Nonfiction November 2020 Week #4: Wrap-Up


Hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey Decimal

November has passed too quickly! I barely made it halfway through the list of nonfiction books I hoped to read. Here are the books I did get to… (click on the cover to read my review)



I have enjoyed another year of participation in Nonfiction November, I’ve again found some new bloggers to follow, and I have, of course, added a slew of new books that piqued my interest to my WTR list.

(The cover links to the blogger’s post)

 


Thank you to our hosts, Katie of Doing Dewey Decimal, Julie of JulzReads, Rennie of What’s NonFiction, and Leeann of Shelf Aware. I’m looking forward to next year again already!

If you’ve enjoyed Nonfiction November you might be interested in joining the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. You can learn more, or sign up, now by clicking HERE.

Review: 2020 Dictionary by Dominic Knight

Title: 2020 Dictionary: The definitive guide to the year the world turned to sh*t

Author: Dominic Knight

Published: 24th November 2020, Allen & Unwin

Read: November 2029 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Aaargh Executive summary of this book”

2020 has been an Unprecedented* year.

It started (in Australia) with Black Summer* , thanks in part to the effects of Climate Change* which our Prime Minister Morrison, Scott* vehemently denied from his penthouse suite in Hawaii*.

And then came Covid-19*.

After a brief flirtation with the idea of Herd Immunity*, Australia embraced the policy of Flattening the Curve*, except for those Covidiots* like Jones, Alan*, Evans, Pete*, Karen* and Anti-Maskers* who alternately denied the pandemic was happening at all, and/or spruiked any number of Conspiracy Theories* about its origin, spread and threat level.

First urged to observe Handwashing* and Social Distancing*, and use an Elbow Bump* to greet one another to reduce the spread, any hope of limiting the virus’s impact went out the window when some idiot (Australian Border Force*) let the Ruby Princess* dock in NSW. With talk of Lockdown*, the Panic-Buying* began, resulting in an incomprehensible drought of Toilet Paper*. While the pollies declared we were All In This Together*, they decided it was too dangerous for themselves to continue working, but insisted Essential Workers*, including doctors, nurses, teachers, bottle shop owners and Hairdressers*, did.

Shelter(ing) In Place*, Australians started a Podcast* or Baking* (until we ran out of flour), drank Delgona Coffee*, or indulged in a glass or five of Quarantini*, (but no Corona*), ate Lasagne* or Cake* that didn’t look like cake, watched Exotic, Joe* or TikTok* , all while Doomscrolling* on Twitter*. Some of us were condemned to the torture that is Homeschooling* while simultaneously being stuck in the hell that is WFH* (Working From Home) via Zoom*. Victoria, and Andrews, Daniel* aka Dictator Dan* bore the brunt of Australia’s second wave after the virus escaped from Hotel Quarantine*, and unsurprisingly the Contact Tracing App* was no use at all.

Meanwhile Arden, Jacinda* led the world in the pandemic response, Sweden* got it very wrong, and under the (absence of) leadership from Donald Trump*, the United States* became a Clusterf*ck*, beset by Murder Hornets*, and riots associated with the Black Lives Matter* movement.

The Eurovision Song Contest*, the 2020 Olympics* in Tokyo, and Rowling, J.K.*, were cancelled. We lost Boseman, Chadwick*, Bryant, Kobe* and Bader, Ruth Ginsburg*. Bezos, Jeff* got richer, so too (temporarily) did those on Jobseeker*. Parasite* won a swag of awards. Biden, Joe* became America’s new President-elect, which means Kushner, Jared* will be looking for another job soon.

In short, 2020 has largely been a Dumpster Fire*. Dominic Knight’s 2020 Dictionary will ensure you won’t forget a single detail, and will be a handy reference for the grandkids history school project a few decades from now.

Here’s hoping 2021* will be better!

All the words marked with * , and more, along with their definition can be found in the 2020 Dictionary

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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

Review: Searching for Charlotte by Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell

Title: Searching for Charlotte

Author: Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell

Published: 1st November 2020, National Library of Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Quikmark Media

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My Thoughts:

“We come from a family of marvellous storytellers….Our lives were enriched by their stories…”

In 1841, the first Australian children’s book titled ‘A Mother’s Offering To Her Children’ was published, its author, ‘A Lady Long Resident in NSW’. It wasn’t until 1980 that the book was correctly attributed to Charlotte Waring Atkinson (Barton), the great-great-great-great grandmother of bestselling authors Kate Forsyth, and her sister, Belinda Murrell.

For Kate and Belinda, who grew up listening to the stories of their ancestors adventures, both before and after their arrival in Australia, Charlotte was already a figure of fascination. To discover she was Australia’s first children’s author only increased their admiration for her, and inspired the sisters two year search for the truth of the life she lived.

Searching for Charlotte is a hybrid narrative, a historical biography but one that is inextricably blended with the folklore of the sisters family history, and their own journey of discovery. Only so many questions can be answered definitively with what remains of the past…records, letters, diary entries, all of which Kate and Belinda draw on, but to fill in the gaps the sisters take some liberties, some of which comes from the stories passed down through generations, some from the informed speculation of the two women.

I enjoyed the process of learning of Charlotte’s life, and her legacy, which includes a daughter who earned the distinction of being the first Australian born woman to have a novel published. It’s unsurprising then that Kate and Belinda take such pride in their relationship to Charlotte, who seems to have been an intelligent, spirited, and courageous woman who faced many challenges, particularly in the latter half of her life as the wife, and then widow, of James Atkinson in the NSW colony.

A narrative that reveals adventure, tragedy and triumph, country and culture, folklore and family, I found Searching For Charlotte to be an engaging and enlightening read.

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Available from NLA Publishing

Or your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia

Also by Kate Forsyth reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: Anti-Social: The Secret Diary of an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer by Nick Pettigrew

Title: Anti-Social: The Secret Diary of an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer

Author: Nick Pettigrew

Published: 23rd July 2020, Century

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy PenguinUK/ Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

I’d never heard of an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer before seeing this book, but I was intrigued by the existence of such an occupation. It turns out that in the UK, ASB officers are employed by various organisations to help manage and/or curb anti-social behaviour.

Anti-social behaviour is:

(a) conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person  (b) conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person’s occupation of residential premises (c) conduct capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person 

Nick Pettigrew worked for a council managed organisation that provided low-cost housing for those in need for almost twenty years. As an ASB officer, his role was to investigate and take action regarding incidents of anti-social behaviour affecting the tenants in the approximately 3,000 properties he was responsible for.

Such incidents could vary widely, from complaints about noise, to teens hanging out in stairwells, from drug affected persons passed out in doorways, to concerns about domestic violence. Nick would investigate, and then decide on a course of action, which might mean doing nothing; or involving specific agencies like the police, mental health teams, or social workers. He might recommend the installation of CCTV, send a ‘cease and desist’ letter to a tenant, recommend an injunction via court action, or take steps towards eviction. Some incidents could be resolved swiftly, others could take months, or longer.

Presented in a diary format, with heavy use of black humour, Nick relates the events of his days over a period of about a year. The book includes tales of several of his clients that are variously heartbreaking, tragic, absurd, and infuriating, including a vulnerable woman manipulated by strangers into sharing her home with them, a schizophrenic with a crude vocabulary she wielded against her neighbours when she was off her meds, a man who considered carol singers to be an unruly gang, and an elderly Nazi paedophile who disclosed his predilections to his neighbours whenever he wanted to be rehoused.

Nick also writes of the increasing difficulties of his job in the face of UK ‘austerity’ policies that have affected the entire network of social services. With anti-social behaviour on the rise, the already under-funded, under-resourced, and under-valued agencies that serve the disenfranchised, are stretched thinner every year. Nick’s anger at this state of affairs is palpable, and entirely understandable.

It’s no wonder that in the role of an ASB officer, Nick’s own issues with anxiety and depression eventually worsened until he felt he had no choice but to resign. Describing lives plagued by poverty, trauma, mental illness, addiction, racism, loneliness, and family dysfunction, among other issues, Nick laments he grew weary of being able to do nothing but treat some of the symptoms of society’s ills, rather than affect real change.

Raw, honest, funny, and disturbing, Anti-Social is an insightful glimpse into the work of an ASB officer, and the lives of their clients.

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Available from Penguin UK

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

Nonfiction November 2020 Week #3: Ask the Expert

This week is being hosted by Rennie @ WhatsNonfiction

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become 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). 

I’m being a little cheeky today, but I need your help!

In 2021, I will be hosting the second year of the Nonfiction Reader Challenge. The challenge is pretty simple – select, read and review a book from any of 12 categories during the year. A book may be in print, electronic or audio format. There are three goals to select from: Nonfiction Nipper : Read 3 books, from any category: Nonfiction Nibbler : Read 6 books, from any category; Nonfiction Know-It-All : Read 12 books, one for each category

I have already selected eight of the category’s for next years challenge.

* Travel * Essay Collections * Self-Help * Published in 2021 * Biography * Disease * Oceanography * Hobbies

I’d like your help to choose four more, by selecting up to four of the topics you prefer in the poll below – even if you don’t plan on participating in the challenge!

I’d also really appreciate it if you shared titles you would recommend for any of the category’s in the comments. Perhaps you have read a fascinating biography, or a useful self-help book, or a thought-provoking collection of essays, that I can then recommend to challenge participants when the challenge is launched!

I don’t want you to go away empty handed though so here are six nonfiction titles being released in 2021 that fall into one of the above category’s.


Review: The Naked Farmer by Ben Brooksby

Title: The Naked Farmer

Author: Ben Brooksby

Published: 27th October 2020, Macmillan Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy PanMacmillan Australia

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My Thoughts:

Founded by Ben Brooksby on May the 12th 2017, what started as an Instagram photo posted in fun, has developed into The Naked Farmer, a worldwide social media movement aimed at breaking down the barriers, and starting conversations, about mental health, particularly amongst farmers.

Ben, a 5th generation crop/sheep farmer from St Helens Plains in Western Victoria, Australia began experiencing panic attacks in his late teens. He fought hard to manage his anxiety, and when a photo of him in the back of a grain truck, naked, with a pile of lentils covering his sensitive bits, went viral, he was inspired to use his new found fame, to benefit the agricultural community.

“By using the liberating combination of nudity and farm work, the Naked Farmer is starting conversations about mental health across Australia because at the end of the day it’s easier to talk about what’s inside once someone has bared everything on the outside.”

The campaign began in earnest when Ben organised a photo shoot and then the publication of a calendar, with the help of photographer Emma Cross, using locals from his region. Ben and Emma then decided to go on tour to raise awareness of rural mental health, meet some of his social media followers, and encourage their participation in the project. It’s largely from that tour in 2019 that the stories in this book, The Naked Farmer, are drawn.

The Naked Farmer includes personal stories from around 40 men and women of all ages, from all over Australia. These are tales of hardship and trauma, but also resilience and hope, told with courage, and a wish to inspire others to share their story, and begin their own conversations. While the contributors are all involved in agriculture, their mental health is affected by varying issues, including anxiety, injury, illness, eating disorders, depression, financial strain, and grief, just like those in the wider community, so you don’t need to be a farmer, or to get naked, to benefit from this book. You needn’t be one of the 45% of Australians to be affected by mental illness either, this book provides insight into the lives of our nation’s farmers, and makes a connection between consumers and where their food and fibre comes from,

“Above all, The Naked Farmer is a conversation starter. The stories you’re about to read are from individuals around Australia who all have one thing in common: they’ve started their conversation. I hope this book inspires you to do the same.”

You can support The Naked Farmer campaign by following them on Instagram or Facebook, or by purchasing this book, the annual calendar (2021 is available now), or making a tax deductible donation. As a non-profit organisation, all monies raised are donated to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Mental Health Unit, who have dedicated mental health professionals that visit remote towns and properties to provide treatment and support, as well as education about mental health issues for individuals and communities in rural and remote areas of Australia. And you can start a conversation…

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Available from PanMacmillan Australia

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

Review: Truths from an Unreliable Witness by Fiona O’Loughlin

Title: Truths From an Unreliable Witness: Finding laughter in the darkest places

Author: Fiona O’Loughlin

Published: 27th October 2020, Hachette Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Hachette Australia

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My Thoughts:

When I read Fiona O’Loughlin’s first book, Me of the Never Never in 2012, it was as a fan of her comedy routines. I knew very little about her life other than what I’d gleaned from her stand-up, I just knew she made me laugh. I enjoyed the memoir which largely focused on her childhood, and her life as a young wife and mother of five in Australia’s outback. I remember her having recently admitted to her alcoholism, and writing about staying sober, I remember being glad for her, but now I know it was all a lie.

I didn’t really notice that over the next few years Fiona slowly seemed to disappear from the Australian comedy scene. Had I given it a passing thought I likely just assumed that she was busy doing stuff that didn’t make it on to my radar. I wouldn’t have guessed at the hell she was slipping into.

Truths From an Unreliable Witness is a raw, candid account of Fiona’s battle with alcoholism, her repeated failures to curb her addiction over the last decade or so which lead to the end of her marriage, and very nearly her career, multiple stints in rehab facilities, penury, a flirtation with meth, pills, a suicide attempt, and a coma. Fiona makes it clear that her perspective of these events is skewed by her addiction, that her memory is not always reliable, that some details are lost forever to black-outs, but this is the truth she has, and is willing to share.

I missed whatever reporting there may have been on her spectacular fall from grace so all of this came as a surprise to me. I don’t watch “I’m A Celebrity…” on which Fiona appeared in 2018 in the hopes of reviving her career, and won, despite a relapse which led her to drink hand sanitiser stolen from the production crew. It wasn’t her last relapse either, she has experienced several more since, though she now claims she has been sober for almost a year. Alcoholism is a battle never really won. Fiona it seems has come to terms with this, promising not that she is cured, but that she does her best every day not to give in to her addiction.

Fiona hopes that Truths From an Unreliable Witness will be a light in the dark, for others, and herself. Moving, confronting, and powerful I hope it will too.

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Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Nonfiction November 2020 Week #2 – Book Pairing

This week of #NonFicNov is hosted by Julz of JulzReads

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.

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I’ve decided to pair some of the fiction releases I’ve read over the past year or so with nonfiction titles that would provide further reading on its subject or theme.

I loved Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawson which is a fictitious account, based on true events, of Nancy Wake’s role as a spy in German occupied France during World War Two. She was an extraordinary woman, and I was stunned to learn she was an Australian. I’ve since discovered there are several nonfiction biography’s about Nancy Wake available, one of which was published in 2019, Nancy Wake : World War Two’s Most Rebellious Spy by Russell Braddon. I’d also like to read Nancy Wake’s autobiography, The White Mouse, but unfortunately it’s out of print.

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In Liz Moore’s Long Bright River, police officer Mickey (Michaela) Fitzgerald patrols the decaying neighbourhoods of Philadelphia where the opioid crisis is taking an increasing toll on its residents, always keeping a look out, among the prostitutes on the sidewalks and the drug addicts slumped in doorways, for her younger sister, Kacey. Much has been written on the opioid crisis plaguing America, I like that American Epidemic: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Opioid Crisis by John McMillian presents a collection of articles and essays from American newspapers that examines the issue from multiple perspectives.

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The Exiles is the story of a young British governess sentenced to fourteen years transportation to the Australian penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1840. If you enjoyed the novel and are interested in experience of female convicts who were sent to Australia, I strongly recommend A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson and the Convicts of the Princess Royal by Babette Smith. It’s a touch dry but still a fascinating account that illuminates the lives of 99 women of all ages transported in 1822.

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Away With the Penguins (published in America as How the Penguins Saved Veronica) by Hazel Prior is a charming tale of a brusque, eccentric, and wealthy old woman who impulsively decides to spend time at a Penguin research project in Antarctica. In My Penguin Year: Living with the Emperors, award-winning wildlife cameraman Lindsay McCrae chronicles the 337 days he spent with 11,000 emperor penguins in Antarctica.

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The Night Letters by Denise Leith is the story of an Australian woman doctor who takes a position as a GP in a practice in Kabul, several years after the withdrawal of the Taliban. Written by an Australian woman who herself spent several years in Kabul, it’s a small window into the everyday events of a city, and a people, few have an understanding of outside of news reports about the war and terrorism. I’m interested in reading another perspective on Kabul, and Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul by Taran N. Khan sounds intriguing. Taran is an Indian Muslim who spent several years in Kabul with her husband, at about the same time period as Leith’s protagonist. Her view of everyday life in the city is formed by exploring Kabul on foot, and seems as if it may present a more comprehensive perspective of the city.

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My Nonfiction November so far…

Nonfiction November 2020: Week #1

Review: Dr Karl’s Surfing Through Science by Dr Karl

Review: The Book Collectors of Daraya by Delphine Minoui

Review: The Book Collectors of Daraya by Delphine Minoui

Title: The Book Collectors of Daraya

Author: Delphine Minoui (Translated by Lara Vergnaud)

Published: 27th October 2020, Picador

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy PanMacmillan Australia

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My Thoughts:

It was a caption under the photograph of two young Syrian men browsing the shelves of a library that piqued the interest of Delphine Minoui, an award winning French journalist – ‘The Secret Library of Daraya’.

Curious as to how a library could operate in a place like Daraya, but unable to travel to Syria due to the region’s instability, Delphine reached out and made contact with one of the young men in the photo via Skype. Twenty three year old Ahmed was born in Daraya, and remained even after his family fled, determined to document the devastation and support the rebels. One afternoon he was called to help a group carrying books from a deserted, bombed out home, an idea that first struck him as absurd in the middle of a war zone. Yet from the moment he picked up his first book he was struck by what it represented – freedom. As the collection of scavenged tomes grew, a room was found for them in a basement, and the Secret Library of Daraya was born.

Daraya is a suburb on the outskirts of Damascus. Declared a hotbed of terrorists by Syria’s ruler Bashar al-Assad for daring to peacefully protest his dictatorship, it was placed under siege and ringed with with his forces in 2011. I have to admit to having very little understanding of the conflict in Syria, so I appreciated that Minoui explains the events that led to Daraya’s position and the steady escalation that saw the suburb attacked with missiles, bombs, and even chemical weapons, including sarin and Napalm.

Delphine has written The Book Collectors of Daraya by speaking with Ahmed, and his friends through an unreliable internet connection via Skype and WhatsApp. Initially her focus is on the library; how it came to be, which books are popular, and what it means to the residents of Daraya. It’s a delight to hear how the library and its books provides a refuge and haven from the devastation on their doorstep, how it provides a respite of normalcy, and brings people together. Non-readers become readers, free to choose something other than propaganda, soldiers take books with them to the frontline to read, trade, and discuss, in between wielding their Kalashnikovs.

Unsurprisingly the miracle of the library does take somewhat of a backseat as Delphine learns of the daily hardships and horrors faced by the suburb’s residents. It’s a harrowing tale of danger, deprivation, and starvation as the siege drags on for more than five years. Not content to reduce Daraya to rubble, the Syrian dictator stops any attempts to provide food or essentials, determined to quash the rebels.

There is a little repetition in the narrative of The Book Collectors of Daraya, but I found it well written and readable. Minoui adds a personal perspective, sharing her experience of terror attacks in her home of Istanbul, and in Paris, and freely admits her bias. I think she treats those she speaks with sensitively, and it’s clear she believes that it’s important their story is told. I particularly appreciated the inclusion of photographs that show the library, the men whom Delphine introduces us to, and the streets of Daraya.

The Book Collectors of Daraya is as much about the Syrian civil war, and particularly the experience of the young men who established the library, as it is the library itself. Simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, this book speaks of grief, and courage, of resilience, of humanity, and the power of books.

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Available from PanMacmillan Australia

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

Nonfiction November 2020: Week 1


It’s Nonfiction November!

Hosted by DoingDeweyDecimal, JulzReads, What’s NonFiction, and Shelf Aware

Add your link here for Week 1

I enjoyed participating in Nonfiction November so much last year I started a Nonfiction Reader Challenge in 2020 to ensure I’d keep reading nonfiction during the year. I’ve read 24 nonfiction books since December 2019, not quite as many as I hoped but a respectable amount.

Eleven of what I read were to meet the 12 categories of my challenge (I still need to read the last one). There has been a reasonable amount of variety though it’s weighted to true crime. All of what I read were ARC’s provided for review.

I have three books I’d nominate as favourites:

{click on the covers to learn more}

Here are the others I’ve read:

{click on the covers to learn more}

 




 

I’m looking forward browsing your posts, and adding your recommendations to my WTR list.

I have seven books on my nonfiction reading schedule for this month, though I’m hoping I might be able to squeeze a few more in.

I’ll be posting each Sunday during Nonfiction November.

Subscribe to Book’d Out via WordPress Reader, Feedly, Bloglovin or email so you don’t miss a post.

P.S Sign ups for 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge will go up on November 29th.

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