Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader - #5

My first 4 lists had 13 books, the proverbial baker's dozen.  And Volume IV was posted on July 16, 2012.  Well, I'm now ready for Volume V.  But it won't have 13 recommendations.  Instead, there will only be 8 - and one of them is non-fiction (blasphemous!).  Why are there only 8, you ask (what? you didn't ask?!)?  The reason is simple:  I thought it was time for another list, and I don't have 13 surefire winners to post.  So, sue me.

Here they are.  And 4 of them are from 2012.  I won't talk much about them because you can see in-depth reviews (I'm sure you've all done that already!) from the 2012 posts.  The other 4 are worth taking a look at (and as they say on Dancing with the Stars - I think I've used this line before - they are in no particular order).

Pat Conroy - My Losing Season (2003).  This is Pat's one non-fiction book.  What's interesting about this book is that his father was a military man and, evidently, a very strict disciplinarian.  Pat used his father as the model for The Great Santini and several of his other novels.  But he wouldn't tell a non-fiction story until his father passed away.  And My Losing Season is that book.  Just like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, this book reads like fiction.  Pat was captain of The Citadel basketball team when he was a senior in college.  They were supposed to be a top-notch team that year.  The book rotates between events during basketball season and childhood memories.  It's totally terrific.

Jeff Shaara - Rise to Rebellion (2001) - If you like historical fiction, you're going to love this one.  This is the story of the events that led to the American Revolution.  It alternates chapters in the voices of American and British historical figures - such as George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Gage (British military leader) and others - along with several fictional characters.  It is very clever and very enlightening.  What a great way to learn about the events leading up to the war.  It does not go into the conflict itself.

William Martin - Back Bay (1979) - This is Martin's 1st book of 9.  I read 1 or 2 others, but this is the one that I think is a must read.  Like My Losing Season, Back Bay also goes back and forth, this time between a Boston clan of 6 generations and a treasure made and hidden by Paul Revere (remember, he was a silversmith) that the clan is looking for.  I loved the whole story line and how it went from the present to Revere and back again.  This is a very good story.

Alex Hailey - Roots (1976) - Everybody knows about this one because of the mini-series.  We've all seen Kunta Kinte being snatched from Gambia, in Africa, in the 1760's and sold to a plantation owner.  The book spans 6 generations (this is not a misprint - it's the same as Back Bay).  It is a particularly rich look at slavery in the American South.  What's interesting for me is that I saw the mini-series first.  I usually read a book before I see the TV show or the movie.  This one was reversed.  And as much as I liked the TV adaptation, the book was better.  Again, for historical fiction fans, this is one great book.  And for those of you who don't care about historical fiction, it's still a great read.

These next 4 are from 2012.  They are my #1, #2, #3, and #5 books of the year (#4, The Innocent, by David Baldacci, is already in FFTNFR, Volume IV).

Ken Follett - Winter of the World (#1) - This is book 2 in The Century Trilogy.  It focuses on 6 families (there's that number 6 again!) from America and Europe, and it centers on WWII (book 1, Fall of Giants, revolves around the same 6 families in and around WWI).  Winter of the World has already become one of my favorite books all-time.

Stephen King - 11/22/63 (#2) - I know I have blogged about this book ad nauseum, but I can't help it.  It's just so darn good.  As everybody by now is aware, it's the story of a modern-day man who goes back in time to stop the assassination of JFK.  I am still amazed at how plausible the entire story unfolds once you accept the premise of time travel.  It's a masterful work - and also one of my all-time favorites.

Rayme Waters - The Angels' Share (#3) - This is Rayme's 1st book, and you all know I loved it.  It's not a complicated story line, it's just really well done.  Here's Amazon's synopsis:  "The story of a recovering meth addict who rebuilds her life working for a small Sonoma County winery".  It's a whole bunch more than that.

Michael Zadoorian - The Leisure Seeker (#5) - This was written in 2009, and I only became aware of it through the Los Gatos Library Book Club.  I normally only get there 2-3 times a year (usually, I attend the Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday Book Club - and 2 in one month is too much "assigned" reading).  I'm really glad I was there for this one.  Very briefly, an 80-year old couple decides to drive from Detroit to Disneyland on Route 66, something they did with their kids many years before.  Let me quote Amazon again:  "The Leisure Seeker "is a sweet natured travelogue that's about the end of the road in more ways than one...The Dangerous Book for Seniors!" - Bob Morris, author of Assisted Loving, "A sort of Easy Rider meets The Notebook.""

Happy Reading!

Punctuation note:  Sorry for the awkward double quotation marks at the end of the last paragraph.  I couldn't figure out how else to do it.



  1. The only one of those books I've read is 11/22/63 and I loved it! I love Conroy's writing so I should look for The Losing Season.

  2. You will not be disappointed. It's absolutely terrific.

  3. The only one I've read is Roots! Shamefully, I've never read Conroy. I have another NF book by him about his reading life but obviously haven't gotten to it yet.

  4. I haven't read Conroy's other non-fiction book, but all of his novels are great - especially South of Broad and Beach Music (both in other volumes of FFTNFR). South of Broad has a death that made me feel personal loss. I don't think I've ever had that happen - before or since.

  5. What a great list - I enjoy both fiction and non fiction.

  6. I think this is a great idea for a post. Maybe a post with from the opposite point of view, too (Nonfiction for the Fiction Reader?)

    Thank you.

  7. Thanks to both of you for your comments. Deb, I read so little non-fiction, that I wouldn't have enough for a list. Having said that, I have included 4 outstanding non-fiction books in my FFTNFR lists:

    The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls (volume I)
    Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand (volume III)
    In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson (volume III)
    My Losing Season - Pat Conroy (volume V)