Nonfiction November: Book Pairing

This week’s Nonfiction November topic is Book Pairing (hosted by Julz of Julz Reads): This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.


The obvious combo that springs to mind from this year’s reading is one I’ve mentioned elsewhere: The House of the Spirits and My Invented Country by Isabel Allende. Allende’s debut novel was a magical and sometimes brutal evocation of Chilean history through a family saga that was based on her own. After reading it I was curious to know more about the real story, and so I read one of the author’s several memoirs, a book in which she particularly considers what it means to her to be a writer in exile from her homeland. I enjoyed it even more than the novel; Allende’s sense of humor particularly comes to the fore as she writes about her own thoughts and experiences.


In another pairing, as I was reading Home by Julie Andrews, I thought, “This is like a real-life Noel Streatfeild novel” — for example, Dancing Shoes, which I reread this year. Young Julie’s talent brought her to the stage at an early age, just like Streatfeild’s performing children; and like them, she struggled with poverty and family problems. Her story has a bit more grit and realism but also a hopeful trajectory as she becomes a rising star.


Another reread was Chime by Franny Billingsley, a dark but beautifully written and moving fantasy that circles around themes of abuse and how it alters our perception of reality. I’d pair this with the new release Inferno by Catherine Cho, which comes out of the author’s experience of postpartum depression and psychosis. It’s also emotionally devastating and beautifully written.

Have you read any other novels that you would pair with a memoir or biography that gets into the reality behind the fiction? Or what other combinations have you discovered?

19 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: Book Pairing

  1. I own that exact copy of House of the Spirits but haven’t read it yet. I like the Allende novels that I’ve read but I haven’t loved them. I should try her nonfiction.

    Noel Streatfeild and Home is an excellent pairing, as is your last choice, difficult though the subject is.


    1. I’ve only completed these two books, and I think they are a good place to start — House of the Spirits was her breakout book, and the memoir reflects on that experience.


  2. Ooh, what interesting pairings! I’ve not read any of the books in them. I really like your idea of pairing nonfiction and fiction by the same author. That’s a way of pairing books I’ve not really explored and I think there are a few pairs like that I could include in my list next year 🙂


  3. I read a few articles based on Julie Andrews memoir. The thing that stayed with me most was that she said you should practice (whatever skill you want, hers was singing) until you absolutely could not fail. Hence her pitch perfect voice


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