nonfiction november 2018

I really enjoyed this Nonfiction November challenge last year, and wanted to have another stab at it. The idea is to pair a fiction and a nonfiction book that you think would go well together. It is hosted by Sarah at Sarah’s Bookshelves.

  1. On the history of mental health care
    I really loved The Ballroom by Anna Hope, which I read a few years ago. It’s set in an early 20th century psychiatric institution in the north of England, and it is beautiful and troubling. It’s historical fiction, but with a lot of ties to reality. I think it would pair well with One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, a biography by Jane Kirkpatrick of Dorothea Dix. Dix was a 19th century campaigner for mental health care in the US. I haven’t read One Glorious Ambition yet, but I am hoping to get to it soon.
  2. On travel to Mars
    My review for The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, a duology by Mary Robinette Kowal, should hopefully be up soon. They feature “the lady astronaut of Mars”, Elma York, fighting for a place for women in the space programme, in an alternate reality where the space race really kicked off about a decade earlier than it did. I loved the books, and they made me want to read more about travel to Mars. I have been looking for a good place to start with Mary Roach. Influenced by these books, I think I will make a start with Packing for Mars, her book about the science of space travel.
  3. On cholera outbreaks
    A nice cheery topic to learn more about. The Ghost Map: The story of London’s most terrifying epidemic, and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world by Stephen Johnson is a history of the famous cholera outbreak of 1854, which contributed substantially to the acceptance of contagion theory and changed the face of modern epidemiology. I haven’t read it yet, but it has been high on my TBR for a few months now. As a counterpart to this, I think it would be interesting to read The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham. I haven’t read any of his work yet, but this book is about a woman whose husband (a bacteriologist) forces her to move with him to the site of a cholera outbreak once he discovers that she is having an affair. It sounds dark and strange, and like a triumph of slow character development.

This post is going up late, due to an unexpected house move (my upstairs neighbours flooded their bathroom and so my kitchen ceiling fell in; it was very dramatic), but I still wanted to participate because I always enjoy assembling these lists so much! There are more Nonfiction November posts to come soon, as well – I had several written but not finalised before this happened, and I still want to share them.