I started reading at an early age. But even though we studied non-fiction books in school, I didn’t pick one myself until I was 14 (it was a semi-autobiographical journal).
The first 50 books I read were a work of fiction.
I had a misconception that non-fiction books are super technical and boring. And don’t get me wrong, some of them are.
Dare I say, a big portion of today’s writing is that way… Fortunately, here at Hooked to Books we carefully curate the best books available.
In the grand scheme of things, I was naive! But it didn’t take much to change my mind.
After reading “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, I realized that real life can beat the most vivid imagination.
Shortly after, I filled my library with all sorts of non-fiction books. If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I have a deep interest in philosophy, self-improvement, etc.
But it wasn’t until I reached my 20s that I started to understand how powerful non-fiction books can be — if you apply what you learn of course.
If you look at your library and all you can see are fiction books, allow me to introduce you to non-fiction writing and its ability to change your life.
What Is a Non-Fiction Book?
According to Wikipedia: “Nonfiction or non-fiction is content that purports in good faith to represent truth and accuracy regarding information, events, or people.”
How to know if a book is fiction or non-fiction?
The line between fiction and nonfiction can be blurry.
(Unless of course, we’re talking about subgenres like psychology, philosophy, self-help, history, etc. where it’s obvious.)
Some novels are allegorical, describing real-life events but masking the fine details. And there’s nonfiction work that can be read as a proper story.
It’s up to the author to be truthful and state whether his or her book is fiction or nonfiction. It doesn’t mean that everything you’ll read is true though. Use critical thinking.
“What about books that have been inspired by real-life events?”
Well, let’s not focus on semantics. As long as the events of the story haven’t been extremely altered to the point where they’ve stopped reflecting the original story, these books can be considered non-fiction.
The dramatization of real stories can help deliver information better anyway! How many times you’ve seen a movie based on real-life events?
Nonfiction vs. Fiction: Which is better?
I know this is a sensitive subject amongst bibliophiles but I think I can offer a fresh perspective.
Here it goes: IT DEPENDS.
What are your goals at the moment? Are you looking for entertainment? Or, you want to solve a specific problem in your life?
Do you absorb information better when it’s delivered via raw data or you prefer a more subtle approach?
Perhaps you’re looking to deepen your knowledge on a very niche topic vs reading a new novel.
Depending on the context, nonfiction writing might serve you better.
Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of nonfiction books.
Pros of Non-Fiction Books
- Realistic and practical
- Applicable advice
- More accessible information
- Usually written by experts in the field
- Can often provide insights from the minds of great people
- You can reread them multiple times
Cons of Non-Fiction Books
- Can be dull and technical
- They tend to be more difficult to comprehend
- They can be misleading — anyone can self-publish these days
- The core ideas are repeated ad nauseam
- If you read one (in a specific niche), you’ve read them all
Some people believe reading books other than nonfiction is the same thing as watching Netflix.
I disagree, of course, but the sentiment is true. Don’t get me wrong, a good novel can put to shame a lot of scientists and philosophers.
Yet, I find that most of my “breakthroughs” happened after applying what I learned from a well-calibrated nonfiction book.
How to Read a Non-Fiction Book
First of all, you should read whatever you feel like reading. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
But, if you’re interested, I do follow a certain structure to go through my TBR list.
I choose 1 fiction and 1 nonfiction book.
That way, I get the best of both worlds without breaking the immersive experience of a novel or overloading myself with lots of different and unrelated information.
Give it a shot. I was never able to read multiple books and I’m a slow reader anyway. But this strategy keeps things interesting!
6 Nonfiction Books To Get A Taste
We’ve already dug through piles of nonfiction books to deliver the best of the best. But I’d like to include my personal recommendations, based on what I’ve discussed thus far.
1. “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
I’ve already mentioned a book by Jon Krakauer but this one is also worth a read.
An eloquently written story about a rebellious spirit, trying to escape the chains of modern society. Very relatable and brutally honest book. Not for the reasons you might expect…
2. “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Millman
Remember when I said that some books are inspired by real-life events, but are written like a novel?
Well, perhaps there isn’t a better example than Way of the Peaceful Warrior.
These are the memories of the author from his college and after-college years. He admits that he left out a lot of things (and added a lot more) for the sake of saying his story the way he experienced it back then.
3. “Sapiens: A Brief History of Time” by Yuval Noah Harari
An overview of human life. It’s the history of the world, from a biological and historical perspective.
What makes our species so special? How are WE were able to influence the Earth and the world as we know it?
And what lies ahead of us?
4. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield
(Fun fact: I’ve met Pressfield when he visited Greece after writing “Gates of Fire”, a fiction book, based on real-life events)
The War of Art will give you a new perspective on how an artist can succeed and avoid the stereotypical adjective “starving”.
A nonfiction book, written by a very talented novelist.
5. “Influence: They Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini
One of the classic and most applicable books on human nature.
You can read this book 100 times and you’ll still be able to gain new insights every single time.
Plus, you can apply what you learn TODAY.
6. “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” by Benjamin Franklin
It is such a privilege to be able to read about a great man’s life, years after his death.
Autobiographies are a small window to the author’s soul. And this is one is wide open!
How many nonfiction books have you read this year?
You’ll notice that the best nonfiction books can bring the subject they’re analyzing to life, rather than boring the reader.
In my opinion, it’s very rare to find a nonfiction writer with good prose. Yet, when you do, the experience is nothing short of life-changing.
And nowadays it’s indeed very easy to self-publish a book. Amazon and other online sellers are filled with thousands of nonfiction books that contain zero novel information and add nothing to the discussion.
That said: Reading only fiction or only nonfiction is like reading only half of a book.
There are things we can only learn by reading other people’s real-life experiences (I don’t see myself climbing Mt. Everest anytime soon).
And our only chance to talk to the greatest people who walked the face of the earth is by reading their books.
So, let’s do a challenge, shall we?
If you’ve never picked up a nonfiction book, do yourself a favor and spend the month of November reading a couple of them from this page.
You’ll quickly realize that real life can be very unpredictable, extremely painful, and truly beautiful. More than any novel or work of fiction.
“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”– Mark Twain
Do you think fiction is better than nonfiction or vice versa? What kinds of books do you usually read? Comment below!
About the Author
George Kourakos is an ad-man by day, a writer by night. He is a mathematician with a creative side. Working full time as a copywriter, George wants to explore his creative side by writing about his favorite topics.