Nonfiction Books for When Fiction Stops Working

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Sometimes I hit a reading slump, and when it happens I generally try reading a new genre or switching it up somehow. Early in 2020 I hit a massive slump. I tried switching the subgenre of the romances I was reading so I tried out romantic suspense and that worked for a couple books. Then I tried mystery and again the same thing happened. I momentarily pulled myself out by reading most of Tessa Dare’s backlist in one week. That was a good week. However as the world became more chaotic I found that fiction just stopped working for my tired and anxious brain. Finally I turned to nonfiction, partly through chance and the whims of the goddess of library holds. My recent non-fiction reads have ranged from science education to fashion and everywhere in between, but I hope that the ones I enjoyed most help break through a reading slump and let you escape for a little while.

Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool by Clara Parkes

I have tried to get everyone I know to read this, regardless of their interest in crafts and wool. This is the story of a woman who on little more than a whim purchased a 676 pound bale of fleece and uses it to explore the world of yarn production from start to finish. She compares the production of small batch indie companies with industrial yarn production and explores the fate of the American wool industry. Throughout the author’s voice is strong and clear and for her storytelling skills alone this is a wonderful read. 

The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good by Elizabeth L. Cline

Its never a bad time to start thinking about your consumption. This book is a follow up to the author’s first book, which discussed the costs of fast fashion. This is a guide to building a wardrobe that fits your life, your style, and is kinder to the planet and the people who live on it. As a sewing enthusiast I was less interesting in the sections on shopping smart and brand awareness, but I felt that this was a considerate look at how to build a cohesive wardrobe without starting from scratch. 

The Golden Thread: How Fashion Changed History by Kassia St Clair

This book is essentially a collection of essays on the subject of textiles and fashion. The topics range from the oldest textiles known to mankind to the construction of the Apollo spacesuits. This was a good book to pick up and read just one chapter for a quiet moment. Every single chapter was fascinating and enlightening. Nearly every chapter led to another library hold being placed because I wanted to know more. My next recommendation is the result of going down the rabbit hole inspired by the chapter on spacesuits. 

Fighting for Space: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight by Amy Shira Teitel

Space historian, blogger, and YouTuber Amy Shira Teitel has a fantastic backlist of articles and YouTube videos exploring many aspects of the history of spaceflight. This book follows two groundbreaking female pilots along their journey to becoming pilots, their passage through and involvement with an unofficial medical study testing women for the rights of spaceflight, and finally their separate and often opposite fights to get NASA to include women in the astronaut program. Teitel avoids the tendency of biographers to idolize her subjects and depicts their flaws and conflicts clearly while recognizing their achievements.

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe 

This is a hilarious book based on his blog (which shares the same title https://what-if.xkcd.com/ ) where he answers ridiculous questions with actual science. Randall Munroe is a physicist and the genius behind the webcomic xkcd which I also recommend. My spouse and I read this together as an audiobook and have returned to chapters and relistened to them again. Highly entertaining, but also educational. With explosions.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death By Caitlin Doughty

Is this book for kids? Is it about kids? Is it for grownups who talk to kids a lot? I’m not entirely sure. I think it might be a book for adults who wish they had someone who would answer their questions when they were kids. Either way it is delightful. Which is an odd thing to say about a book talking about death, but the fact is that we don’t talk about death enough and things we don’t talk about become scary. So lets talk about what really happens when you die and answer some important questions about humanity. And cats. 

And with that, I give you a list of my favorite non-fiction books that helped me get through a major reading slump. Even if you aren’t having a hard time getting through your favorite romance I highly encourage you to pick one up and enjoy. 

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