Wow, November is flying by! We’re already a week and some-odd days in, and I have a few books to talk about! Non-fic November is hosted by the lovely crew of Kim, Leslie, Lu, and (other) Katie, and this week, Leslie over at Regular Rumination has the talking stick. Go see what she’s stirring up!
For those not making the immediate hop (what’s wrong with you?!), this week’s topic is book pairings! Pair a fiction book with a non-fiction book, or two non-fiction books together, or hey, this made me think of this… It can be a referral – If you like this, read that – or it can be an explanation of a theme, like how most of the books I’ve grabbed so far this year have been variations on psychosis, mental institutions, and madness. Pretty nice way to slip from the horror books of Halloween into non-fiction without the jarring scratch of the needle across the record, right?
1. Triggered, by Fletcher Wortmann. (Thomas Dunne Books, 2012, 272 pgs.) I mentioned I have a thing about mental illness, differences, compulsions, and, of course, memoirs? Triggered is a memoir of a young man who grew up with intense obsessive-compulsive disorder…only his was undiagnosed for so long because it didn’t manifest itself with stereotypical symptoms. But the crippling doubts were ever-present and inescapable. It was like…if Sheldon from Big Bang Theory was a million times worse, only not so bright. Truly, the book read like a There but for the grace of God sort of cautionary tale. My anxiety might be annoying from time to time, but it’s nowhere near what it could be. Thank you, universe. 3 of 5 stars. Paired with: Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork, a story of a high schooler who must overcome his own disorder to prove he can be his own person in the “real” world…whatever that means. It’s one of my favorite YA novels out there because I cared so deeply about Marcelo, because his problems (and their imperfect solutions) were believable, and because the book struck that perfect chord between perfectly plausible and optimistically escapist. (No, I’m not very demanding – why do you ask?)
2. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach. (W. W. Norton & Company, 2003, 320 pgs.) Holy bananapants! This is one of my favorite books ever. Like EVER. It was incredibly engrossing, never gross (I read it during lunch, even)(although that might say more about me than the book), laugh-out-loud humorous, impeccably researched, and thoroughly entertaining. Never, not once, did I want to skip ahead. My favorite chapter was probably the one that explained how human remains from aircraft accidents help explain what happened…so much so that I maybe even ordered all of the books Roach mentioned in that chapter. I just find the entire thing so interesting! Also: I’ve decided to donate my body to science. Go ahead and read it and just see if I’m not crazy. 5 of 5 stars.
Paired with: Working Stiff: Two years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, by Judy Melinak. It wasn’t quite as entertaining as Roach’s non-fiction, but I’m starting to think nothing ever could be. Melinak’s was a very specific niche-piece on what happens to a person who has passed, whereas Roach’s focus is more about what happens to corporeal remains after the person’s soul is gone.
3. The View on the Way Down, by Rebecca Wait. (MacMillan, 2013, 308 pgs.) Um…wait a minute. This was supposed to be a memoir about a girl whose brother died five years ago, and whose other brother left home that very day and has never returned or talked to anyone since. Except…it turns out that it’s not so much a memoir, and not so much non-fiction as it is fiction. Not only that, it’s Wait’s debut novel. How I got that turned around, I have no idea. But it was pretty good! Don’t worry – I stopped once I thought to check why everything was still so third-person sixty pages in.
4. The Mad Bomber of New York, by Michael Greenberg. (Union Square Press, 2011, 336 pgs.) Crime novels – and procedurals and explanations and think pieces and great big documentaries – how I love you! This read just like a novel (only this time I was sure it wasn’t) and did a thorough job exploring the terror that enveloped New York City for sixteen years before that knucklehead was caught. The book maybe could have been slimmed down a little, but I found skipping ahead didn’t hurt the tale any. 3 of 5 stars.
Paired with: The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson. A YA fiction book that I read way back in the summer of 2012, but it immediately came to mind. It tells the story of a young girl who can see the “shades” of those who have passed, which helped her to figure out the whole Jack-the-Ripper dealio. Not too paranormal-y, if that’s not your thing. Just a good, quick, juicy story.
So there you go! Four books in, plus I’m halfway through Sisters in Law (about Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and the new Stephen King, my on-purpose fiction “cheat.” I can’t wait to tell you about them next week, because they’re amazing!
Tags: #NonficNov, book reviews, Marcelo in the Real World, Mary Roach, Maureen Johnson, non-fiction, november, reading, Rebecca Wait, Stiff, The Mad Bomber of New York, The Name of the Star, The View on the Way Down, Triggered, Working Stiff