It’s time for another #6degrees post. Usually participants all start with the same book and then add six more titles which link in some way. But this month we are changing things up, beginning with a book which which a previous chain finished.
Given that we have just started Nonfiction November, I thought it would be fun to share a chain filled with non-fiction titles. When I looked through previous Six Degrees posts for a non-fiction title to kick us off, I was delighted to see that the only candidate is The Snow Geese by William Fiennes from my August 2018 post. This pleases me greatly because, as I frequently say on this blog, this book is one of my most favourite ever titles (I can sense the ‘oh no not again’ eye rolls from regular readers haha!).
Taking geese as my first link leads me to Handiwork by Sara Baume. This is a short but very beautiful meditation on the daily process of making and writing, exploring what it is to create and to live as an artist. Baume weaves through her narrative thoughts about birds, particularly migration habits. It is a fascinating and thought-provoking read.
Baume also talks about the concept of ‘flow’ as a key part of the creative process. So this naturally leads me to my second link: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This is a brilliant book about how deep concentration on a particular task can lead to profound contentment and happiness. I read it ages ago and am looking forward to giving it another look in the next couple of weeks.
Csikszentmihalhy’s opening sentence in his preface states that the book is the culmination of decades of research on ‘the positive aspects of human experience’. For my third link, I have chosen a book which is the exact opposite. Lemn Sissay’s memoir, My Name Is Why, is a devastating account of his early life in the British care system. It is profoundly moving and shocking in equal part.
It is sadly not surprising to learn from Sissay that he was the subject of racism as he grew up. There are rightly many other excellent and important non-fiction books which examine racism. From all the various titles I have come across recently, I decided to pick for my fourth link Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. I have watched a couple of online book festival events at which Wilkerson was speaking and I am looking forward to reading more about her analysis of the caste system throughout history and across the world.
The sub-title of Caste is “The lies that divide us”. Thinking about another kind of division, gender, for my fifth link, I have chosen The Five by Hallie Rubenhold, in which she aims to ‘set the record straight’ about the five women murdered by Jack the Ripper. As Rubenhold highlights, their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.
And talking of five women takes me to my sixth and final link – a book about another five women: Square Haunting by Francesca Wade. Subtitled “Five Women, Freedom and London Between the Wars”, this is a group biography of the modernist poet H. D., detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, classicist Jane Harrison, economic historian Eileen Power, and writer and publisher Virginia Woolf, all of whom lived in London’s Mecklenburgh Square. This sounds absolutely brilliant and I can’t wait to read it.
Do you have any non-fiction reading plans this month? I’d love to hear about them. At the very least, reading memes like this provide the perfect excuse to talk all things books (as if we needed one). 🙂