For the past year or so, I’ve been making much more of an effort to read nonfiction books. I’m a big mood reader, and I tend to gravitate toward fiction (which I’m sure some of you can relate to). Last year, I set myself the goal of reading one nonfiction book a month, and it was very successful. Not only did I read more nonfiction than I probably would without a goal to motivate me, I also started paying more attention to nonfiction, and will occasionally seek it out without having to give it much thought. So far this month/year, about half of the books I’ve read have been nonfiction, and I am so happy about that.
For me, reading is more than just entertainment. It is the best way to educate myself, and I strive to continuously do so. I just finished grad school, and I don’t want that to mean I stop learning. I also love reading because it allows me to explore an infinite number of subjects. Want to find out what it was like for Carrie Fisher to make the first Star Wars? I did that. I also know the details of Charles Manson’s crimes, what Gamergate is and why it’s important to feminism, what role immigrants played in the development of the United States, (approximately) what it’s like to experience life with autism, the motives of Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth, and how animals are treated and processed to become our food. I know all these things from reading books. And I think my life is definitively better for it.
Nonfiction has enhanced my life in many different and unexpected ways. For example, had I not read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, I never would have become vegetarian. Had I not become a vegetarian, I would never have realized the toll eating animal products was taking on my body and might still suffer from chronic migraines. (I don’t want to go on a tangent, but it’s seriously ridiculous how much better I feel since I stopped eating meat.) Reading Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road made me look at feminism in a different way, and made me seek out more feminist books which in turn gave me confidence and courage. And JFK’s A Nation of Immigrants shed new light on exactly what immigration means for the United States today, and got me to think more critically about politics.
Reading nonfiction has become almost an addiction or an obsession. I now hoard books on American history and North Korea and cancer and public figures from Shakespeare to Vladimir Putin. I genuinely want to learn about these things. And the more I read, the more I want to learn.
When I think of nonfiction, my first instinct is still to think “ugh, boring.” Which I’m sure many of you can relate to. An 800-page biography can’t be more fun to read than a 300-page fantasy novel, right? Actually, yeah. That’s probably true. At least, it is from my experience. History books are less fun to read – and this is coming from a former history major. But that’s not really the point. Reading nonfiction does not typically allow for escapism, which is one of the main reasons I turn to fiction. It is a different experience, and one that does take some adjustment. You can’t approach fiction and nonfiction the same way, and I think that’s a common problem.
The beauty of nonfiction is that is a very broad category (perhaps even more so than fiction). You can explore pretty much any subject you can think of, so chances are high you’ll find something you like. You don’t need to read books about history or politics. Learn about your own heritage or a celebrity you admire (I recently read a few celebrity memoirs and absolutely loved them). There are infinite possibilities, but I feel like people don’t explore them enough. And that’s something that needs to change.
I hope you will consider reading more nonfiction if that’s not something you’re already working on. I’ve found that one book a month is an extremely manageable goal for me, but that’s still a small percent of what I read in a year. Think about a goal you can set for yourself, and find a few books that interest you (feel free to ask for suggestions if you need them).
And since this is a discussion post, I want to hear from you: Do you read nonfiction? Do you have a nonfiction reading goal for yourself? If so, what is it? What is your favorite type of nonfiction to read (i.e. true crime, biography, memoir, history, etc.)? And, most importantly, how has reading nonfiction benefited you?
Additional Reading: The 7 Nonfiction Books That Influenced Me Most in 2016