If any of you are saying, “Who the helvetica is David Foster Whatsit?” please don’t go yet! Yes, this month’s nonfiction revolves around a particular person, BUT the meat of the book is about something more broad: writing. The craft, the business, the joys and pitfalls and neuroses thereof. I chose it for this month’s Let’s Dewey This because his insights are so incredibly relatable that I thought you guys – my fellow wordslingers – would like to read them.
Happy May, everyone! I’m feeling particularly chipper today because I am FINALLY getting over a brutal cold. Ugh. This thing was a monster. The moment I realized I could swallow again without pain was a hallelujah occasion, and the first night I noticed I wasn’t coughing up a lung and half my spleen felt like a deer eating out of my hand. “KEEP VERY STILL… DON’T COUGH… DON’T… COUGH…”
While I was sick, I had plans to go to the famous Los Angeles Festival of Books on April 23rd, and after missing it every year thus far, I was determined to go even if I had to wear a face mask and be carted around in a wheelbarrow. Come on, guys. It’s a FESTIVAL… of BOOKS! I had to.
This month’s nonfiction read is a fascinating account of going undercover in the secretive and oppressive dictatorship of North Korea. Suki Kim is a Korean-American journalist who infiltrated a North Korean university as a teacher, during the reign of Kim Jong-il in 2011. Here is some info I found the most interesting in her book:
I don’t like the term “Strong Female Character.”
That does not mean I prefer weak female characters. This is not a black and white world in which you either swing swords with swagger or cower in a corner. There’s a vast spectrum in between.
The reason I can’t stand the term “strong female characters” is because women described that way are usually one-dimensional, monotone cutouts of what the writer thinks a strong woman is. Often she’s a woman who can shoot a gun or throw a punch, and that’s enough. She never cries or feels uncertain or has any internal struggle whatsoever, unless of course it’s just for a minute to get the plot going and then she knows exactly how to deal with it. (Probably by shooting a gun.)
Reading, right? It’s crazy!! The psychic delivery of entire worlds from one head to another, via squiggly little marks? Ri-donk-ulous. Since most of you visiting this blog are writers, and thus readers as well, I decided to make this month’s nonfiction book about something we all relate to.
Ironically, I listened to this on audiobook instead of reading it, because sometimes I like to break the rules. Excuse me while I don some cool sunglasses and jump into a moving helicopter.
… I’m back. Anyway, I’ll be citing the following tidbits with time-markers instead of pages. Alright, let’s read about reading!
Several months ago I broached the topic of OCD with a nonfiction read about hoarding. Because OCD is such a personal subject to me, I decided to devote this month’s nonfiction more fully to the illness with a read of David Adam’s “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought.”
For the average, non-ill person, it’s normal to obsess now and then. It’s normal to have a senseless fear (clown in the closet?), a sudden and unsettling urge that does not fit with who we are (swerve into traffic, perhaps?) or a good-luck practice not founded on reality (certainly no one believes that knocking on wood actually works, but… just in case.) It’s normal to be picky about your books lining up straight or to lose sleep one night as a worry goes round and round in your head like a circling predator. This is not OCD.
There are few things more grating to me than the insta-love trope seen so often in fiction. This device essentially involves shoving two characters in the same room, then poking them with a stick until they have nowhere else to go but each other’s arms.
The development of their relationship usually looks like this:
This month has been horrific for America, but if one awesome thing happened in January, it was seeing the glorious uprising of protestors. If you marched, I give you all my applause. While today’s nonfiction post has nothing to do with those events, it carries an equally fiery spirit, so I deemed it a good choice to kick off the year’s nonfic reads.
Lindy West’s memoir, “Shrill,” is both searingly honest and laugh-too-loudly-in-the-break-room-and-annoy-all-your-coworkers hilarious. West boldly delves into topics that polite society doesn’t like to discuss, such as the stigma of menstruation, her abortion, what it’s like to be a woman hearing a rape joke, and most of all, body image and our culture of fat-shaming.
Here are my favorite passages from the book:
How many books did you read this year?
66! I’m not a bookworm. I’m a bookpython.
(Why yes, I did make an almost identical joke last year, and I’m going to keep making it with slight variations until I’m tired of it, so there!)
What was your number one TOP FAVORITE of them?
Oh jeez, this is so hard, erm, agh, uhh… Gone Girl. No, wait. Wild. No! My Sister’s Keeper! WAIT, NO! The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake! A Man Called Ove! Perks of Being a Wallflower! We Need To Talk About Kevin! WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT WHAT A CRUEL QUESTION THIS IS.
Final answer: “I Have Too Many Favorite Books: A Memoir,” by Shannon Noel Brady.
After a rollicking good year of facts, figures, and (f)theories, my Let’s DEWEY This! challenge is at a close. Alas… But we’re not done quite yet! Today I’m adding a bonus round, section 92: memoirs and biographies. Technically this is part of the 900s since 92 is short for 920, but in my library, 92 splits off into its own cliquey area, too cool to sit with the other 900s at lunch.
For 92 I picked Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed. Wild is a deeply personal account of Strayed’s grief after the death of her mother and the downward spiral of her marriage, events that prompted her to tackle a solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. I absolutely adored this book. Here’s my review on Goodreads: