We have eased into the year this year, these first two months of 2016 with six titles reviewed so far in the non fiction category with reader and reviewer Jennifer Cameron-Smith submitting three reviews in her bid to be the first person this year to complete the challenge no doubt.
It makes sense to start slow here – perhaps a short story is all you can fit in as you rush to organise the schedule for what will be the rest of a busy new year. Perhaps you aren’t out of holiday mode yet. Perhaps the usual spate of writing festivals and awards opening and closing their doors in the first half of the year has landed you with bigger long form narratives for you to first choose and digest before you get to the morsels of dessert. Can you tell that I am currently hungry?
Jennifer Cameron-Smith reviewed Carmel Bird‘s Fair Game: A Tasmanian Memoir, Tamsin Harvey‘s Constantinople Quilts and Jo Wiles‘ Take My Hand. And what is interesting, apart from the varied subjects that non fiction work can obviously cover is what we stand to learn from them and how easily one book can act as an infection vector for the rest of an author’s work or an entire topic or genre:
I’ve enjoyed reading Ms Bird’s essay: I acquired some new knowledge as well as some possibilities to explore. I’ve learned enough, too, about Ms Bird for me to want to add her books to my reading list.
Bernadette of Reactions to Reading placed her trust in an Australian Women Writers readership favourite Helen Garner‘s This House of Grief because she was trying to venture out of her comfort zone:
I am generally too much of a coward to delve into true crime which is, of necessity, rarely neat. Although I often claim to like my crime fiction realistic that, if I’m totally honest, is only up to a point. I can live with the ambiguity of not knowing who has committed a crime but struggle when the question of why a thing was done goes unanswered. Crime fiction – the best of it anyway – is superb at teasing out reasons and in so doing provides a layer of order over the chaos. True crime is often messily unable to provide such solutions, leaving me more troubled than I am comfortable being by choice.
And we all know that that particular book does change you immensely once you read it, whether you like it or not.
Writer Lisa Freewood went after more practical subject matter tackling Heidi Farrelly‘s Mortgage Free while Brona probably felt just as hungry as I do right now, diving into Roberta Muir‘s Sydney Seafood School Cookbook, nearly giving us a tongue twister in the process of making us rather peckish not just with their review in word form but also with pictures of what recipes and dishes they chose to make from the book:
For more than 20 years, Sydney Seafood School has been teaching us how to prepare and cook the wonderful array of seafood found in our oceans and rivers. Now, for the first time, the School shares its wealth of tips and techniques, along with more than 80 outstanding recipes from Australia’s leading chefs.
It has been a small mixed box of chocolates for the first two months with what you as readers have chosen to factually engage with and brush up on (or eat). What is next over the next two months? What are you planning to read in this genre? Have you planned to read anything in this genre for the challenge or in general? And what has been your most useful or favourite non fiction work so far?
Tell us in the comments. I will see you next month to see what you are reading in poetry and short fiction.
About me: Marisa Wikramanayake is a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She published her first book at 17, has lived on three different continents, been in ground zero of a bomb blast twice and is currently hibernating in Perth, Australia. She’s also been freaked out by the Scientologists, helped run a national publishing conference for the Society of Editors (WA) and currently sits on the WA Media Alliance committee. She is dangerous when bored, having terrorised educational institutions to finish an Honours thesis on Archaeology and a Masters thesis on Neuroscience and Science Communication. She penned book reviews for The West and science news and now writes and edits novels and dreams of fun cross platform media projects in the spare time that’s left over after painting, dancing, gaming and mentoring. She contributes her two cents as non-fiction editor at Australian Women Writers and lends her geek goddess expertise to the Guys Read Gals project. Feel free to read her latest book as she writes it at marisa.com.au, on Facebook or tweet at her at @mwikramanayake
Great round-up Marisa. This is one of the most intriguing categories because it can cover such a diversity. I laughed at the first book, Carmel Bird’s, for two reasons. I’ve read it and I agree with Jennifer Cameron-Smith that it whets your appetite for more, but the other reason is that my review, which I did in December last year, I put in our Memoir/Biography/History category! The fun of categorisation!
Most of my nonfiction reading does tend to be memoir, but I do sometimes read history, essays and what I loosely call social commentary (like, in the past, Hooper’s Tall man or Krein’s Into the forest). My next Aussie woman’s book though will be, I think, fiction.
I’ve just started an Australian non-fiction book co-authored by a woman – Jane Rawson (with James Whitmore), so hopefully I will emerge from my recent cookbook fetish and will begin expounding the dangers of climate change.
P.S. We have cooked a few more meals from the SSSC and they’ve ALL been easy to create and delicious to eat!
I hope you enjoy the book Brona. I know Jane Rawson – she has been interviewed by me for AWW before and I edited her second novel Formaldehyde last year.