Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 14--a Non-Fiction Book

Yeah, I love non-fiction almost as much as fiction. Some days, more, which I know is a lot like saying, I like everything in the whole world. But I kind of do. Non-fiction umbrellas about a thousand genres I love--poetry, memoir, history, science, religion, philosophy and sociology...and on and on and on.

I admit I am a huge memoir fanatic. I will basically read anyone's memoir, at any time, and certainly have an opinion about what makes a good memoir and what makes a crappy one. I read a ton of non-fiction that I have loved. But some of my favorite books are ones that are probably least predictable, but amongst my favorite favorite non-fiction books of all time is Salvation of Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington, which kind of bridges a bunch of different genres within non-fiction--memoir, history, religion, crime. Part of why I love(d) studying religion is that it was so interdisciplinary and this book is no exception.

I remember exactly where I was when I read this book--in a studio apartment in South Philly. The windows were open all day, and I drank an entire pot of coffee, then drank herbal tea for the rest of the day. I started it around 9am. It was a Sunday and I had no where to be. It was probably October 1999, or 1998, I can't rightly remember. I never dressed. I did, however, take the book on the toilet, in the bath (only to put my sweats right back on afterwards), while I picked at something to eat. I just started reading it, and then it was night. I was given this book by my friend Max who said it was the best damned book he ever read on snake handling. And it is, indeed, the best damned book ever on snake handling. It is told in the first person by a journalist whose roots are in Appalachia. He is covering a trial of a snake handling minister accused of trying to kill his wife with rattlesnakes. He searches for answers about what draws people to this sort of ecstatic religion, and his own history with it. It is incredible. I feel like if I talk more about it, I will tell you the entire book, so just suffice to say, I loved it.

And with that, I could tell you hundreds of more books like that that I loved and moved me. I could list off all the memoirs I love. Mary Carr is everything I love in a writer and memoirist. I love culinary memoir, so I loved Anthony Bourdain's books, and his essays, Michael Ruhlman's culinary books, Ruth Reichl's books, I really loved Jacques Pepin's book the Apprentice. I also love books about fucked up childhoods. And fucked up adulthoods. I love books about grace and compassion. I love learning about people and what makes them tick. And yet, I feel so remiss mentioning certain people and not others. Danielle was right, I had to add to my post this morning, because I couldn't just leave one book up there. Because there is never just one book that I love.

I love the poetry of e.e.cummings, so I would count his collected poems amongst one of my favorite books, and Federico Garcia Lorca. And fuck, I am out of control. Right now, I have no book, because I'm writing every night before bed for the next day, which means that I go up to bed when the light is out and I can only do crosswords on my blackberry until I pass out.

My last book, finished last week, was Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw. It was okay. He always manages to make me laugh. I need a new book. Now that you know everything about what I love to read, I will take suggestions. Has anyone read Jonathan Franzen's new book? I was mixed on The Corrections.


  1. Yeah, I meant to publish that for tomorrow, so I changed the date to be ahead. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

  2. I still say your next book should be A Game of Thrones, the first in George R.R. Martin's series, A Song of Fire and Ice. And yes, it's officially in the fantasy genre, and no, it doesn't have elves. But it is fantastically written. Characters and plot are up amongst the best books I have ever read and you will be in love with this world well before you hit the end of the first book. Seriously.

    In another note, I know how much you love Jon Krakauer's non-fiction...and In the Air is one of the best ever. Though I loved that snake-handling book too.

  3. warren buffet's bio, "the snowball." hugely long, but fascinating.

    i have an aversion to jonathan franzen. he taught my freshman year creative writing seminar and was mean to the girls. :)

  4. Have you read Alexa's book yet? It was awesome, I totally recommend it. Especially to someone who likes memoirs.

  5. I'm sure you have read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Now there's an effed up childhood. Have you read any Bill Bryson? Hilarious. And of course David Sedaris.

    That's all I got.

  6. See, now, I was about to say "No Ordinary Time", which is a biography of FDR and Eleanor during WWII (Told you I loved me some Eleanor!), and then Mary Beth mentioned Bill Bryson. His book "Made in America" about the history of American English contains my all-time favorite bit of trivia, which has to do with the debate over what to call electrocution.

    A recent favorite is "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks", about the woman whose cancer cells spawned decased of research on illness and medical treatment. Her family never had any idea that her cells were being used for research purposes, and the story is about the ethics and politics of medical research, informed consent, and treatment of the poor. I had no idea I'd love it as much as I did.


What do you think?