Are we breaking up?
For most of my adult life, nonfiction has been my rock, my lighthouse, the place I go to forget my troubles, come on get happy. Of course, I haven't liked every single work of nonfiction I've ever read; if you've read any of my other posts, you know I'm not a reading robot. For me, all reading is sort of like wine tasting. Some books I greedily slurp and beg for more, others I spit out in disgust. A few books I savor for a while, then let the flavor overwhelm me and envelope me.
But more than lately, for a year or so, almost all nonfiction has left me flat.
Death in Florence took me six weeks to finish; a book I used to plow through in a week, I found a tedious slog, with only a few high points, and a mass confusion of people whose names I couldn't keep straight.
The Reconnaissance by Paul Johnson, left me flat. That could because I find Paul Johnson sort of repugnant; but still.
Fortune's Children, about the Vanderbilts, was the last nonfiction I read I even halfway enjoyed, and that was a book I'd read once before, many years ago.
Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever - enjoyed that one immensely. That was back in June.
In January, I read (and gave 5 stars on Goodreads) to Jacob Weisberg's short biography of Ronald Reagan. That was the only nonfiction in eight months I've loved.
There may have been other forgettable works on nonfiction I didn't even bother blogging about or recording on Goodreads, because I started them but then quickly put them down. Samurai Rising is going into the "put down" pot, although it wasn't quickly. I gave this 10 days.
It was a slog. I thought the writing was quite good actually. The audience is children (I saw the cover while walking through a children's section of a library, and thought the cover looked rad). The illustrator, Gareth Hinds, is really well known; he did a kick ass Beowulf graphic novel, among others.
So what happened? Like I whined above, WTF? Why couldn't I get into this, or any other nonfiction since January?
I thought about what it was that gradually turned me off this book. One thing was the aspects of military history. I'm not a fan of the minutiae of battles, and this book seemed to be battle after battle. I like social history mixed with political history; I like history that's people driven as well. This book seemed to be people driven, but for me that started to fall apart - I just couldn't latch on to any of the people in the book.
And, there were so many names. I kept mixing up who was who; I would forget and have to page backwards to figure out which samurai was which.
In the end, I was just sort of bored. Just like Death in Florence. Just like Jay Winik's book about 1944. Just like quite a few other books of nonfiction I've read in the last year or so.
My love affair with nonfiction may be over.