Nonfiction November: Book Pairing

Nonfiction November continues, hosted this week by Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves. This week we’re talking book pairings!

Nonfiction November

This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Mm, yes, I love a good game of Read This Then That. Nonfiction November has pegged me accurately in this regard. Let’s start with a creepy debut novel I read earlier in the year, Krys Lee’s How I Became a North Korean.

It’s an excellent look at the lives of North Koreans after they escape from their hometown, and I’m pairing it up with Suki Kim’s Without You There Is No Us, as an act of rebellion against everyone in publishing and the media who framed Kim’s book like a memoir instead of the work of investigative journalism that it is. Down with gendered bullshit!

Next I will be pairing up two books where maybe you’ll read this recommendation and say “Jenny is this just a thinly veiled plot to get us to read these two books you’re already obviously very excited about?” To which the answer is, of course, yes. Yes, that is what is happening. Sorry to have been so transparent.

Read Nisi Shawl’s Everfair, an alt-history Congolese steampunk fantasy that has dirigibles, deception, lesbians, and characters who use cats for spies.

Then when you’re finished and you have thousands of questions about which elements of the plot are from real history and which ones are from Nisi Shawl’s considerable imagination, get thee to David van Reybrouck’s Congo, a magisterial history of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s massive but engaging. I can’t recommend it enough.

Thanks to the Nonfiction November hosts for staying fabulous! What nonfiction are y’all reading this week?

  • I’ve read both the North Korea books – that’s a great pairing! I was a bigger fan of Without You.

    • I was too — but North Korea is so fundamentally implausible that the truth is almost inevitably stranger (and more interesting) than fiction.

  • Books on the Table

    I’ve been wanting to read How I Became a North Korean for quite some time — loved Without You There is No Us.

    • Yay, read it! It’s a quick read, so you can do it on a plane or something like that. 🙂

  • Jeanne

    So was Everfair fun to read? I’ve been waiting for reviews of it before I decide to plunge in, as I just read a steampunk novel and a little of that goes a long way for me (am I the only person in the world who isn’t much amused or diverted by steampunk?)

    • Everfair was extremely fun to read. It’s one of those books that you maybe don’t want to dip in and out of? I sat down and gave it some dedicated reading time, and that made it work for me. It has a lot of time jumps so it does require some concentration from the reader.

      Not only are you not the only person in the world who isn’t much amused or diverted by steampunk, Nisi Shawl herself is one of those people! She wrote this book as kind of an antidote to the things she’s never liked about steampunk.

  • Oooh, ‘Everfair’ in particular sounds right the heck up my alley. But then, so does ‘Congo’ with a subtitle like that — EPICness is always appealing.

  • Stefanie@SoManyBooks

    Great pairings! Everfair is already on my library wishlist. Now, as ever, I just have to figure out when I will have time to read it! I just started a book last night called I Contain Multitudes that is about the world of microbiomes also known as bacteria that in habit our bodies. Fascinating stuff!

    • That DOES sound fascinating! I want to have one of my New Year’s reading resolutions be to read more science books, but then on the other hand I also want to read more history books, and like, I have a finite number of hours available for reading nonfiction. What to doooooooooo.

  • Amanda

    I so badly need to read Without You!!

  • Two regions I have read basically nothing about. I need to change that – thanks for the great recommendations!

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    I’m ready to go on a Korea binge after all the great suggestions this month… adding How I became a North Korean and Without You There is No Us to my list!

    • Excellent! They’re both good, and I’d also recommend Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy, if you want to know more about the lives of average North Koreans.

  • JeanPing

    I started my fabulous book about Stonehenge and I’m almost done with Frederick Douglass’ speeches.

    I’ve gotta read that NK novel. As you know I read Kim’s book and am a sucker for all things North Korean.

  • Oh, that book about the Congo has caught my attention.

  • Kailana

    I want to read Everfair…

  • I got Everfair from the library after reading your review. ^_^ I just hope I can get to it before it’s due!

  • Between the Lee debut and The Orphanmaster’s Son I’ve gotten my share of great fiction about North Korea so thank you for Without You. It sounds fascinating.

  • Read Diverse Books

    I hand’t heard about Krys Lee’s book! I enjoyed Suki Kim’s “memoir” and was also annoyed when she intended it to be seen as journalism, which it is! My next book on on North Korea is going to be Yeon-mi Park’s memoir.

    And I think you’ve recommended Nisi Shawl’s book to me before. I have read more reviews of it since and it’s definitely one I have to read in 2017. It sounds perfect for me.

    • Ooh, I don’t think I’d heard about Yeon-mi Park’s memoir — will look into it! I hope you do get a chance to read Everfair next year. Might be an excellent DSFF book club pick? 😀 😀 😀

  • I’m reading Alexandra Shulman’s diary from 2015/16 for the 100th anniversary for British Vogue. Which feels a bit vapid in comparison to the books you are reading.

    • Pssh, no, you just think that because I’m not going on about the MANY MANY romance novels I also am reading. :p

  • EVERFAIR looks SO GOOD, must read that soon (and then maybe CONGO?! eeeeek it’s long!).

    • EVERFAIR IS REALLY GOOD. I will say, it has a bunch of time jumps and you do kind of have to sit down with it and dedicate some time. When I was reading it a few pages at a time here and there, I had a hard time getting into it.

  • Great pairings! I remember being interested in these books when you reviewed them, so I’m glad you’re bringing them up again 🙂