November is finally here, meaning the leaves are falling and the days are getting wetter and shorter. But most importantly, it’s nonfiction season. I’m officially signing up for Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie, Rennie, Julie, and Leann, and Sarah). Come look at my to-be-read pile and let me know what are your picks for this month!
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Prisoners of Geography looks at ten regions of the world and uses maps to look at their geopolitical importance. In the Introduction, Marshall (an award-winning journalist with experience covering foreign political issues) writes that geopolitics is still important today, regardless of our advanced technology. Throughout the book, we’re taken on a tour to India and Pakistan, Africa, Russia, Western Europe, and even the Arctic.
I first heard about this book in English class. My professor brought it up, wrote the title on the board, and I took note of it. This was back in January, but it has been on my mind ever since! Luckily, I grabbed a copy from the library and have already started reading it…
The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison
This bind-up of some of Morrison’s essays is divided into three parts. The first is a “powerful prayer” to the victims of 9/11. The second part is a reflection on Martin Luther King Jr’s career and legacy. The last part is a eulogy to the author James Baldwin. Each section deals with a number of issues, from race to politics to art and being an artist.
When I heard of Toni Morrison’s death, I was surprisingly shocked and sad. Not because I didn’t admire her—far from it. But because I had only read fragments of her novel Beloved. This summer, I decided to read more of her work, starting by essays and nonfiction. I’m expecting to love every page of this and I’m very eager to delve more into Morrison’s prose.
Africa’s Tarnished Name by Chinua Achebe
Part of the Penguin Modern series, Africa’s Tarnished Name looks at Africa from a post-colonial native point of view. Achebe was one of the most influential African authors and he left behind plenty of nonfiction and fiction works. This particular bind-up goes over history, diversity of cultures, and politics of the continent.
This semester I started my minor in African Literatures and Cultures. We have mostly dealt with Portuguese-speaking African countries, but have touched lightly on Senegalese and Nigerian authors and thinkers as well. Achebe came up in class and, when I went home, immediately ordered this short book of essays. It’ll be my introduction to his writing and I’m thrilled to read post-colonial works.
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Reading Lolita in Tehran is Azar Nafisi’s memoir. She was a teacher in the Islamic Republic of Iran and, for two hours every Thursday, gathered a group of female students to read banned Western classics with them. As Islamic moralist squads raided houses in Tehran randomly, Nafisi risked her life creating a reading group that discussed Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Austen, and Henry James.
What drew me to this book the most was its sub-title: A Memoir in Books. What an interesting concept! I’ve read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, a graphic “novel” memoir set in the same historical time period, and I was hungry for more history. This will (hopefully) add to that. While I’m going into it with lower expectations (there are many mixed reviews for this book), I’m still hoping to enjoy it and get something out of it.
Black Looks: Race and Representation by bell hooks
In this essay collection, bell hooks analyses race and its representation in Western culture. She questions traditional discourses on race, blackness, and the embracing of blackness. Her aim is to look at how music, movies, television, and art are driven and influenced by race.
bell hooks is one of those authors I’ve sort of read about but whose works I’ve never thoroughly dug deeper into. That will change, though. I grabbed a beautiful Brazilian edition of this book at a local independent bookstore and I’m excited to pick it up. It’ll stay on my bedside table probably the whole of November so I can appreciate everything bell hooks writes about.
História da Vida Privada em Portugal: Idade Média by José Mattoso (coord.)
This Portuguese “Nouvelle Histoire” book analyses how everyday people lived in Portugal in the Middle Ages. A translation of the title could be History of Private Life in Portugal: Middle Ages. In the vein of Nouvelle Histoire, this book distances itself from great monarchs, wars, and political schemings. Instead, it describes the architecture of the city and rural areas, how a peasant’s house was built, how families worked as social structures, what normal people ate and did all day—etc.
When I saw this tome at the library, I knew I had to check it out. Unfortunately, I had hit my five-books-out limit, so I’ll have to pick it up some other time. But when I mentioned this book to my mom, she was so happy: she wanted to read it too. It sounds incredibly interesting, especially to two history nerds like us. Maybe I’ll have to wait for December to finally read it, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it.
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This is my TBR for Nonfiction November. Are you also participating? What books will you read?