Library Moments: Fiction/Non-Fiction Read-alikes

Amanda Wilk, Public Services Librarian:

Hello, I’m Amanda Wilk from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library. This week Bessie Sullivan, Catherine Coles and I will be discussing some non-fiction read-a-like suggestions for fictional titles.

Many readers purposely steer clear of non-fiction titles when searching for their next read, but there are countless wonderful non-fiction books that offer reading experiences which are just as engrossing as fictional titles that cover topics that will appeal to any reader.

The Winter PalaceFor example, if you like reading historical fiction like Eva Stachniak’s The Winter Palace, a story which offers readers a reimagining of the early years of Catherine the Great, one of Russia’s most famous rulers; you might also enjoy Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. An enthralling read, filled with intimate details of the empress’s life—Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman offers readers a glimpse into the life of one of history’s most well-remembered female rulers.

Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian:

A work of non-fiction that has gotten some attention lately including being shortlisted for the Evergreen Award for 2013 is Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill.Eating Dirt  Upon discovering the subject matter, tree planting, it’s hard to imagine that 200 plus pages could be so captivating.   In this distinctly Canadian work, the writer not only takes us through the discomfort and gratification of tree planting but also the history of the logging industry in Canada and how forests came to be in the first place.  If the stark life of a tree planter is of interest to you, The Nettle Spinner by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer features Alma a tree planter who graphically describes the cold, the heat, the bugs, and the back breaking work that is involved in reforestation.  Like Eating Dirt this novel also examines all the quirky characters that come together to make up a tree planting crew, and how seemingly unsuited people can come together out of necessity and form a family of sorts.

Catherine Coles, Branch Services Librarian:

Above All ThingsOne book that has been getting a lot of buzz lately is Above All Things by Tanis Rideout, a novel about explorer George Mallory’s ill-fated 1924 attempt to summit Mount Everest. A book that has also been getting a lot of buzz is its non-fiction equivalent, Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis. Both of these books offer new perspectives of the Everest expeditions and interestingly enough, are both written by Canadian authors.


If you’re looking a non-fiction title that deals with difficult subject matter similar to Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, a story about Lia, a girl who becomes anorexic in order to take control over her life; you might also enjoy Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi. Unbearable Lightness chronicles de Rossi’s struggle and ultimate triumph against anorexia, a disease which nearly cost her her life.


The FellowshipLoving Frank by Nancy Horan is about Mamah Chaney a woman involved with Frank Lloyd Wright from 1907- 1914.  Mamah is a highly educated translator who is torn between two worlds, one as a wife and mother; and the other as lover and professional.  The novel mixes fact and fiction and gives an inkling of what life was like for people intimately involved with Wright.  If you are left with the feeling that you have only scratched the surface of the genius and madness that is Frank Llyod Wright, The Fellowship: The untold story of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship by Roger Friedland and Harold Zellman goes into over 600 pages of intricate detail of many key people in his life including Mamah Chaney.


Richard Wagamese’s acclaimed 2012 novel Indian Horse tells the fictional story of Saul Indian Horse, an aboriginal man who grew up struggling to overcome the poverty and racism that surrounded him in 1960s Northern Canada. If you are interested in reading about other perspective of growing up native in mid-century Canada, try James Bartleman’s memoir Raisin Wine: a Boyhood in a Different Muskoka which is, as the title suggests, set in our neighbouring Muskoka. Several aspects Bartleman’s life, in particular, the poverty and racism he faced as a young boy, mirror that of Saul Indian Horse.


As always, if you’d like to request a copy of any of the books heard on today’s show, you can stop by any of Haliburton County Public Library’s eight branches, or visit us online at, Thanks for listening to Library Moments, here on 100.9 Canoe FM.

* Originally Aired on Canoe FM from February 6th-February 13th, 2013


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