Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Sunday Salon - On Non-Fiction

For years and years I was adamantly non-fiction. My mom, as avid a reader as myself, is all about non-fiction, while I've always been the princess of faraway lands and stirring flights of fancy. Fiction was my game until a curious thing happened.

A few years ago I encounted a massive reading slump. I was starting graduate school, I was steeped in fiction for study, and I found myself utterly unable to read anything I wanted to read for pleasure. I would pick up a book, read a few sentences...maybe a paragraph if I was lucky. Nothing seemed to stick. I turned to computer games, TV, exercise...anything to take my mind off of my nonexistant reading. Lingering in the background, though, was always the insistent urge to dive into a book.

Finally I did something unheard of. I picked up a non-fiction book. Certainly I'd gone through some non-fiction phases. Like most recently-out-of-college girls I read my share of women's studies. Manifestas on femininity and women's history. Somehow after that phase passed I neglected the wonderful world of non-fiction almost entirely until a short stint with forensic books...Stiff (Mary Roach) and Death's Acre (Dr. Bill Bass) to name a few.

It was Barack Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope that truly showed me what a lifesaver non-fiction can be. In fact, right after I finished Audacity, I immediately picked up another non-fiction book--Patrimony by Philip Roth. It seems I discovered non-fiction all over again. I read memoirs, travel writing, books about food, and I even revisited that old love...women's studies!

To this day I find the surest way to bust a slump is to dive into the world of the real. A short vacation from the unreal is just what the doctor ordered.

With this ephiphany in mind, I give you the Non-Fiction Meme! Thanks to Bookfool and Iliana for tagging me!

Non-Fiction Meme

Thanks to Gautami for creating this one.

a). What issues/topic interests you most--non-fiction, i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that has nothing to do with novels?

Politics, memoir, literary theory/scholarly writing (primarily Children's literature and graphic narrative-related), foodie books like Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour. I also love travel writing since I first read J. Maarten Troost's The Sex Lives of Cannibals and Getting Stoned with Savages.

b). Would you like to review books concerning those?

Oh yes, and I have. The best non-fiction books I've reviewed are Louis Theroux's The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures and Poe Ballantine's personal essays, 501 Minutes to Christ.

c). Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose.
It would be great! And finally it comes true. My first paying non-fiction review will come up at BiblioBuffet in a couple of weeks. It's a review of The End of America, by Naomi Wolf.

d). Would you recommend those to your friends and how?

I recommend non-fiction to friends whose interests I know. Heather F. and I probably talk about non-fiction the most since we both love foodie books. I also watch Bookfool's blog for great non-fiction recs and recommend what I can because she reads an incredible array of non-fic.


  1. Just occasionally I hit that same sort of brick wall where fiction is concerned, usually when I'm tired or stressed and then my solution is journals or letters. This may be because I'm nosy and like the window into other people's minds, although I like to pretend that I do it because the entries are short and don't taxed my already over-stretched mind any further than it can stand.

  2. Happy Sunday Salon Andi! I'm not much of a non-fiction reader but I've been wanting to find some good books (not memoirs - I've got tons of those) so you've given me some ideas :)
    So glad you did the tag and I can't wait to read your review of the Wolf book. Keep us posted ok.

  3. I went through a long phase after finishing school when I wouldn't touch anything related to my profession or my former studies. I would only read fiction. Even journals articles were neglected. I rarely read fiction during the school years unless it was assigned (and in graduate school it was all nonfiction), only making time for pleasure reading during the summer months and winter break. So while our reading material might have been different, we had similar experiences.

    I hope you have a great week, Andi.

  4. I occasionally get into reading slumps too, but I've never thought of trying non-fiction (or a completely different genre from what I usually read). I do like reading nonfiction in the form of memoirs, essays, journals, etc., and also travel writing.

    I'll be looking for your review on BiblioBuffet (which I'm really enjoying reading, by the way!)

  5. Like you I spent years without non-fiction (apart from literary criticism which only counts sort of), and then blogging got me back into it. In fact I can't think of a neglected genre that blogging hasn't helped - poetry, biography, the short story... isn't the blogworld just wonderful?

  6. I liked reading about your nonfiction reading...huh? Um, good post. ;)

  7. I agree that nothing can get you out of a reading slump like non-fiction.

  8. I've been getting really into nonfiction lately. I particularly love odd histories of random things: the smile, color, spices, etc. I adored both of Anthony Bourdain's books (and now I think I have a crush on him) and am currently in the middle of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" which is fascinating! I find it harder to dive into a new novel than a new nonfiction book which has the topic all nicely spelled out for me on the cover. Plus I like to feel like I'm learning something from my reading.

  9. Ann, I'm very similar. I love a peek into someone else's life, and anything written in short bits is perfect for a waning attention span.

    Thanks, Iliana! Enjoy the ideas! I really think you'd love anything of Troost's. Will do on the Wolf review. It should be up next week.

    Wendy, isn't it funny how we avoid whatever it is we studied?! It changes the reading experience when a type of reading or genre becomes work. :)

    RR, I find I have to keep my reading extremely varied or I get boooored. Bored bored. The attention span of a gnat and all. I'm glad you're enjoying the Bibliobuffet stuff! There are some great pieces over there.

    Litlove, it is wonderful! I read a much wider variety of books thanks to blogging and online book discussion groups.

    Thanks, Maggie. Welcome!

    Amen, Nik!

    Jen, I hear ya! I've got that non-fiction book about salt around here somewhere. lol And a great-looking one called The History of the Wife. I totally have a crush on Bourdain, and I definitely need to read The Omnivore's Dilemma.

  10. I got bit by the nonfiction bug this weekend. I was on the verge of a reading slump when I picked up The Nasty Bits by Bourdain. His snarkyness was just what the doctor ordered!

  11. I can't wait to hear what you think of The Nasty Bits! I've heard very little about that one actually.

  12. I also discovered t joys of non-fiction during grad school! And now that I am a SAHM mom, I find myself reading all the books related to my career (in refugee resettlement) that I couldn't bear to read while working!

  13. Nyssaneala, it's sort of comforting isn't it?! I find myself reading non-fiction to keep myself challenged, too. It helps keep my reading from getting boring. :)


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