Week 1: Year in Nonfiction

I am so excited to be participating in my first Nonfiction November! I’ve been following the reviews on What’s Nonfiction and had so many lovely comments back and forth with Rennie that I figured it about time I commit to joining in for the month, even though it’s a hectic one at the bookstore (and obviously this week has been a particular nail biter) – but what better distraction than to spend a whole month celebrating nonfiction!

Week 1: (November 2-6) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Leann @ Shelf Aware): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

This was a tough one – there are a lot of nonfiction books that I loved this year, as there is every year, of course, but this year in particular has been a great year for nonfiction lovers. Sigh, Gone is the memoir of Phuc Tran, a Vietnamese-American who grew up in the same small town as me in Pennsylvania and who went to the same high school my mother taught at (alas she was not one of his teachers, being out on maternity leave with me, and then my sister, when he would have had her). It’s absolutely brilliantly written, and the image above links to my full review!

A Team of Their Own is probably the best book I’ve read in a long time, but finished it at the end of 2019 so it wasn’t officially this year. The story of the Korean Women’s Ice Hockey team and their journey to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018, it is a stunning and moving story about young women fighting for recognition in a sport they love with a fiery passion that is so often overlooked in Asia.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

Photo by Pixabay on

I’ve always loved shipwrecks, pirates, and World War II history, but this year I’ve felt a particular pull towards polar exploration. I blame my friend Lenore and her obsession with Antarctica for this one. We read The Stowaway for Nonfiction Book Club last year and we were all disappointed it wasn’t polar exploration heavy enough. My latest polar obsession is Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge’s Philosophy for Polar Explorers which comes out in the US on November 17th.

I also continue to be drawn to chef memoirs, looking for the heir apparent to Anthony Bourdain’s writing. This year I particularly enjoyed David Chang’s Eat a Peach and Aaron Sanchez’s Where I Come From.

What nonfiction book have you recommended most?

This is such a hard one to put my finger on as book recommending is literally my job as a bookseller! However, I think I’ve probably talked the most about Into the Raging Sea because I read it close to the beginning of the year and could talk about it before the pandemic, as well as after! It’s also a book my book club read, so it’s out on display in the store in a couple of places and so I’m more likely to get asked about it since I have a blurb on the shelf for it. Close runners up include Belonging, Solutions and Other Problems, Sigh, Gone, and A Team of Their Own.

What are you hoping to get our of Nonfiction November?

I’m hoping to connect with other nonfiction book lovers, as well as share my love for nonfiction as well! Most booksellers, and even publisher reps, are primarily fiction readers, and I’m one of few book buyers and booksellers in the area to read primarily nonfiction, so it’s been a bit lonely without other booksellers to share my nonfiction love with! I’m also always looking for more books to read, so I’m excited to see what other nonfiction readers are really loving and enjoying!

7 thoughts on “Week 1: Year in Nonfiction”

  1. I’m SO thrilled you’re taking part, Sarah! I know November is such a busy time but I’m really excited to read your posts and get your recommendations and I hope you have fun with it πŸ™‚ You always have so many great titles that I don’t come across elsewhere. I couldn’t get my to-read list loaded fast enough when I started reading this post πŸ˜‚

    I remember seeing a lot about Into the Raging Sea when it first came out, and it sounded really intriguing but I was never sure if I wanted to commit to it. But hearing that it’s your most recommended made me reconsider, that’s high praise. If you love shipwreck nonfiction you’ve surely already read Into the Heart of the Sea (my favorite) and In the Kingdom of Ice already, right? The former isn’t polar-based but the latter is. It was beautifully written and tense and hard to put down. I have the original (I think?) narrative in this genre, Endurance, on my list too.

    And I love chef memoirs too, but can you believe I haven’t read Kitchen Confidential yet? I have the ebook but just never quite in the mood for it or something. Marcus Samuelsson’s Yes Chef is on my list, it gets lots of glowing praise. Have you read The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty? It might be my favorite chef memoir aside from My Life in France. It has some parts around geneaology that lost me a bit but the chef parts are perfection.


    1. Me too! And thank you! It’s always so reassuring to know someone likes what I’m sharing πŸ™‚ My favorite part of Into the Raging Sea is the sheer amount of first hand information – there was over a day’s worth of recordings in El Faro’s wreck that Rachel uses terrifically in crafting the narrative. I’ve read Into the Heart of the Sea (I really like Philbrick’s writing) and Kingdom of Ice and enjoyed them both! Endurance is on my list as well, as is Erebus, another shipwreck/polar exploration nonfiction from Monty Python alum Michael Palin that I really want to get to soon.

      Chef memoir wise, if you haven’t read any of Anthony Bourdain’s, not just Kitchen Confidential, I would start with Medium Raw, it’s my personal favorite of his works. It’s a bit more of an essay style structure and I felt like after watching him for years, I pretty much already knew the Kitchen Confidential story. So I’ve read it, but it’s not my favorite of his. Yes Chef is on my list too – I keep an eye out for whenever the Chopped judges I like best release their memoirs πŸ™‚ I’m not familiar with the Cooking Gene – I will definitely have to look it up! I have Eric Ripert’s 32 Yolks and Iliana Regan’s Burn the Place up next on my list of chef’s memoirs to read. My grandmother was a chef for many years and her stories were always so much fun to hear so I think that’s why I’ve always been fascinated by the sub-genre!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, I had no idea a Monty Python alum had written a book like that! How interesting.

        And that’s great to know, that it’s better to start with Medium Raw. I actually haven’t watched all that many of his shows, so I think any of his writing would be new to me. But I love essays so that sounds good. I don’t know 32 Yolks, I’ll look that one up, and Burn the Place is on my radar too. Do you follow Katie @ Doing Dewey? She loved that one and had a great review of it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, how cool that you have a hometown in common with the author of Sigh, Gone! I feel like it adds a little extra enjoyment to a book when I’m familiar with the locations an author references.

    If you’re enjoying books on polar exploration, I highly recommend In the Kingdom of Ice. It’s one of my favorite nonfiction reads πŸ™‚


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