I relished stepping outside my “comfort zone.”
No, I’m not a particularly daring person, nor do I find any particular pleasure in discomfort. As I have aged and gotten curious about this tendency to push my own boundaries, I have concluded it’s motivated by a deep dislike of limits, particularly those I have not intentionally set.
It was in my late twenties when I first noticed when I read for pleasure it was always fiction. Reading was my way of escaping and living in someone else’s shoes for a while, you might say my coping mechanism. I didn’t find fault with this, I simply noticed that nonfiction honestly wasn’t even on my reading radar.
Then one day I heard an interview on NPR with Sebastion Junger about his new book,Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. I remember thinking how intriguing his premise and reflections as an ex-soldier were on community, belonging and humanity’s desire to connect and make meaning out of our groups. I remember the interview capturing my imagination and sparking connection to what I was thinking about in regards to community and church. So, like any bibliophile, I picked up the book and dove in. Thankfully, Tribe it is a short little book and highly accessible to a novice nonfiction reader (thank you Sebastian).
That decision and positive reading experience sparked within me the desire to challenge myself to read more nonfiction. Over the years I have discovered some AMAZING nonfiction. Books that teach you completely new things. Books that reorient your thinking. Books that explore humanity in all its joy and rawness. Books, that much like fiction, allow you to view the world from another point of view.
Reading nonfiction these past 10+ years has offered me insight and knowledge I never knew existed and has provided me an imagination for a different world, a better world, one upholding values, behaviors and beliefs counter to those we enact daily.
Even as I expound on the virtues of reading nonfiction, I must admit it has been difficult getting more nonfiction into my reading diet. I have found a few tricks (or even better, practices) that help me. First and foremost; audio versions of nonfiction books. There are many books I would never have finished if I hadn’t listened to them. The most memorable is The Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. It was a very long walk indeed and I would never have finished on paper. Audio versions are great for those denser or more epic nonfiction reads that are less narrative driven and at the same time, those narrative driven books make great audio reads because you literally hear the voice of humanity; think any memoir, Four Hundred Souls, or Evicted.
I have also added nonfiction into my night time and devotional reading. This isn’t all the time but often I have a nonfiction book such as bell hooks’ Communion or short chapter nonfiction, parenting, poetry, etc. by my bedside to read a few pages before turning off the light. They often offer a cleansing or calming ritual for my brain as the day comes to an end. They replace the various running mental lists and oddly enough, quiet my mind by giving it something else to consider and reflect on as I drift asleep. I also use nonfiction, particularly religious or spirituality based books, for my daily devotional practices. These books take many forms, from pure theology to preaching, to personal reflections to intended devotionals. I might be with the same book for months, but it provides another avenue to consume nonfiction writing throughout my daily life and practices.
All this to say, nonfiction is GREAT! You learn SO MUCH and the variety of content, form and authorship available is ever expanding. You can find nonfiction that will whet your appetite, spark your imagination and basically Blow. Your. Mind.
Olive Fellows of @abookolive on Instagram promotes a Nonfiction November reading initiative each year and we thought we would join the trend and invite our readers along. If you want join us in reading nonfiction this month, we have compiled some titles to provide an encompassing, though not even close to comprehensive, book list of our favorite nonfiction. We highly recommended these books for novice nonfiction readers as it contains mainstream options for a variety of interests and reading personalities. As you know, Haddi and I read extremely different fiction and nonfiction. Like all books, nonfiction is reader driven so individually we will share our top 10 nonfiction reads late in November.
So, here’s your chance! What do you have to loose? Challenge yourself to read even ONE nonfiction book in November or in the next 12 months. You will learn something about the world and yourself and might even find the value and joy of regularly reading nonfiction ;).