Monday, November 23, 2015

Nonfiction November--Week Three (in Week Four!)

I love nonfiction and really wanted to post last week but I had to get a temporary crown and was on a panel out of town among other things that conspired to keep me off my computer last week. But I am unfortunately not able to participate int he fourth week's reading group, so I'm going to finally get around to last week's topic now. It is still November after all.

Here's the prompt for week three, hosted by I'm Lost in Books:

NONTRADITIONAL NONFICTION This week we will be focusing on the nontraditional side of reading nonfiction. Nonfiction comes in many forms There are the traditional hardcover or paperback print books, of course, but then you also have e-books, audiobooks, illustrated and graphic nonfiction, oversized folios, miniatures, internet publishing, nonfiction short stories, and enhanced books (book itself includes artifacts, audio, historical documents, images, etc.) So many choices! Do you find yourself drawn to or away from nontraditional nonfiction? Do you enjoy some nontraditional formats, but not others? Perhaps you have recommendations for readers who want to dive into nontraditional formats.

Back to me! I rave about nonfiction on audio. I just can't listen to fiction on audio. I find my mind drifting too much, and with fiction it's so easy to miss something crucial. With nonfiction it's easier to pick back up, but I also find it more compelling. I think one of the very first ones I listened to was David Sedaris's Naked (abridged, unfortunately) which entirely changed the way I read David's works (I try to listen to them exclusively and even when I don't, I've heard him so many times--also on NPR and live several times--that I can hear his voice in my head which helps as his books are 10x funnier when he reads them than when I read them. Seriously, I was missing a bunch of the jokes.

Then I lived in NYC for several years and did no audiobooks. When I finally started listening again, I was a bit clueless and I was picking books kind of at random. For two years I had a job where I drove all around New England every other work, visiting independent bookstores, and I clocked in many hours of audio that year.

I think I picked up Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell for free at work. Really enjoyed it. I still remember vividly the section where researchers found in a study that if they got a couple talking about a slightly contentious topic, if one of them showed even a momentary flash of contempt for the other, the marriage was doomed. I know I picked up Lies & the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair & Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken for free at work, but I was blown away by an aspect of recorded books that I'd never even considered in this book: I got to hear Al Franken not just reading what different politicians had said, but instead he was "doing" them. SO Al Franken did his snarky impressions of Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice, and by the end of the book, I felt I'd gotten a richer experience than those who'd read it on paper.

Why Do Men Have Nipples? Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask A Doctor After Your Third Martini by Mark Leyner, Billy Goldberg is another one I must have gotten for free from work. It was very heavily abridged and while it was interesting, it didn't have enough content for me. But it didn't matter since it was free. My next one was also abridged (I really hate abridgments now, but there are lightly abridged and heavily abridged versions. This one was light, luckily.) Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson, Richard Thomas (Narrator) I specifically looked for since I was visiting the Seward House in upstate New York (for work) when James Swanson was going to be there. Since then I listen to 6 nonfiction books to every audio novel.

A few have had additional benefits like the Franken book. I loved in The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs, the sections written by his wife about how she puts up with A.J.'s crazy "experiments," was narrated by her. Sarah Vowell usually has a whole cast of guest readers joining her. And I loved in Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin when Steve Martin played the banjo and sang. You just can't get that in print. I prefer books narrated by their own author, IF that person is excellent and/or a professional performer (I nearly died after repeatedly falling asleep and hitting the rumble strip listening to Cold Mountain, read by the author. Also, notably, fiction.) Frank McCourt is the best. I do resent not getting the photo insert. And my audiobook of Bossypants by Tina Fey DID come with a separate downloadable pdf of the photo insert, proving that publishers do not have to stiff us audiobook listeners.

I have walked an entire marathon (and five half-marathons) and I listened to many entire audiobooks while training for that. Lately, I haven't listened to as many as I've got a ton of podcasts on my iPhone taking up that valuable time and space (ironically, many of them about books.) And I don't have a commute anymore. But for me, with audio, I specifically seek out nonfiction, as I think it works better in that format. Sometimes better even than the print version.

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