07 November 2019

11 Picks for Nonfiction November

November brings us a lot of things, from cooler weather to pumpkin pies and turkeys. In the book-reading world, it’s also popularly known as nonfiction month. Whether you’re official participating in Nonfiction November or are just interested in what’s new, here are my choices from this month’s releases. (all copies—print, digital, and/or audio—provided by the publisher)

Science and Animals

review of My Penguin Year by Lindsay McCraeMy Penguin Year: Life among the Emperors by Lindsay McCrae (William Morrow; Nov. 12). Written by a BBC award-winning photographer and documentary filmmaker, this memoir recounts the year McCrae spent in Antarctica in the company of 4,000 emperor penguins. Illustrated by gorgeous photographs (see the cover) and drawings, this memoir gives us a rare look at these large penguins and their Antarctica home, not only describing the behavior of the birds throughout the seasons but also giving us insight in how climate change is affecting the penguins’ future. “An unforgettable narrative account that is poised to become a classic of nature writing.” Audiobook: Read by the author (HarperAudio; 7 hr, 28 min).

review of Beyond the Known by Andrew RaderBeyond the Known: How Exploration Created the Modern World and Will Take Us to the Stars by Andrew Rader (Scribner; Nov. 12): Written by a mission manager at SpaceX who knows as much about history as he does about the possibilities of the future, this book looks at the various ages of discovery, including the exploration of the physical world we live in, discoveries made through scientific inquiry, and—of course—our fascination with space. “Told with an infectious zeal for traveling beyond the known, [this book] illuminates how very human it is to emerge from the cave and walk toward an infinitely expanding horizon.” Audiobook: Read by the author (Simon & Schuster Audio; 11 hr, 14 min).

review of Snow by Giles WhittellSnow: A Scientific and Cultural Exploration by Giles Whittell (Atria; Nov. 19): Written by the chief leader writer of the London Times, this book is about all things snow: how it forms, why each snowflake is unique, how many snowflakes fall each second across the globe, and our relationship with it—both fun (skiing) and deadly (avalanches). Scientific snowy facts and figures are balanced with fun trivia and Whittell’s evident passion for and curiosity about the white stuff. “An eye-opening and charming book that illuminates one of the most magnificent wonders of nature.” Audiobook: no information.

Women’s Stories

review of The Girl in the Photograph by Byron L. DorganThe Girl in the Photograph: The True Story of a Native American Child, Lost and Found in America by Byron L. Dorgan (Thomas Dunne; Nov. 26): Written by a former U.S. senator, this is at once the story a single American Indian woman as well as a look at hundreds of years of neglect and lies from the U.S. government. American Indian youth have slipped through the safety nets—for example, 33 percent live in poverty and the teen suicide rate is more than double the national rate. When Dorgan met young Tamara in 1990 at Standing Rock Indian Reservation, he became more resolved than ever to make a difference. “Readers will fall in love with this heartbreaking story, but end the book knowing what can be done and what they can do.” Audiobook Read by Peter Berkrot (Dreamscape; 6 hr, 3 min).

Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge by Sheila Weller (Sarah Crichton; Nov. 12): Written by an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, this biography gives us insight into Fisher’s life both on and off the screen. Weller relies on firsthand accounts to tease out the truths of Fisher’s roots, her acting career, her relationship with her mother and daughter, her short marriage to Paul Simon, her successful writing career, and her tough battles with bipolar disease and drug addiction. The biography “is an affectionate and even-handed portrayal of a woman whose unsurpassed honesty is a reminder of how things should be.” AudiobookRead by Saskia Maarleveld (Macmillan Audio; 13 hr, 19 min).

review by Conversations with RBG by Jeffrey RosenConversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law by Jeffrey Rosen (Henry Holt; Nov. 5): Written by a law professor and legal journalist, this book reveals almost thirty years of conversations with the long-time Supreme Court justice. Rosen reveals Ginsburg’s thoughts on constitutional law (abortion, cases she disagrees with), contemporary cultural issues, personal life philosophy, and the Supreme Court. “These frank exchanges illuminate the steely determination, self-mastery, and wit that have inspired Americans of all ages to embrace the woman known to all as ‘Notorious RBG.’ ” Audiobook: Read by Peter Ganim and Suzanne Toren (Macmillan Audio; 6 hr, 55 min).

review of Wild Life by Keena RobertsWild Life: Dispatches from a Childhood of Baboons and Button-Downs by Keena Roberts (Grand Central; Nov. 12): Written by a woman who grew up sometimes in Botswana and sometimes in the affluent Philadelphia suburbs, this is a memoir of Africa, private school, and trying to use African bush skills to fit in with American teen culture. Blending descriptions of life in Africa (adventure, danger, oppressive heat) with memories of negotiating mean girls and field hockey games in Philly, Roberts paints a realistic picture of both her selves and recognizes how each informed the other and led her to pursue a public health career. “By turns heartbreaking and hilarious,” this is “the story of a daring but sensitive young girl.” Audiobook: Read by the author (Hachette Audio; 9 hr, 42 min).

review of Highway of Tears by Jessica McDiarmidHighway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by Jessica McDiarmid (Atria; Nov. 12): Written by a Canadian journalist, this book looks into a series of murders of Indigenous women and girls that took place along a remote section of highway in British Columbia. McDiarmid interviewed the victims’ families and friends, providing an insider’s look at the effects of racist violence while connecting these murders to thousands of similar cases throughout Canada, This book explores “how systemic racism and indifference have created a climate in which Indigenous women . . . are overpoliced yet underprotected.” Audiobook: Read by Emily Nixon (Simon & Schuster Audio; 9 hr, 58 min).


review of The Ship of Dreams by Gareth RussellThe Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era by Gareth Russell (Atria, Nov. 19): Written by a historian and novelist, this book places the tragedy of the Titanic into the wider context of a rapidly changing and modernizing world. “Using previously unpublished sources, deck plans, journal entries, and surviving artifacts,” Russell focuses on six very different first-class passengers—including a countess, an actress, and a business tycoon—detailing their fates and showing how their lives signaled a turning point in history, technology, commerce, and politics. The book includes many black-and-white and color photographs. Audiobook: Read by Jenny Funnell (Simon & Schuster Audio; 15 hr).

review of The Golden Thread by Kassia St. ClairThe Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St. Clair (Liveright; Nov. 12): Written by a journalist, this book looks at the history of fabric from the very earliest fibers made by cave dwellers to the fabrics that protect astronauts and clothe today's elite athletes. St. Clair takes a deep historical look at fabric, connecting it to early human migrations out of temperate climates as well as later trade routes (The Silk Road), which connected East and West. The book offers “insights into the economic and social dimensions of clothmaking” and dispels “the enduring, often demeaning, association of textiles as ‘merely women’s work.’ ” Audiobook: Read by Helen Johns (John Murray; 11 hr, 26 min).

review of Family Papers by Sarah Abrevaya SteinFamily Papers: A Sephardic Journey through the Twentieth Century by Sarah Abrevaya Stein (Farrar Straus & Giroux; Nov. 19): Written by an award-winning historian, this is the story of a large Sephardic family and how they were affected and scattered by the fall of the Ottoman Empire and later almost wiped out by the Holocaust. Basing her research on the family’s abundant correspondence and papers, including various documents and photographs, Stein recounts the joys and sorrows of a family struggling to keep their connections intact while surviving political unrest and forced immigration. Through these papers, Stein tells “not only [the family’s] history, but the history of Sephardic Jews in the twentieth century.” Audiobook: no information.


bermudaonion 11/7/19, 8:16 AM  

I've been reading more and more nonfiction but haven't read a single one of these. As a matter of fact, I've only heard of a few of them before. I jotted down some notes because most of them look good to me.

sherry fundin 11/7/19, 11:39 AM  

all those pretty cover. i don't read a lot of nonfiction, but i think you picked some good ones
sherry @ fundinmental

Vicki 11/7/19, 2:16 PM  

Great group of books! Snow, The Girl in the Photograph, Wild Life, Highway Of Tears, and The Ship Of Dreams caught my attention.

rhapsodyinbooks 11/7/19, 3:26 PM  

I need to read more non-fiction. Lately, I just want to escape into fantasy!

(Diane) bookchickdi 11/10/19, 5:36 PM  

I read the Carrie Fisher book, it was teriffic, if sad. I was lucky enough to see her in Wishful Drinking on Broadway, and meeet her afterwards, she was amazing.

Daryl 11/18/19, 9:11 AM  

of all these good books the bio of Carrie Fisher is the most appealing ..

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