A Case for Non-Fiction Books

Or, Maybe Just Books in General

I have yet another confession.

I haven’t voluntarily read a single fiction book since book since June. Awful, right? I think this was mostly a recoil from the excessive amount of books I read preparing for the AP Lit exam, and the ten or so Shakespeare plays I read in that class I wasn’t even getting credit for.

I have, however, read quite a few nonfiction books. By my guess, at least ten.

To be completely honest, I surprised myself here. Up until recently, I had always disliked non-fiction–I think this has something about how I was taught as a young child to read these books. I remember having some type of a lesson on “how to read non-fiction books” and it was really awful. The examples were all very scientific and boring and it was just bad.

This introduction, in addition to classics being championed as the epitome of language and being the only thing that students should read. Okay the part about being the only thing students should read is untrue–common core does put an emphasis on “informational” (non-fiction) texts at higher grades. BUT, I think the use of the word informational is important as well.

Non-fiction texts aren’t completely informational. Yes, they have information in them. I suppose even biographical or autobiographical works are “informational.” In my mind this label could also be applied to fiction. It’s still informing–just informing the reader of a fiction world rathe than the real one.

I can summarize this problem by saying that non-fiction texts aren’t necessarily a list of facts. Some of the very best non-fiction works I’ve read have told a story. And from said story, I have been able to pull out and apply information that was interesting and resonated with me. It’s the same as the concept of learning timeless values an character traits from classic literature.

I found another interesting problem while reading articles about whether people actually don’t read non-fiction much. I assumed my prior stance on it was not unique. A writer claimed that as people are encouraged to go into STEM and Entrepreneurial fields, they read less. And I agree with this. The romanticized view is a scientist or entrepreneur hunched over a desk for literally a thousand hours working on some crazy project that’ll be the next great discovery or make him rich.

From listening and reading, I have concluded that it doesn’t usually work like that. I’ve listened to quite a few interviews with and about very successful people and there are very few constants–one of which is reading a lot.

I would actually venture to say that the romanticized view and assumption that these people don’t have the time is the exact opposite of how it should be. In my mind, this is similar who “don’t have time to exercise.” It’s an oxymoron. Doing these things will make more time in the long run–be it learning from other people’s mistakes or just the accumulation of knowledge that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

My journey with non-fiction started with The Inner Game of Music about ten months ago. The voice 1 / voice 2 concept has been following me ever since. I don’t think I would have learned this much (while still enjoying it) from fiction, or from reading nothing at all.

One thought on “A Case for Non-Fiction Books

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