Leaving the Land of Fiction

Comments (3)

I'm happy to report that Adam and I had another successful Librarypalooza adventure. He navigated toward the non-fiction this time, and we wound up in an aisle with all sorts of books on American history. (The distribution per topic was perplexing: Native Americans, six shelves; George Washington and the American Revolution, two shelves; James Madison, two books; Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, ten shelves; any other president or important leader or era, four books.)

It struck me as I stood amidst so many nondescript titles with equally nondescript covers that I really don't know which authors to trust when it comes to non-fiction. I loved Gore Vidal's Lincoln, but would I love any other book on the same subject? Are the books in the Local Library's Weirdly Unbalanced History of the United States aisle meant to be enjoyed casually, or are they only in the library for the high school students who need to fulfill a bibliography requirement for an essay?

In the end, I walked away with Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom, by Catherine Clinton. I can't imagine how someone could make the Underground Railroad boring, and the gushing reviews on the back cover seemed sincere enough. I also picked up Live and Let Die, the next book in Ian Fleming's Bond series, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. We celebrated our literary outing with root beer floats, which is one more reason that Adam is the best little brother in the world.

Meanwhile, the new copier repair man is scheduled to diagnose and fix yet another problem at the office tomorrow morning, so if you need me, I'll be building my own underground escape tunnel to anywhere else in time and space.

l'empress

l'empress

Nonfiction is tricky because you have to distinguish between research and opinion. David McCullough’s John Adams won a Pulitzer in 2002 and is well worth reading. But I had discovered McCullough years earlier; he is simply a good writer. And if you, like me, had teachers who said that Adams was just a bad president, you are in for a surprise.

http://l-empress.liscious.net/older/009660.html - link to my journal page about John Adams

Rachelskirts

Rachelskirts

YES. Thank you for identifying what makes it so difficult. I've been spoiled because the last two non-fiction books I read were by Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City, a long-time favorite of mine, and In the Garden of Beasts), and he makes historical non-fiction read like the most beautiful fiction novel. I know it's unrealistic to expect the same from every book, but I also don't want to launch into a new story expecting to be disappointed by it.

That said, I am thrilled to hear about this David McCullough fellow, and I look forward to looking up his books next time I'm at the library. :)

Tyler

Tyler

I'm guilty of not reading nonfiction as much as I should. But I'd definitely have to second L'Empress and say David McCullough is pretty great, both John Adams and 1776.

These days, if I'm reading nonfiction, it's generally philosophy or literary criticism or rhetoric. Because I'm a pretentious nerd.