Non-Fiction November Round-Up and Mini Book Reviews!

Today I wanted to write a post to wrap-up my Non-Fiction November as I had such a lovely reading month. I didn’t fully stick to my planned TBR but I managed to read a lot of non-fiction and I enjoyed everything I read. Some books I’ve already reviewed so will link back to those and the others I will briefly review in this post.

Chase the Rainbow by Poorna Bell

This book had been on my TBR for quite a while so I wanted to make sure I got to it in November and I’m really glad I did. My review is here.

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook

I’ve had this book on my TBR ever since it was published so I’m really glad I finally picked it up. I really enjoyed reading this and found it so interesting. I’m a huge Joy Division fan so already knew a lot about the band but I still learnt things in this book that I didn’t know before. Peter Hook is so open in this book and it was really interesting to see Ian Curtis through his bandmate’s eyes, it gave a different perspective. I already have Peter Hook’s second memoir so I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

Gotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times on Television by Louis Theroux

I love Louis Theroux’s documentaries on TV, I find his approach so different and engaging and he really brings so much out of his subjects. I was really keen to read this book so when I saw it on my library’s audio book app I immediately downloaded it. This book covers his life and how he got into TV. He takes you through his work and the different TV shows he’s made, along with his reflections as he looks back. There was quite a bit about Jimmy Savile, which I found really interesting. Louis narrates the audio book himself so I definitely recommend this format.

I Carried A Watermelon: Dirty Dancing and Me by Katy Brand

I only got this book after I’d made my TBR list for non-fiction November but I couldn’t resist reading it as soon as I got it. I loved this one and have reviewed it here.

The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness by Anne Boyer

This is another ARC that I wanted to make sure I got to in November. It was a tough read because of the subject matter but it’s very well-written and it made me think. My review is here.

My Autobiography by David Jason

I’m a real fan of David Jason, I’ve watched and loved so many series that he’s been in over the years (in particular Only Fools and Horses, and A Touch of Frost) so I was really keen to finally read his autobiography. This was such a fun read learning about his life and how he got into showbusiness. He has so many great stories from over the years – some hilarious and some very moving, and I very much enjoyed reading all of them. I recommend this book if you’re a fan, it’s such a good read.

The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes

I bought this book a few weeks ago and have been so keen to read it. I’m so glad I picked it up as it’s such a good read. I’ve reviewed it here.

Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class by Owen Jones

I’m not a fan of Owen Jones at all so I’m not sure how I came to own a copy of this book but I’m really glad that I decided to take a chance on it as it was a really interesting look at the working class.

The Death of a President by William Manchester

I’ve wanted to read this book for ages so when I finally bought the audio book a few months ago I knew I had to put it on my TBR for nonfiction November. This book covers the brief period before JFK was assassinated and then the days afterwards. It’s a really comprehensive look at what happened and how people reacted to it. I already knew a lot of what was in this book but there were still things that I didn’t know. It’s a fascinating book and I recommend it.

James Baldwin and the 1980s by Joseph Vogel

This book has been on my TBR for a couple of years as I’ve felt intimidated by it. I’m so pleased that I finally read it though as it was so interesting and it’s sparked off my interest in some other books as I want to know more. My review is here.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I bought the audio book of this and I’m so glad I did as it was a joy to listen to. I really enjoyed learning more about Michelle Obama and the life she has lived. It was fascinating to read about how her life was before she met Obama, to hear how she grew up and what her family was like. I then loved hearing the story of how she and Obama met and discovering how she felt about him getting into politics, also how it was for her and their daughters once he became president. This is a really open and honest memoir and I loved it!

Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly by Jim DeRogatis

I spotted this book on my library’s audio book app and immediately downloaded it. I hadn’t heard of the book before but I was intrigued to read it and I’m glad I did. This is an incredible piece of writing that is very well researched and put together. The journalist has followed the stories around R. Kelly for many years and eventually decided to put a book together. He interviews so many people, including R. Kelly’s accusers and the result is a brilliant expose. This isn’t always an easy book to read because of the subject matter but if you’re at all interested in this case I recommend it.

Logical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin

I bought this book on kindle when it was first published but I ended up listening to the audio book during the month. I adored it as it’s read by Armistead Maupin himself so it was a lovely experience to hear him tell his own story. This is such a fascinating memoir of a life well-lived. He talks of how he was inspired to create some of the characters in Tales of the City, he shares about his upbringing and all the loss he experienced during the AIDS crisis. There is humour and sadness, and it’s just a wonderful memoir.

How To Be Human: A Manual by Ruby Wax

This is another book that I wanted to make sure to get to in November and I found it a good read. My review is here.

The Heretics by Will Storr

I found this book on my library audio book service so downloaded it on a whim and I’m glad I did. This wasn’t as in depth on any of the subjects covered as I was expecting but it was still such an engaging book. I enjoyed it.

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

This book is such an incredible read and one I’m so pleased I read. I’m in awe of how much work and research must have gone into this book as the author put together a biography of each of these five women. It’s all about their lives, rather than about who killed them and it really made them real to me. I found this such a moving read and I felt so emotional about each of the women, I won’t ever forget them. This is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read this year and I’ll be recommending it to everyone.

Constellations by Sinead Gleason

I really enjoyed this essay collection and got a lot so much out of reading it. My review is here if you’d like to know more.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

I read Oranges are not the Only Fruit many years ago but despite buying this memoir when it was published I had never got to read it. I’m so glad I spotted it on my library’s audio book app as it meant I could listen to the author read it to me. This is such an interesting and moving book, one that really made me think as I was reading it. There is such honesty in the book and I’m so glad I finally read it.

Dopesick by Beth Macy

This is such an important book and one I’m so glad I read but it was a tough read. I’ve been interested in the rise of the opioid epidemic for a few years now but even so this book was still so eye-opening to me. Macy gives the stats and the politics but she also really focuses on the personal giving us the stories of people from all walks of life who have ended up addicted to opioids in one form or another. This book made me angry at how people are being failed by the system but it was also incredibly moving, I felt so emotional as I got to the end. This is not an easy read but it’s a book I highly recommend.

Bowie’s Bookshelf by John O’Connell

I’m a huge David Bowie fan so was very keen to read this book. It’s a really enjoyable book about the one hundred books that David Bowie considered the most influential. It’s a real mix of books and it’s fascinating to learn more about the ones I haven’t read yet (quite a few are now on my wish list now!). There is a list of all the books at the start so you get an overview of the titles. Then you get each title with a short essay about the book and what Bowie liked about it or what he took from it. At the end the author suggests a song or two that would work well with the book and I really liked that element. It made me take time to sit and think about the books and Bowie’s music and the influence that he took from what he was reading. Some of the links seems somewhat tenuous but others I knew of and it was interesting to get more understanding of them. I also have to mention how fab it was to see that the author thinks Tin Machine may get proper recognition one of these days – I’ve always thought they were under-rated and I love both of the Tin Machine albums. I definitely recommend this book to fans of David Bowie but I think readers in general who are looking to find some new books to read would also enjoy this.

 

The Undying by Anne Boyer #NonFiction #BookReview

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About the Book

Blending memoir with critique, an award-winning poet and essayist’s devastating exploration of sickness and health, cancer and the cancer industry, in the modern world

A week after her 41st birthday, Anne Boyer was diagnosed with highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. For a single mother living payslip to payslip, the condition was both a crisis and an initiation into new ideas about mortality and the gendered politics of illness.

In The Undying – at once her harrowing memoir of survival, and a 21st-century Illness as Metaphor – Boyer draws on sources from ancient Roman dream diarists to cancer vloggers to explore the experience of illness. She investigates the quackeries, casualties and ecological costs of cancer under capitalism, and dives into the long line of women writing about their own illnesses and deaths, among them Audre Lorde, Kathy Acker and Susan Sontag.

Genre-bending, devastating and profoundly humane, The Undying is an unmissably insightful meditation on cancer, the cancer industry and the sicknesses and glories of contemporary life.

 

My Thoughts

The Undying is an interesting book that blends memoir with an exploration of what it is to be a patient, and how the cancer industry is run.

I wanted to read this book because I’m drawn to books about illness and also having had loved ones die of cancer this book sounded like a really powerful read. I found this a hard book to read but it’s a fascinating read at the same time.

Anne Boyer was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 41 years old. She was a single mother at the time with no financial safety net so faced a very uncertain future. I don’t know a huge amount about health-care in America (I live in the UK) but I got such a real sense of how difficult navigating cancer-care there is.

Boyer also references the history of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment and looks at where we are now. It was horrifying to read of the studies that show doctors are, in some cases, over-diagnosing cancer. I knew that sometimes the protocol can be over-zealous but it seems there are times when what is happening is more than that.

I was interested to read Boyer’s thoughts around the evolution of the pink ribbon and breast cancer. Boyer gives the history of the ribbon, which I didn’t know (although I thought I did) and how it’s now being monopolised and seems to her to make breast cancer seem a light and fluffy thing rather than a very serious illness. I can understand her thoughts and feelings, especially when some places use the pink ribbon to sell things but only give the tiniest percentage of profits to charity.

‘Every person with a body should be given a guide to dying as soon as they are born.’

The parts of the book that most spoke to me though are about the language we use around cancer and I definitely echo Boyer’s thoughts. I can’t stand the phrase ‘lost the battle’, people I love have fought so hard to live and still died but it wasn’t for want of trying. Also, the idea that people have to be positive because it gives a better outcome which is not true. I’m a firm believer in being positive because it makes life easier if you can find light in the tunnel but I also believe that in the wake of a devastating diagnosis people have to be allowed to express all of their feelings. Suppressing them in order to appear positive is all about making it easier for the people around the patient and not for the patient themselves.

‘Cancer kills people, as does treatment, as  does lack of treatment, and what anyone feels or believes has nothing to do with it. I could hold every right idea, exhibit every virtue, do every good deed, and follow every institutional command and still die of cancer, or I could believe and do every wrong thing and still live.’

Boyer looks at all aspects of cancer – from how it affected her personally to how other patients differ in their opinion and approach, to the history of the disease and how it’s been viewed over the years, to how we view the patient. I cared for mum when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I found this book such a cathartic reading experience. So much of how I felt seeing how so-called friends stopped calling, and how family distanced themselves reflects how it was for my mum. Boyer is so honest about the things that hurt and infuriate and frustrate during the process of treatment and surgery. I felt like I had an even greater insight into what it is to face this disease after I finished this book.

I found The Undying to be a fascinating book and the writing is stunning so I’d absolutely recommend it but be mindful that it’s a tough read at times due to the nature of the subject matter. It’s one of those books that perhaps needs to find readers at the right moment for them.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

The Undying is out now and available here.

WWW Wednesdays (13 Nov 2019)! What are you reading this week?

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WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading! All you have to do is answer three questions and share a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog.

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

A similar meme is run by Lipsyy Lost and Found where bloggers share This Week in Books #TWiB.

 

What I’m reading now: 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I’ve been so looking forward to listening to this on audio book and am so happy to say that I’m enjoying it even more than I thought I would. Michelle Obama’s life is so interesting and I can’t wait to read more.

Constellations by Sinead Gleason

I’ve only read the first essay in this book so far but I really enjoyed it so I’m very glad that I finally picked this book up.

Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman

I started reading this last night when I wasn’t feeling well and it’s perfect escapism. I’m sure I’m going to fly through this one tomorrow when I pick it back up!

James Baldwin and the 1980s: Witnessing the Reagan Era by Joseph Vogel

I’ve been really enjoying this book this week and at the time of writing this post only have 20% of it left to read so I may well have finished it by the time this post goes live. This is such a fascinating book, I recommend it if you’re a James Baldwin fan.

 

What I recently finished reading:

The Death of a President by William Manchester

I’ve been listening to this on audio for the past couple of weeks and have found it such an interesting look at the short period leading up to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the few days following his funeral. I recommend this to anyone who is interested in this period of history.

Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class by Owen Jones

I can’t stand Owen Jones so I’m not sure how I ended up buying this book on Audible but I’m actually glad I did. It’s an interesting look at how society views the working class. There is definite bias in the book but it’s still a book that gives you something to think about.

The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes

I’ve been so looking forward to this book and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint. The author relates insights into patients and illness that she has encountered during her career as a forensic psychologist. I recommend this one as it’s so interesting but also very readable.

The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness by Anne Boyer

This was a hard read because of the subject matter but it was also really interesting. The author has a lot to say about the way we look at cancer and cancer patients, along with the campaigns run around the illness. I will review this one once I’ve had time to mull over my thoughts on it.

David Jason: My Autobiography by David Jason

I’ve had this book on my TBR ever since it first came out six years ago but I finally read it this week and I very much enjoyed it. It covers most of David Jason’s life from his childhood through to Frost. I’ve got his next memoir on my TBR so I’m tempted to start that soon!

I Carried a Watermelon by Katy Brand

This book was such a fun, nostalgic read and I really enjoyed it. I will be reviewing it soon but can already say that if you love Dirty Dancing then this is a book for you!

 

What I plan on reading next:

Bowie’s Bookshelf: The Hundred Books That Changed David Bowie’s Life by John O’Connell

This is both a Non-Fiction November pick and one of my NetGalley must-read books plus it’s a book I’m really keen to read so I’m hoping to get to this one in the coming days.

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

I’d hoped to pick this book up last week but didn’t quite get to it but it’s definitely next up from the audio books on my Non-Fiction November TBR and I’m so looking forward to this one.

Deceit and Self-Deception by Robert Trivers

This is another of my Non-Fiction November TBR picks and I’d really like to make a start on it this week. I have tried to read this once before and failed but I’m still keen to read it so now is the time!

The School Friend by Alison James

I’m continuing on my quest to catch up on my NetGalley reads before the end of the year and this book is up next on my list. I think I’m going to love this one!

 

What have you been reading this week? I’d love to hear. And if you take part in WWW Wednesdays or This Week in Books please feel free to leave your link below and I’ll make sure to visit and comment on your post. 🙂