It’s Non Fiction November time again. To kick off this month long celebration, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction suggests we take a look back at the last twelve months and talk about our favourite non fiction reads of the year and the books we’ve recommended most often.
This year has seen my non fiction reading plummet to its lowest ever level. I started but failed to finish several but somehow I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for the medical memoirs I’ve enjoyed in past years. Fortunately the two books I did manage to finish were well worth the time and effort.
This is a follow up to The Salt Path, in which Raynor Winn reflects on the 630 mile walk she did with her husband Moth, sleeping in a flimsy tent and existing on rehydrated noodles. They began the walk as homeless, their farm having been seized by bailiffs, and distraught by a diagnosis that Moth was suffering an untreatable and incurable brain disease.
The Wild Silence sees them in a slightly more secure space. Through the kindness of strangers they are living in a small apartment in Cornwall but they still don’t feel settled. Another stranger comes calling, asking them to take on a project of re-wilding his ancient cider farm. It’s physically demanding because the farmhouse accommodation is in a dreadful condition. But ultimately the peace and solitude of the farm and the physical effort involved in clearing decades of neglect prove restorative, both physically and emotionally.
I’ve bought copies of this book for several friends and recommended it to scores of people. It’s not only a memoir about two people who learn to live again, it’s only a testament to the ability of nature to bring an inner quietude and to heal.
Fall And Rise, The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff
I started reading this in the week when the world marked the 20th anniversary of the tragedy. Zuckoff, a reporter for the Boston Globe, spent years researching the stories of people who lost their lives on that day in September and those who survived. The result is an extraordinary book about kindness and determination, of overwhelmed emergency services and systems that failed under duress.
It’s a very human book in the sense Zuckoff doesn’t spend much time analysing the motivation of the hijackers but concentrates instead on how their actions affected ordinary people.
Even though millions have words have been written about 9/11 this book provided a lot of detail I wasn’t aware of, especially regarding the effect of design decisions made by the architects of the Twin Towers, and the lack of cohesive lines of communication between various response agencies.
It’s not a book you can say you enjoy reading but it was certainly insightful.
What am I hoping to get out of Nonfiction November? The answer is quite simple — ideas for titles that will get me out of my current non fiction reading slump. I’m in no doubt, based on previous years’ experience that’s going to happen.