#NonficNov – More Nonfiction Mini-Reviews

November 23, 2017 Uncategorized 0

I have to admit that it’s not completely due to intentional efforts that November has, in fact, been a month of reading nonfiction for me. Today, I’ve got three more nonfiction books to share with you and all of them are books I picked up while library browsing. I’m glad I’m back to picking up books that way, because these were some great finds.

#NonficNov – More Nonfiction Mini-ReviewsTitle: Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire
Author: Leslie Peirce
Links: Indiebound |Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

This is the story of how a slave girl, Roxelana, was transported to the Ottoman empire and eventually became queen, even though the country traditionally didn’t have queens. The way she transformed the role of women in politics was fascinating. The entire true story behind this book was fascinating. Unfortunately, the way the story was told was less fascinating. While part of this was the author’s writing style, I think she was also limited by her sources. She often had to digress into someone else’s story and than from that, guess at Roxelana’s experiences. Sometimes she repeated information, perhaps because so little was available. And while I appreciate an author letting me know when they’re speculating, the constant ‘this might have happened’ made the reading experience less immersive. I did love that the author included the primary sources available (including letters from Roxelana to the sultan). I’m glad someone is telling Roxelana’s story and for the most part, I think the author did the best she could with the sources available. I’d like to be able to praise this book more highly for those reasons, but the truth is, I sometimes had a hard time making myself pick it up.

#NonficNov – More Nonfiction Mini-ReviewsTitle: The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading
Author: Anne Gisleson
Links: Indiebound |Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

This is a memoir about dealing with grief, specifically about the book club the author formed to explore the topic as she was dealing with the loss of her twin sisters and her father’s death. The book club initially struck me as incredibly pretentious. The participants seemed like they were trying too hard to be literary and philosophical. The author didn’t share enough detail about the readings they discussed, leaving me feeling lost. Fortunately, within the first few chapters, she shifts to mostly talking about events in her life. The story was still grounded by the book club readings, but the focus was on her personal story. It helped that the later book club readings got more interactive and shorter, so more easily explained. I really enjoyed her story. I thought her writing style was beautiful and sometimes achieved the profundity she was aiming for. This wasn’t perfect, but it was lovely and I would recommend it to anyone interested in memoirs about coping with loss.

#NonficNov – More Nonfiction Mini-ReviewsTitle: Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World
Author: Noah Strycker
Links: Indiebound |Goodreads
Rating: five-stars

I’ve always suspected I wouldn’t like travelogues, that they’d just leave me feeling jealous. I’m therefore surprised to report that what I really loved about this birding memoir was hearing about the author’s travels. As the author traveled the world to beat a birding record, he stayed with locals, who knew local birds and local customs. It was fascinating to learn about the different locations he visited from this intimate perspective. I generally enjoyed hearing about his interactions with people. The help he received was heart-warming and the birding culture was at least as interesting as the culture of any country he visited. The author did a great job compressing his adventures of a year, the highs and lows, to make a fast-paced read that made me feel like I was constantly getting to visit new places. My only complaint is that I would have liked more pictures of the birds he saw, but I suppose that’s what the internet is for. Highly recommended if you have any interest in birding, but also if you’re a fan of travelogues.

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