So I am not the biggest fan of nonfiction. I can’t say I outright hate it, but I definitely don’t go out of my way to read it. I’m too likely to grow bored and fall asleep, and I just can’t have that during my reading time. Thankfully, there are such things as Audio Books, and, as someone who listens to podcasts, I felt like this would make nonfiction so much easier to get through. So this Friday, I’ll be listing a few audiobooks that I’ve listened to.
I got into audiobooks over a year ago, when I started a book club with some friends from work and my now husband. One of the books was apparently cheaper as an audiobook, so I found myself in an Audible subscription. That first stint with audiobooks was terribly unsuccessful, mostly because I just wasn’t here for anything going on in that book, but I still decided to keep up with Audible.
Then, last year I decided to make use of all of the credits I wasn’t using, and download some books that I wouldn’t mind listening to. So here I am: five books in, and ready to talk about them.
1. Anne de Courcy’s The Husband Hunters
The Husband Hunters is about a major trend that took place in the late 19th to early 20th century where rich American girls were married off to poor British nobility in order to gain titles that would raise their social standing with the elite New York families. Anne de Courcy might not have been the first person to write about this period of history, but she highlights about five or so ladies whose stories were relatively typical for that situation.
I can’t remember what got me to become interested in that subject, or rather, I can’t remember what first piqued my interest in it. Because rich American girls marrying British nobility is right up my romance alley. However, I really liked how Anne de Courcy presented the information. It’s wildly fascinating to consider how many famed American families got involved in the practice, and how the current British royal family essentially benefited from it as well.
To be sure, there is barely any romance in this book, as most of the girls did not end up in happy marriages. But, no one can be surprised at this when many of them were only married off to pay their husband’s family’s debts and increase their mothers’ social standings back in the US.
2. Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns
The Warmth of Other Suns is the story of the Great Migration of America’s African American population from the south from 1915 to about 1970. Isabel Wilkerson interviewed hundreds for this book, but, for the most part, she only follows about 3 characters who had all made the trip in three separate decades for different reasons.
Robert Pershing Foster, the doctor that left Louisiana for Los Angeles, probably had the most fascinating story to me. His story covered the southern black elite angle that we weren’t going to get from George Swanson Starling or Ida Mae Brandon Gladney. His attention seeking tactics were flamboyant, and his personal life was almost a study in prioritizing the wrong things. I was absolutely enthralled.
This story is not a new one for me, as I know quite a few people whose families were a part of the Great Migration, and even more whose families migrated right back to the South in recent years. While we may not get the story of the current migration for another decade or so, I think having the opportunity to read about the first one is not something that anyone who cares to learn about American history should ever pass up.
3. Shomari Wills’ Black Fortunes
Black Fortunes tells the story of the first six African American millionaires. While it’s not the best book, Shomari Wills actually does a great job of bridging the historical time gap between Anne de Courcy’s Husband Hunters and Isabel Wilkerson’s Great Migration. Wills gives another perspective to notable events in both novels that, at times, you really wouldn’t expect.
The most surprising part of the novel was the Madame CJ Walker/ Annie Malone situation. Never in my life have I ever heard anyone say that Madame CJ Walker copied someone else’s entire formula and business model for her very famous addition to black hair care. Nobody teaches that in schools, and while it is referenced in the Madame CJ Walker biopic, its only partially similar to the story Wills tells.
I’ll be the first to say that Wills’ storytelling is a bit unbelievable. The detail put into Annie Malone’s origin felt like a Tyler Perry production. That being said, I doubt I would have heard about half of these people if I had never bothered to read this book.
4. John C. Maxwell The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth
Now, I haven’t finished these next two books, but I feel like I’m far enough in them to make a few points.
Anytime someone is getting to do an in-depth lecture about leadership, they are inevitably going to bring up John C. Maxwell. This gentleman has literally written several books about leadership, and even did a Facebook seminar on Leadership in Crisis a few weeks ago.
The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth are about growing intentionally to reach your full potential. In true John C. Maxwell style, it’s full of anecdotes and other quotes to better explain each rule, and really make you think about the kind of growing that you need to do.
The problem with this audiobook is that you would essentially need the workbook as well in order to really get the best of the experience. Audiobooks – in my opinion – are not a tool for focused study. From what I’ve seen, most John C. Maxwell books come with a particular amount of engagement that you cannot get with the audiobook alone. Still, it was a very motivating listen.
5. Claudia Renton’s The Wild Wyndhams
The Wild Wyndhams is about a British peerage family from the late 1800s that basically ran the social scene. The book is particularly about the sisters, Mary, Madeline, and Pamela Wyndham, and the social group that they all belonged to, The Souls.
The Wild Wyndhams has what is probably the most direct connection to The Husband Hunters, as it is essentially from the same time period. It also shares the story of George Curzon who was noted in The Husband Hunters for his marriage to Mary Leiter, but is a character in his own right in The Wild Wyndhams.
I have so far enjoyed this book because of the intimate insight it has on each particular character. I’m not sure how Claudia Renton is getting her hands on the source material, but this is apparently pure fact taken from The Wyndhams’ and their peers’ personal letters and journals.
So why did I choose these books? To be quite honest, I can get into historical non-fiction, but I don’t like falling asleep with my face in a book. Listening to them is so much easier. I chose John C. Maxwell because I understand the need for self-help books, and I think I need to focus on growing and leading in my professional life. I needed something to balance out my pleasure reads, for as much as historical non-fiction can be read for pleasure.
I would recommend all five of these books simply for their insight. Maybe someone could say what John C. Maxwell says in a better way, but I can bet you that they will quote him. Shomari Wills’ Black Fortunes can be a bit bleak when you consider that most of the people whose lives you follow were not able to pass on their wealth, but it’s inspiring because they were able to obtain it in spite of the rampant racism of their time.
Ultimately, all of these audiobooks are worth a good listen.
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