Photo credit: Algoquin Dutton; Ecco; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; the Feminist Press; Harper; Knopf; Riverhead; Scribner; Simon & Schuster.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year (no, it’s not Christmas—not yet anyway). It’s Nonfiction November! This month, we celebrate stories of fact and footnotes and the truths that can be stranger than fiction.
Although this year has been tough and many of us seek out fiction for escapism, nonfiction books are an essential part of any reader’s library. Real stories remind us of who we are and what we can do. Storytelling has been with us since the birth of civilisation (and you can read a book all about that!).
Every year a theme takes the stage, and NNFN’s theme for 2022 is “communication”. The National Literary Trust is investigating what young readers care about. Their official statement is:
“We found that children and young people who read nonfiction are more engaged with environmental issues. For example, those who read nonfiction are more likely to want to take care of the environment compared with those who don’t read nonfiction (68% vs 49%).”
I love Nonfiction November and I’ve read more nonfiction than ever this year. In the following weeks, I’ll be sharing my year in memoirs and some of our very own authors will be thrown into the mix! Below are a few events we’ll be scoping out, competitions we’ll be tweeting about, and books you should be checking out…
1 November – Unmuted: Diasporic South Asian Women in the Postcolonial World (Leeds)As part of Nonfiction Month and Black History Month, Jaspreet Kaur delves into the complex experiences of South Asian Women in the UK.
8 November – Hinterland Place Writing (Manchester Writing School)Meet a host of nonfiction writers showcasing their memoirs, essays, travel and food writing, as well as their biographies from across the globe.
11 November – Nonfiction Reading Group (London)Do you have a personal story you want to share? Do you want to join a writing community? Come along!
17 November – Reading Nonfiction with Richard Coles (Chepstow)A discussion of love and loss with author Richard Coles.
18 November – Fiction, Nonfiction, Inclusion and Diversity (Taunton)Meet three local authors with mixed non-white heritage discussing their experiences as writers in the white-dominated British countryside.
20 Nov – Nonfiction & Away with Bob Mortimer (York)A funny and profound live event of a renowned comedian discussing his biography.
28 November – National Geographic Live (Online)Writing for the planet with journalist and editor Tim Herbert.
This year, the Federation of Children’s Book Groups are taking the lead with a National Nonfiction Competition:
1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)This steely and devastating examination of the author’s grief following the sudden death of her husband changed the nature of writing about bereavement.
2. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (1988)The theoretical physicist’s mega-selling account of the origins of the universe is a masterpiece of scientific inquiry that has influenced the minds of a generation.
3. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)An engrossing account of the looming catastrophe caused by ecology’s “neighbours from hell”—mankind.
4. No Logo by Naomi Klein (1999)Naomi Klein’s timely anti-branding bible combined a fresh approach to corporate hegemony with potent reportage from the dark side of capitalism.
5. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes (1998)These passionate, audacious poems addressed to Hughes’ late wife, Sylvia Plath, contribute to the couple’s mythology and are a landmark in English poetry.
6. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (1979)Tom Wolfe raised reportage to dazzling new levels in his quest to discover what makes a man fly to the moon.
7. Orientalism by Edward Said (1978)This polemical masterpiece challenging western attitudes towards the east is as topical today as it was during publication.
8. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)The Australian feminist’s famous polemic remains a triumph of passionate free expression in which she challenges a woman’s role in society.
9. The Double Helix by James D Watson (1968)An astonishingly personal and accessible account of how Cambridge scientists Watson and Francis Crick unlocked the secrets of DNA and transformed our understanding of life.
10. Ariel by Sylvia Plath (1965)This groundbreaking collection, revolving around the Plath’s fascination with her own death, established her as one of the previous century’s most original and gifted poets.
11. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963)The book that ignited second-wave feminism captured the frustration of a generation of middle-class American housewives by daring to ask: “Is this all?”
What are you hoping to get up to this Nonfiction November? Do you want to learn about yourself, what the future holds for society, or some ancient civilisation? Either way, we’re here for it all. Happy reading!
“Nonfiction is both easier and harder to write than fiction. It’s easier because the facts are already laid out before you, and there is already a narrative arc. What makes it harder is that you are not free to use your imagination and creativity to fill in any missing gaps within the story.” — Amy Bloom
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