Non-Fiction Five

Yay! The Non Fiction Five Challenge, hosted by Joy, is almost here.

I’ve been looking forward to joining this challenge for awhile now, thought my reading seems to have stalled a bit lately, so I’m not sure how I’ll do. I’m a fiction reader by preference, and the number of non-fiction books that actually make it onto any reading list of mine are few and far between. What better way than a challenge to get me motivated and reading, right? Here are her rules, which are pretty basic:

1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May – September, 2008

2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)

3. If interested, please sign up below with the link to your NFF Challenge post (all choices need not be posted and may change at any time)

Pretty good, huh? I’m looking forward to the challenge of being forced out of the comfort zone of my beloved fiction. Here are my choices:

My Sister, Guard Your Veil, My Brother, Guard Your Eyes
I wrote about this book back in September, and I think the time has finally come to get it from the library and read it. I posted the description then, but I’ll post it again. From

In the first anthology of its kind, Lila Azam Zanganeh argues that although Iran looms large in the American imagination, it is grossly misunderstood—seen either as the third pillar of Bush’s infamous “axis of evil” or as a nation teeming with youths clamoring for revolution.This collection showcases the real scope and complexity of Iran through the work of a stellar group of contributors—including Azar Nafisi and with original art by Marjane Satrapi. Their collective goal is to counter the many existing cultural and political clichés about Iran. Some of the pieces concern feminism, sexuality, or eroticism under the Islamic Republic; others are unorthodox political testimonies or about race and religion. Almost all these contributors have broken artistic and cultural taboos in their work.

Journalist Reza Aslan, author of No God But God, explains why Iran is not a theocracy but, rather, a “mullahcracy.” Mehrangiz Kar, a lawyer and human rights activist who was jailed in Iran and is currently a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, argues that the Iranian Revolution actually engendered the birth of feminism in Iran. Journalist Azadeh Moaveni reveals the underground parties and sex culture in Tehran, while Gelareh Asayesh, author of Saffron Sky, writes poignantly on why Iranians are not considered white in America, even though they think they are. Poet and writer Naghmeh Zarbafian expounds on the surreal experience of reading censored books in Iran, while Roya Hakakian, author of Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran, recalls the happy days of Iranian Jews. With a sharp, incisive introduction by Lila Azam Zanganeh, this diverse collection will alter what you thought you knew about Iran.

Three Cups of Tea
My friend Neva gave me this book. The author, Greg Mortenson, was the keynote speaker at a fund raising event for the Epilepsy Foundation, which she directs. She was really impressed by him, and thought I had to have the book. Then, a few weeks later, we went to Oregon for Sickmas, and my stepmom gave me the same book! So, with two such wonderful people highly recommending it, I have to read it! From the back of the book:

In 1993 a mountaineer named Greg Mortenson drifted into an impoverished Pakistan village in the Karakoram mountains after a failed attempt to climb K2. Moved by the inhabitants’ kindness, he promised to return and build a school. Three Cups of Tea is the story of that promise and its extraordinary outcome. Over the next decade Mortenson built not just one but fifty-five schools – especially for girls – in the forbidding terrain that gave birth to the Taliban. His story is at once riveting adventure and a testament to the power of the humanitarian spirit.

In Defense of Food
I had been considering reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma for awhile now, but for some reason I’ve never gotten around to it. Probably because it’s non-fiction. I bought this book a little while ago, and I’ve been looking forward to reading it. The author, Michael Pollan, is defending real food against the onslaught of crap and junk that has become such a large part of our modern diet.

Why Do I Love These People
I’ve never heard of this book before, but my dad sent a copy to my sisters and me back in February. It might actually have been a good book to have with me when I was in Alaska, but I didn’t think to bring it. From the back cover:

Not one of us has a perfect family, and many of us wish we could repair our relationships with our parents, siblings, or spouses. With uncommon honesty, “Why Do I Love These People?” shows us how real people have transformed their relationships and created new families while struggling with considerable challenges. In each chapter we meet a different person and watch his or her life unfold in complicated, surprising, and redeeming ways, and we are left with compassion, empathy, and understanding.They say we can’t choose our family, but increasingly, we do. This unique book will enlighten how we view these choices, and influence how we live with those decisions.

Not sure…never really read a ‘self help’ book before, which seems to be the genre here, but I’m game to give it a shot.

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Py read this awhile ago, and recommended it to me. While my family didn’t come over on the Mayflower, some of my ancestors came to America not long after, and it might be pretty interesting to read about their experience. I’m looking forward to reading this. From

From the perilous ocean crossing to the shared bounty of the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim settlement of New England has become enshrined as our most sacred national myth. Yet, as bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick reveals in his spellbinding new book, the true story of the Pilgrims is much more than the well-known tale of piety and sacrifice; it is a fifty-five-year epic that is at once tragic, heroic, exhilarating, and profound.

The Mayflower’s religious refugees arrived in Plymouth Harbor during a period of crisis for Native Americans as disease spread by European fishermen devastated their populations. Initially the two groups — the Wampanoags, under the charismatic and calculating chief Massasoit, and the Pilgrims, whose pugnacious military officer Miles Standish was barely five feet tall — maintained a fragile working relationship. But within decades, New England would erupt into King Philip’s War, a savagely bloody conflict that nearly wiped out English colonists and natives alike and forever altered the face of the fledgling colonies and the country that would grow from them.

With towering figures like William Bradford and the distinctly American hero Benjamin Church at the center of his narrative, Philbrick has fashioned a fresh and compelling portrait of the dawn of American history — a history dominated right from the start by issues of race, violence, and religion.

And one alternate, in case one of these doesn’t hook me, or in case I get so hooked that I want to read more more more (like I did with the graphic novel challenge).

Year of Magical Thinking
I’ve been intrigued by this book since I heard of it, and since then I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it. It’s the story of the year following the death of Ms. Didion’s husband, during which time, their only daughter lay dying in a nearby hospital. From the New Yorker:

Didion’s husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, died of a heart attack, just after they had returned from the hospital where their only child, Quintana, was lying in a coma. This book is a memoir of Dunne’s death, Quintana’s illness, and Didion’s efforts to make sense of a time when nothing made sense. “She’s a pretty cool customer,” one hospital worker says of her, and, certainly, coolness was always part of the addictive appeal of Didion’s writing. The other part was the dark side of cool, the hyper-nervous awareness of the tendency of things to go bad. In 2004, Didion had her own disasters to deal with, and she did not, she feels, deal with them coolly, or even sanely. This book is about getting a grip and getting on; it’s also a tribute to an extraordinary marriage.

Wish me luck everyone! This is truly a challenge for me.

10 thoughts on “Non-Fiction Five

  1. Well, I’ve read two of those–Three Cups of Tea, and Mayflower. I try to always have at least one non-fiction book going. (Right now, in fact, it IS just one: Charlie Wilson’s War.) It takes me longer to read them than fiction books, but sometimes the true stories are more amazing than the made-up ones!

  2. Best of luck!

    It sounds like you’ve picked some great choices! I’m interested in Three cups of Tea. Let us know how you like your picks!

  3. I read Mayflower, expecting something totally different than what I got. I appreciated it, but I didn’t really like it. I found the title very misleading–it’s not about the voyage or even those particular people, per se–and it’s at times very dry. I read nonfiction almost exclusively, so this wouldn’t be my challenge. Keep us posted.

  4. How interesting, J! I was actually going to read “In Defense of Food” next! I’ve been listening to a lot of health care professionals, scientists and dietitians talking about “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food”. I am really intrigued.

    John and I try to eat healthfully and we grow most of our food. This said, I’ve got a contest going on that I think you will totally rock. The prize, however, is something Michael Pollan will probably frown upon! 😉

  5. In Defense of Food – great book.

    Great story about your cell phone – they don’t take charges off very often – enjoy it!!

  6. The book about Iran looks really interesting (as do they all), but since Iran is very much in the news these days, I think reading a book that gives more than a one dimensional look at the culture(s) in Iran is worth the time.

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