Sunday, 19 November 2017

Non Fiction November

This year I took part in the booktube reading challenge Nonfiction November for the first time.  As it was my first time I skipped on the category challenges, and just tried to read more nonfiction than I normally would.

I'm not a huge reader of nonfiction, so that wasn't hard!  I read two great books this month that have been on my radar for a while; Another Day In The Death of America by Gary Younge and The Radium Girls by Kate Moore.

In Another Day in the Death of America, Gary Younge picks a single day in American history (23rd November 2013) and tells the story of 10 young people who died as a result of gun violence on that day.  In explaining the circumstances of their deaths, Younge examines the social, cultural, historical and political factors contributing to America's gun problem.

This book was so interesting - it really appealed to the sociologist in me - and very hard to read in places.  Gun violence is so ubiquitous in the USA that shooting fatalities are almost routine.  Victims such as the ones written about here are unlikely to make the news or get any widespread attention at all outside of their own communities and it was so sad to read the interviews with their families.  Something I am absolutely clear on since reading is that the National Rifle Association are real, true life villains.

Gary Younge is tackling a big issue here but the writing was never inaccessible.  It was split into clear chapters, one for each young life, and I read it in the space of a few days.

The Radium Girls was an amazing read.  It tells the story of a group of young women who were employed by two factories in 1920s America to paint watch dials with luminous radium paint, an element we now know to be extremely dangerous, and their fight for justice once it became clear that their work was killing them.

The level of corruption they came up against in their quest to hold their employers accountable was astounding: corporate denial, industry cover-ups, and the seemingly never-ending legal hoops they had to jump through, all while batting the horrendous effects of radium poisoning.  Kate Moore writes explicitly about the suffering of the radium girls and pulls no punches when describing the despicable acts of their employers; it was easy to see she was passionate about her subject.

It was heartbreaking and shocking reading, but I was fascinated by these brave women and I'm sure I will be thinking of them for a long time to come.  You couldn't help but take them to your heart but it was also really interesting to read about how their ordeal shaped worker's rights and industry regulations.  They also contributed massively to our knowledge of radioactive materials today which has saved numerous lives.  Highly recommended to everyone, but especially any fellow history lovers.

I gave both these titles 5 stars and they have definitely whet my appetite for nonfiction.  If anyone has any recommendations, I'd love to hear them!