Wednesday, December 06, 2023

November, 2023, Nonfictioning All Over the Place

 An even dozen for November, and it was all decidedly and blissfully nonfiction.

 I am seriously thinking to challenging myself to a whole year of nonfiction and nothing but. Could I? Should I?

1. Napoleon vs. The Bunnies - J.F. Fox and Anna Kwan. Nonfiction, Picture book. Napoleon Bonaparte suddenly had an urge to go rabbit hunting one day and he sent one of his men out to get rabbits. The guy got some, but they were domestic rabbits and instead of running, they surrounded Napoleon, unafraid, waiting to be fed. Napoleon got freaked out and fled the hunting ground. Spoiler: This incident isn't in the movie that just came out. Imagine my disappointment.

2. Jerry Changed the Game! - Don Tate and Cherise Harris. Nonfiction, Picture book.

3. Who is Simone Biles? -Stefanie Loh. Nonfiction. I admire Simone Biles for her astounding gymnastic ability, but even more, I admire her for understanding how important it is to safeguard her mental health in times of stress.

4. Who is Nathan Chen? -Joseph Liu. Nonfiction.

5. The Wager - David Grann. Nonfiction. In this true story of mutiny and reckoning, David Grann writes vividly, even cinematically. The elegant way he ties things together for readers' understanding makes him seem like that electric lecturer in college that made the subject matter come alive. It's going to be a movie! I can hardly wait.

6. Good Books for Bad Children: The Genius of Ursula Nordstrom - Nonfiction, Picture book. Nordstrom was the Maxwell Perkins of Children's Literature. She also wrote a book called The Secret Language that I adored when my age was in single digits. This wonderful picture book was like a hug and has whetted my appetite to read Dear Genius, which is a collection of Nordstrom's letters to her authors.

7.What is the Story of The Headless Horseman? -Sheilah Keenan. Nonfiction. My favorite part of this book is when Sheilah Keenan goes through and rigorously analyzes just how quintessentially American this perennial Halloween classic by Washington Irving really is.

8. Five Days at Memorial - Sheri Fink. Nonfiction. The five days at Memorial occurred during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In the chaos and fear, unfortunate decisions were made concerning the most vulnerable of patients. Sheri Fink takes readers through those miserable days in the first part of the book. The second part involves the reckoning and consequences, and the lengthy epilogue details similar disaster scenarios, and how triage decisions were made. It's an extremely fair and balanced example of reporting, but upsetting and triggering.

9. Who is Harry Styles? - Kirsten Anderson. Nonfiction. I'm annoyed that Kirsten Anderson didn't mention Harry's appearance on Saturday Night Live, and the skit he did with Aidy Bryant, in which she imagines what her beloved dog (named Doug) would say to her if he could speak, and in her fantasy, the dog is Harry Styles, and he's adorable. I've watched this skit a bajillion times, and I'm going to go watch it again after I finish this blog post.

10. What Do We Know About The Winchester House? - Emma Carlson Berne. Nonfiction. Well, it turns out that I knew almost nothing. I enjoyed learning about this unconventional example of architecture, and would like to see it in person one day. Author Berne expertly addresses and responds to the rumors surrounding the mysterious and reclusive Sarah Winchester.

11. Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy - Jacqueline Kennedy. Nonfiction. Interviewer and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger and a recently widowed Jacqueline Kennedy sat down for three months and seven conversations in 1964 to discuss JFK's legacy. I started out with the audiobook, but had to go check out the accompanying volume because Mrs. Kennedy had a tendency to murmur and even whisper at times in her East Coast accent. The book version was helpful in decoding some things she said, and it's chock full of meticulously written footnotes. The audiobook feels quite immediate, with planes flying overhead (Washington, DC) and the sounds of drinks being poured and cigarettes being lit and occasionally children barging into the conversations. Jacqueline's commentary was interesting and occasionally fascinating and maybe eyebrow-raising at times, but Schlesinger was a ponderous and boring interviewer.

12. Who Was Betty White? - Dana Meacham Rau. Nonfiction. My hackles rose as soon as I saw this book. It's one of the short ones, only 50 pages long. Give me a break! Betty White lived to be nearly a century old. (She missed triple digits by a mere 3 weeks.) She was one of the pioneers of early television. She served in WWII. She starred in 3 successful sitcoms. She deserves the regular 100 pages!

And so, on to December. I'm still working on: Hollywood: The Oral History by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson.

On the wish list: My Name is Barbra by Barbra Streisand.

I'm about to embark on my annual geeky fun job of looking back at everything I read this year and breaking it all down.

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