Nonfiction November 2019 recommendations

One of the most joyous things to have come out of my book blogging journey is discovering how much I actually do love nonfiction; so much so that I’m excited for Nonfiction November even though I’m not sure I’ll be able to participate.  My reading has been a bit slow lately, and hasn’t exactly been thriving when I set myself a strict TBR, so I’m not committing myself to anything, but I did at least want to make a recommendation post for others who are planning on participating.  Affiliate links to Book Depository on each of these titles.

Nonfiction November is hosted by Olive on booktube, and for the blogging version you can read Ren’s announcement post here.  In Olive’s announcement she laid out 4 prompts, and I’m going to recommend two books for each one; one that I’ve read, and one that’s on my TBR (again, not necessarily to be read this November… but maybe!).  The prompts are as follows: design, sport, true, and voice.


Read: Walk Through Walls by Marina Abramović
TBR: Old In Art School by Nell Irvin Painter

All of these prompts were created to be as flexible as possible, so you are welcome to take any of them in a radically different direction than I am – but when I hear ‘design’ my first thought is ‘art’ and ‘art history.’  Hence my two recommendations: Walk Through Walls is a stunning and provocative memoir by performance artist Marina Abramović, that challenged my own perceptions about how much of a line there is (or should be) between life and art.  I would absolutely recommend this if you’re already a fan of Marina or familiar with her work, but I don’t think that’s a prerequisite if you’re at all curious about picking this up.

Old in Art School is, from what I gather, a memoir about the author’s experience attending art school at RISD (Rhode Island School of DESIGN, just saying) in her 60s, and the ageism, sexism, and racism she encounters during that experience.


Read: Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer
TBR: Beautiful on the Outside by Adam Rippon

Rough Magic is Lara Prior-Palmer’s memoir in which she recalls entering the Mongolian Derby on a whim, which she went on to win at the age of 19, becoming the first woman to win and the youngest person to ever finish.  If it’s slightly uneven at times, this is only a testament to how passionately Lara Prior-Palmer tells her stranger-than-fiction story.  She’s an unforgettable narrator and this book is a breath of fresh air.  I gave this 4 stars after finishing, but a few months later I’d say it’s one of my favorite things I’ve read this year.

One thing that I’ve learned in 2019 is that I actually don’t hate celebrity memoirs as much as I always assumed I would.  One of the most enjoyable memoirs I’ve read all year is Busy Philipps’ This Will Only Hurt a Little; I think I’m expecting something similar in tone from Adam Rippon’s memoir about figure skating.  I don’t really watch figure skating – I don’t watch any sports aside from tennis – but I enjoy Adam Rippon on social media so I’ll probably pick this up on audio at some point in the next few months.


Read: The War that Killed Achilles by Caroline Alexander
TBR: Homesick by Jennifer Croft

I’m cheating a little here as I haven’t read The War that Killed Achilles in its entirety; I read half of it a couple of years ago, and I’m planning on starting it over from the beginning when I have more time because it’s excellent.  The subtitle is The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War, so I decided to go for something a little less obvious for this prompt than true crime, in choosing a book that excavates the true story behind one of the world’s oldest classics.  I also met Caroline Alexander a few years ago after listening to her give a talk about translating the Iliad, and she’s brilliant.

For Homesick, I’m employing a bit of irony with my use of ‘true’; though this is a memoir, it is written in the third person, with Croft blending the line between fact and fiction.  Apparently this memoir about sisterhood reads like a novel at times, and I’m so curious to see how Croft pulls this off.  I’ve heard so many fantastic things about it.


Read: Know My Name by Chanel Miller
TBR: Voices from the Grave by Ed Moloney

I’m currently reading Know My Name and it’s exceptional; the memoir’s conceit is that Chanel Miller is giving herself the voice that the media storm denied to her throughout the Brock Turner case.  It’s candid and heartfelt and bold and beautifully written.

Voices from the Grave is a book that’s heavily referenced by Patrick Radden Keefe in his book about the Troubles, Say Nothing (my favorite book of the year so far).  The research in this book was gathered through extensive interviews with Brendan Hughes and David Ervine, two members of paramilitary organizations involved in the Troubles.  This is the longest TBR book on this list – over 500 pages – but I think it’s also the one that I’m most likely to pick up for Nonfiction November, as I’d love to read it before the details from Say Nothing start to fade in my mind.

Are you guys participating in Nonfiction November?  What books would you recommend for these prompts?


24 thoughts on “Nonfiction November 2019 recommendations

    • That’s how I’m feeling too – I probably won’t go all in, but I hope to read at least one nonfiction book as per usual. Homesick sounds SO different and interesting. I need a copy too!

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    • I know what you mean; I was hoping to participate in Victober but I’m still a little burned out from doing Women in Translation Month in August. So many readathons so little time. Walk Through Walls is one of my favorite books I’ve read all year though – I hope you enjoy it!

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  1. So many interesting ones!! I love the variety of the nonfiction you read. Homesick sounds really intriguing, I hadn’t heard of it. I like the idea of blending genres and a memoir in third person. I’m curious about how that would play out.

    I’ve also been really curious about Old in Art School. I have a bunch of friends who went to RISD and I used to work in art schools but I don’t know much about it from that student perspective and around all those isms. Definitely want to know more about that.

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    • I’m so curious about Homesick too!! Jennifer Croft has been on my radar for translating Flights by Olga Tokarczuk which won the International Booker last year which I was already curious about, but then this memoir came out and it shot to the top of my TBR. I really need to get my hands on a copy, it sounds SO fascinating and different.

      Every time I see Old In Art School I want to buy it, but it’s printed on nice paper so it’s more expensive than your average memoir so I keep shying away from it. It sounds like it’ll be right up my alley though. And I’d be so interested to hear your perspective on it, as someone who worked in art schools!


  2. I am so glad you decided to do a recommendation post! I am still working on mine because apparently in my hiatus I forgot how to write blogposts, but maybe I’ll manage to finally finish it today. I am still a bit miffed about how difficult I find the prompt “sports” – because could I be any more of a cliché (I am unsure how to write this word in English and Google isn’t helping, this way of spelling looks best for me – but that doesn’t necessarily means anything)?

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    • I have also forgotten how to write blog posts – this took way longer than it should have. I am SO excited to read your post though! Cliché is correct in English, but cliche is also acceptable because Americans don’t know how to type accents.


  3. Love the idea – and although I don’t formally do Nonfiction November, I’m definitely trying to read more nonfiction in general. The prompt “voice” reminded me of two nonfiction music books: one is Renee Fleming’s memoir The Inner Voice: the Making of a Singer, which is so illuminating about her career’s unusual beginnings and encouraging about technical struggles, and the other is Nick Coleman’s Voices, where he analyzes the sounds made by a number of 20th-century pop, rock and blues vocalists. Both are excellent!

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    • I’m in the same boat – I’m not concentrating my nonfiction reading to November, but I’m making a concerted effort to read more in general.

      I’m finding it so amusing that when I heard ‘voice’ I didn’t even CONSIDER music/singing as an angle for the prompt – I went straight to ‘underrepresented subjects and authors reclaiming their narratives.’ Both of the ones you mentioned sound brilliant though – I’ll look them up!


  4. These are great recommendations! I want to participate since I love non-fiction, but I do not think my intended-to-be-read-in-November non-fiction books will fit into the categories, even though the categories can be interpreted broadly. “Homesick” sounds great, and I am also noticing recently that celebrity memoirs can be enjoyable and informative. The ones that I want to read are “Still Me” by Christopher Reeve, “Blowing the Bloody Doors Off” by Michael Caine and “In Pisces” by Sally Field.

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    • Thank you! Nothing on my immediate TBR fits the prompts either, but I think the prompts are meant to be inspiration more than restrictions, so I’m not going to feel bad for deviating. I’m excited to see what you pick up! I’ve heard In Pieces is an amazing memoir.

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