Why do you prefer reading Non-Fiction?
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I like non-fiction because I like to learn, and to expand my mind without the use of hallucinogens.
That said, I do read fiction as well, I just generally prefer to stick to the classics. Even then, I try to complement my reading with some non-fiction so I understand what was actually happening.
Fiction allows me to let my imagination fly; non-fiction grounds me and allows me to learn new things (not that you cannot learn from good fiction).
I find I learn as much from fiction as from non-fiction, and that both can be equally entertaining.
I am a member of a non-fiction book club, and a second book club that reads mostly non-fiction.
Good nonfiction allows you to learn about social interaction, psychology, history, etc. in a way which fiction cannot convey as well.Robert
You're completely right. It is equally true. All I wanted to say is that I don't think fiction to be as unneccessary as some non-fiction-fans believe it to be.
Fiction allows me to let my imagination fly; non-fiction grounds me and allows me to learn new things (not that you cannot learn from good fiction).
I'm much more likely to keep non-fiction books after I read them, so I can refer back to them; I rarely feel the need to hang onto a fiction book for long after reading, unless it has made an unusually significant impression on me.
What I need today though is a good book on vcr faults. I got a copy of Shakespeare in love to watch for my literature theory class and my player has stopped working. Past experience with librarians on this matter doesn't leave me hopeful.
I have read 1 and a bit non-fiction books this month; one was for an online book cluib, and the other was selected for me by the Go Review that Book! group.
Now I'm on a mind candy mystery binge.
I'd always rather know about the real world than any fictional one. It goes beyond me that people become obsessed with the geography and language of Tolkein's Middle Earth but seem to have no interest in our own geography or history!
Source: via MargaretAtwood, LitChat on Twitter.
science fiction for the sol
Image: “The eclipse from space. Bonus: Milky Way.”
via dweinberger, kdawson on Twitter.
[me: “a normal floating point between zero & one”]
* added link to “Elon Musk During Liftoff” from SpaceX
via NewtonMark on Twitter
Not that all fiction is a waste of time--some is very good and sometimes I want a light read simply for entertainment. But there are so many fascinating things I could be reading about that I don't often pick up a made-up story when I could have a true one.
I'll add, though, that when I do read fiction I prefer it to be somewhat realistic/plausible. For example, I love Arthur Hailey's books, because he obviously did the research to support his stories (I have enough personal knowledge of a couple of the fields he's covered to recognize this). Charles Dickens may have contrived characters, but his stories were at least plausible. On the opposite side of things, too many authors just are completely unbelievable. (Futuristic fiction, naturally, gets a pass, since none of us knows what the future will bring.)
Truth empowers non-fiction.
I couldn't agree with you more about how reading certain books with the Internet at hand can make them more fascinating.
This first happened for me when I was re-reading The Children of Pride a few years ago (originally published in '72, and at that time marketed as "a Gone With the Wind saga"--but it's not that at all). It's a collection of letters among a religious family in South Carolina before, during, and after the Civil War, headed by a Rev. Jones.
I had enjoyed it about 35 years ago, but all these years later, I decided to check into some things. For example, to see via Google Maps what the sea islands off S.C. (where one of their plantations was) actually look like, to check out the church where the Rev. preached--and found a recent photo of it--tiny, but still standing although almost invisible within the forest trees now growing around it.
Another thing, I found the publication of the Rev. Jones's son's thesis published at Princeton on his theory about the archeological findings of ancient American Indian artifacts in mounds near his home--although his theory was wrong.
And best of all, I was utterly charmed by an expression they used often, especially in prayers: "no more forever," which I had never heard before. After a long and unsophisticated search on the Internet, I had found "no more forever" in a sermon of an Irish preacher in the early years of Protestantism. Also, it turned out that "no more forever" is famously attributed to Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce as his concession that his people would fight "no more forever" against Americans (although I noticed a recent disclaimer that this is not actually true...)
Anyway, I find fascinating things still, using the Internet with my reading--although I don't actually bother with most books. But you comment brought back delightful memories.
No glare with a non-backlit e-reader.
Now, why do I like to read non-fiction? It's areas I'm interested in although many writers in my areas are more just fact collectors so they get browsed very quickly.
Some are way too flowery(is that a word) and embellish the subject way too much. The classic example of that is Lucius Beebe, in my humble opinion. I'm sure a lot of us would love to have been on some of his trips but the writing does get a bit over the top!
Bill Middleton could tell a story, create the right sequence of events, show the relationships and cover topics I like as well as write a great paragraph! It doesn't hurt that he was a good photographer as well.
I'm with you 100%. I've been known to leave yellowed, crumbling pages (from old disintegrating books) in airport wastebaskets, wherever I roam. In the Marketing world they'd call us not early adopters, but laggards.
By the way, in addition to CD I've (get this) cassette player in my car. I troll the local libraries looking for gems on cassette before they are tossed in the garbage. I'm like some naturalist looking for an endangered species...
I'm now in the process of converting cassettes and reel to reel audio to digital for my museum so we don't lose the material!
Anyway. . . off to an auction to get more 'old stuff' related to where I live from the estate of the person who got me hooked on the paper books that have that wonderful smell and I don't mean mildew! We can continue this on email if you like!
I can't figure out why someone would consider, say, Crime and Punishment, one of their favorite novels. What emotions are evoked in you that would lead you to admire such a depressing novel? Do you consider faux-depression giving you faux-depression a mark of wisdom or profundity? Or horror books or the books about serial killers. Are you really that interested in what serial killers think and what grisly things they do? If so, why not watch a documentary about the real thing? Why you would want to do so is another matter…
Am I the only one who thinks there is something very wrong with Stephen King? Where does he get this stuff, and why would I want it inside my head?
Many years ago in graduate school a professor told me that as I grew older I would lose interest in fiction. We all do, he said, and some English professors even left the profession because of it. Whatever compelled them to read fiction in the first place no longer existed. I wondered if that was because the complexity of real life would eventually overtake the oversimplification of make-believe life as reflected in literature, fiction, even poetry. Whatever compels people, and I include myself, to read fiction could simply be a function of being chronologically, experientially, or emotionally immature.
I've mostly seen the opposite, at least in the older women I know. They read lots of non-fiction up through their 30s and then gradually switch almost entirely to fiction after that.
With fiction it's not all unrealistic or unbalanced though. There's plenty of fiction that does accurately represent everyday life and emotions and normal human events. I think it's more that there's SO much that it's harder to sift through and find the truly excellent novels. A good, realistic novel is not an escape at all, and even the most fantastical stories are still full of human emotion that can be very affecting. I'm personally more affected by true stories about real people, and don't understand the strong attachments people my age feel toward fictional characters, but they certainly don't escape from thought or feeling when reading.
Everything I've read says that novels were initially (mostly) viewed as very low-class things, which is why the ones that have lasted remained so moralistic for so long, to show that novels could be improving and were appropriate for all classes. Before novels were popular though, it's not like most people were reading histories or science texts instead, the focus was on poetry and the Bible.
mabith, I'm over sixty and my interest in non-fiction has only increased with age. In fact, I had a long discussion on this growing interest with my best friend (since we were eight years old) just a week ago. (Although I also like literary novels.)
Almost everything I read in non-fiction wasn't known about or researched in detail when we were in school, whether biographies, history, science. Fascinating stuff.
I've read some histories of World War One, but I've never read one that I thought presented the realities of life in the trenches better than All Quiet on the Western Front.
This is a "to each his/her own" question, surely, but I'm seeing a lot of generalizations here that don't jive with my own experience. I also love Crime and Punishment, which I've read twice. I enjoyed it better the second time because I was much older (around 50) and could recognize much more clearly how well it was depicting human nature. Plus, even in translation, the writing, sentence-by-sentence and paragraph-by-paragraph, was terrific. Depressing? Maybe, but so are a lot of the histories I read.
That's funny, I'm pretty much the opposite. Most of the little fiction I read is fantasy. If I'm going to read something made up, I want it to be totally made up, dragons and beasts and crazy worlds.
That looks like a transformation of “the devil is in the details”.
I have tried a couple biographies but only found them self congratulatory.
Less factual and more insight into behaviors/motivations is what I like and fiction provides this. Too much non fiction reminds me of textbooks and I was happy to be done with that boredom. Tell me a story!
>56 LynnB:, 57 I actually prefer my fiction to be totally unlike real life. Fantasy and sci-fi are my favourites although I do read some novels. Reading realistic fiction just makes me think there must be some true stories out there that I could be reading instead, whereas unrealistic fiction is a complete escape.
At the moment I'm reading everything you ever wanted to know about classical music and bad pharma as well as wool (fiction).
71, that's exactly me too. The method is simple, but it IS a chore collecting that stack of ? number of books! I prize my skepticism and I came by it honestly. It's the result of embarrassment at being too wide-eyed when I was younger and accepting too much on someone else's self-assured authority, which can be sometimes be fatal, but more often results in a diminution of experience, because we are less likely to find out for ourselves how crazy the world really is.
. . . after I left in 1964, I wrote a non fiction book,The Making of a Quagmire. That was, as they say, a lot of words on Vietnam. But even so there was a part of me which wantd to tell something more, what, for lack of a better description, the war felt like on a given day. I wanted to portray the frustrations, and the emptiness, of this war. It was after all a smaller and, I think, less tidy war than Americans were accustomed to, and almost nothing that happened in it fit the preconceptions of Westerners. So, starting in 1966, I sat down and wrote One Very Hot Day.
I immediately thought of this thread when I read those words from Halberstam.
“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” -Albert Camus
"It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense." -Mark Twain
I think we always need both.
There are some books that don't fit cleanly into either category.
I also spent hours upon hours literally closeted with news periodicals while in high school. The magazines were stacked in the walk-in linen closet at the top of the stairs. My social studies teacher insisted we soak in history as it was being made. As a freshman, we were immersed in the details of the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia.
A recent example to this is Kevin D. McCann’s outstanding biography of Adam Huntsman (The Peg Leg Politician). I didn’t know a lot about this 19th century Tennessean, but the book sort of beamed me into his pre-Civil War world. Non-fiction like this is not just interesting and instructive. In this case it brought a long gone world to life. That’s what I’m after in reading non-fiction.
As to a fiction / non-fiction comparison, I think you can’t really compare the two categories in terms of value. They’re just different. I enjoy both when they’re good.
I find a special pleasure in reading old non-fiction books.
Although their information content is dated, the books give insights in the minds and attitudes of past generations.
Eventually, though, I realized that the reason I thought I hated reading was because I was forced to read things I didn't like all my life. All those things you have to read in elementary, middle and high school like To Kill A Mockingbird or Shakespeare are things I was totally uninterested in, which led me to believe that all reading material sucked.
Then when I was in college, I bought some UFO books that the school library was selling. I know, UFOs kinda toe the line between fantasy and reality depending on your beliefs, but for me, they are non-fiction. I found a used book store near my dorm, and then I discovered Amazon, and I began to read more than ever before. But the most important thing was, for the first time in my life, I was enjoying reading. I didn't think I'd ever enjoy reading and I actually thought there was something very wrong with me because I was the only person I knew who hated to read.
Nope, nothing wrong. I just don't particularly care for fiction. Now, I have an overflowing bookshelf that's covered in mostly non-fiction titles: cookbooks, true crime, disease, ghosts, UFOs, anything else paranormal. But I also have a sprinkling of fiction, especially once I got into comic books more. So I've also got art books, graphic novels and the occasional manga in there too.
I also simply like to learn, and while I agree that there are things to be learned in fiction, I like straight-up facts rather than facts mixed in with made-up information. Not saying fiction is bad - it's just not my reading preference.
My points: 1) Fiction can inspire learning; 2) Blurry lines between fact and fiction are both inspiring and annoying!
The real world is stunningly complex, diverse, and fast-paced. Just trying to keep up with world news - and actually understand what's going on rather than swallow whatever hook and line the headlines feed you - is a whirlwind of an adventure. And it's all related, the plot twists back onto itself a million times and more. Good non-fiction books tap into that vortex of intrigue that we call reality. Novels, on the other hand, just feel hollow, a dutiful waste of time before plunging back into the real adventure...
The only novels I've successfully read cover-to-cover in the last 15 years are a few classics. I genuinely enjoyed Things Fall Apart, but that's for the insight into African culture that it offers along with giving me a data point to understand the (real life) progression of African literary creativity that followed in its wake.
That's the point sometimes though - the whole point of fiction is to escape the news and what is really happening in the world. It comes down to why you are reading usually.
Interesting. For me, fiction does this better than most non-fiction. But it's to each his/her own, certainly.