#NonFicNov: Book Pairing

I love this topic, as I look back to see what serendipitous fiction/nonfiction pairings emerge in the course of my reading year. Visit What’s Nonfiction for the linkup.

Once more, there were the obvious literary pairings — Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar with the biography of Plath, Red Comet; Beverly Cleary’s memoirs A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet with her novels Henry Huggins and The Luckiest Girl; a number of biographies and memoirs of C.S. Lewis in conjunction with the Narniathon, and so on. These are connections I make on purpose, reading a biography to illuminate the novel or vice versa, and they are invariably wonderful. I also may read a nonfiction work to complement a fictional treatment of some topic I’ve just read — this year, I read Writing My Wrongs because after John Cheever’s prison-based fiction Falconer, I felt I needed the perspective of an actual prisoner. And that was also very worthwhile.

But most interesting to me are the pairings that come up without any conscious direction on my part. Here are just three of them: I probably could come up with more.

Kelly McDaniel’s exploration of what happens to a daughter’s soul when she is deprived of a mother’s nurturance, protection, and/or guidance is perfectly complemented by the powerful pictures of loss and emptiness in Ursula LeGuin’s fantasy of a dark temple and a child priestess.

Aimee Nezhukumathathil’s poetic vignettes of the beauty and wonder of the natural world could be read alongside Eva Ibbotson’s magical tale of a girl who escapes from an oppressive foster family into the enchanting environment of the Amazonian jungle.



Stephen Pinker asserts that language is an instinct; Alice Walker proclaims that it is a necessity for life, in her beautiful novel-in-letters that was groundbreaking in giving voice to the Black American experience, particularly for women.

What fiction/nonfiction pairings did you discover this year?

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17 thoughts on “#NonFicNov: Book Pairing

  1. Nice pairings! I always struggle with this week so I wrote my post as I went along and wouldn’t have thought of what I ended up with if I’d had to do it this last Monday, if you see what I mean!

    1. Your approach worked well for you. I like to look back at my reading at the end of the year and see what emerges, and i always manage to find something.

  2. Such refreshing pairings! I love the thought you’ve put into each. I’ve just finished drafting my post (scheduled for tomorrow) – I am doing NF and F pairings as well, but none from books I read this year.

    1. Doesn’t have to be from this year, I just enjoy seeing what combinations I can come up with from that list. So far something always works!

    1. Oh, I really enjoy reading those pairings too. When there is nonfiction to further illuminate a fiction book I always learn so much and appreciate the greater sense of context. I recommend all of those types of pairings I mentioned, but I thought I’d focus on the more out of the way ones.

  3. I started reading Mother Hunger but couldn’t finish it. I really wanted to love it and learn from it but something wasn’t clicking for me at the moment! Maybe I need to give it another try. Wonderfully creative pairings!

    1. I did not find it entirely satisfactory either but it had some nuggets that I needed to hear. (I actually listened to the audiobook.) The entire topic needs a lot of research — and not in the sense of blaming mothers for everything, it needs to be much more nuanced than that. I think we’re just in the beginning stages of what needs to come.

      Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed my pairings!

      1. Hmm, I haven’t gotten into audio books yet but I could see where that one would’ve been more appealing to listen to, I think. I think you’re right, it’s an area that definitely needs more research and I’m glad we’re at least starting to pay more attention to it. I hope we’ll see more on it soon too.

        1. I usually don’t listen to audiobooks – they are too slow for me and I lose the thread easily — but this one was not available otherwise from my e-library. I actually enjoyed listening to McDaniel, she has a very soothing voice. And it was not too long (8 hours). I do think there will be more about this topic though so you can wait till something grabs you.

          1. Exactly the same for me. I really lose the thread. The same happens with podcasts but I’m usually happier to relisten if it’s something I really am interested in, whereas for a 10 hour+ audiobook I’m not willing. That’s good to know though, I think my library actually had it on audio too.

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