Recently I’ve been voracious when it comes to reading. I have the hardest time going to work and not snatching up every interesting book I see and bringing it home. I’ve always loved reading, but my desire to read wasn’t the same through and even a year after grad school. Now I can’t seem to get enough…
But here’s the potential problem: I can’t keep my eyes and hands off of non-fiction. This confession, which I made to my darling significant other over drinks the other night, felt horrible and was ridden with guilt. As a writer the advice you’re most often given is to read. Read a lot. Read in your genre. Me? I was reading not only out of my genre, but I was reading tons of non-fiction.
I looked up confused and then realized as a non-writer he didn’t understand what I was saying. I explained.
“Is there anything you’re not getting when you read non-fiction that you would get in fiction?”
His question gave me pause. I sipped on my very alcoholic cocktail and every time I tried to challenge him, I realized I was wrong. There’s a lot that you can gain from reading non-fiction.
So here’s my defense of reading non-fiction as a fiction writer.
- Real people make great character studies. As writers, we’re already people watchers by default, but reading about real people gives you insight and depth that can make your stories richer and more interesting.
- What about plot? Good non-fiction has it’s own plot. It’s actually impressive to read well-written non-fiction that manages to throw so much information at you, and yet stays interesting and keeps you turning the page. Some even have really captivating story lines (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) or just journeys you want to be a part of (The Happiness Project).
- Real life can spark creativity. Non-fiction can provide a much needed boost to your writing in ideas and rich detail. I think most would call this research; I call this light reading. If a non-fiction book sparks your interest, it might be something that you want to include in your fiction. Let real life be your muse.
- Writers should always be learning. And I always learn something new when I read non-fiction.
So with that, my guilt was assuaged and I happily went home and kept reading what was on my night stand. Even though my night stand is piled high with non-fiction, a few fiction titles have entered the mix that I’m very excited about.
Now I just feel like I can have my cake and eat it too.
So lovely readers, let me know your thoughts about non-fiction reading in the comments.
P.s. I’m super open to book recommendations 😉