Nonfiction November – Week 2

Week 2: (November 8-12) – Book Pairing with Katie at Doing DeweyThis 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. 

It was a pretty easy pairing for me this year.

I have just finished reading and reviewing Kate Grenville’s fictional and imaginative account of Elizabeth Macarthur’s life story in A Room Made of Leaves. It is a book she has been brewing ever since the research phase for The Secret River when she read some of Elizabeth Macarthur’s letters for the first time. Her letters only ever referred to John (her husband) in glowing and loving terms, yet the public record knew him to be ‘a clever, ruthless bully, a dangerous man to cross, violent and unforgiving towards anyone who tried to go against him.’

Grenville was intrigued – ‘either he was a completely different man at home, or her letters are beautiful lies.

For her novel, she chose to read between the lines of the ‘beautiful lies‘.

Imagination is all well and good, and can make for very fine historical fiction, but at some point you want to see for yourself.

That’s where my two book pairings come in.

In 2018 Michelle Scott Tucker published her biography of Elizabeth Macarthur: A Life at the Edge of the World (if you look carefully at the cover, you may notice a quote by a well-known Australian blogger! You can read Lisa’s full review for the book here). It has been on my TBR pile ever since. It is time I read it.

However, when I was looking up the book details for these two books (they were both published by Text Publishing), I spotted another book about Elizabeth Macarthur in the feed. It was a curated, edited collection of her letters put together by Kate Grenville. The blurb says in part:

These letters were the starting point for Kate Grenville’s bestselling novel A Room Made of Leaves. They inspired the portrait of her imagined Elizabeth Macarthur: shrewd, subtle, passionate. And they offer a glimpse into the complex inner life of one of our most powerful foremothers. Yet, until now, a general reader could only access a handful of them.

Elizabeth Macarthur’s Letters is due out on the 29th March, 2022.

The next day: N@ncy has dared me to pair the two cooking books on my non-fiction reading list from this past year.

The first one was easy. The pairing for Midnight Chicken popped into my head straight away. Ella Risbridger, in her memoir with recipes, takes us on an intensely personal journey via the food she loves. The importance it had, and continues to have, in the way she connects to and interacts with her family and friends, is at the heart of her story. As is her love for The Tall Man.

Like Water For Chocolate was one of those books (and movies) that had a profound effect on me in my twenties. It’s about family traditions, love and chronicles one year in the life of our protagonist, Tita. We discover that her connection to food and cooking began from the minute she was born – on the kitchen floor. She uses food to ‘talk’ to her family and her meals become infused with her emotions, especially the love she has for Pedro.

Claudia Roden’s Med took a little more thinking time. Roden has enjoyed a lifetime of sharing the food that she grew up, with the rest of us. She has travelled extensively throughout the Mediterranean to find out how the different countries and cultures use the same basic meals in their own unique ways. The recipes are simple, easy to prepare and designed to be shared during family gatherings. Home cooking is at the heart of this cookbook.

In the end, the companion for Roden was right under my nose at work. It’s also the book I think will be this year’s ‘hidden gem’ or unexpected best seller, Stanley Tucci’s Taste: My Life Through Food.

The blurb tell us that Tucci “grew up in an Italian American family that spent every night around the table. Taste is an intimate reflection on the intersection of food and life…Written with Stanley’s signature wry humor and nostalgia, Taste is a heart warming read for anyone who knows the power of a home-cooked meal.

So it’s not a non-fiction/fiction pairing like the others, but they do go together thanks to the Mediterranean influence, and their sense of nostalgia and family around home-cooking combined with anecdotes.

This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are our first storytellers.

30 thoughts on “Nonfiction November – Week 2

      1. Um, yes. But not as exciting as being on Michelle’s book…
        Back in the 90s, I had a book about Indonesia commissioned and published by HBJ, and I self-published a series of teaching resource books for teachers of Indonesian too. OTOH they were more profitable. I bought myself a new Mazda with the proceeds, the first new car I had ever had!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. A number of people say that, but for me this is the easiest week. It’s how I read. One book leads to the next. I get obsessed by a topic and head down rabbit holes of intersecting, related books.

      I could have also down some pairings around Square Haunting and the five women referenced, Albert Camus, Marie Curie and Elizabeth von Armin. At a push I could also have done a foodie pairing with the two cookbooks I reviewed this year 🙂


        1. Nancy, I’ve only been partially successful.

          I have now added FOODIE pairings above, but only one of them was a nonfiction/fiction pair. The other was two non-fiction books paired together, rather beautifully, I think 🙂


          1. Just wonderful! Med-Tucci ….excellent and when it is a “dare” bending the rues is allowed. In 2022 I will dare myself to “pair” books as I go along (…join me) …nice addition to “ trivia” on regular blogposts, don’t you think?

            Liked by 1 person

  1. I saw this post and then must have got distracted, because I planned to comment on Like water for chocolate. I so enjoyed that book, and am a bit heartbroken as I lent my beautiful American-bought hard copy to a work colleague and never got in back. She said she’d given it back to me but no I would know (and I had already had experience with lending her another book I never got back.) You can be sure it was a case of twice bitten – haha!

    BTW Med has such a beautiful cover – though it doesn’t really look like a cook book!


    1. Oh how heart breaking to lose your copy of LWFC in such a manner. I learnt a while back to never lend out my really special books, only ones I won’t be upset if they never come back.
      My copy is the bog-standard movie tie in cover, much battered from many rereads!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mine was pre-movie and it had that torn page edges, with the pretty blue/green themed cover.

        I tend not to lend books now, but mainly because I write all over them and don’t really like the idea of people seeing my ridiculous markings because they are not erudite! They are more little points to note or remember, or to make it easy to find something again.

        Liked by 1 person

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