Diversity in Non-Fiction


This week of Non-Fiction November is hosted by Becca at I’m Lost in Books and asks about what diversity in non-fiction means to us.

Diversity to me means foremost a wide range of subject matter. I like history, so my non-fiction reading often focuses on a particular historic event or person, like the World’s Fair in Chicago in The Devil in the White City or President Garfield in Destiny of the Republic. For the past few years, I used non-fiction to become acquainted with subjects I have previously had little interest in, like DNA in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks or chemistry in Napoleon’s Buttons.

However, diversity should also apply to the people who write these books. I admit that I don’t pay much attention to the author of the books I read, especially when it comes to non-fiction. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the majority of the non-fiction I’ve read over the past three years has been written by women. Some of the writers have been from Asia, but I have only one African writer on my list. On the one hand, I should make an effort to increase that number, but on the other hand, I don’t think I should feel obligated to read a book about a subject I currently have no interest in simply to even my stats.

So far, the non-fiction posts of the last two weeks have led to 36 new books on my wish list. On top of that list are books about small pox, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, rugby, India, and World War I. That is a pretty diverse list, and I’ll be happy if I find the time to read them all. But I will loosely challenge myself to read at least one non-fiction book set in each continent in 2015. Ideally, these will be books written by people who either are from that region or have spent a considerable amount of time there.

With that being said, I have not seen any non-fiction books about or set in South America. Did I miss them? Do you have recommendations for anything that takes place south of Mexico?



  1. I’m a bit late to this, but here are a couple South American recommendations:
    “The Last Days of the Incas” (Peru) — fascinating story of an Incan Empire in decline trying to hold off Pizarro and a small group of Spaniards enticed by power and greed
    “Killing Pablo” (Colombia) — the story of how the US and Colombia tracked down and killed Pablo Escobar, Colombia’s most notorious drug lord
    I’ll second the recommendation for “The Lost City of Z”, and I can also add a recommendation for “The River of Doubt”, which details Teddy Roosevelt’s darkest hours on the Amazon.

  2. I have been mostly picking my non-fiction based on subject matter and personal interest. I like your idea of reading one book from each continent next year. I might set myself a similar challenge.

  3. Diversity for me is mostly about subject matter…and I also like when I just choose what I want to read and it ends up being a diverse group of authors. This is what I did for Nonfiction November and I ended up with 3 females and 1 male author. I also ended up with books about the Civil War, football, publishing, and North Korea.
    I read one memoir this year set in Colombia (I think that was where), but it wasn’t great…

  4. I used to read a lot more non-fiction than I have done recently, but I plan on remedying that next year. I have a 2015 reading plan, which will probably go out the window by February.

    A book I liked that is set partly in South America is ‘Bluestocking in Patagonia: Mary Gilmore’s Quest for Love and Utopia at the World’s End’ by Anne Whitehead. I found it fascinating because it deals with Australians travelling to South America to live in a socialist utopian community in 1895. If you can find a copy it’s well worth a read. Also, Bruce Chatwin’s ‘In Patagonia’ is rather wonderful. Those are the first two books that spring to mind when I think about South America. 🙂

    • I don’t do too well with reading plans either. Thank you for your recommendations. Both sound very interesting. It will be a fun challenge to find a good copy of Bluestocking in Patagonia, a book that seems to be right up my alley.

  5. I don’t know if it’s your kind of thing, but I enjoyed Ricardo Lagos’ autobiography ‘The Southern Tiger’ about the opposition to the Pinochet regime in Chile, and about the transition towards democracy after his fall from power.

    Loved ‘The Devil in the White City’ by the way, and keep meaning to read ‘Destiny of the Republic’…

  6. I’ve noticed that I do a much better job of reading books by women than those by people of color and translated fiction. I’ve been working on both though 🙂 Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any nonfiction books set in South America, other than whatever I could find by googling.

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