Fall fashion: working it. Turkey: roasted. Shopping: in full swing. Holiday decor: up…well, not quite. Getting there. November was such a hectic month for me, full of family, work, and thankfully, some reading. Let’s see how I did this Non-Fiction November, shall we?
Here’s what I completed:
- Night by Elie Wiesel (my translation c. 2006, Hill & Wang): This was a timely and engaging look at Wiesel’s experiences as a teen in Nazi concentration camps. I did have some issues with the style – it was sparse and the simplistic writing was, well, basic and frankly a little boring to read. I’m not sure if the translation was true to the original in that sense. Wiesel also blurred the line between autobiography/memoir and a more inspired, fictional account of his experience. I thought that was interesting, but if you’re looking for a more factual account of Holocaust concentration camps with more fleshed out environments, look elsewhere. All that being, I am in no way being critical of Wiesel’s intentions with this work or denying his voice as a Holocaust survivor. It was haunting and a good reminder of what fascism can turn into if we’re not diligent in fighting it. ***** – 4.5/5 stars rounded up
- Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur (1987, Chicago Review Press): I requested this my from local library and was so excited that it was available. This is Shakur’s memoir; she was a member of the Black Liberation Army, targeted for surveillance along with other Black radicals by the US government under its COINTELPRO program in the 1970s. She languished in jail while being tried for various crimes she insists she did not commit. This autobiography was every bit as fascinating as I thought it would be. Shakur adeptly engages us in anecdotes about growing up Black in amerika (as she spells it), alongside compelling social commentary and analysis. Her discussion of her time in prison is terrifying yet so prescient. The 1970s feels like today when she discusses racial tensions and Black radicals’ relationships with law enforcement. I encourage everyone to pick this one up – it’s made even more stunning when you realize Shakur is still alive. This ain’t ancient history y’all. **** – 5 well-deserved stars
- Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh (2013, Touchstone): This was fun. It was fine. I liked the art. The stories/essays were somewhat insightful and pretty relatable. I did think some of the content was repetitive and was turned off by a couple of the dog stories. Brosh’s self-deprecating tone also got to be too much by the end of it, and it had a whiff of that I’m-Not-Like-Other-Girls syndrome that I so despise. A nice change of pace for me but I wouldn’t pick it up again. *** – 3 stars
- Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay (2018, Harper Perennial): I wasn’t expecting to pick this one up, but my library hold came through after months of waiting and I was ECSTATIC. This essay collection was brilliantly edited, with a lot of varied of contributors, writing styles, and experiences. It was gut-wrenching and heartbreaking and raw. Some authors were hopeful and others less so. It was one of the best reads of the year (if I can even say that regarding reading about rape). My only minor criticism is that there wasn’t as much discussion of the idea of a “rape culture” eg the social criticism, the macro, the big picture. Engagement with that concept is what I expected going in, but I still wasn’t disappointed. Pick this up ASAP if you’re able to stomach the subject matter. ***** – 5 stars
I’ve started but haven’t finished:
- The History of the Future by Edward McPherson (2017, Coffee House Press): An essay collection I picked up at a local independent bookshop. McPherson writes on the social history of US places, including an essay on Dallas, which is the primary reason I bought this book. I did read the essay on Dallas and wasn’t super thrilled by it. I think I’ll try another 1 or 2 of his essays this first week of December and put it down if I’m not liking those either.
Here’s what I didn’t quite get to:
- Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman (2015, Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Give us the Ballot is Berman’s discussion of voting rights through US history, from increased enfranchisement in the 20th century to modern efforts to limit or overturn the Voting Rights Act. Y’all I….the election was exhausting. I just couldn’t fathom spending even more time this month becoming depressed over voter disenfranchisement. Soon. Not today.
- Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1968, Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Didion writes on 1960s counterculture and all of its environs. Eh. Wasn’t feeling it. Didn’t even think about getting to it.
- The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the People’s Temple by Jeff Guinn (2017, Simon & Schuster): This seems to be the definitive biography and social history about Jim Jones and his church-turned-suicidal-cult Peoples Temple. Did I finish this or even touch it in November? Absolutely not. What is it going to take to get me to finish this?! What?
Well. I think I did ok for how busy I was – December is going to be even worse! I don’t think I do too well sticking to formal TBRs as opposed to vague mental lists of things I want to get to, but that’s a discussion for another post…
Did you read non-fiction in November? Thoughts on any of these books? What did you get through? Ready for holiday reading?! Let me know!