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The 2017 Nonfiction Challenge Part XII: Go Out of Your Comfort Zone, Chase a Book Bullet or Find a 2017 Book in December

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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Edited: Dec 1, 2017, 12:37pm Top

OK, folks, to wrap up the year, a bit of a catch-all challenge. It started off as a challenge to read something that's out of your comfort zone -- so if you usually read biographies, try reading a book about something scientific or about music. If you avoid political wrangling, read a book about some of the current political hot potato issues. BUT -- I decided to expand it. December will also be the month when you can read a book that's a "book bullet" -- something you've seen mentioned by one of your fellow nonfiction readers, and want to follow up on -- OR that is a 2017 book, in honor of the year that has been. (In other words, the book should have been published in calendar year 2017.

So, I'll let you figure out what you can find that fits any one of those categories!

Here's what we're reading:

As always, please do come back and tell us what you like -- or don't -- about the book you're reading.

And I'll post, again, the list of 2018 challenges below for further discussions.

Happy reading, happy holidays, and a happy new year of non-fiction reading to all!

Nov 29, 2017, 7:19pm Top

And a reminder of what you've got to look forward to in the New Year:

January – Prizewinners and Nominees -- nominees or winners for any non-fiction prize in the last decade. National Book Award, Baillie Gifford/Samuel Johnson Prize, and many many others. We can all start posting lists.

February -- Biographies -- self-explanatory -- a biography, not a memoir.

March – Far, Far Away: Traveling -- travel narrative.

April – History -- another perennial.

May – Boundaries: Geography, Geopolitics and Maps -- a new offering. Anything about places, and boundaries, and how they affect our lives. So, a book about maps, about geographical features (Krakatoa?) or about geopolitics (Samuel Huntington?) or anything like that -- all are OK. I'm making this as eclectic as possible.

June – The Great Outdoors -- another hybrid challenge. Want to write about gardening? About the environment? About outdoor sporting events, from baseball to sailing? Do you want to read Cheryl Strayed's book about hiking and her misadventures on the Pacific Coast trail? As long as it happens out of doors, it's all fine.

July – The Arts -- from ballet to classical music, to jazz and rock and roll, to sculpture and painting, and the people involved in these -- oh, and books about books, of course!

August – Short and Sweet: Essays and Other Longform Narratives -- self explanatory. Essays from any anthology, longform pieces from the New Yorker, etc. Please make them reasonably long and not just an 800-word news feature from Mashable. Think, New York Times Magazine, perhaps, or London Review of Books, or...

September – Gods, Demons, Spirits, and Supernatural Beliefs -- from the Book of Common Prayer to things that go bump in the night. A biography of the Dalai Lama? Go for it.

October – First Person Singular -- This is the spot for anything first person. Anything that anyone has written about themselves and their lives in any way. Tina Fey? Paul Kalinithi? (sp?)

November – Politics, Economics & Business -- The stuff we all know we should know about but sometimes hate to think about, especially these days. Call it the hot button issues challenge. Immigration/Racism? Banking regulation? Minimum wage debates?

December – 2018 In Review -- Frustrated because you've got leftover books? You've got too many book bullets from other people? Or -- omigod -- that new biography was just published and you must must must read it? Or you've been reading the lists of best reading of 2018 in the NY Times and just realized, omigod, you MUST READ this one book before the end of the year? This is your holiday gift, from the challenge that keeps on giving...

Nov 29, 2017, 7:47pm Top

Because I can never remember what STEAMPUNK means and it sounded out of my comfort zone,
I ordered a copy of STEAMPUNK from Abe and got a nice old hardcover anthology
from the Vancouver Island Regional Library.

Quite proud of the very engaging cover, I started to read,
and realized that it is all fiction, to most people.

On to find a new "different" volume...

Nov 29, 2017, 7:56pm Top

I'll be reading Black Tudors.

Nov 29, 2017, 8:04pm Top

>3 m.belljackson: Whoops, yes. Maybe you can find something fun about Victorian technological innovation?

I'll be back tomorrow to update images and suchlike. The evil migraine demons have struck again.

Nov 29, 2017, 8:19pm Top

>5 Chatterbox: - The title of a book I read a couple of years ago comes to mind: The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage. I quite enjoyed that one.

Nov 29, 2017, 8:56pm Top

>5 Chatterbox: I hope the migraine disappears quickly!

Edited: Nov 29, 2017, 9:12pm Top

>6 jessibud2: >5 Chatterbox:

Thank you - I found a Very Good copy of The Victorian Internet for $3.89 on Abe.

Maybe the telegraph was a Steampunk?

My daughter and I have been getting recurring migraines with the odd changes in winter weather -

I cannot remember a November or early December in Wisconsin with no snow and spring weather (50s)
during the day and frequent subzero at night and in the early morning = headache havoc.

While I don't miss the ice and having to pay for a plowed driveway, this doesn't feel right.

Hope yours is an overnighter.

Edited: Nov 29, 2017, 10:45pm Top

I still haven’t decided for sure what I will be reading, but have been putting off Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande because I am just uncomfortable with the topic. I would rank it right up there with a book about compound interest. Maybe this is truly “out of my comfort zone?”

Edited: Nov 29, 2017, 10:48pm Top

My other choice is to read Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation by Randall Fuller because this one was a Book Bullet that I took from Suzanne last month. I will see if this one is in the library, as I don’t want to purchase it this month.

Nov 30, 2017, 2:01am Top

I've had an LT book bullet on a book about stereotype threat Whistling Vivaldi. I've also got a book of essays by Siri Hustvedt that I really want to make time to read.

Nov 30, 2017, 5:49am Top

Well I was struggling with ‘out about of your comfort zone’ it would have had to be some kind of sport or celebrity biography. But I do have some book bullets, so I will probably pick up The Pope’s Last Crusade

Nov 30, 2017, 6:13am Top

>9 benitastrnad: - Being Mortal is such an excellent read, Benita, and a really important one. And Gawande is a terrific writer. He also talks about precisely WHY this is important: it's BECAUSE people (including himself, even as a doctor!) are so uncomfortable with this topic. I honestly felt, after reading it, that this should be compulsory reading for pretty much everyone. I would highly recommend this book and would bet you will be happy that you read it, once you're done. I don't know a single person who's read it who feels otherwise.

Nov 30, 2017, 11:19am Top

Three selections for out of comfort zone or just different:

1. I've never read a reference book straight through, so here's
by Peter Quennell.
It was a dollar at the local Senior Center's Strawberry Festival.

2. Nor have I ever picked the book at the bottom of my NF reading TBR:
the untold story of the Statue of Liberty - by Lenore Skomal

3. Though I've seen a lot of mentions of The Essenes, I've not read this gift book yet -
BY Edmond Bordeaux Szekely.

A full month while waiting for The Victorian Internet!

Nov 30, 2017, 2:00pm Top

>12 Caroline_McElwee: That's why I modified the challenge -- that, and I wanted to give a nod to the fact that we've all benefited from each other's reading over the course of the year, and from seeing new books published this year, etc., from getting gifts this year. So this is a month to spread our wings a bit.

Nov 30, 2017, 8:48pm Top

I was going to read a biography, but since that is a theme early in the new year, I decided to go with Radium Girls which was a book bullet for me.

Dec 1, 2017, 11:32am Top

I'm going to read a book of essays that was a book bullet earlier this year, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.

Dec 1, 2017, 12:15pm Top

Hmm, I have that somewhere Roni.

Dec 1, 2017, 12:40pm Top

So, I've added Vanishing New York and Game of Queens as book bullets (the latter being also a gift from an LT member; Destination Casablanca is a 2017 book that is slightly out of my comfort zone as it's too heavily weighted to military details based on my initial attempts to read it, and I've just added Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which is out of my current comfort zone, as I've read almost nothing about the history of the American West and this era, and woefully little detailed history of American Indian tribes in the West affected by European expansion. I'm somewhat familiar with some of the current issues, but this is an area I want to be better informed about generally, so here's a place to start, which came up in a Kindle Thanksgiving sale.

Dec 1, 2017, 1:27pm Top

You might read Empire of the Summer Moon. I read it a couple of years ago and it was a relatively good, but short, history of the Oklahoma/Texas panhandle areas as well as southwest Kansas and eastern Colorado areas. This is not a sexy part of the West, but the Kiowa and Comanche tribes were so important to the history of the West.

The Earth is Weeping is another one that my friend back in Kansas is talking about as well. I have not read it yet, so don't know how good it is.

Dec 1, 2017, 5:42pm Top

Oh oh, it's December and I am feeling overwhelmed by all the challenges I took on. I am still working on The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom: A Celtic Shaman's Source Book which I started for September's challenge. It is not an easy read and is long, very long. I am also trying to finish off books from other challenges by the end of the year plus read the ones for December.

Since the December non-fiction challenge now includes BBs I am wondering if the following would qualify. I want to find out more about using DNA in family history research. A fellow LTer recommended that I read anything by Blaine Bettinger. In a seminar about DNA, that I attended in September, Blaine Bettinger's Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy was recommended. Does Bettinger's book qualify for December's challenge?

I am also thinking about 2018 and found that The Children's Blizzard won the Washington State Book award and the Midwest Bookseller's Choice Award for non-fiction. It looks like that would be good for January's non-fiction challenge and I get to use it for another challenge at the same time.

Dec 1, 2017, 6:28pm Top

I love it when we can double up on titles for Challenges!

Dec 1, 2017, 11:09pm Top

>22 Familyhistorian: Well, that would qualify as a BB, although given your moniker, probably NOT as a book that is "out of your comfort zone"! *grin*

Yes, doubling up is always a great plan! I'll be reading David Grann's book about the Osage, too, and if I don't finish it, it will roll nicely over into January as a prize nominee. There is SOME method to my madness.

Dec 1, 2017, 11:21pm Top

New York calls Behind the Beautiful Forevers nonfiction, but it reads like a novel to me. Anyway, I'm reading it as a result of the numerous paeans to it that I've seen among the 75ers.

Dec 2, 2017, 12:09am Top

>23 benitastrnad: There is something so satisfy about doubling up, isn't there?

>24 Chatterbox: I thought it might be good as a BB and, yes, not out of my comfort zone. Ah ha, that is good planning, I never did the qualifying into the next month reading but I guess it helps to be the one setting up the challenges. LOL

Dec 2, 2017, 12:10am Top

>25 LizzieD: It's definitely nonfiction -- it's about real people and real events!

Dec 3, 2017, 11:07am Top

LADY LIBERTY is surprisingly fascinating reading!

Halfway through, it has read like a novel (alternating at night with Marian Engel's compelling BEAR),
enlightening the life and dreams of Bartholdi, as well as all the challenges he and Eiffel face.

Dec 4, 2017, 4:49pm Top

I am going to go with the book bullet theme and read Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms as that one sounded really interesting. Pretty sure Suzanne reviewed it but I can't seem to recall when.

Dec 4, 2017, 5:00pm Top

>28 m.belljackson: - Odd to see the name Marian Engel just now. I recently started a book of letters (correspondence) between Marian Engel and Hugh MacLennan, called Dear Marian, Dear Hugh. He was her professor at McGill University in Montreal and an established author in his own right. It's a slim volume but I have to say, the person who edited and put this book together, well, let's just say, I am not *riveted. It's rather dull so far. But I have only 2 more Canadian books to reach my personal goal of Cdn reads this year so I will persevere. I haven't actually read anything by Engel herself and am embarrassed to admit that I never read either of MacLennan's 2 classics, though I did very recently buy them

Dec 4, 2017, 6:20pm Top

>29 Oberon: I read it in September, so it was whatever challenge that was. Religion, possibly, as it was about the obscure Middle Eastern religions (the Samaritans, the Yazidis, etc.) Or current affairs, as it was about how they are gradually being squeezed out of the places where they have lived for millennia and where their religions were born (eg the Cops, the Zoroastrians.) I thought it was absolutely fascinating.

>30 jessibud2: One of my parents bought me one of Maclennan's books, I think it was Barometer Rising or The Watch That Ends the Night, possibly the later as I think the former might have appealed to me at 12 or 13 and I never picked it up to start reading. It followed me around for a few years, but got lost at some point. It was an M&S edition of the New Canadian Library, I think -- a paperback. So by now, 40 plus years later, it wouldn't be in very good shape! I think I may read one of these next year for my annual "Canadian content" personal challenge. This year has been full of contemporary novels, but I may read Mordechai Richler, Margaret Laurence, etc. among some newer works in 2018. And I was never interested in Marian Engel's novels. If you want some funny Canadian content, see if you can lay hands on As They See Us by Walter Stewart -- about US perceptions of Canada, most collections of anecdotes. A bit dated by now, but priceless, and probably still true...(And would qualify for this challenge and now for this month's challenge since I've lobbed it to you as a book bullet!!!)

Dec 4, 2017, 6:53pm Top

In fact, Two Solitudes was such a classic, that I have to wonder how it passed me by. And I grew up in Montreal! I did buy a copy of it at a used bookstore earlier this year with the distinct intent to read it. I also found a copy of The Watch That Ends the Night at our library sale just this past weekend.

I have heard of Walter Stewart but don't think I've read anything by him. I was happy to see that Wayne Johnston is on the CAC for December and I happen to have 5 books by him on my shelves. I adored the only one by him I ever read. It was also the very first audiobook I ever listened to on my very first solo road trip to Ottawa many years ago. It's called The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and it was wonderful (fiction, but the former premier of Newfoundland, Joey Smallwood, makes more than a casual appearance).

I really am making a concerted effort to read more of my own books, those already in the house, and I have so many Canadian ones so that's good incentive.

I will see if the library has a copy of the Stewart you mentioned. Thanks! By the way, there are lots of great Canadian writers, and many who are funny!

Dec 4, 2017, 8:01pm Top

>30 jessibud2: >31 Chatterbox:

BEAR definitely adds, to U.S. readers, a new and, to many, shocking, erotic "perception" of Canadian women!

Edited: Dec 5, 2017, 3:02am Top

I'm really tempted by The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a global world which has just popped up on my library's e book system (published in 2017).

Dec 5, 2017, 12:53pm Top

>34 charl08: Oh wow, I'm more than tempted by that one... If only I can get hold of a copy and read it before the month is out that would definitely qualify as a book bullet! (As well as a 2017 publication...) That kind of book, that crosses genres -- history, travel, biography, politics-- tends to be the kind that I find most rewarding to read. I'll have to call the Athenaeum today and ask if they have it, and if not, get them to order it. I have zero dollars and cents in book spending money left this year for anything but Xmas gifts (for family members who haven't bought me gifts in return for the last two years, but whatever...)

>33 m.belljackson: I haven't read "Bear", but have read enough about it to roll my eyes. And to say that I suspect that anyone who assumes that things haven't changed since prehistoric times/the Iron Age or whatever, deserves what they get...

>32 jessibud2: Shall check out Wayne Johnston as I "populate" my personal Canadian challenge for 2018. I'm still too busy trying to finish this year's lists! There are always too many other books that pop up their heads and say "read me, read me" in squeaky little book voices...

Dec 5, 2017, 6:43pm Top

I'm reading (listening to) A Little History of Philosophy. It's been on my list for a while, and it's definitely out of my comfort zone. Philosophers. For some reason philosophy always make me think of this cartoon:

Dec 5, 2017, 10:14pm Top

>35 Chatterbox:

Though BEAR had its surprising events, I loved the Hemingwayesque short, terse, and direct sentences

(the not-loved-by-me Old Man even gets a brief mention)

and the ending was lovely.

Edited: Dec 13, 2017, 1:39pm Top

Closing in on 150 Books read and reviewed,
I completed both Quennelle's A HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE
and Into a Paris Quartier.

The Quennelle book will be saved for both reference and its wonderful illustrations.
Though fairly dated for some recent works, the many insights are valuable.

I ordered the Paris Quartier on abe.com, thinking it was another light and funny Diane Johnson novel.
Instead it turned out to be a detailed tour of the Quartier St.-Germain where she and her husband now live.
Travelers may find it intriguing, while more photographs would inspire the rest of us.

Dec 12, 2017, 2:13am Top

Black Tudors is an insanely well-researched book. The notes and bibliography run about a hundred pages--and it's only a selected bibliography! Unfortunately, despite all of the research Kaufmann did, there just isn't a lot of detailed information on the lives of black people in Tudor England so there's a lot of speculation and digressions going on to pad out the page count. It's worth picking up for its information on a little-known topic, but it's not a very engaging read.

Dec 12, 2017, 2:21am Top

I'm trying to finish up with Bring Back the King by Helen Pilcher -- all about de-extinction, which is out of my comfort zone (science/DNA) and published this year, at least here in the US, I think and also has the merits of being a left over book from last month. But I confess that I'm struggling. The author likes to be overly chatty and whimsical and downright twee and is driving me crazy, making wink/wink; nudge/nudge kind of comments about subjects that could be dealt with in an accessible and entertaining way without being silly and flippant. The tone is so arch, it's putting me off, and I may not finish for that reason alone.

I have been loving the audiobook of Vanishing New York with a massive caveat: the author pronounces Houston Street like the city in Texas. How anyone can sign off on a book about NYC and allow that to pass is beyond comprehension. (the correct version? HOW-ston, of course. Sigh.)

Dec 12, 2017, 4:54am Top

>39 amanda4242: oh that’s disappointing Amanda, I have it in my pile.

Dec 12, 2017, 12:44pm Top

>36 nittnut: hahaha! I totally agree!

I enjoy non-fiction, but current events and political books leave me kind of cold. So I decided to read Understanding Trump by Newt Gingrich for this month's challenge.

It's not a bad book, with decent writing, but the information within I'd already read before, so it kind of dragged for me.

If you want to get a better understanding of the current President of the US, I'd highly recommend The Art of the Deal, which I read last year, and thoroughly enjoyed.

Dec 13, 2017, 10:46am Top

I have run into that pronunciation thing in other audio books, and it does tend to bug a person. You would think that the audio engineers or editors, or whatever they are called, would take care of that kind of thing. But it does happen. And it is irritating.

Edited: Dec 13, 2017, 12:17pm Top

I have finished A Little History of Philosophy. Philosophy still leaves me cold, but if I were to ever warm up to it, I suspect Nigel Warburton could get some credit. It's a well written, sometimes humorous, and beautifully concise description of the the major philosophers and their ideas. I admit that I increased the reading speed to 1.25 somewhere around chapter 20, but I am justified by my need to finish the book before I completely lost my mind (thanks Machiavelli).

Dec 13, 2017, 12:13pm Top

I'm slowly making my way through The Radium Girls. The writing is pretty clunky but the story is fascinating.

Dec 13, 2017, 3:11pm Top

>41 Caroline_McElwee: It's not a bad read, it's just not as well presented as it could be.

Dec 13, 2017, 5:00pm Top

As part of my clear out of "currently reading " books, just finished The amazing The Unwomanly Face of War (Penguin Classics), which was published this year in English. Just an amazing piece of work, documenting women's experience as soldiers, workers and partisans for Russia in WW2 in their own words.

Edited: Dec 15, 2017, 11:35am Top

LADY LIBERTY is an amazing little book, complete with vintage replica pictures in pockets!

For those of us who never learned, or the historians who may have forgotten,
"Liberty Enlightening the World" was a gift, not from the French government,
but from money and donations of time and expertise from The People of France!

As a symbol of light, friendship, and the eternal bond between our countries,
the Lady had a long and challenging journey.

Definitely one to add to a family library.

Dec 15, 2017, 12:06pm Top

>48 m.belljackson: - How odd. I just did a search on my library's website and there is only one copy, reference only, meaning I can't take it out, just look at it there. It's a first edition, maybe that's why. Sounds odd to me, though But I will go have a look anyhow

Dec 15, 2017, 2:02pm Top

>47 charl08: That will be near the top of next year’s reading pile for me Charlotte, glad it impressed.

Dec 16, 2017, 6:23am Top

>48 m.belljackson: Perhaps reference only because of the material in pockets that could get lost if people take it home?

Edited: Dec 16, 2017, 10:25am Top

>52 m.belljackson:

That would make sense - they are fun little treasures.

How do you add "Spoiler" to a thread?

Dec 16, 2017, 12:55pm Top

>52 m.belljackson: Instead of ‘b’ between the type spoiler and to close /spoiler

Dec 16, 2017, 2:19pm Top

>50 Caroline_McElwee: I had to do it in two chunks: too much terrible experiences for reading all in one go.

Dec 20, 2017, 2:09pm Top

>52 m.belljackson:

Thanks, but I don't understand the instruction.

Dec 20, 2017, 5:53pm Top

Sorry, my iPad auto corrected

For bold you put ‘b’ between the arrows, put the word spoiler instead.

Dec 20, 2017, 8:57pm Top

>56 Caroline_McElwee:

Okay, what arrows?

Dec 22, 2017, 1:28pm Top

Finally finished Bring Back the King by Helen Pilcher, which I'm going to count toward this month's challenge (although I initially planned to read it last month) because being all about genetics and stuff, it was really out of my comfort zone. It's about the process of de-extinction -- whether we can and whether we should try to bring back various de-extinct species, what kind of scientific and technical challenges are the issue, and the ethical questions we face, and the pragmatic issues should we succeed (what do you do with a single mammoth? or a herd of mammoths? Who teaches them how to behave like "real" mammoths?) Pilcher's overly arch tone and appalling wordplay (she never met a pun she didn't adore) are incredibly wearying, but the book becomes more interesting as it progresses. Had she managed to play it straight and just focus on how interesting it all is rather than lurch from one attempted witticism to the next ("the passenger pigeon project continues on a wing and a prayer"; "all around us, species, including flies, are dropping like flies"; "geological epochs fell like tripped up toddlers"), it would have been infinitely more readable. As it is, she draws attention to fascinating questions and had this been better written, it could have been one of the better books of the year for me. 3.85 stars. Still recommended as a good summing-up of issues covering the science and the nexus between endangered and extinct species and the importance of "keystone" species.

Dec 26, 2017, 10:48pm Top

For those who are ready -- January's challenge is up and ready for you... *grin*


Dec 30, 2017, 11:44pm Top

Rather than reading something out of my comfort zone, I chose to read The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy which had been recommended to me by more than one source as a really good guide for using DNA for genealogy. Using DNA testing is something that I have wanted to have a better idea about for a while. The book will make a handy reference as to what can be done with DNA testing results. I am really happy that I made the time to read this.

Jan 3, 2:44pm Top

I did read Blink and actually liked it!

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

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