2016/08/08

BOOKISH REFLECTIONS:
WHY, IN MY OLD AGE, I SUDDENLY READ NONFICTION

It has been ages and ages since I've written a Bookish Reflections post, but I thought it was about time. What I want to muse on today is something I have only discovered in the last year or so: nonfiction books.

A couple of years ago I can honestly say I owned maybe one or two nonfiction books, and those particular ones were about Greek Mythology - they were big books with a lot of pictures and not all that much text - both of which I had gotten as gifts. It would have never occurred to me to check out the nonfiction section of a bookstore and every time someone recommended a book to me and told me it was nonfiction, I immediately knew I wouldn't read it.

Why? Because I always associated the reading of nonfiction with school, and therefore something rather boring. I love history but in high school, I fell asleep in my history classes. It was the same with philosophy - I chose the class because it's a topic I'm interested in, but the textbooks were murder and I lost interest.




Then, last year, I saw a TV-show, Miss Fischer's Murder Mysteries, where one of the suspects in the particular episode was an explorer and stood in a room full of artefacts, and I thought: wow, I really should read more about the Age of Exploration, since I've always thought it's a fascinating era. I went over to trusted Goodreads, and on the top of list of books about this subject were a bunch of nonfiction books. And I've always known it's a silly notion to avoid an entire genre of books, bookshelves on bookshelves in the bookstore, countless recommendations just because you've made up your mind that you don't read nonfiction (without ever really having read much of it), so I decided to try some.

The first one I read was Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen. And I loved it. I LOVED it and I felt that feeling of not wanting to put a book down, which is actually quite rare for me. The fact that the book I was reading was based on actual history made it that much better, and after having finished the book, I felt a bit silly - like I had, for so many years, cheated myself out of all this knowledge.



Knowledge is the key word in all of this. Though I also read for entertainment, the acquiring of knowledge has always been a big reason why I read. In fiction, you meet all kinds of people and I think this gives you insight into different feelings, thoughts and lives, without having to experience it yourself. You can take it in, let it simmer and when you go into the world, you're familiar with more than you were before you read about it, even in a fictional sense.

But nonfiction gives you insight into all kinds of things, not just people. I started with reading about history and adventure and the books I started with read a lot like fiction - but they were based in fact. I then started reading about different eras of history, then psychology, religion, science, biographies... and now I feel like a whole new world has been opened to me, just by being a bit more open minded about what kinds of books I decide to pick up. My shelves now have dozens of nonfiction books waiting to be read, and my TBR list on Goodreads is constantly growing with a good mix of fiction and nonfiction.

I do think some of it comes from getting older (although I know, I'm not actually that old) and wanting to understand the world around me. I love fiction and will always love fiction, because it teaches you things as well gives you an escape, but I find I'm also inclined to read more about reality, even if it does take a bit more effort (at least for me). I've always been curious and I'm one of those people you'd think did quite well in school, but I was actually pretty average, because I was always so bored. Since then I've always seen that kind of learning as something dreadfully dull, snooze-worthy, but after having been out of school for a while, I find I'm back to being curious. Well-written nonfiction books are feeding my curiosity, as well as putting some facts into my brain. And I think that's pretty great.



What about you guys? Do you read nonfiction books, if so, why? If not, why not? Of the blogs that I read and the people I talk to, most of them read only fiction, so I'd be interested to hear everyones thoughts about this!

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4 comments

  1. I've tried to read one nonfiction book that's on my TBR list-Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution and I couldn't finish it. I might pick it up again, along with a biography of the Sun King Louis XIV and maybe something about the many wars I like to read about

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    1. I've had some nonfiction books I tried starting that I couldn't finish too. Just like with fiction, some just aren't that appealing :) But when you find one that is, it's great!

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  2. The same happened to me! I was never interested in non-fiction book, they sounded dull and reminded me of encyclopedias but now all these essay-collections seem to pop up and they're catching my interest. I read Lena Dunham's book and The Opposite of Loneliness (which is only half non-fiction) and quite enjoyed it. It's something different from the usual storytelling but not as a dry as a textbook or Wikipedia article :P I also read Reasons To Stay Alive (a book about depression) and absolutely loved it. I'm very curious about this whole "new" genre now, too :)

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    1. That's awesome! It's like a whole new world! (*sings tune to Aladdin*)

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