Hurrah, it’s Nonfiction November again! Every year I sign up for this event with a burst of unearned confidence, manage the first couple of weeks, and then collapse under an unwieldy stack of marking and teaching because in fact November is one of the busiest times of the year. However, I always enjoy the parts of it I manage, so why should this year be any different? The first prompt this year is “My year in nonfiction”, hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey.

What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year (so far)?

I’m going to plead the fifth on this – I’ve read so many great books this year that I am probably going to steal FictionFan’s idea and have a little awards ceremony on my blog in December, since I can’t possibly do my usual thing and just pick five favourites. One of the categories is definitely going to be nonfiction! With that in mind, I think I’ll reserve judgement until later in the year.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

This is exciting, because normally the answer is either “no” or “medical history”, but this year I have something new to say! I’ve been very drawn (in both fiction and nonfiction, actually) to books about homes and houses. Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom, and London Between the Wars; Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing, and A Home of One’s Own: Why the Housing Crisis Matters (review to come later this week) on the nonfiction side. Those are coupled with The Housing Lark, The Girls of Slender Means, and (arguably) The Blue Castle on the fiction end. One of the books I have sitting on my TBR table is The Barbizon: The New York Hotel that Set Women Free, which I think also falls into this category. All these books are, directly or indirectly, about the impact that suitable stable housing can have on a person’s independence and circumstances (except The Housing Lark, which is trying to be about that but ends up being mostly just misogyny). They are also all about people who have historically been excluded from stable and independent living – mostly single women, but also people excluded on the basis of class or nationality. I think this may be a delayed reaction to having bought my flat. I’ve been living here since late February 2020, but because of The Event, it didn’t really have the kind of emotional and social impact that it might have done at the time. Now, though, as normality has mostly resumed, I’m enjoying getting to know my local community, having friends over, being within a few minutes’ walk of ameneties etc. I’m so grateful, and therefore have become very interested in the various ways that housing impacts people’s lives – especially when women first started living independently in larger numbers, since that corresponds most directly to my circumstances. It’s been extremely interesting!

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

You know, I try to give a different answer to this question every year, but in truth it’s probably always the same: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. I often recommend this to my students, because it presents health research in an accessible way, shows them how this research has directly influenced their own practice, and – unlike many books by physicians – is clear about the importance of nurses within the multidisciplinary team. Is this a boring answer? Probably! It’s true though.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Realistically, a teetering TBR pile, some good conversations with existing blog friends, and perhaps one or two new ones as well. I do have a couple of books on my list that I’d like to read this month, but the first one is pretty chunky, so we’ll see if I get through it in time to read the others. A colleague recently lent me Unwell Women: A Journey through Medicine and Myth in a Man-made World, by Elinor Cleghorn – I should probably read and return it before I move onto anything else! If I finish it in time, I’d like to pick up An African in Greenland and The Barbizon.

Looking forward to seeing everyone else’s posts – this is one of my favourite times of the blogging year!