For my final installment of reviewing my 2019 reading, I turn to nonfiction. I don’t keep a tally of how many nonfiction books I read in a given year because there are simply too many of them.
(photo via LitHub)
Between research for my own writing and all the books I’m assigned to review for a national book publishing magazine, I think my study always looks like that photo above. It’s a real treat when I get to read a work of nonfiction just because I want to.
From 2019, three really stand out–so much that I find myself thinking about them from time to time.
Saidiya Hartman’s lovely prose, flawless research, and imaginative approach make this history of the lives of young black women unforgettable.
If you’re inclined to write this off as another rehash of the Jack the Ripper story, don’t. Hallie Rubenhold’s focus on the five murdered women makes for a fascinating look at the lives of English women in the late 19th century and a compelling examination of the city of London.
Stephanie Jones-Rogers’s revelation of white women’s participation in the institution of slavery is stunning.
If nonfiction is your thing, consider joining the Nonfiction Fans discussion group on Facebook. I’m one of the co-moderators.
Here’s hoping 2020 is a great reading year for everyone!
For those of you interested in women’s history in book form, I have four recommendations of new releases, two nonfiction and two novels.
First, the nonfiction.
I’ve been talking about this book for a while now, so it’s probably no surprise that I’m leading with Pamela Toler’s Women Warriors: An Unexpected History. It’s smart and funny and very much worth your time.
The other, released today, is She the People by Jen Deaderick. It’s an illustrated history of the women’s rights movement, and it, too, is very smart.
Now the novels.
Also released today is Greer Macallister’s Woman 99, described as a historical thriller, about a woman determined to rescue her sister from an asylum.
Finally, for anyone interested in women’s rights history, there’s Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts. The story focuses on Maud Gage Baum, who married the man who would write The Wizard of Oz, and whose mother was the famous women’s rights activist Matilda Gage.
Next up, the life of an African American artist.
This may be the first time I’ve ever pre-ordered a book. (And the whole “pre-order” thing still confuses me. If you put something in your cart, pay for it, and arrange for it to be shipped, haven’t you, in fact, ordered it?)
I wanted to make sure I was among the very first to get a copy of Pamela Toler’s latest:
The cover alone makes me want to read it. The image is stunning and the title is strong. This book is about women–not girls or wives or daughters. And the “Unexpected History” points out that women have been left out of so much history.
In about two weeks this will be added to my bookshelf. I hope you consider adding it to yours. You can find it on Amazon, Beacon Press, IndieBound, and Barnes & Noble.
Happy 2019 everyone! I wish you all good things in the new year.
To finish up reviewing my 2018 year in reading, I turn to my favorite nonfiction books. Remember, these are books I read in 2018, though they may not have been published that year. Mostly absent from this list are the books I read for discussions on Nonfiction Fans on Facebook. (If you read a lot of narrative nonfiction, please join us over there. It’s a great group.) I have to learn to keep better track of those books.
Most of the nonfiction listed below is historical and most are written by women. Here they are, in the order in which I read them:
Gay writes beautifully about difficult topics.
A page-turning historical mystery.
A first-rate historical biography.
I hate cold weather but can’t get enough of stories about polar exploration. And in case you’ve missed Shapiro’s book, it’s now out in paperback.
A fascinating story, though I wish it had been more tightly edited.
The historical story of Barbara Follett was particularly interesting.
Reading this is the best way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women.
This is a beautiful book. Anyone who loves books and libraries will want to read it.
A highly readable account of the history of Jamestown.
Another fascinating book for book lovers, this one focuses on the history of paper.
Now, on to more books.
I hope everyone has been enjoying the holiday season.
2018 was a big year: retirement, selling a house and moving, signing two book contracts.
TWO book contracts?! It’s not something I ever thought would happen, but it did.
The first contract was the result of long-term planning. I’d started on a biography of mega-star Dale Evans about ten years ago, then set it aside to work on Angels of the Underground. About a year or so ago, I began working with my agent to draft a proposal for the Evans book, which was picked up by Lyons Press. Right now it has the working title of Queen of the West.
The second contract was a matter of serendipity. A book editor had an idea and approached my agent about having me take on the project. This book is about Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the only woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. She was a physician with the Union army during the Civil War and spent some time as a prisoner of the Confederacy. Plus she was a major figure in the women’s rights movement, but other prominent women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton tried to erase her from the movement’s history because of her radical views.
I love both of these book projects. Through the first half of 2019, there will be more here about Mary Walker and her exploits, as well as about my own writing and publishing journey. Then Walker will gradually be replaced by updates about Dale Evans.
First, though, I will be posting about my favorite books from 2018, both fiction and nonfiction. Look for those entries over the next week or so.
And a reminder for those of you who can’t get enough of narrative nonfiction, I co-administer a great group on Facebook called Nonfiction Fans. Come join us. You can also follow the group on Twitter @nonfictionfans.