Why do you prefer reading Non-Fiction?

DiscussãoNon-Fiction Readers

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Why do you prefer reading Non-Fiction?

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1WTNaud
Dez 31, 2011, 2:15pm

I read non-fiction because I enjoy hearing about real people , doing real things in real places. Often times non-fiction truth is more compelling than fiction.

2lilithcat
Editado: Dez 31, 2011, 2:23pm

I wouldn't say that I prefer non-fiction. Whether I'm reading fiction or non-fiction depends on my state of mind, what's going on around me, etc. Sometimes I have both fiction and non-fiction books going at the same time.

I like non-fiction because I like to learn, and to expand my mind without the use of hallucinogens.

3asabel
Dez 31, 2011, 9:16pm

I read non-fiction because the truth really is stranger than fiction.

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.

4AnnieMod
Jan 1, 2012, 3:45am

I don't prefer it... I read both fiction and non-fiction.

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).

5aulsmith
Jan 1, 2012, 9:42am

I'm always reading at least one fiction and one non-fiction book at the same time. I generally read non-fiction to understand something better. Fiction is more an adventure into the unknown.

6LynnB
Editado: Jan 1, 2012, 11:19am

I don't necessarily prefer non-fiction...but I do find I'm reading more of it as I get older. Generally, I read about 120 books a year and about 1/3 of those are non-fiction -- but last year, I was closer to 40%.

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.

7johannes_reiter
Editado: Jan 2, 2012, 3:26pm

I agree with lilithcat (the last sentence!) and AnnieMod. Good fiction allows you to learn about social interaction, psychology, history, etc. in a way which non-fiction cannot convey as well.

8Mr.Durick
Jan 3, 2012, 4:54pm

I think that I read more nonfiction than fiction/ I don't understand why it is not equally true that:
Good nonfiction allows you to learn about social interaction, psychology, history, etc. in a way which fiction cannot convey as well.
Robert

9JimThomson
Jan 3, 2012, 5:27pm

Truth is stranger than Fiction. Also, fiction is primarily about how one feels about things, but I prefer to focus on how the world actually works. Fiction is all about empathy and emotional meaning, purpose and values. I prefer to learn about the infinitely complex nature of reality. This is an outward look rather than an inward look. History tells us more about human nature than psychology. The Past is Prologue.

10mallinje
Jan 3, 2012, 9:07pm

I agree that truth is stranger than fiction. Also, history tends to repeat itself. I think that its interesting that people hundreds of years ago have many of the same problems we do today.

11johannes_reiter
Jan 5, 2012, 7:53am

@ Mr. Durick

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.

12LynnB
Jan 5, 2012, 9:18am

Having just perservered through The Strange Demise of British Canada, I would add that nonfiction can be educational and informative AND written in an engaging style!

13Sandydog1
Jan 5, 2012, 9:32pm

It's easier.

14PennyDreadful4
Jan 11, 2012, 7:19pm

I'm a very curious person and there are a lot of subjects that interest me. Why waste my time with something that isn't real when I could be learning about awesome things that are?

15Sandydog1
Jan 14, 2012, 4:18pm

Well said, Penny!

16SwensonBooks
Jan 17, 2012, 2:36pm

Read both fiction and non-fiction, but find that non-fiction can bring fresh angles and perspective to history, current events, and the ordinary (or not-so-ordinary) life. Fiction can be a gateway into the world, but non-fiction educates us about the world and how it came to be. The best non-fiction offers insight on the ways in which we can improve in the future and enact change.

17barney67
Jan 19, 2012, 1:21pm

I read both fiction and nonfiction, but my library tells me I'm way over on the nonfiction side. I know one thing: as I've gotten older, I've become less interested in made up stories and more interested in how the world works, if such a thing can even be captured in books. Who knows? Maybe eventually I will stop reading altogether.

18MarkAlexander
Jan 22, 2012, 4:04pm

I think real people are usually more interesting, so biographies take the place of fiction in my collection, most of the time. When I do read fiction I like it to either be "pulp" style action adventure or the more interesting, quirky crime fiction. Like The Mentalist, for instance.

19tymfos
Fev 18, 2012, 2:25pm

I read both fiction and nonfiction -- I usually have at least one of each type book going at any time. I try to keep something of a balance between the two most of the time. I like AnnieMod's explanation from post #4:
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.

20armandine2
Fev 28, 2012, 11:30am

I like to pick up good techy books if I can, the other day I was tempted by Wang - Statically Indeterminate Structures, ... bringing back past memories of an exam paper where one question came up of this sort, inadvertently.
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.

21isabelx
Editado: Mar 30, 2012, 11:44am

I don't prefer non-fiction, but I do usually enjoy it when I get round to reading a non-fiction book. It's getting round to it that is the problem, as when I'm choosing what to read next the novels are jumping up and down shouting pick me and pushing the non-fiction out of the way.

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.

22mkboylan
Mar 30, 2012, 11:58am

I really like both. Some fiction, e.g. mysteries, I read for escapism. However lately I've had some incredible fiction/non-fiction interplay happening. Read Gene Sharp's From Dictatorship to Democracy and then The Army of the Republic: A Novel by Stuart Cohen. In my interpretation, the novel played out the principles presented by Sharp. Then i read Nothing to Envy, the non-fiction about North Korean everyday lives, and that fit the topic also. Fascinating reads.

Now I'm on a mind candy mystery binge.

23mabith
Abr 1, 2012, 5:43pm

I don't exactly prefer either, but I know that if I could only ever read fiction for the rest of my life I would be unhappy, whereas if I could only read non-fiction I would still be quite content.

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!

24Seajack
Editado: Abr 1, 2012, 6:22pm

I've never been much of a fiction reader, aside from murder mysteries (UK: crime) - most literary fiction doesn't interest me.

25ApeironPrime
Abr 2, 2012, 8:47am

Can't read everything. Time limited. 80 years. I hope. Made choice. Got to go. Read some more.

26vy0123
Abr 12, 2012, 5:32am

I read non-fiction because ‘You Can't Make This Stuff Up.’™ and it's so funny or tragic or momentous what happened; the characters & drama, ideas well put.

27armandine2
Abr 15, 2012, 9:57am

further to 20, vcr has been replaced (£15), successfully, thanks to someone who donated the very same model to Oxfam.

28theBookfurnisher
Editado: Abr 27, 2012, 10:24am

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

29vy0123
Maio 14, 2012, 7:04pm

Fiction can have an experience-taking or hypnotic effect.


Source: via MargaretAtwood, LitChat on Twitter.

30johannes_reiter
Maio 20, 2012, 9:31am

non-fiction for the mind, fiction for the soul

31vy0123
Editado: Maio 23, 2012, 8:50am



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

32Karen5Lund
Maio 23, 2012, 9:24pm

I'm inclined to agree with PennyDreadful4: "Why waste my time with something that isn't real when I could be learning about awesome things that are?"

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.

33bookcasejim
Jun 12, 2012, 7:28am

The best non-fiction is when it's written like fiction. I used to love picking up a Ludlum novel and travel along with Bourne, but now, especially with Wikipedia and the internet in general as a companion, I find it much more fascinating to pick up a book like Misha Glenny's McMafia.

34hmajor
Jun 12, 2012, 2:14pm

>33 bookcasejim:, now you've got me totally curious about McMafia!

35dsliesse
Jun 12, 2012, 8:48pm

I tend to prefer non-fiction for the learning aspect. If I could be a professional student, I would!

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.)

36TheKeyAuthor
Jun 25, 2012, 12:22pm

A few have commented that truth is stranger than fiction. I agree entirely, which is one reason I don't bother with fiction any more.

Truth empowers non-fiction.

37Diane-bpcb
Nov 30, 2012, 10:47pm

> 33 bookcasejim:

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.

38mkboylan
Dez 1, 2012, 1:19pm

37 I'm with you. That's one reason I like reading ebooks. I can just click for definition or other info. It is so great.

39Diane-bpcb
Dez 2, 2012, 12:55am

.38 Oh, I hadn't realized that you can get other info using ebooks. However, I'm still a physical book fan, as much as I love the Internet findings. (The glare is a problem for me.)

40AnnieMod
Dez 2, 2012, 3:42am

>39 Diane-bpcb: The glare is a problem for me.
No glare with a non-backlit e-reader.

41ulmannc
Dez 2, 2012, 8:39am

I'm a paper book person since I collect old stuff. Besides I love snooping through book stores. . . that's part of the fun. I hope this doesn't unleash a flood of off topic stuff. . . the human mind does like to wander!

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.

42Sandydog1
Dez 4, 2012, 9:23pm

Ul'

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...

43ulmannc
Dez 4, 2012, 10:35pm

Sa'. This is a bit off subject but I consider myself an 'electronic luddite'. I use a cell phone for a phone(?!) and send messages with email. LT is as close as I get to social media!

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!

44LynnB
Dez 5, 2012, 6:39am

Luddite #3 checking in!

45barney67
Editado: Jan 11, 2013, 12:00pm

All fiction is fantasy. The problem is you depend on the experience of the author in his representation of life. His experience is necessarily limited (and what does a 20-year-old novelist know about life?) In most cases, he's not giving you real experience. He's giving you the idea of an experience, the idea of a feeling, the idea of how a person might think, feel, or act. A reader who has experienced real pain, for example, can't possibly believe most of what goes on in fiction for real pain. All fiction is fraud. It is a lie. Just a story someone felt compelled to make up. An escape from the world of actual thought and feeling.

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.

46mabith
Dez 5, 2012, 2:15pm

re: switching from fiction to non-fiction...
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.

47Diane-bpcb
Dez 6, 2012, 12:11am

>46 mabith:
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.

48rocketjk
Editado: Dez 7, 2012, 7:39pm

I don't prefer reading non-fiction. I enjoy both. And I'm with those who feel that you learn as much about life and, especially, gain insight into human nature and emotions in well-written fiction as in non-fiction. Or more, actually. In the meantime, all non-fiction depends upon the research skills, integrity and organizational abilities of the author, too, as well as his or her judgment in terms of how to understand, interpret and present the information at hand. Only to the extent that these things are done well do histories present us with reality. Memoirs, of course, while non-fiction, are subject to the memories, interpretations and agendas (agendi?) of their writers.

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.

49johannes_reiter
Dez 9, 2012, 4:02pm

Two thumbs up!

50barney67
Dez 9, 2012, 5:30pm

You mean "jibe."

51NineTiger
Dez 24, 2012, 3:53pm

Easier to pick up & put down. Always learn something new in areas that interest me.

52ClydeBradley
Dez 25, 2012, 9:58pm

As many have already said in this thread, many times the truth is actually stranger than fiction. Especially in our current political arena. The amount of books available detailing the political struggle in this country right now between conservative verses liberal agendas is staggering. And that’s where I concentrate the majority of my reading now, not only in books, but as far as newspaper and magazine articles go as well. I do occasionally read fiction too, but when I do it’s usually futuristic topics with at least some political slanting due to my strong interest in current politics.

53NineTiger
Dez 26, 2012, 9:24am

@52 I am big on what you could call "true brain stories" and books about the rise of consciousness.

54MairinJO
Jan 5, 2013, 3:07am

I have a few reasons I prefer to read non-fiction: I find they take longer to finish (since comprehending philosophy or physics is much more mentally demanding than a romance novel); I like learning new things; the flabbergasted looks people give me when they notice just what it is I am reading; I think I may have burnt myself out of them via the sheer quantity of romance/scifi novels I used to read; and I prefer fiction in other forms of media (like movies and TV). Although this is not to say that I am opposed to reading a good fiction book every once in a while.

55LonelyReader
Jan 11, 2013, 10:48am

I love reading non-fiction because we live in a fascinating world and I love to read about it. I do read fiction, sometimes, but I think real life is entertaining enough to not need made up stories. Often we don't remember our past and non-fiction is a great way to learn about people, places, weather, and events many people have forgotten about. Like many people have already said, my favorite kind of non-fiction are ones that read like fiction.

56LynnB
Jan 11, 2013, 11:09am

I agree with #55, and have just realized that my favourite fiction reads like non-fiction. By that I mean the characters and situations ring true and I can identify with them.

57KarenElissa
Jan 11, 2013, 4:44pm

>55 LonelyReader: just realized that my favourite fiction reads like non-fiction. By that I mean the characters and situations ring true and I can identify with them.

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.

58DrDhillon.Author
Abr 5, 2013, 6:45pm

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59Canadian_Down_Under
Abr 5, 2013, 7:18pm

>58 DrDhillon.Author: I'm also big on the self-help books. I am constantly aware of my shortcomings and want to improve. I don't know that the books help a lot but whenever I start one, there's always hope.

60vy0123
Jun 2, 2013, 11:52pm

Steven R. Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I believe the author is now dead, I found it helpful, so did others I knew at the time of reading, although the ideas are lifted from philosophy I suspect. It is the only self-help book I have ever read.

61AbiRay
Jun 4, 2013, 2:01am

I actually prefer reading fiction and can find just as much value and truth in works of fiction as I do in non-fiction. I tend to agree with Stephen King that "fiction is the truth inside the lie." Also, I remember information better when it's presented in a fictionalized format; I remember much more information about a certain period in history from a historical fiction novel than I do from a non-fiction history book. I find I stay the most engaged with non-fiction works when I'm reading a nonfiction graphic novel. I joined this group to stay abreast of quality non-fiction titles and to acquaint myself with non-fiction works in general.

62barney67
Jun 4, 2013, 9:01am

What truth or fact is Stephen King conveying to you in his novels? Cujo, for example, the demonic dog. How can I take such a thing seriously? What's true about it?

63mabith
Jun 4, 2013, 9:40am

I would assume that King is talking about the characterizations of the people in his novels and their reactions and attitudes. I've never read one of his books, however, so I don't know how well he succeeds at that.

64rocketjk
Jun 4, 2013, 9:53am

It doesn't seem from the quote that King was necessarily talking about his own fiction at all, but about fiction in general. That said, I agree with mabith's assessment. I haven't read King either, but I like the quote. As to Cujo, just guessing, but fear of the unknown and of the supernatural are rather strong elements of human nature and human history. Truly.

65vy0123
Jun 5, 2013, 10:53pm

I tend to agree with Stephen King that "fiction is the truth inside the lie."

That looks like a transformation of “the devil is in the details”.

66jldarden
Jul 5, 2013, 11:52pm

I prefer fiction. I have not read much non fiction in my life but have found that when I do I prefer it in a story format such as Longitude.
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!

67vivienbrenda
Jul 29, 2013, 1:59pm

My fascination with nonfiction is learning about how historical events inter-connect. I recently read a biography about George Washington and at about the same time, on about Thomas Jefferson. These were interspersed with a book about the people who came to America during our countries formative years. These three books have enlightened me about the complex issues that still plague our nation. As someone else in this thread suggested, the more things change the more they do stay the same. Through my love affair with nonfiction, I'm now beginning to understand why.

68eclecticdodo
Jul 29, 2013, 4:18pm

I read non-fiction because there are so many interesting topics out there! Every time I find a little bit about something it makes me want to know more. I could read for a lifetime and only scratch the surface. The last couple of years I've been challenging myself to read as much fiction as non-fiction, and I'm really enjoying that, but I get way more excited about all the non-fiction out there. My non-fiction wishlist and to-be-read pile grows so much more easily.

>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).

69rmkelly
Editado: Out 31, 2013, 7:44pm

I don't really know why I prefer non-fiction. It may have something to do with the fact that I write. I seem to be always collecting books in order to be sure I'm getting the story right, the "story" being everything that has gone before in the history of the world, and especially in my field. Sounds slightly crazy now that I've written it down, but it's how I feel. It takes a great leap for me to get into a fictional story, but I find little trouble getting into a history book, and no trouble at all if the book is connected to decorative arts in the early modern period.

70mkboylan
Out 31, 2013, 8:53pm

69 - LOL I can SO relate to "collecting books in order to be sure I'm getting the story right". That is EXACTLY what I do, and then I can never possible have time to read them all!

71ulmannc
Out 31, 2013, 10:01pm

69 and 70 - I clearly understand. I read the ?th book on the same event or area or piece of machinery or business or . . . you get the idea . . . and then when some 'fact' doesn't agree I start digging through the piles to see if I have book ? + 1 on the same subject to see what is going on. Put me in a train, a trolley or going down a river and I'm like a pig in 'you know what'! It's still fun after 50 years!

72rmkelly
Nov 11, 2013, 10:17pm

70, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one keeping track of the universe, LOL. It's a big universe but at least there's two of us!

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.

73rocketjk
Editado: Set 10, 2019, 2:33pm

Here is some interesting commentary regarding the complimentary, rather than mutually exclusive, relationship between fiction and non-fiction. The noted historian David Halberstam spent two years (1962-1964) in Vietnam during the early stages of the American involvement in the Vietnamese War as a correspondent for the New York Times. He returned and, in addition to all the reporting he'd done, wrote a nonfiction book on the subject, The Making of a Quagmire. Then he wrote a novel, One Very Hot Day, published in 1968. The book was republished in 1985, at which time Halberstam included an afterword, which included the following:

. . . 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.

74mabith
Nov 21, 2013, 8:26am

73 - That's a great statement. It reminds me of a couple of quotes about fiction:

“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.

752wonderY
Nov 21, 2013, 8:54am

>72 rmkelly:
Keeping track of the Universe

The Center of the galaxy tastes like raspberries.

We're planning a celebration soon.

76guido47
Nov 21, 2013, 9:31am

#75, Do we have to bring our own cream or perhaps they also founnd that as well?

772wonderY
Nov 21, 2013, 9:34am

It's THE MILKY WAY!

78guido47
Nov 21, 2013, 9:42am

! :-)

79TooBusyReading
Nov 21, 2013, 12:44pm

You've probably all heard about the Costco that got into trouble for listing the Bible as fiction. Not to get into a religious argument, but taken as a book and not as a sacred text, it has no bibliography, no footnotes, nothing I expect in serious nonfiction.

There are some books that don't fit cleanly into either category.

80mkboylan
Nov 21, 2013, 9:51pm

73 and on - thanks for the great quotations and dessert ideas.

81meganbrowndraws
Nov 30, 2013, 1:25pm

i have to agree with JimThomson - the truth really can be stranger than fiction. Even as a child I preferred books about how the world actually works instead of fantasy. However, as an adult I have gained an appreciation for both - especially sci-fi.

82Erica-Hicks
Editado: Jan 20, 2014, 6:24am

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83outdoorgirl
Fev 21, 2014, 5:27pm

I was having a hard time at our library finding good fiction books, so out of desperation I turned to the Non-Fiction section, and was immediately hooked! While I don't necessarily prefer Non-Fiction to Fiction, I've found that I enjoy learning about eclectic/random subjects, such as Bee Keeping, Timbuktu, Coin Collecting, Edible Landscaping, etc. It's priceless watching my parents' faces when I announce my latest title!

84mabith
Editado: Fev 21, 2014, 5:57pm

My dad just returned from visiting my oldest brother and his six children. It turns out my 12-year-old niece takes after my dad and me, in loving history and non-fiction, so I'm going to buy up some of my favorite children's/YA non-fiction and historical fiction titles to send down. Nice to have an interested little one to pass things on to.

85printrun
Abr 21, 2014, 11:46pm

I love fiction, but sometimes I just really enjoy the straightforward quality of nonfiction. I like engaging with the history or ideas presented without analyzing the layers of character, plot, symbolism, etc. that come with reading a novel.

862wonderY
Abr 22, 2014, 6:59am

The public library in the town that I grew up in, was in a converted house. The old dining room was the childrens room. Once I had exhausted those shelves, I began to explore the upstairs, which had been opened up to be one huge room, and which housed all of the non-fiction. Wow! I just started at one end of the room and worked my way around it, learning about the world.

87mkboylan
Abr 22, 2014, 10:21am

>86 2wonderY: I love the story about the library. Do you remember favorite books or subjects?

882wonderY
Abr 22, 2014, 12:33pm

Hmmm. The one book that stands out in memory from those days is a slender volume that drew parallels between the Genesis creation story and recent scientific understanding of creation and evolution. Memorable perhaps because it was a shocking idea to me, but one that I have retained an interest in even today. I have no idea the title.

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.

89mkboylan
Abr 22, 2014, 12:37pm

>88 2wonderY: oh man I want to go to that library! Guess it's gone. One of my fellow teachers took her class (college, raised on electronics) down to the magazine stacks in our university library and had them examining magazine ads and comparing old to new ones. They loved it. They were all sitting on the floor covered with piles of magazines. A whole different world to them.

902wonderY
Abr 22, 2014, 12:41pm

Yes, sadly it was gone 20 years ago when I lived there temporarily with my kids. The city had built a City Building which also housed the new library. Interestingly, they still had many of the childrens novels that I had grown up on.

91RedEyedNerd
Editado: Maio 18, 2014, 5:48pm

To me, reading is a key to other peoples’ minds, experiences, attitudes, feelings. I love those books best whose authors share with me more than pure factual information. If a scientist or other expert has an ardent interest for the subject of his studies and is a gifted writer, too, I will likely enjoy his book, even if I had no particular interest in its subject before opening the volume.
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.

92mcola
Set 16, 2015, 9:48pm

I read mostly non-fiction because I consider my self a lazy reader. By that I mean, it takes me a long time to read a book and so I prefer to spend the time with real things, i.e. history, events, opinions, science, adventure, etc. I like fiction, but I watch it in film. Film may not be as good as the book, but for me, it works most of the time.

93vivienbrenda
Set 20, 2015, 9:40am

I particularly enjoy history when it is captured soon after an event. The perspective is often different than the one history tells. Or it may be right on. William L. Shirer's, Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, and the series Only Yesterday and Since Yesterday by Frederick Lewis are examples of this. I also love victorian fiction writers for the same reason.

94WilsonsGarland
Out 30, 2015, 2:23am

I guess I just favor truth over bullsh*t. A little background: I actually did not enjoy reading and didn't go out of my way to do it until I was in college. In fact, I called myself a "non-reader" until I was a sophomore in college. I thought this was simply because I hated to read. It wasn't that I had a problem reading - I'm literate (and a bit of a grammar Nazi), I can understand things, read fast and I can write at least coherently. I just plain did not like to read.

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.

95GaiaGoddess
Out 30, 2015, 2:40am

I read non-fiction almost exclusively (the only exception being the Harry Potter series only because it's my favorite movie), because I love to learn and I hate to waste time with something that isn't benefiting my life in any way. I don't need to be entertained, I need to be educated and enlightened. I also prefer documentaries over regular movies for the same reason.

96LynnB
Out 30, 2015, 12:01pm

I find it sad that you don't think there is anything to learn in fiction! There are aspects of history, culture and human nature that often provide insight for me. Not to mention increasing my vocabulary. Fiction often spurs me to research related non-fiction topics.

97.Monkey.
Out 30, 2015, 12:08pm

>96 LynnB: Agreed. There is so much that one can learn in novels. :/

98GaiaGoddess
Out 31, 2015, 4:26pm

I have read some novels, I just don't keep them and so didn't include them in my library. The novels I have read, 99% of them were just to tell a made up story that doesn't benefit the reader other than entertaining them while they're reading it. I like guide books, how to's, textbooks, comprehensive knowledge about a specific subject. It isn't that I think fiction is useless and bad, I just don't like to spend my time reading something that I can't implement to help my life directly.

99LynnB
Out 31, 2015, 4:50pm

ever heard of The Novel Cure? In it, the authors suggest literary remedies for many day-to-day problems.

100rocketjk
Out 31, 2015, 7:04pm

#95 & 98> For another perspective, I recommend you scroll up to post #73 to read renown historian David Halberstam's explanation of why he wrote a novel about the Viet Nam War after having already won a Pulitzer Prize for his non-fiction writing about that war.

101GaiaGoddess
Nov 1, 2015, 3:57pm

Sounds interesting, I'll check that out. Thanks!

102GaiaGoddess
Nov 1, 2015, 4:02pm

I can understand the purpose of each one, I'm just saying I wouldn't buy the fiction one. It's just like movies, there are millions of movies out there that all show what something is like, what emotions people go through, etc. so that's what I watch movies for, you can SEE it rather than just try to imagine it in your mind. I am probably the only person in the world who prefers movies to their book version. Everyone says the Harry Potter books are better than the movies, and I read them anyway but still prefer to watch movies if it's fiction.

103WilsonsGarland
Nov 2, 2015, 11:08pm

I guess I have a difficult time picturing fiction in my head, which is strange because I do sometimes like to write my own fiction (sometimes original, sometimes fan). I'm also not fan of anything fantasy (elves, wizards, that kinda thing), which means I lose serious points on my nerd card because everyone I know is into Magic or RPing. I do like some fiction, but it's usually graphic novels. The only written fiction work I enjoy is Poe's writing. Now that's some fiction that will expand your vocabulary, though I'm pretty sure Poe made up a lot of words 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.

104LynnB
Nov 3, 2015, 7:44am

I am reading Measuring the World which is a novel about two real scientists. I know nothing about these men (Gauss and Humboldt) and am bothered by not knowing what's true and what's made up about them. So, today I've put the book aside and will be doing some research on google before I continue.

My points: 1) Fiction can inspire learning; 2) Blurry lines between fact and fiction are both inspiring and annoying!

105LynnB
Editado: Nov 3, 2015, 8:09am

Just read a great quote in Measuring the World: "Writing a novel, said Humboldt, seemed to him the perfect way to capture the most fleeting essence of the present for the future."

106Roundpeg
Dez 18, 2015, 5:24pm

I love information. I like to watch fiction.

107AngolaReeses
Mar 25, 2016, 4:02pm

I hear most people in this list saying they enjoy both fiction and non-fiction, very different reasons. I must say I've tried, but fiction just doesn't hold my attention. My family and friends have all said, "that's just because you haven't tried ___fill in the blank___ novel..." So I gave fiction a last few fighting chances, and I really gave it an honest try. But the David Baldacci novels are still sitting there on my shelf, I was never able to get past the first few chapters.

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.

108AnnieMod
Mar 25, 2016, 4:04pm

>107 AngolaReeses:

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.

109rocketjk
Mar 25, 2016, 5:33pm

"Good non-fiction books tap into that vortex of intrigue that we call reality."

Interesting. For me, fiction does this better than most non-fiction. But it's to each his/her own, certainly.

110.Monkey.
Mar 26, 2016, 3:49am