Sunday Coffee – A Nod to Nonfiction November

I don’t read enough nonfiction each year to participate in Nonfiction November, but I always think of November as nonfiction month* in my head, probably because I’ve spent so many years watching other bloggers participate. Most years, I try to read something nonfiction during the month. This year, I’m going to do something a little different. Beyond reading something nonfiction in November, I’m going to answer the weekly prompts – all in one post, and a little late for some, early for others.

Week 1: Your Year in Nonfiction
Since I began blogging in 2008, nonfiction has consistently** sat around 10% of my reading each year. This year has been no different, with six of my 54 books being nonfiction. Sadly, of those six books, I only enjoyed three, and one that I didn’t enjoy actually made me furious enough to rant publicly. Of the three I enjoyed, Kid Gloves was the best. Lucy Knisley is just an amazing writer. Note: These numbers and thoughts reflect nonfiction reads only up to the end of October, when Nonfiction November began.

Week 2: Book Pairing
I’ll admit that I’m really not good at pairing books. Also, I tend to pair nonfiction with more nonfiction, heh. But I thought perhaps that my favorite nonfiction pre-November, Kid Gloves, might pair nicely with my favorite fiction of the year so far, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Kid Gloves deals with pregnancy, infertility, and miscarriage. What Alice Forgot has a secondary storyline that is nearly as important as the first, also dealing with pregnancy, infertility, and miscarriage. Both give a lot of good information and explore an emotional minefield that many people tend to ignore or hush up.

Week 3: Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert
I would never consider myself an expert on a particular topic, but there’s one nonfiction area that I know better than other areas. Back in 2011, I began reading tons about nutrition and health (with a dash of fitness on the side). I’ve read roughly three dozen books since then ranging from food history to weight loss memoirs, from running manuals to treatises on eating disorders. Three dozen may not sound like much, but considering that I read 5-10 nonfiction books per year, that’s quite a bit over eight years. A few favorites have included The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson, Wine Isn’t Rocket Science by Ophelie Neiman, Around the World in 80 Diets by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, and Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. I would love to hear what other folks recommend in this category!

Week 4: Nonfiction Favorites
Generally, unless nonfiction is done in graphic novel format (like with Lucy Knisley), I tend to approach it via audio. I don’t find nonfiction to be as engaging as fiction, and in print form, I tend to abandon books more frequently. However, this means that nonfiction has to jump two hurdles to make it onto my radar. Not only does it have to be written in a way that I like, but the audio narrator has to be bearable. As for the writing, I tend to be turned off by far-distance perspectives (like history books that describe big-picture movements rather than what a situation was like from the view of the people living through it), gimmicky or commercial-sounding prose, biased viewpoints, or straight-out recitation of facts. I read on a broad variety of topics, and can be hooked by nearly any subject as long as it’s written in a way that engages me (and read aloud in a way that doesn’t turn me off!).

Week 5: New to my TBR
Um…none. To be fair, I’m pretty picky about nonfiction and tend to read it in bursts, when I’m interested in specific subjects. So, can you help me add to my nonfiction TBR? Because I’ve been craving running-related nonfiction lately. Not how-to books or personal memoirs, or books about running insane ultramarathon distances. That seems to be all I can find, though, because I just don’t know enough about how to look properly. Thoughts or suggestions?

Well, that’s it for me. I only read one book for Nonfiction November, and I plan to finish another book I’ve been reading slowly throughout the whole year. And hey, that’ll be over my normal 10% thus far!

Since this upcoming week is Thanksgiving, I’m going to take the week to be with family. I’ll see y’all next Sunday, and hope you have a lovely week!

*****
*Well, I think of November as nonfiction month AND as NaNoWriMo month, but as I haven’t participated in NaNo since 2015, that has fallen a little bit aside in my head.

**Except for 2015, which bizarrely shot up to 27% nonfiction.

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Burnout, by Emily and Amelia Nagoski (audio)

Subtitled: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

Self-help is definitely out of my comfort zone, but I really loved Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are (one of my favorites of 2015), so I decided to give this one a chance as well. It’s supposed to be a guide for women to deal with the physiological reactions to stress that add up over time. I have mixed feelings about the book.

On the negative side: There is more bias in this book than I prefer in nonfiction. It is very definitely slanted toward a heavily liberal viewpoint. It doesn’t matter that I agree with the viewpoint – I just prefer my nonfiction to be a bit less biased. It’s also written a bit more layperson and simplistic than Come As You Are. I would have preferred to delve deeper into the science and to have less cutesy names for situations and feelings. Also, I didn’t particularly like the audio reading, which was read by both authors. It was overly familiar and, like the book, a bit too cutesy and slanted for me.

On the positive side: The science sources were legit. I loved that Robert Saposki – one of my favorite modern scientists and a leading researcher into biological stress science – was referenced right from the beginning. There was a lot of good information in the book and a lot of good steps to take to move your body through the stress cycle. Lots of stuff any person could put into practice. There’s also a lot of great history on gender bias, cultural norms, and discrimination of many kinds. Burnout discusses everything from body image to group connectivity (finding happiness through others is not a negative thing!!). And best of all, there’s no simple solutions or steps to just “make everything better forever!” like you find in too many self-help books.

My end-takeaway: I think I would have liked the book more had I been reading a print version, because the audio reading put me off quite a bit. I plan to acquire a copy at some point, because there’s a lot of good information in here and I think there was too much for me to absorb with just one reading. Plus, there are worksheets and steps to take over time and so many other things for which I’d like to have a physical copy to reference.

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White Sand Volume 3, by Brandon Sanderson and Rik Hoskin

My thoughts on this third volume of White Sand remain very similar to previous volumes:

1 – I’m not a fan of the artwork in these graphic novels. This illustrator was different in this volume, but kept with the same style. I find it hard to connect with and it’s a bit confusing to follow.

2 – It took me some time to remember what had happened in previous volumes. The story itself doesn’t have the depth and breadth of a traditional Sanderson novel, entirely due to the format it’s told in. Consequently, it took some time for me to get into the story. I did enjoy it by the end, however.

3 – At one point, Sanderson offered a rough draft version of the novel original for this series, and I requested it. It’s still waiting for me to read, and I’ll do so at some point. I’m just not a huge fan of reading books on an e-reader so I’ve put that off. Rough draft or not, I’m sure I’ll love the novel version better than the GN adaptation. However, I’ll keep reading the adaptation, because I pretty much read anything Cosmere-related.

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Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts, by Kate Racculia

Tuesday Mooney is comfortable with her life. She has a job she excels at, her own apartment, a couple close friends, and lots of introvert time. Part of her knows that she’s just a teensy bit bored with the routine, probably why she jumps at the chance of a treasure hunt when an eccentric old man dies and leaves a trail of clues that should lead to his fortune…

I’ll admit that I was wary going into this book. Racculia’s previous book, Bellweather Rhapsody, was a favorite of mine several years ago, and I wasn’t sure how well Tuesday would live up to it. The title didn’t particularly appeal to me. Nor the cover, nor the setting (Boston, ugh), nor the plot synopsis. But I had to give it a shot, right? I loved Bellweather Rhapsody, after all.

Opening chapter/prologue: quite intriguing, and with a bit of a spooky paranormal vibe. Totally my thing. After that first chapter, the book started a bit slow. The crux of the book, the whole treasure hunt bit, doesn’t start until roughly 50 pages in. Before that, you have characters. But here’s the thing, y’all: Racculia does characters right. There were so many reasons I was willing to try out this book and put it aside before I began, and then Racculia just came in there and began writing the realest of real characters with fascinating prose, just like she got to me the last time. The woman can write. I didn’t even like some of the characters, but I loved them at the same time.

Tuesday Mooney. She was an awesome narrator. Even though I’m nothing like the woman, I can relate to her in so many little ways. Tiny things. Very specific things, like how The Cask of Amontillado was the one Poe story I found extremely disturbing, too. Because Tuesday isn’t simply a broad character with relatable emotions; she’s a real person, with specific likes and fears and memories and history. All the characters were like that, grounding the story with solidity and realism, which was particularly important on a backdrop of mild absurdity (the whimsical and sometimes dangerous treasure hunt) and supernatural elements (are there really ghosts? or are they just tricks of the mind?).

I loved this book so much. It was the first book in AGES that I’ve taken with me everywhere, to pull out in every little downtime moment I had to read. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump for the last month, and Tuesday made me excited about books again. PLUS, I discovered a hidden code in one of the messages that was never addressed in the story. It makes me wonder what other little Easter eggs I missed in the reading. My code-breaking mind says that I’ll probably need a reread or two to go find some. And perhaps a great discussion with some fellow likeminded folks who enjoyed the book as much as I did.

PS – I gotta say it: Thank you so much Kristen for alerting me to the publication of this book, and for introducing me to Kate Racculia’s work in the first place.

Posted in 2019, Adult, Prose | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sunday Coffee – Almost Home

Last weekend, we got an unexpected phone call from Morrigan. Normally he can only call on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He was feeling depressed because he’d been told that, since it was so close to the holidays, it was possible – even probable – his paperwork wouldn’t get processed until January and he wouldn’t be home until then. He’d really been hoping to make it home by Thanksgiving, so this was tough for him. We talked him through it and eventually got off the phone. I wrote to friends and family about the update and asked them to send him lots more letters.

Tuesday Morrigan and I had our normal twice-weekly conversation. Then on Wednesday morning, Morrigan called while I was driving home from dropping off the boys at school. He’d gotten his departure date. He’d be coming home the following Monday. As in, tomorrow.

This weekend has been about prep. His old room had been converted into Jason’s bedroom and office, and half the house has been packed away into the garage in anticipation of the upcoming move. Some of those packed away items include the clothing Morrigan boxed away to receive after boot camp. Whoops! So there was a lot of shuffling and digging around and adjusting. But since we’re all supposed to be moving in just a few weeks, and things will be better sorted after that.

Next steps are in progress. Morrigan has decided that since the military didn’t work out for him, he’s going back to his original plan, to go to college in Kansas. It’ll mean a lot of loans and student debt. He could go to a public school here in Texas for a lot less of all that, but he’s decided that his dream school is worth it. We’ve already talked to the school and are prepping to get him enrolled and housed for the spring semester, starting mid-January. And so we start again, back to plan, just a semester’s worth of a blip in the meantime. Morrigan will be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, he can help us move next month, and he has a tiny bit of money saved up for the future. We wish him all the best in that, and really just look forward to seeing him safely home tomorrow!!

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Not a Review: Call Down the Hawk

For about a year in 2014/2015, I was under continual emotional distress mixed with depression, severe anxiety, panic disorder, and worsening insomnia. The cause was outside my control, and I just kept spiraling further into a mental health crisis despite weekly sessions with a wonderful therapist and a team of doctors trying to get my medications right. When you have complex PTSD and are living with continual triggers, there is no coping. No healing. No escaping. At some point, you break.

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Sunday Coffee – A Fitful, Sluggish Week

I didn’t mean to disappear this week, but it was one of those weeks:

Time change – I detest this time change. I always end up losing hours and hours of sleep for days, no matter how I prepare, and end up sluggish and unresponsive for a few weeks. I wish we could just stay at Daylight Savings Time year-round. I say this every year, of course. The good news is that I finally slept last night, and slept in quite late this morning, yay!

Car – My car, which is only a couple years old and has only 50k miles on it, went from fine one minute to not starting the next over the weekend. We had to get it towed to a mechanic shop that we trust. Turns out, I needed a new fuel pump for just under a thousand bucks. Oy.

House – We finished contract negotiations on the house we’re downsizing into, and all went better than expected. Yay! At least something is going well, right? Fingers crossed that our December 4th closing goes on as planned.

Quiet – Things have been so hectic for so long that I basically fell into quiet mode. I sat down a lot, doing puzzles or staring out the window, listening to some long audiobook rereads of favorites. There’s still a lot that needs to get done, but this week I needed some time to just sit, rest, disengage, go quiet for a bit. Possibly this might continue with regards to the blog. Between planning/packing for a move, prepping a house to sell, the upcoming change in our holiday plans, and anticipating Morrigan returning home at some unknown point, I might just keep listening to old rereads and staying offline. In any case, I should check in weekly, and I’ll be back at some point. I always am. If I don’t see you much before then, happy holidays to everyone!

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