some non-fiction for the crowd

I’ve made it through a couple non-fiction books lately:

A Year of Living Generously: Dispatches from the front lines of philanthropy by Lawrence Scanlan, and The Legacy: An elder’s vision for our sustainable future by David Suzuki.

Non-fiction isn’t generally my thing. Sure, it’s interesting, but I’ll admit — as much as I want to, I still haven’t made it through Guns, Germs, and Steel. But every so often I get sucked into something that looks interesting. I had a few friends that volunteered with Canadian Crossroads International, one of the organizations that Scanlan volunteers with, so when I read about the book in D&M’s catalogue I was interested. Scanlan takes a year off from his job and volunteers for 12 different organizations over the course of the year, one for each month (roughly). The most important thing I learned in reading this was that I don’t think of volunteering with NGOs as synonymous with human-centred organizations; I think of it as environmentally centred ones. Interesting, no? Ok, maybe not. But I will admit I was slightly dismayed to learn halfway through the book that 11 of the 12 organizations that Scanlan volunteers for are about helping humans. I’m a bit of a curmudgeon about humans. My experience has been that most of them are meanies. I’d rather help the environment. But I digress. The book itself was ok. Scanlan’s a good writer, no doubt, but I didn’t feel particularly inspired by anything he learned from his time. Props to the man for doing this, though. I remember being much more motivated by Naomi Klein‘s Fences and Windows and John Stackhouse’s Out of Poverty and into Something more Comfortable, but I read those 8 years ago while volunteering in India with CIDA so… it’s possible I’ve changed since I was 23. Possible.

I read Legacy on my e-book reader, and realized part way through that I’m pretty sure it’s just a written version of a talk that I saw him give. Who doesn’t love David Suzuki? I’ve read a few of his other books (Good News for a Change) and found them very … non-fiction.

I’m also reading The Orange Trees of Baghdad: In search of my lost family by Leilah Nadir, albeit at an incredibly slow pace. It’s well written and compelling but not exactly uplifting, if you know what I mean, so I have stopped reading it before bed (my usual reading time). Perhaps if I move it off my bedside table and onto the coffee table, I’ll have more success getting through it.

Other good non-fiction I’ve read semi-recently: The Perfection of the Morning by Sharon Butala. This was one of the books I got for free (!!) when I did the Book Editing Immersion Workshop at Simon Fraser University in summer 2009.