Well, you can see that title. Let me tell you all about some of my favourite non-fiction reads of 2020 so far!
The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit
This was my first, and frankly long overdue, dip into Rebecca Solnit’s work. I can’t remember why I decided to start with this one, but I borrowed it from my library just as we went into quarantine for the first time back in March. I’ve said this before, but Solnit is not an easy writer. I don’t find her writing dull or uninteresting, but she’s incredibly intelligent and sometimes it takes a little to really get comfortable with her style. That being said, I read this entire book in one sitting because her writing is so gripping. I am in complete and total awe of the way she was able to weave a story throughout the book, even when certain sections didn’t seem to fit in at the time.
Seeing Ourselves by Frances Borzello
I’ve had an interest in female artists for quite a few years now, as well as an interest in portraiture. It was this book that female bought those two interests together for me. I started reading this one as part of a research essay for one of my Art History classes, and by the end was so intrigued by all these different artists. I thought this was an incredible introduction to the subject. I especially appreciated how the self-portraits were included—(the amount of art history books that assume you know every painting by name is wild). This also introduced to a lot of new artists that I’d never heard of before, namely Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun, who I talked about in this post about female artists a few weeks back.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
I was completely blown away by this. This is a very confronting topic to read about—it talks about domestic abuse in a same-sex relationship, and there’s a lot of discussions about trauma and mental health alongside that. With that being said, Machado has a way of writing that drew me in and kept me interested the entire way through. Just like with Solnit, Machado really grabs onto you and I spent an entire day just engrossed by this. I can’t say for certain because I read them a few months apart, but I think this could be a very interesting read alongside See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill. SWYMMD looks more at heterosexual relationships in general, and also focuses more on Australia, but I think that could be an interesting discussion (with lots of self-care!).
The Hanging of Angelique by Afua Cooper
I’ve talked a little about this one in a few past posts, but I was just so surprised by it that I couldn’t not mention it again here. I bought this one in a secondhand book in New Jersey on a complete whim and then tossed up about whether I should get rid of it or not. I’m so happy I didn’t because this was such an interesting read. It follows the story of Marie-Joseph Angelique, an enslaved woman living in Montreal in 1734. She allegedly started a fire that burnt 46 buildings and was tried for that. It also talks more generally about slavery, particularly in Canada. Here in Australia, we didn’t learn a whole lot about slavery in school—in fact, I learnt about the Underground Railroad in the books I picked up for myself. We didn’t talk about the slavery that happened here, so we absolutely didn’t discuss elsewhere either. So this book was eye-opening in terms of that, but it was also just a really great, detailed read.