Recommendations for Non-Fiction November

As every month is non-fiction month for me, I will not officially be participating in Non-Fiction November but I still wanted to talk about some of my favourites and recommend a few books that those of you who are looking to read more non-fiction might want to check out. Disclaimer first: my non-fiction reading is heavily dominated by memoirs written by women, feminist essays, and creative non-fiction. I rarely read biographies (but really want to more) and general non-fiction, so here your recommendations are very welcome. Recommendations are always welcome, in fact.

I have based my recommendations on other genres, so that this is also accessible to those who don’t ever read non-fiction.

If you usually read contemporary, then memoirs might be the way to go. Usually fairly accessible, memoirs often deal with that weird period of life between being a child and being properly “grown up” and for me offered a much-needed glimpse into other people’s lives. (I have written a whole post on why I love memoirs which can be found here.)

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

35840657One of my absolute favourite books of the year, this short memoir packs an enormous punch. Written in fragments and often in a spiralling way, Mailhot chronicles her fight with mental illness and what it means to be Native. She does not claim to speak a universal truth, but only her truth and I found this incredibly effective. Her language is poetic and abrasive and I am very much in love. I still don’t have the words to talk about this properly, but in my review I tried.

Mean by Myriam Gurba

34381333This book took me totally by surprise. It took me a while to find my bearing and to get used to the abrasive writing style, but once I did and once I realized what Gurba’s essays were working towards, I was hooked and in awe. The book is a total punch to the gut, but so very brilliantly executed that I cannot help but adore it. My review can be found here.

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995No list would be complete without me recommending this book. In fact, if you only read one book from this list, maybe choose this. It was my favourite book of last year and just a complete masterpiece. Lidia Yuknavitch has a brilliant way with words and her memoir is raw and honest and just perfect. My longer review can be found here.

If you are really invested in politics, then some of these feminist essay collections might be of interest for you.

Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay

35068524One of the best books I have read this year, this collection of personal essays on rape culture really is a must read. I am obviously a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s work and I was very impressed by the way she curated these wonderful essays. There was not a single essay in this collection that I did not appreciate and I found a lot of people whose next work I am eagerly awaiting and whose other essays I am reading religiously. If you can deal the subject matter, I really do recommend picking this up. My longer review can be found here.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

25175985Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism project and her collection of essays on the subject and on the project is definitely worth checking out. I listened to the audiobook, which Laura Bates narrates herself and I found myself really immersed in her writing. Her book is impeccably researched and wonderfully realized; she draws both on literature and statistics and on the more personal anecdotes shared on the Everyday Sexism page and builds a really convincing whole. It also did not end with me wanting to burn the world down, which is always a plus. My review is here.

If you usually read literary fiction, then creative non-fiction might just be the thing for you. It is usually exceptionally well-written and for me at least, has a poetry to the sentences that I just adore (and closely mirrors the very best literary fiction in that sense).

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (or any book written by Maggie Nelson)

28459915Maggie Nelson is possibly the queen of creative non-fiction. Her sentences are crisp and she flits between different ideas and styles in a highly impressive way. The Argonauts deals with her relationship with her gender-fluid husband and chronicles the changes to her body due to pregnancy and the changes to Harry’s body due to hormone therapy. It also deals with so much more, drawing on gender theory and sociology and everything inbetween, and as a reading experience is highly rewarding. Bluets by the same author is also highly recommended.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

22244927This book is seriously short but packs an unbelievable punch. Sarah Manguso writes about her complex relationship with her diary, which she kept religiously for most of her adult life, and about why she stopped keeping one. I found this moving and thought-provoking and incredibly well-done. You can find my review here.

Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich

37690295Leah Dieterich writes about her marriage, but she also writes about dance and art and polyamory and everything in-between. I absolutely adored her short and snappy essays that build to a much larger whole. She made me think and smile and sad and in general this book just really worked for me. You can find more of my thoughts on the book here.

Are you planning on participating in Non-Fiction November? What books are you planning on reading? Also, what is your favourite non-fiction book?

Wrap Up: September 2018 or that was a three star kind of month

I had a surprisingly good reading month, numbers-wise – normally September is not that brilliant for me, but this time around I actually read ten books. Most of them were middle of the road though.

Books read in September:

  1. The Fire This Time ed. by Jesmyn Ward: 3 out of 5 stars
  2. The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski: 3 out of 5 stars
  4. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence: 4 out of 5 stars
  5. Rosewater by Tade Thompson: 4 out of 5 stars
  6. Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  7. The Corset by Laura Purcell: 3 out of 5 stars
  8. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey: 2 out of 5 stars
  9. Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  10. March: Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Yadin & Nate Powell: 4 out of 5 stars

I also DNFed The Sisters of the Winter Wood because I could not get on board with the prose, the poems, or the structure of the story. The thought of having to pick that up and reading another 400 pages made me very unhappy; so I put it down.

Continue reading “Wrap Up: September 2018 or that was a three star kind of month”

Review: Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich

37690295Verdict: Stunning, accomplished, clever.

My rating: 4,5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Memoir, Creative Non-Fiction

Published by Soft Skull Press, September 4th 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

“It’s like we’re the same person. We finish each other’s sentences. This is what we’ve been taught to desire and expect of love. But there’s a question underneath that’s never addressed: Once you find someone to finish your sentences, do you stop finishing them for yourself?”

As long as she can remember, Leah has had the mysterious feeling that she’s searching for a twin–that she belongs as one of an intimate pair. It begins with friends, dance partners, and her own reflection in the mirror as she studies ballet growing up; continues with physical and emotional attractions to girlfriends in college; and leads her, finally, to Eric, whom she moves across the country for and marries. But her steadfast, monogamous relationship leaves her with questions she can’t answer about her sexuality and her identity, so she and her husband decide to try an open marriage.

How does a young couple make room for their individual desires, their evolving selfhoods, and their artistic ambitions while building a life together? Can they pursue other sexual partners, even live in separate cities, and keep their passionate original bond alive? This memoir in fragments looks for answers in psychology, science, pop culture, art, architecture, Greek mythology, dance, and language, to create a lucid, suspenseful portrait of a woman testing the limits and fluidities of love.

Vanishing Twins is a memoir about a marriage – but it is also so much more. It is an exploration of identity and gender, of growing up and finding oneself, of culture and literature, of ballet and advertising. I adored this.

Leah Dieterich frames her story both in ballet and in the science of vanishing twins, using metaphors and literary analysis to construct a picture of her twenties and her marriage. She meets her husband Eric fairly young and gets married to him at an age where most people are still trying to find themselves. Their symbiotic relationship starts to feel limiting and she proposes an open marriage to explore her queerness.

The book is told in (very) short, fragmented essays (one of my favourite styles) that grow to a convincing whole. I love how the author does not try to fit everything into a cohesive narrative, because life just isn’t that way. As she muses on her marriage and distinct memories, she also writes about other things in-between, mostly ballet but also philosophy and art history. I obviously adored this, there are few things that make me as happy as brilliant, clever memoirs. I have said countless times, I love when women unapologetically put themselves front and center in their art and Leah Dieterich does this, impressively so. One of my favourite aspects was the fact that she realizes her tendency to mirror people she is close to – from her sense of style to her haircut. I loved how this was addressed time and time again. It showed the aspects of her lovers that she most felt drawn to and it illuminated the growing distance between her husband and her while simultaneously underlining the bond between them.

There is a lot to admire here: from her clean prose to her insightful analysis of everything between ballet and advertising to art. I found this a highly rewarding reading experience that has me excited for more to come from Leah Dieterich.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Soft Skull Press for review consideration. My opinions are my own.