4 Tips For Non-Fiction Beginners


Hi everyone. I’m Rincey and I am one of the
contributing editors over at Book Riot. So I’m someone who has really been enjoying non-fiction
a lot lately. I don’t know if it’s a sign of just me getting older or if it’s just I’ve
been discovering really good non-fiction. But I feel like more and more I’m drawn to
non-fiction books. When I was younger, like in college, I would read some non-fiction
but it made up maybe like 5 or 10% of my total reading every year and lately that number
has been creeping up to where about a quarter of my reading is non-fiction books right now.
But I know that for a lot of people non-fiction can be really intimidating. If you don’t have
a lot of experience with it you might not know where to start. Or if you’ve tried it
in the past, you’ve just found that it really doesn’t gel with you. You might think that
you are purely a fiction reader. I am of the belief that no one is a purely anything reader.
I think that everyone could try a variety of different types of books. So if you are
someone who mainly reads fiction but you want to at least give non-fiction a try, I have
some tips for you guys so it’ll make it a little bit easier and hopefully get you into
reading some non-fiction books. So the first tip that I have is to expect to take it slow.
Personally I’m someone who if I haven’t been reading a lot of non-fiction, when I pick
up a non-fiction book I’m always slightly surprised to find that it takes me longer
to read. At least for me, I feel like reading non-fiction just takes me a little bit longer
because there is more information packed into every page. Because it’s non-fiction there’s
a lot more like facts and and details that are really important to what’s being told.
Also the style of writing is obviously very different so without some sort of story sometimes
it can be a little bit harder to find that draw that pulls you in with fiction books.
Non-fiction tends to be on the drier side in general. So all of those different factors
means that it’ll take a little bit longer to read a non-fiction book than it would be
to read a non-fiction book. This is obviously something that as you read more non-fiction
you get more used to the style and then it doesn’t take you as long anymore. But I think
that it is something that you should prepare yourself for so that way when you are reading
non-fiction, you don’t get frustrated with the fact that it takes you longer to finish
those books than it would typical fiction books. The second book that I have is to start
small. There are a lot of really great non-fiction books out there that are very, very large.
It’s because these people are trying to provide as much information as possible about a certain
topic or a certain idea. And my recommendation would be to stay away from those until you’re
slightly more comfortable with non-fiction. I have a friend who doesn’t even read a lot
in general, but he decided that the book he was going to try to read would be The Warmth
of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, which is a fantastic book and I absolutely loved it.
But I told him not to read that book because it is a very big book. I think it’s almost
1,000 pages long. So if you’re going from reading nothing to reading a very, very large
book, it’s going to be a little bit of an uphill battle. So if you are someone who typically
reads books that are in the three to four hundred page range, I would recommend finding
a non-fiction book that is similar in size. Or if anything, maybe even a little bit shorter
because like I mentioned in the first point, it might take you a little bit longer to read
those books. So finding a book that is on the shorter side of non-fiction is always
a really great place to start. Some recommendations of those would be Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
or On Immunity by Eula Biss. Both of those are less than 300 pages so if you are someone
who is slightly intimidated by large non-fiction books then those two are perfect. The third
tip that I have is to find stuff that you are actually interested in. Don’t just read
books that are, you know, popular with the non-fiction crowd. I don’t know why I did
air quotes around that but that, whatever. While it’s great to get recommendations from
other people, especially from people who read non-fiction, if you’re not interested in a
topic but you’re just not going to like a book about that topic. There’s nothing really
wrong with that. I do believe that there are some great non-fiction books out there in
like a wide range of topics. But I think that especially when you are first starting out
you should read the stuff that you’re interested in. If you’re interested in American history,
then go ahead and read the Alexander Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow. But if you don’t
read any American history, that might be a little bit of a difficult place to start,
especially since, again, it is a very large book. But if you have no interest in history,
start with some essay collections or start with some pop culture related books if that’s
more your jam. Just think about the topics that you are interested in and there is like
a 90% chance that there is a non-fiction book out there about it. If you’re not sure really
what you are into think about maybe some news stories that you’ve been into recently. If
you were to, I don’t know, randomly pick up the New York Times, what sections would you
gravitate towards and then find books that fall into that topic. Non-fiction is such
a wide variety and such a wide genre that there’s bound to be something that appeals
to you. A great place to start with non-fiction would be memoirs. If you have any celebrities
that you really enjoy a lot, a lot of people start with their memoirs. And obviously do
your research a little bit, check out Goodreads pages, check out the Amazon reviews, check
out to see if anyone you know has read any of those books and see if they would recommend
it to you. And then the final tip that I have for you guys today is to try it on audio.
I think especially for memoirs but I think it works with a lot of non-fiction, it really
works well as an audiobook. I almost exclusively listen to non-fiction on audio. Not that I
don’t read any non-fiction, but if I’m listening to an audiobook there’s a 99% chance that
it’s a non-fiction book. Something about the way non-fiction is written and the way audiobooks
work really works well with my brain. I think it’s also just because I listen to a lot of
podcasts so I’m used to sort of that non-fiction style. I sort of just look at non-fiction
audiobooks as like really long podcasts or just having like, you know, 20 episodes of
a certain podcast. I think that listening to non-fiction on audiobooks is also a really
great way to make sure you don’t get bogged down by the details. A lot of times I listen
to American history books on audio because I don’t get sort of bogged down by the details
about very specific dates and very specific places. I can sort of get into the general
story that the book is telling, whether it be about a specific person or a specific moment
in history. So those are my 4 tips if you are new to non-fiction and you want to give
it a try. If you are someone who reads a lot of non-fiction normally, definitely leave
some of your own tips down in the comment section below to help people out. Or if you
guys just know of anything else that might be helpful to people who are new to non-fiction,
definitely leave that down in the comments below. Or if you have any good book recommendations
for non-fiction beginners, that would be great to leave down in the comment section as well.
So yeah, that’s all I have for this week and I will see you guys next week. Bye.

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