BAND Discussion: What Nonfiction Don’t You Like?

It’s been a while since I have participated in the activities of the Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees. This seems like a good time, as I’ve been having trouble writing my next book review post.

Kim over at Sophisticated Dorkiness is the host for the BAND question of the month which is: What is one type of nonfiction you dislike and why? And, as an extra challenge (if you choose to accept it), ask your readers to recommend a book to try!

I don’t read much in the way of biographies at all, but one type that I just don’t have the taste for is the entertainer biography/memoir. I can’t say that I actively dislike them; I just don’t see them as worth my time. I do have favorite musicians and actors and filmmakers, but I have a limited curiosity about their lives. I might read a brief bio, but I don’t really see myself reading a whole book about a musician or actor (or director, or dancer, or artist). I feel like those books are for die-hard fans of that person, and I’m usually a die-hard fan of the works rather than their creators.

Memoirs of entertainers particularly make me wary. I suspect rampant name-dropping and the whiff of the ghost-writer.

But I’m willing to consider recommendations. I could see myself being interested in an entertainer biography if the author did a good job with context: what were the places and times like during that person’s career? I could see myself being interested if it’s a biography that would be interesting even if one had little acquaintance with that person’s work.

So have at it in the comments.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “BAND Discussion: What Nonfiction Don’t You Like?

  1. I have to agree for the most part. The one exception are the more historical books. I get a kick out the “golden age” of films and the people involved in them. So, my recommendation is Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn. Her writing voice is exactly like her speaking one.

  2. I was in a book club at my last workplace and people strongly recommended “The moon’s a balloon” (autobiography) by David Niven – I didn’t think this would be my sort of thing at all but I think the pace and interest levels were perfect for an introduction to this era. I was also told that it was a lovely audiobook. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Niven

    Not an entertainer, but Nine Lives by William Dalrymple is also stunning – each chapter is about a religious devotee and it’s a wonderful journey through India with fascinating small insights into people’s lives. I was transfixed – favourite book of the year so far.
    http://www.williamdalrymple.uk.com/pages/

  3. Jason

    I don’t really read entertainer biographies either — I’m afraid they’d ruin my view of a person. I do try to read a presidential biography a year, and the best one I’ve read so far is The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt — it’s a long book, but a fascinating overview of Teddy’s life from birth to his presidency. I also read a good biography a couple years ago on Ernie Pyle, a WWII journalist who is buried down-island from where I live.

  4. You mean you didn’t love the Dylan biography we read at Messiah?!

  5. I treat entertainer bios like book-length issues of People Magazine. Junky and gossipy but sometimes fun. I hate two types of non-fiction equally: self-help and “of the moment” political books, especially the ones that are “written” by candidates running for something.

  6. You’re the second person who said celebrity memoir, funny! I’m not such a fan of them either, but I did really love Mindy Kaling’s recent book, and I want to read Tina Fey’s book, so I might not be as against them as I thought.

  7. yeah I agree. I have no interest in their lives, I’m listening/watching their music/film not learning about what they had for dinner last Friday.

  8. Though I haven’t read it myself, one that I have added to my own TBR list (and I think it’s the only one on there!) is Portia de Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness; an employee at my favourite local indie (whose taste is somewhat similar to mine and runs counter to celebrity memoirs most, if not all, of the time) recommended it as stand-out — even if not perfectly written. I’m curious…

  9. Joy – Yeah, I could see myself making an exception for entertainers from the older film eras. But then, I might feel like I should do homework: watch more of that person’s films or listen more of their songs in order to be “prepared” to read a book about them.

    Menai – I actually have Dalrymple’s book City of Djinn’s on my to-read list.

    Jason – I have a book by Ernie Pyle around someplace. I think it’s This Is Your War, but I haven’t read it yet. Now, him I wouldn’t mind reading about.

    Scott – I don’t even remember reading a biography about Dylan!!

    Thomas – Ugh, yeah I’ve never read a politician’s campaigning books, er, memoirs. As far as self-help, sometimes they can be helpful. I have a book about acne that has been very helpful to me. But the latest weird diet or money-making or guide to happiness book is not really my thing either.

    Kim – See I have been intrigued by both the books you mention. I think it is because Kaling and Fey are comedians.

    A Damned Conjuror – What I fear most from biographies (of any person) is a dreary play-by-play of everything that happened to this person.

    Buried in Print – I looked up a summary of de Rossi’s book after reading your comment. I liked her in Arrested Development so it makes me sad to know she has been so sick with an eating disorder. I’m not sure I want to read the book though.

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