Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I love Nonfiction

For over 10 years I have kept lists of everything I've read. I started for work, because I have a bad memory and I needed to constantly remember books (for comparison purposes) that I'd read a while back, and I was wasting a huge amount of time trying to recall them. So I started keeping a list. It was just handwritten in the front of my planner. But after 10 years, it got a little unwieldy. Then, I discovered Goodreads. I was able to add in all by books, even racking my brain to come up with as many pre-list titles as possible.

So, a few years ago when my boss accused me of reading only nonfiction, I could go to Goodreads to prove him wrong! While he was wrong of course, he was more right than I expected. I had read 2/3 nonfiction that year. When he brought that to my attention, I did make an effort the last 2 years to read more fiction. And last year I split almost 50/50. In the first part of this year I read nearly all fiction. Lately, I've completely switched to nonfiction.

It's interesting that in the book blog world, fiction rules. If you go into a bookstore, nonfiction outnumbers fiction by nearly 3-1. And in publishing, nonfiction rules because it's much easier to promote (and hence to sell). But in my own tours of the book blog world, I'd say the numbers are reversed. At first I was felling a little guilty for my nonfiction splurge lately, but then I thought that for diversity of opinion, and for the widest range of book reviews, it's probably good that I review more nonfiction.

Now why do I like nonfiction so much more? I like the range of topics. In the last couple of months I've read science, biography and business books. My memoirs have ranged from a young girl growing up in Iran, to a 44-year-old woman with a traumatic pregnancy. The stories have such large range. And it's true that fiction can also range widely, but I think for me personally, it's the honesty of the memoirs. You often hear the phrase that truth is stranger than fiction, and in a way that's true. Fiction often can't be as strange because most people just won't believe it. But with nonfiction, the belief is a given. Now, with memoirs there's always an element of creative writing. No one can remember everything 100% accurately, not to mention generally life doesn't follow a convenient narrative arc so things need to be shifted around a bit for the sake of narrative flow. (Now, there's a limit and a few years about James Frey was kind enough to point out exactly where that limit is.) Memoirs in particular attract me. Schadenfreude is one of my favorite things. When life gets tough, it's nice to know what other people have been through and survived. I also love random facts, and the non-memoir nonfiction books tend to have a ton of those.

I will get back to fiction, but for now nonfiction is my comfort reading, so that's what I'm sticking to! Hope you'll stick with me. For the mostly-fiction readers out there, try memoirs. They usually read just like a first-person novel.


Kate said...

Good morning! There's an award for you over at Kate's Library!

Kathleen said...

Yay for nonfiction! Don't try to read more fiction than you normally would just because everyone else is. Us nonfiction readers may be few and far between in the book blog world but that just means we have less competition.

I think the problem is most readers of book blogs are also fiction readers. We need to attract the nonfiction readers to reading book blogs!

B said...

This is a great post. I've got to agree with you that memoirs really do read like fiction most of the time.

Jamie said...

I'm a big fan of non-fiction as well! I love reading about random things and finding new interests!

Rebecca Chapman said...

Its important to just read what you love!

I hadn't ever thought of this non-fiction v fiction issue in the blogging world, but you are right. I hardly ever read any non-fiction so there is definitely no blogging about it.

I love reading your reviews though. The non-fiction books you read and so interesting!

christa @ mental foodie said...

Hear hear!

Last couple of years, I read approx 75% non-fiction (about 100/yr). So far this year (about 55 books), it's been 75% fiction instead! This is also my first year blogging, and I think it definitely affects my choice to read more fiction (I was hoping 50/50 this year) when I keep seeing other fiction books on other blogs being recommended!

After reading the library pile I still have (MAJORITY of them are fiction), I'd like to go back to some non-fiction too. So I'll definitely still be reading your blog to see what you'll recommend!

Absolutely agree that memoirs are a great introduction to non-fiction. That's how I got hooked (since I used to read 99% fiction).

Booksnyc said...

I read a lot of non-fiction (not sure how it splits between fic/non-fic - will have to check that out).

You have some great non-fiction choices there- I will have to add to my TBR!

Unknown said...

This post really got me thinking about my own reading habits. I worked in a book store for 2 glorious years and read non-fiction almost exclusively - first, because no one else was, and then later because I just got hooked. Now that I've gotten so into YA, I read almost all fiction. I think I need to diversify a little more... Thanks for giving me something to think about this morning!

Carin Siegfried said...

Thanks everyone for your support! I worry sometimes that reading more NF makes my blog less relevant in a world of Fiction readers, but other times I think I'm shining a spotlight on a corner of the book world that's otherwise perhaps a bit neglected in this arena.

One funny thing I noticed: my bookcases at home are 90-95% filled with fiction. I also noticed this at a friend's house and accused her of being solely a fiction reader and she said no way - just that NF doesn't tend to sit around unread in her house for long. And of course that's the case with me too.