Engaging Nonfiction is Possible!

Native Seattle by Coll Thrush is a great example of an engaging, informative, and thought-provoking book. He skillfully brings readers to the conclusion that “Seattle’s indigenous and urban landscapes were often closer together than they seemed.” (101) Many have bought into the impression that “there was very little room for indigenous people” in Seattle after the white settlers arrived, but Thrush’s narrative shows the many ways that natives stayed connected to Seattle in years to come. (93) Thrush’s writing is a pleasure to read, and is chock-full of specific details about Seattle’s early days.

Comparing Thrush’s Native Seattle and Kyvig and Marty’s Nearby History highlighted a few technical flaws in the latter. Thrush uses a short sentence structure that is easy to read. In contrast, Kyvig and Marty’s sentences often last the length of a paragraph. This disconnects the reader, resulting in material that is skimmed instead of studied. Kyvig and Marty also stuck photos in one big blob, and didn’t even label which photo was of which city. I also noticed that they included a page and a half excerpt from some other book, and didn’t really explain why it was there. I suppose it was to demonstrate the “micro-histories” they were referring to earlier, although I thought the excerpt was poorly written and did not benefit my understanding of the subject at hand. (10) It seemed mostly unnecessary to me. To make matters worse, the photos and excerpt were inserted in seemingly random locations. Sentences were actually split in half by these extras, which disrupted the flow of the book.

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An example of a sentence that disengages the reader from Kyvig and Marty.

Examining the content of Kyvig and Marty’s Nearby History left me wanting a more detailed, modern take on local history. I thought there were some interesting topics discussed, but all-together found the information a bit dated. A specific area that was greatly lacking was the description of the internet as a resource for historical research. The value of the internet seems to be underplayed in this book because the authors are either too lazy or too old-school to explain it. They claim that “a variety of other research methods may be more appropriate and less difficult to master.” (12) This may be true in some cases, but the reality is that the majority of modern research at least begins with the internet. A great improvement could be made to this book by exploring the internet as tool more thoroughly.

Reading a variety of nonfiction books has made me extremely aware of the value of presenting your research from a specific angle. A great example of this is the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture’s Waterlines webpage that “examines the history of Seattle through a focus on its shorelines.” Taking a broad area of research and framing it from a certain perspective makes it much more engaging for the reader. As previously discussed, another excellent example of using a specific angle to tell a narrative is Thrush’s Native Seattle.

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One comment

  1. lachku0130 · April 19

    I really liked your comparisons of the two books from this week’s readings. I too thought that what we read from “Nearby History” was lacking and made me want more. However, I took that as an intentional action. They gave us bits and pieces of what is, hopefully, to come. We only read the first chapter, so I guess we will see how the rest goes! Thrush is certainly a pro, he seems to know what he is doing and how to engage the reader, so I definitely agree with you there.
    -Lauren K.
    P.S. I finally got a comment on your post!!

    Like

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