Nonfiction November Week 5: New to my TBR


Well we have come to the end of another Nonfiction November! It was, as always, a wonderful event, and my TBR has swelled yet again.

thank you to the hosts, Rennie @ Whats NonFiction?, Katie @ Doing Dewey, Veronica @ The Thousand Book Project, Christopher @ Plucked from the Stacks, and Jaymi @ The OC Book Girl

The book covers below link to the blogger from whom the recommendation came. Thank you to everyone who participated.




I only managed to read 6 nonfiction books during the month. Click the covers to read my reviews.


If you have resolved to read more nonfiction in 2022, consider joining the 2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge





Review: Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia by Anita Heiss (Ed.)


Title: Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia

Author: Anita Heiss (Ed)

Published: 16th April 2021, Black Inc

Status: Read November 2021



My Thoughts:


There is no single or simple way to define what it means to grow up Aboriginal in Australia….”

I’m having such a hard time putting together a response to reading Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia. I have such a mix of emotions – I am angered, ashamed, sad, enlightened, inspired and hopeful.

Fifty contributors share their diverse experiences of growing up Aboriginal in Australia. They come from all over country, and are of varied ages, genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic class.

Yet there are commonalities in their stories -the weight of intergenerational trauma, the burden of stereotypes and racism, the struggle with identity, the desire to understand and embrace their culture, kin and country.

Though the quality of the writing can be uneven, the honesty of the authors stories are affecting and powerful. They are a generous invitation to learn and gain some understanding of what it is like to be a First Nations person growing up in Australia, both then and now.

“….it’s so obvious that underneath the invisible barriers and expectations we have constructed and placed on each other, we are all brothers and sisters; we are all just pink flesh and bone.”

An informative, thought-provoking, and moving anthology Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia is essential reading in the journey to create a new dialogue with and about Aboriginal Australians.


Available from Black Inc

Or from your preferred retailer

via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: Strange Bedfellows by Ina Park


Title: Strange Bedfellows: Adventures in the Science, History, and Surprising Secrets of STDs

Author: Ina Park

Published: 16th February 2021, Flat Iron Books

Read: November 2021


My Thoughts:

I picked up Strange Bedfellows by sex-positive STD/STI researcher Dr Ina Park purely out of curiosity after reading several enthusiastic reviews, and I’m happy to report that it is an informative, interesting, and often witty examination of the history, science and stigma related to sexually transmitted Infections and sexual health.

Though the subject of STIs is not of personal relevance to me, given I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for 31 years, I am the mother of four teens/young adults and thought I could be better informed on the topic to discuss it with them. Park presents her information in a clear and accessible manner, and I definitely feel I now have a more comprehensive understanding of STIs. I was interested to learn about the many issues related to the testing and treatment of herpes, the hazels of pubic hair removal, the complexities of public health tracing in relation to STIs, the dangers of douching, the effectiveness of PrEP in preventing HIV, and more besides. Peppered with personal anecdotes and commentary, Park’s sense of humour ensures the material isn’t dry, but she also writes with sensitivity and respect.

However, I can’t wholeheartedly embrace the author’s rallying cry to #StoptheSTIgma. When I was a teenager unprotected sex was a dangerous gamble – HIV/AIDS was a death sentence, HPV led to cancer, as did Hepatitis B. Even though today people receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS can expect to live a normal life span, HPV immunisation has reduced the risk of cervical cancer by 90%, and Hep B vaccinations in childhood have reduced the risk of developing liver cancer to around 5%, unprotected sex is still a serious health risk. While I’m all for promoting the awareness of, and destigmatising treatment for, STI’s, prevention is still better than a cure. Given the reported decline in condom use, and the rise in STIs, over the last 20 years or so, I’m concerned that what teens and young adults are ‘hearing’ is that STDs are treatable and as such ‘harmless’, and therefore condoms are superfluous (if the risk of unwanted pregnancy has been addressed in heterosexual sexual encounter, or by the use of PrEP to prevent HIV in a homosexual encounter).

Nevertheless, Strange Bedfellows is an educative and engaging read that I think would appeal to a range of audiences, from the idly curious to those working with, or raising, teens or young adults.


Available from Flat Iron Books

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Amazon

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge #DISEASE

Nonfiction November Week 4: Stranger than Fiction

This week we’re focusing on all the great nonfiction books that *almost* don’t seem real. A sports biography involving overcoming massive obstacles, a profile on a bizarre scam, a look into the natural wonders in our world—basically, if it makes your jaw drop, you can highlight it for this week’s topic and link up at Plucked from the Stacks.


Larrimah by Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson 

True crime is often stranger than fiction, and the circumstances surrounding the 2017 disappearance of seventy year old Paddy Moriarty from Larrimah, a tiny Northern Territory outback town, is decidedly odd. In a community barely 1kmsq in size, whose main attractions are a no-eyed crocodile and a Pink Panther in a gyrocopter whose head falls off intermittently, with a population of just 12 people where, at any one time, half of the residents are at war with the other, whether it’s over the provision of pies to the passing trade, the leadership of local ‘progress’ committees, the revenge-driven massacre of a buffalo, or the theft of Mars Bars, how could Paddy and his dog have vanished unseen, without a trace?


One Last Dance by Emma Jane Holmes 

A character in fiction employed as both an exotic dancer and a funeral director would likely be dismissed as unrealistic, but for a time that’s just what Emma Jane Holmes did. Her memoir One Last Dance explains how she came to be a stripper under the the alias Madison, working nights at a Sydney club, while collecting the deceased and directing funerals during the day.


Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson

Journalist Jon Ronson intentionally seeks out people who have stories that are stranger than fiction. In Lost At Sea, a collection of his newspaper and magazine columns, Ronson investigates a man preparing to welcome the aliens to earth, a woman trying to build a fully-conscious robotic replica of the love of her life, and a group of teenagers planning a school massacre in a town where it is Christmas every day of the year, among others.


Review: The World of Critical Role by Liz Marsham


Title: The World of Critical Role: The History Behind the Epic Fantasy

Author: Liz Marsham (and the cast of Critical Role)

Published: 20th October 2020, Ten Speed Press

Status: Read November 2021



My Thoughts:


As a teen my friends and I had a brief obsession with board games, and then graduated to tabletop RPG (role play games). We made an attempt at Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, borrowing bits and pieces from someone’s uncle, but we all found it a little too complicated to make sense of on our own, so we cast around and discovered Heroes Quest, a brand new board game with a fantasy RPG element. We all pitched in to buy it and spent many hours rampaging through dungeons.

When my eldest son was thirteen a local games store began organising a semi regular social night for ages 12-18. They hosted a mix of activities including the chance to participate in Dungeons & Dragons ‘one-shots’. I was certain that my son, who devoured fantasy novels and wrote fan fiction, would love D&D and convinced him to give it a chance. So he’d have an idea of what to expect we watched a bunch of YouTube video’s and read through information online, and when I picked him up that evening he couldn’t wait to play again. Shortly after the Dungeon Master invited him to join a group he hosted every fortnight at his home, and my son, who is now 17, has being playing with them ever since.

All this is to explain why I chose to read The World of Critical Role. D&D is a big part of my son’s life, and I am occasionally able to play a game with him. He loves Critical Role and is one of the estimated 1.5M people who watches each 4-5 hour long episode every week. Every so often I join him, because I enjoy it too.

Critical Role is the name for a group of LA based friends who turned their friendly Dungeons & Dragons home game into a live stream on YouTube/Twitch, originally through Geek & Sundry. The stream proved so popular that eventually Critical Role formed their own company, moved into their own studio space, and launched their own streaming channel with additional content and projects including live tours, merchandise, comic books, campaign handbooks, one-shots, limited campaigns, and an animated Amazon series (coming 2022).

In The World of Critical Role, Marsham shares the history of the group, reveals behind the scenes tidbits, and provides cast and character biographies. Much of the book focuses on elements of Campaign 1: Vox Machina which debuted online in 2015 and ran for 115 episodes, until 2017 but only about a third of Campaign 2: The Mighty Nein which began in 2018 and ran for 141 episodes, (with a hiatus due to the pandemic) finishing mid 2021, taking readers through the many highlights – the creative moves, the biggest mistakes, the fierce battles and the tragic losses. Marsham also explores the Critical Role fandom, and discusses why the game attracts and inspires people.

I thought I might end up skimming through some of the book given I’ve only seen a handful of episodes from the campaigns, but I was completely enthralled by it all. It’s funny, informative and even thought-provoking. Beautifully illustrated with photographs and stunning art, I think The World of Critical Role would serve as a good introduction to the entire Critical Role phenomenon, especially the first and second campaigns, and become a keepsake of sorts for ‘Critters’ (Critical Role fans) who can be reminded of, and relive, some of its best moments.

I’m sincerely considering binging on both campaigns which would take me to close to a year if I watch an episode a day. Critical Role is currently just four episodes into Campaign 3 (as yet unnamed) which began October 2021, and I’ve already made a start on it.

Let the adventure begin….


Available from your preferred retailer

Review: This is Your Captain Speaking by Doug Morris


Title: This is Your Captain Speaking: Stories from the Flight Deck

Author: Doug Morris

Published: 19th October 2021, ECW Press

Status: Read November 2021 courtesy ECW Press


My Thoughts:


Doug Morris draws on his twenty years experience as an airline pilot for a large Canadian airline to address the mysteries of commercial flight In This is Your Captain Speaking: Stories from the Flight Deck.

Written in a personable tone Morris attempts to answer every question you might have about the career of a pilot and the operation of a commercial aircraft -including what they carry in their flight bag, how routes are planned, fuel tolerances, and the universal usefulness of duct tape; as well as queries about the notorious mile-high club, difficult passengers and shrinking seat sizes. As a certified meteorologist Morris also confidently address concerns related to weather such as turbulence, icing and the phenomenon of St Elmo’s Fire. The author’s explanations are concise and detailed but appropriate for a lay audience, with a glossary provided for further edification. Morris also includes good humoured asides and anecdotes throughout the book which are generally entertaining and offsets the technical minutiae.

While not the gossipy industry exposé I was hoping for, This is Your Captain Speaking did prove to be educational. I believe it would particularly be a good choice of reading for a nervous flyer, a young aspiring pilot, or someone with specific interest in commercial aircraft operations.


Available from ECW Press

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Amazon

Nonfiction November Week 3: Be the Expert

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert). 

My youngest daughter has just finished her first year of University where she is completing a Bachelor of Science majoring in Forensic Science. Forensic science is the application of scientific principles and techniques to matters of criminal justice. It draws upon a variety of scientific disciplines, including biology, physics and chemistry, and primarily involves the recognition, identification, individualisation, and evaluation of physical evidence to be used in a court of law. The field of forensic science is broad but can be sorted into four main disciplines. Field sciences which involves crime scene investigation; and laboratory sciences which includes the analysis of evidence such as DNA, toxicology, and documents; are the basis for my daughter’s degree. Forensic medicine which involves pathology (autopsy), psychology, entomology, and anthropology; and digital forensics, involving the extraction, preservation and analysis of digital data; are generally post graduate specialisations. Forensic specialists may also come from fields such as engineering, botany and meteorology.

Forensic science is a subject I’ve always found intriguing, as does the general population as evidenced by long running tv shows like CSI and it’s various permutations, Bones, Silent Witness and NCIS, as well as best selling fiction from authors such as Kathy Reichs, Jefferson Bass, Patricia Cornwall, Val McDermid, and Jeffrey Deaver. Of course forensic science is not as glamorous, nor as simple as it’s portrayed for entertainment. It’s an ever evolving discipline that requires scientific rigour and integrity. it’s not infallible, as recent controversies show, but it can be an extraordinarily vital element in the accurate prosecution of crime.

I have read a reasonable amount of nonfiction that focuses on, or involves, the fields of forensic science. True crime books almost always refers to the work of forensic scientists in an investigation, but I’m going to share five books where various disciplines of forensic science are highlighted.


Though first published in 2004, Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales byWilliam M. Bass & Jon Jefferson is still in print. It tells the fascinating story of the ‘Body Farm’ founded by U.S. forensic anthropologist, Bill Bass, renowned for his research on human osteology and human decomposition.


In Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime, Val McDermid explores a wide range of forensic disciplines in the UK, including fire scene investigation, entomology, pathology, toxicology, fingerprinting, blood spatter, DNA, anthropology, facial reconstruction, digital forensics, and forensic psychology, providing both historical and modern day context.


My recommendation for Autopsy: Life In The Trenches With A Forensic Pathologist In Africa by Ryan Blumenthal comes with a small caveat. While this is a fascinating read because the practice of pathology in Africa is somewhat unique to the location, the author is fond of interjecting moral judgments.


In Killer Instinct: Having A Mind for Murder, Australian forensic psychiatrist, Donald Grant presents ten murder cases in which he was involved, providing details of the crime/s, and his medico-legal assessment of the alleged perpetrators state of mind based on case evidence and interviews. It’s an interesting read because the role of a forensic psychiatrist is quite specific and very different to the therapeutic relationship.


Dame Sue Black is a British forensic anthropologist and the author of Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind. Organised in sections that move down the skeleton from the head through to the foot, in each chapter Black explains the development and function of specific bones, how those bones may, or may not, be affected by natural or unnatural means, the process a forensic anthropologist uses to examine and then provide a scientific assessment of the bones, and case examples that demonstrate the role of forensic anthropology in the investigation of legal and criminal cases.


There are dozens more books on the subject on my TBR, but do you have one you’d particularly recommend?

Review: Women to the Front by Heather Sheard & Ruth Lee


Title: Women to the Front: Australian Women Doctors of the First World War

Author: Heather Sheard & Ruth Lee

Published: 2nd April 2021, Ebury Press

Status: Read November 2021



My Thoughts:


After the Great War broke out in 1914, Melbourne doctor Helen Sexton was just one of what was to be at least 28 Australian female medical practitioners, aged between 27 and 56 years olds trained primarily in general medicine but also in specialties from pathology to anaesthesiology to surgery, who attempted to enlist as a doctor with the Medical Armed Forces in Australia or Britain. Their offers rebuffed, the Australian women, eager to aid in the war effort, instead reached out to international medical organisations and soon found roles that allowed them to serve in several settings, including within mobile medical units stationed along both the Eastern and Western fronts.

In Women to the Front, authors Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee, draw on available official documents, personal letters, diaries and other material to ensure that these intrepid Australian women doctors are acknowledged, and lauded for their contributions to the war effort. The book is organised in five parts, with a narrative divided by year and then location, detailing the women’s movements across the Allied fronts. There are a lot of names, acronyms and dates which can be difficult to keep track of, but helpfully the authors also include a glossary, individual biographies of each doctor, and a comprehensive index.

Though Sheard and Lee state they had limited information to work from, they have put together compelling accounts of the women’s experiences as wartime doctors. The Australian doctors served in at least twelve countries, working under a wide range of conditions in a variety of roles from 1914 to 1918. Doctors Laura Forster (NSW), and Ethel Baker (QLD), joined the BHF (British Field Hospital for Belgium) which established a 150-bed field hospital in Antwerp in September of 1914. The facility was quickly flooded with wounded soldiers, the women often required to operate through the night. Barely a month later they were forced to evacuate as the German Army advanced. Pathologist Dr Elsie Dalyell (NSW), the first Australian woman to win a Beit Fellowship, offered her skills to the War Office, but when refused joined Lady Cornelia Wimborne’s Serbian Relief Fund field hospital, and headed to Serbian Macedonia on the Eastern Front where she was responsible for the collection and analyse of specimens to detect and diagnose everything from wound infections, to diseases such as Typhus. Dr Agnes Bennett (NSW) volunteered with the French Red Cross and treated the wounded soldiers from the battlefields of Gallipoli who were shipped to Cairo. Sydney (NSW) doctor Marjory Little took charge of the 46th Stationary Hospital’s laboratory. The 46th, in Étaples, France, was an isolation hospital in the largest army base camp ever established overseas by the British, and contained one of the army’s most important laboratories.

It’s humbling to think of the strength, courage and will these Australian women doctors, and the others noted in this book, possessed. At a time when women had so little agency, and were barely tolerated in the medical profession, they fearlessly entered the theatre of war and proved themselves more than capable. Infuriatingly they were afforded very little official respect from the Australian or British military, either during or after the war. Though sometimes awarded a nominal rank they were denied full military pay rates and benefits. A handful of the women were awarded minor British medals, none received recognition from Australia. Other countries were more generous, Dr Lilian Cooper (QLD), for example, was awarded the Serbian Order of St Sava, the Russian Cross of St George, and the French Red Cross Medal for her services. Astonishingly, when World War II began, the Australian military again refused the enlistment of Australian women doctors despite their outstanding record of service.

Inspiring and informative, Women to the Front is an important book acknowledging the invaluable contributions made by the extraordinary Australian women who selflessly served the Allied Forces as doctors during World War I.


Available from Penguin Books Australia or your preferred retailer

Nonfiction November Week 2: Book Pairings


This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

I find that the fiction I read regularly results in searches for further detail involving all sorts of subjects, and I’ve fallen down more than one rabbit hole in my time.

I’ve opted to choose five fiction books I’ve read this year, and paired them with nonfiction books of relevance.

The Newcomer by Laura Elizabeth Woollett is an unconventional murder mystery, told from the perspectives of the victim, Paulina Novak, and her mother, Judy, before and after the fact. It’s set in the early 2000s on a tiny island off the coast of Australia called ‘Fairfolk. The author drew inspiration from the 2002 murder of Janelle Patton on Norfolk Island, which remained unsolved for nearly five years. The details of the case are fascinating and are reported on by Timothy Latham in Norfolk: Island of Secrets.





Lyrical, moving and profound, Charlotte McConaghy’s Once There Were Wolves features a rewilding project to reintroduce wolves into the Scottish Highlands. While no such program currently exists in the country, a similar project was successfully implemented in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone Wolves: Science and Discovery in the World’s First National Park by Douglas W. Smith, Daniel Stahler & Daniel R. MacNulty is the comprehensive story of the wolves’ return to Yellowstone National Park as told by the people responsible for their reintroduction, study, and management.





Girls With Bright Futures by Tracey Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman is a wickedly entertaining novel that exposes the fierce competition for college entry in the United States and parents who are willing to do anything to ensure their precious offspring has every advantage. In Unacceptable: Privilege, Deceit & the Making of the College Admissions Scandal, authors Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz delve into 2019 scandal that made media headlines.





The Enemy Within is Tim Ayliffe’s third exciting thriller to feature investigative journalist John Bailey. In this novel, Bailey uncovers a plot involving right wing extremists and white supremacists conspiring to start a race war in Australia. Fascists Among Us by Jeff Sparrow explores the increasing threat such hate groups pose to the stability of our society, and the role they played in the Christchurch Massacre.





The Last Reunion is a rich and absorbing story about art, war and friendship from internationally bestselling Australian author, Kayte Nunn. The novel centres on the unique role women played in the ‘forgotten war’ in Burma during WWII by running the canteens that catered to the troops engaged in fighting the Japanese. In Front Line and Fortitude: Memoirs of a Wasbie with the ‘Forgotten Army’, Elizabeth Lockhart-Mure draws from her aunt’s personal diary to present a first hand account of their experiences and their magnificent contribution to the war effort.





Thanks for stopping by

Review: A Women’s Place by Deepi Ahluwalia and Jessica Olah


Title: A Woman’s Place: The Inventors, Rumrunners, Lawbreakers, Scientists, and Single Moms Who Changed the World with Food

Author: Deepi Ahluwalia, Jessica Olah

Published: 5th March 2019, Little, Brown and Company

Status: Read November 2021



My Thoughts:

“If a woman’s place has always been in the kitchen, then why does culinary history read like the guest list of some old boys’ club?”

This is the question that inspired Deepi Ahluwalia and Jessica Olah, who have four decades of experience in the food industry, to author A Woman’s Place aiming to share the stories of more than 80 women who have left a lasting mark on history, and whose contribution to the culinary world is often overlooked.

A Woman’s Place is divided into three sections, headed Innovators, Instigators, and Inventors.  Accompanied by full page illustrations, the biographies of each woman, or group of women, are quite short, no more than a page or two, and highlight their connection to food. Recipes accompany some of the entries.

As I was reading I decided to make a note of the entries that surprised or intrigued me to mention in this review, but the list quickly became very long. Ahluwalia and Olah start with Catherine de’ Medici who introduced both Italian ingredients and the use of the fork to the French in the 1500’s, and ends with the San Antonio Chili Queens who sparked the development of Tex-Mex, a popular and uniquely American cuisine. In between are women from varying countries and cultures, through the ages. It’s a joy that women’s historic contributions are finally being recognised and lauded.

A Woman’s Place can be read in one sitting, or browsed when you have a few spare minutes. It is suitable for a wide range of ages, and should appeal not only to foodies but readers interested in history, culture or feminism.


#2021ReadNonFic: FOOD

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