Week 4: Non-Fiction November | 5 Qualities of Great Non-Fiction #nonficnov #orangecountyreads

Week 4 is hosted by Leeann at Shelf Aware. All month long, join our wonderful hosts with weekly prompts for discussing all the Non-Fiction Reads from 2019. Get all the details here. Want to be extra? Join in the Instagram photo challenge! So let’s get started!

We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

Qualities I Look For In My NonFiction Books

Tell me a story.

Facts and figures can be so abstract. There’s a reason it takes lots of repetition to memorize lists and random facts. But tell me a good story and I’ll never forget it.  This book made my list last year too, in terms of a nonfiction story that reads like fiction.

behindenemylinesBehind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany by Marthe Cohn, Taylor Holden

Marthe Cohn was a beautiful young Jewish woman living just across the German border in France when Hitler rose to power. Her family sheltered Jews fleeing the Nazis, including Jewish children sent away by their terrified parents. But soon her homeland was also under Nazi rule. As the Nazi occupation escalated, Marthe’s sister was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. The rest of her family was forced to flee to the south of France. Always a fighter, Marthe joined the French Army. Continue Reading…

Give me a solution.

I like to read nonfiction titles that help me make improvements to my life or my relationships. Unless it’s a biography or memoir, I’m hoping to find a new way to look at things and/or make changes. In this next book, I thought the author did an excellent job sharing techniques and methods for how to control your thoughts/actions and how to interpret them and make positive changes. Since I already do a lot of journaling and have made my share of “Action Boards”, these concepts and ideas were not hard for me to embrace.

thesourceThe Source: The Secrets of the Universe, the Science of the Brain by Tara Swart

The Source: The Secrets of the Universe, the Science of the Brain by Tara Swart is an interesting look at how the brain works and how we have the power to control its functions. It takes techniques like visualization and manifestation and in a very sciencey way offers proof of the power of the mind! Continue Reading…

Be credible.

Do the research and share articles or case studies that help support the main ideas of the book. As a reader, I appreciate the author who can present a well-rounded view. One of my favorite nonfiction books is this collection of stories from people who knew Pat Conroy personally.

princeofscribesOur Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy by Nicole A. Seitz, Jonathan Haupt

New York Times best-selling writer Pat Conroy (1945-2016) inspired a worldwide legion of devoted fans numbering in the millions, but none are more loyal to him and more committed to sustaining his literary legacy than the many writers he nurtured over the course of his fifty-year writing life. In sharing their stories of Conroy, his fellow writers honor his memory and advance our shared understanding of his lasting impact on twentieth- and twenty-first-century literary life in and well beyond the American South. Continue Reading…

Find a new way to say it.

I’ve read Nonfiction books that felt like I was being lectured or yelled at. If it’s been done before, find a different way to do it. If it’s been said before, find a different way to say it. Ask a question or tell me a personal anecdote.  Use emotional language and visual imagery. This next book gets very personal, as the author relates the time spent with his dying mother.

endofyourlifeThe End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

The inspiring story of a son and his dying mother, who form a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close.

Mary Anne Schwalbe is waiting for her chemotherapy treatments when Will casually asks her what she’s reading. The conversation they have grows into tradition: soon they are reading the same books so they can have something to talk about in the hospital waiting room. Continue Reading…

Surprise me.

Don’t just state the facts. Give me something unexpected or a twist. Make me laugh and cry. I love this book so much and am grateful to have found her blog.  Jenny is a true beacon of light and hope.  Who knew that a taxidermied roadkill raccoon could be so uplifting?

furiouslyhappyFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:

“I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.” Continue Reading…

Click here to see 2019 – Week OneWeek Two, Week Three posts.

Click here to see 2018 – Week OneWeek TwoWeek ThreeWeek Four and Week Five posts.

What qualities do you look for when choosing your next nonfiction title?

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  1. I absolutely love how you organized this one, Jaymi! You make such good points, I loved reading your reasoning!

    I think I’d seen The End of Your Life Book Club before but never looked too closely into it and it sounds really meaningful and worthwhile. Behind Enemy Lines sounds intriguing too!


  2. I’m in tune with you on the issue of facts. Sometimes you get the feeling that the author has included them just to pad out the book. One thing that annoys me in a biography/autobiography is to get a mass of info about the person’s ancestors. We need a little to understand what influenced them but some books go back far too many generations. Just because the information is known doesn’t make it necessary to include


  3. Good points, well done. I’m enjoying how everyone is showcasing their different takes on this theme. I like to be taken on a journey, shown something I will never experience myself or learn something useful (or not).


  4. “The End of Your Life Book Club” by Will Schwalbe is a great example for your point of ‘Find a new way to say it.’ Such a neat, touching and quirky story.


  5. Great review. I totally agree on the way you see how nonfiction can inspire you and give you more knowledge. I have only read “The End of the Life Book Club”, which I liked very much. Really a new take on the book club scenario.


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