderfully researched book on introverts and their contributions to a largely extroverted society. I can’t say I really learned anything new from that book, but it offered lots of validation and encouragement (since I myself am an introvert). So, those are the two nonfiction books I would recommend.

  3. I love David Sedaris’s humorous nonfictional stories about his life, family, and assorted craziness. His book, Me Talk Pretty One Day, features tons of laugh-out-loud material, as well as some very spot-on stories about trying to learn French and the peculiarities of the French language. I love re-reading it again and again, and have read some of the stories out loud to my husband.

  4. I enjoy NF almost as much as fiction – tough call. If you’re looking for an NF book that might change your mind about the genre, maybe Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand (great movie; great horse); Stiff by Mary Roach (she makes cadavers interesting!); or Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (I recently heard they’re making a movie of this starring DiCaprio). They’re entertaining and informative without being too nerdy. And Yes to Sedaris although I have had some people tell me they enjoy hearing him read his own work aloud more than they enjoy reading him. Either is great IMO. He’s hilarious. Here’s a recent article by him to give you a sample: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/28/david-sedaris-shops-for-clothes-in-tokyo

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