Nonfiction November: Nonfiction Favorites

As much as I’d like to imagine that my parents picked my name out of a fiction book full of love and action and magic, they actually found it in a dictionary. Maybe that’s why I spent the majority of my childhood obsessed with science encyclopedias, National Geographic magazines, and craft books aside from the usual Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl… and even now, I’m just as obsessed with non-fiction. I’m excited for the chance to celebrate Nonfiction November, which is hosted by Lu and Kim! Can’t wait to talk, read, and share non-fiction ALL DAY ERRDAY. (Uh, aside from the days when I’ll be reading sci-fi. Ahem.)

This week’s topic is non-fiction favorites, and I have three favorites to share with you!


1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Skloots uses a journalistic approach to present the history behind the HeLa cells that are widely used for cancer research and drug development today. I read this in one go when I was on a train heading home for Thanksgiving a few years ago; I was in college, and too used to looking at biology as something out of a textbook or in a lab… but this book made me CARE about biology. I loved the history, medicine, and biography aspects of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and it really made me think about scientific ethics and the many gray areas in scientific research.

2. Opening Skinner’s Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century by Lauren Slater. Slater spins odd and disturbing stories about famous psychology experiments. Opening Skinner’s Box is the precursor to my Malcolm Gladwell obsession (yes, I have one) and my fascination with psychology, and if I had read this book earlier, I might’ve gone into psychology instead of what I’m doing now. Darn, missed opportunity…

3. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Foer, a new father, thinks about what he should be feeding his child, and tries to look into his past and industrial farms for the answers. With the surge of books on the American food industry prompted by Michael Pollan and others, Eating Animals stood out to me because of its graphic details and Foer’s stories of his own food history. It’s like Food, Inc (the movie) in book-form! (Oh wait, I think there’s also an actual Food, Inc book…)

I just realized that my favorites all touch upon ethics in some shape or form, which is interesting. I also find that I don’t get OMG EXCITED about non-fiction books like I do about fiction books, probably because I have to stop and think, and thinking always ruins the party in my head. I guess it’s just a different type of love, like how I love peanut butter (OMG EXCITED) and Starbursts (they are magical). And I kind of want to move out of my non-fiction bubble and try out some memoirs, history, comedy and the like. So please let me know if you have any suggestions!

Do you read non-fiction? If so, what are your favorites?


18 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: Nonfiction Favorites

  1. Hi Sophie!

    Yes, I do read non-fiction on a limited basis but one day I’d like to read non-fiction a bit more full-term as I have a lot of subjects and topics that whet my fancy to learn more about! I’d love to take my research into those areas further, but it requires the proper time to give them as well, which at this point in time I do not have. However, I wanted to say I lean towards the numerous branches of science I am keen on (as outlined in one of my recent posts recently!), but I am also curious about certain historical figures, periods of history, and the odd-biography! I say ‘odd’ because I am finding that I tend to prefer reading ‘biographical fiction’ rather than a straight-up biography these days! I’m quite drawn to them really!

    I was perked in interest to read your first selection myself for the exact same reasons you said you were thankful you had taken the time to read it! 🙂 How interesting is that!? 🙂 I, on the other hand, get as enthused about my non-fiction selections as I do about my fictional selections because I get this giddy happy kick out of finding a book that can disclose something I dearly want to learn more about! 🙂 Having said that,.. you wanted some recommendations for books!? Hmm,.. I cannot even remember the last time I read a non-fiction book, and my TBR List has been slightly misplaced recently,.. If I think of anything I will drop back but just know I enjoyed reading your focus on non-fiction today!

    • So true… if only we had the time to read all the books that we want to read, right? I’m curious about these “biographical fictions”, because I don’t think I’ve heard about this term before; do you have any books in mind that fits in that category?

      And I’m glad my non-fiction favorites overlap with your interests! Let me know if you think of any books you want to recommend!

  2. Ah dew! Mostly because I’ve written a memoir. I tried studying writing at Uni at postgraduate level but gave up, as it was far too intellectual and all about ‘literature’. Which I don’t write. Like your site: it’s fun!

    • That’s wonderful, M. R.! I haven’t read many memoirs thus far, but they’re definitely something I want to read more of. Haha, am I ever glad that I never took any of those literature classes in uni then! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

    • Thanks for dropping by and sharing your non-fic faves, Tanya! Opening Skinner’s Box is a nice read if you like psychology – with all the new popular psychology books out now, I think Opening Skinner’s Box really goes back to the fundamentals and tells you how psych works instead of just presenting the results. I hope you get the chance to read it!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Stacey! Eating Animals is a great book, and I hope you get the chance to read it soon! I’ve never tried Mark Forsyth, but now I’m definitely putting The Etymologicon and others on my list… they look so good! 🙂 His books remind me of Roy Blount Jr.’s Alphabet Juice, which also looks into the English language and wordplay.

  3. I read non-fiction, but not as much as I like, which is why I wanted to start Nonfiction November, to read through all those books that were sitting on my shelves. I’m currently working my way through Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink and Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil by John Berendt. And because I need to have a book and an audiobook going at all times, I’m listening to Republican Gommorah by Max Blumenthal. They’re all very different, which is exactly what I need! I think I’ll also be reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks this month, too!

    • I’m glad you started Nonfiction November, Lu! I also have a lot of non-fiction books sitting around, so this is my chance to choose more non-fiction reads this month. I like the diversity in your current reads, and I’m adding Five Days at Memorial and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil on my TBR list because they seem like books that I’ll enjoy. I hope you like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as much as I did!

  4. Henrietta Lacks was such an interesting read! I haven’t read Foer’s book, although I did get on a kick of reading food books a year or two ago. I included Pollan’s In Defense Of Food in my NonFiction November post.

    • I love food books, Stacy! I also enjoy watching food documentaries, since they’re usually more concise than the books. I think food and agriculture industry issues are getting less attention/press now compared to a few years back though because people have moved onto The Next Big Thing (whatever that may be), so I’m glad to see that you’ve included Pollan‘s book on your list. 🙂

  5. Henrietta Lacks has been on my TBR forever. I keep hoping my book club is going to get to it, but we haven’t yet, so I need to just give in and get it read for myself.

    The Nonfiction November posts have been great for expanding my TBR!

    • Oh yes, you definitely need to give in and read it, haha. 😀 And I’m about to go read all the posts now – I have no doubt that my TBR list will grow to be impossibly long by the end of November!

  6. I absolutely loved the Henrietta Lacks books too (I worked with HeLa cells for years…). I don’t think I can stand to read Eating Animals, however. It will give me nightmares. I’m a vegetarian as it is.

    • Yeah, it’s so interesting because I don’t think most scientists think about where their cell lines and kits actually come from. It was definitely a real eye-opener for me! And reading Eating Animals didn’t give me nightmares, but watching Food Inc did. 😦 anything public health related just makes me angry and sad.

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