Narrative Nonfiction -It’s as much Fun as Fiction!

There’s nothing a real, true story that reads quick and easy like a fiction book. For this genre discussion everyone picked a book that offers a strong sense of narration rather than all kinds of facts and figures -which are also lovely to read but more for the information than for the entertainment factor. I feel like this category is wide open for any topic you’d like to explore, how could you not find something kind of amazing? Are you ready to see if that opinion was a popular one for everyone involved in the discussion?

Chris: What Jackie Taught Us by Tina Santi Flaherty reminds us what a truly unique and successful individual Jackie Kennedy was. She lived a full-life and seemed to shine at every stage, whether she was a student, daughter, sister, mother, wife, or First Lady, she was committed to being true-to-herself and outstanding. I particularly liked remembering Jackie for her love of books and her dedication to being the best editor an author could hope for. She went back to work in her fifties at Viking then Doubleday, and we know she didn’t need the money. Her lifelong involvement with the arts led her restore the White House and work to restore Grand Central Station. That perhaps is my biggest lesson learned: do what you love and do it with passion. This commemorative book also includes quotes from famous women sharing the impact Jackie had on their lives. Nicely done.

Emma: The book Sergeant Stubby: How a Stray Dog and His Best Friend Helped Win World War I and Stole the Heart of a Nation, by Ann Bausum, celebrates the achievements of a stray dog. Stubby became the mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment Yankee Division. He wandered into a military training camp at Yale University and befriended James Robert Conroy who was later stationed in France. Over time, Stubby became “Sergeant Stubby” complete with ID tags, gas mask, and military coat decorated with authentic patches and medals. Forgotten about for several decades, Stubby is now on permanent display at the National History of American History. For dog lovers and/or military-history buffs.

Lauren: In Goat Song, Brad Kessler takes us along with him as he and his wife retreat to a farm in Vermont to try their hand at raising goats and making their own cheese.  Kessler interweaves the history of herding back to its most ancient roots and the long relationship between goats and humans with his own experiences tending goats.  From setting up house to breeding and delivering kids, to milking and cheese making, Kessler keeps a positive attitude while weathering the learning curve of goat farming.  No matter how many times “the queen” sticks a hoof in her milk bucket (or kicks it over all together), Kessler meets each farm task with likeable aplomb.  Kessler’s farm provides a naturally idyllic setting, but his beautiful writing brings the place to life.  How fun to read about newborn goats frolicking out to pasture and his starting attempt at homemade goat cheese, down to the first blissful taste.

Megan: Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming is a heartbreaking, insightful and charming memoir. Cumming openly discusses how his difficult childhood shaped and continues to influence his adult life. He reflects upon his relationship with his father and the disturbing news he received just as he was scheduled to appear on the show Who Do You Think You Are?, where the mystery of his maternal grandfather’s death is finally solved and revealed. My only regret with this book is that I was too impatient to wait for the audiobook to be available. Cumming himself reads the audio and I am sure it is a real treat!

Maureen: Caribou by Charles Wright.Tennessee native Charles Wright has written poetry for over 20 years and was named Poet Laureate of the United States this year. He often focuses on nature themes and the human condition in his works, trying to inform the reader and make them think and reflect about their position and effect in the world. While his latest collection, Caribou, is a slender volume, it still delivers quite the punch, addressing themes such as aging, death, saying goodbye, redemption, and regret. I am amazed by the feeling Wright can evoke in so few words; most of the poems take up less than one small page. A wonderful, lyrical short read that will leave you pondering life’s big mysteries for a long time to come.

Ann: Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt is his account of the many dogs he and his wife Debbie Myers have rescued over the years and how they managed to move their own 25 dogs from California to Maine. When he first met Debbie a number of years ago on a blind date she told him she had to be home at a precise time to give her dog eye medication. He soon realizes that Debbie is an ardent dog lover. Now Rosenfelt had nothing against dogs; he actually liked dogs, but he had no plans on getting one. As a newly single guy he lead a life of relative leisure and certainly didn’t want to expend the time required taking care of a dog. Flash forward to now, and he and his wife Debbie have 25 dogs. This number is actually low, as at one time, they had 42 dogs, but have decided that more than 40 is slightly eccentric. Parts of the book introduce us to the various dogs they rescued, and the other parts tell about the planning and the actual move.  Let’s just say the subtitle sums it up- 25 rescues, 11 volunteers, and 3 RVs on our canine cross-country adventure. It is definitely one wild ride!

Steve: One Summer, by Bill Bryson, recounts the summer of 1927 in America.  There was a slew of events going on during that time, highlighted by Charles Lindbergh’s historic nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic.  Lindbergh is the thread that holds the summer’s events together, but along the way Bryson recounts a variety of other topics, including Babe Ruth’s historic 60 homerun season, the Mississippi flood, the rise of journalistic sensationalism, Prohibition and gangsters.  The book is lengthy, clocking in at over 500 pages, but Bryson’s wit makes it an easy and oftentimes humorous read.

Carol: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette by Hampton Sides follows the adventures of a group of men who, prompted by a late 19th-century obsession with the unmapped North Pole, set off for exploration in the uncharted Arctic seas. The voyage begins on July 8, 1979, and ends two years later when the hull of the ship is breached by icebergs. The crew, marooned a thousand miles north of Siberia, must march across the ice—facing polar bears, deadly storms, and starvation, as they try to survival. This book is narrative nonfiction at its best, and is ultimately a thrilling and suspenseful read that, despite its grisly details, will have you turning its pages until the very end.

Dori: In Lost Cat: a True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology, Caroline Paul is surviving a plane crash and doesn’t have much time to dedicate to her two cats, Tibia and Fibia. Tibia, in response, disappears and Caroline is inconsolable. 5 weeks later however, Tibia comes home, fat and happy…where has she been? Caroline and her partner Wendy investigate using the latest gadgets – cameras, GPS – but it’s good old fashioned neighborliness that solves the puzzle in the end. Funny and clever, with great illustrations by Caroline’s partner, artist Wendy MacNaughton, this book’s for you if have a special kitty or two in your life!

Stacey: Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall is an amazing story of friendship and personal resilience. A dedicated gardener, Carol took solace in caring for the beautiful greenery of her lawn. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer and began treatment, she found herself seeking the assistance of Mister Owita who’d demonstrated his landscaping abilities on a neighbor’s lawn. As the pair put their heads together to redesign her plantings, a strong bond develops. It’s their journey, as individuals and as friends, and how help each other through really tough times that makes this such a special narrative.

Next up? Yep -that’s right! We’re talking about Holiday stories! Find yourself something that features the winter holiday of your choice -and we’ll chat!


— Stacey

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