Nonfiction November 2022 Week 3: Stranger Than Fiction

Welcome to Week 3 of Nonfiction November hosted by Christopher @ Plucked From The Stacks. The topic this week is Stranger Than Fiction:

“This week we’re focusing on all the great nonfiction books that *almost* don’t seem real. A sports biography involving overcoming massive obstacles, a profile on a bizarre scam, a look into the natural wonders in our world—basically, if it makes your jaw drop, you can highlight it for this week’s topic.”

I’ve read two books this year that definitely meet the bar for stranger than fiction.

For sheer strangeness in the natural environment, I have to give the nod to Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life. It’s about the bizarre world of fungi. 

Sheldrake examines fungi from slime mold to magic mushrooms. Then he looks at the role they play in the environment including how tiny fungal filaments connect trees together in the forest, and how fungi aid in the decomposition of those same trees when they die. Finally he investigates the role fungi play in our lives, helping our guts digest food, and our minds get drunk or high. They’ve even had a role in shaping religion.

Each of these three topics could be a book or more in itself, and that points to one of the main problems with Entangled Life: I think Sheldrake tries to cover too much here.

But the overriding theme of the book is the sheer alienness of fungi. Even though they’re everywhere around us and inside us, they’re so very different from us and the other plants and animals we’re familiar with. Their ways of living and reproducing challenge our notions about the boundaries between individuals and communities and even between one species and another.

Now if you want to see bizarre and strange in the human world, look no further than Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Nothing is True and Everything Is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev documents his experiences living and working as a TV producer in Russia from 2001 to 2010.

Running through every incident in the book is an oppressive, universal, inescapable corruption. Every official is on the take. Everyone pays bribes. They’re all complicit and tarnished and maybe a little bit ashamed.

Government propaganda is so pervasive that everything has become reality TV. No one believes anything because nothing is true.

You don’t have to look far to see how Russian corruption has metastasized to the West. From Trump’s alternative facts and brazen disregard for the norms of ethical behavior, to massive disinformation campaigns.

Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is a head-spinning deep dive into the terrifying world Putin has created inside Russia, and what he and his imitators are trying to foist on the rest of us.

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7 Responses to Nonfiction November 2022 Week 3: Stranger Than Fiction

  1. A book about fungi might not be for everyone, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I love. Thanks for putting it on my radar!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Entangled Life has been a popular rec, I’m fascinated by Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, especially since it was published pre-Trump. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Liz Dexter says:

    Oh the fungi! I read one short fungi book which had all that entangled filaments stuff in it and that was enough for me. It’s great, obviously, but it also gives me the horrors a bit! Good work finding two very strange books for this Week!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Nonfiction November: New to My TBR | book'd out

  5. Pingback: Nonfiction November 2022: New to My TBR – Plucked from the Stacks

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