Whew! It’s been intense hosting the second annual Witch Week, which you can read all about here in case you missed it. And now it’s already the second week of Nonfiction November, which for the second year in a row is being hosted by the lovely bloggers at Doing Dewey, Sophisticated Dorkiness, I’m Lost in Books and Regular Ruminations. They have wonderful weekly discussion topics, post link-ups, and a readalong on offer. I hope you’ll join in!
This week’s topic is Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings, and I had a great time putting some recommendations together for you. All of these are from books I’ve read within the past year, and I was surprised at how many perfect pairings I found from that limited selection. If you think nonfiction is not your thing, try some of these! You might find that it complements your fictional reading better than you had imagined. (Likewise, if you’re not interested in fiction, some of these might change your mind.) My review, if I did one, is linked from the book title.
Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything by David Bellos
The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain
Bellos’s book was one of my favorite finds from last year’s Nonfiction November. Witty, entertaining, and thought-provoking, it illuminates the importance of translation and how it extends into many different aspects of our lives. For a practical application, see how the English translation of Laurain’s brief novel used three different translators to interpret the diverse narrative voices that emerge as an iconic black felt hat makes a roundabout journey through France, changing lives along the way.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Larson reconstructs the chilling career of an early serial killer against the backdrop of the incredible achievements of the builders of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition, a turning point in American cultural history. Atwood takes a real murder case as the starting point for a sly and subversive narrative that brings up many questions about gender, mind, and identity, but gives us few answers.
The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Mystery and Intrigue by Piu Marie Atwell
Armadale by Wilkie Collins
As I read about a real-life melodrama in Piu Marie Eatwell’s stranger-than-fiction saga, I kept thinking “This would be a perfect plot for a Wilkie Collins novel.” So why not pair it with one of Collins’s deliciously over-the-top sensation novels, in which a strangely sympathetic villainness plots to get her own back through marriage — or murder.
The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks
The Hollow Land by Jane Gardam
An account of a modern-day shepherd’s life in the beautiful, stark country of England’s Lake District is perfectly complemented by Jane Gardam’s quietly hilarious linked stories of a native-born Cumbrian family and the visitors who come to love the place as much as they do.
A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of George III by Janice Hadlow
The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken
Janice Hadlow’s biography reveals that King George III tried to break his family’s cycle of parent/child oppression and misunderstanding…but he didn’t do very well. Pair that with Joan Aiken’s fantastic adventure stories of an alternate England governed by the Stuarts instead of the Hanoverians (with supporters of Bonnie Prince Georgie lurking in the wings). Bad history, perhaps, but great fun.
How To Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman
Sophie and the Sibyl by Patricia Duncker
Ruth Goodman’s meticulous research — which includes not washing with water for four months and making historically accurate condoms — gives a fascinating glimpse into what Victorian life was really like. Follow it up with Patricia Duncker’s neo-Victorian pastiche of love and publishing in nineteenth century Berlin, centered around the literary giant George Eliot and her great, late works.
What nonfiction/fiction pairings do you have to suggest — from this year’s reading, or any other?