One Thousand Words on Reading Non-Fiction

I recently wrote that I don’t read non-fiction because I like stories.

While that’s very true, I am enjoying “Quiet” by Susan Cain a lot. Maybe because I see myself in so many of the introvert traits she describes. As I’ve read, I’ve repeatedly found myself thinking, “I do that” or “that sounds just like me.”

It’s kind of nice to have your personality put into context for you. And I had been hardly aware of being undervalued as an introvert and how often I find myself apologizing for not living up to extrovert standards.

I like the book so much that I decided I should try some other non-fiction.

Over the years, there are books I have wanted to read but sadly shied away from because of the non-fiction label.

I thought that I’d do a little research before I started writing… just looking at some of the lists of bestselling non-fiction to make sure I didn’t miss a good one.

I found some books to add, but I was also shocked to realize that it isn’t quite true that I don’t read non-fiction.

First, I read tennis biographies. I’ve written about this before and I know tennis biographies are non-fiction, but they didn’t even enter my brain when I made the blithe statements.

Also, one of my favorite books of all time is Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” Another non-fiction. I’ve enjoyed other “true crime” books over the years too, although I think “true crime” sounds so lurid.

And then there’s David Sedaris. I’ve read all of his books except “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.” His books are so entertaining that I have a hard time calling them non-fiction, but they are.

In addition to tennis biographies, I’ve also read a few theater and music biographies… “Without You” by Anthony Rapp for example.

I also read “Glass Castles” by Jeannette Walls. My aunt sent it to me and at first I thought it was a strange book to give as a gift because It’s so depressing. But I liked it and I’m glad I read it, so I guess she knew what she was doing.

Lastly, Studs Terkel’s “Working” is another one of my favorites. Another non-fiction that reads like stories.

So I do read non-fictin but only when it keeps me entertained.

Before I finally move on to my list, I noticed that the Bible wasn’t listed on any of the best non-fiction lists. But I can’t imagine it’s considered a novel. Christians wouldn’t stand for that.

Maybe the Bible is it’s own category of books that can go either way, depending on your beliefs. Or fiction believed to be non-fiction, or vice versa. Not that it really matters to me. I don’t really have a desire to read the Bible.

There are so many autobiographies and books “written” by politicians. As I was perusing the best seller lists, I noticed books by almost all the presidential candidates who have run in the past forty years. While I have no desire to read John McCain memoirs, although I’m sure he is POW experience is very moving, and I’d rather read the Bible than Sarah Palin’s book “Going Rogue,” I would like to “Living History” by Hilary Rodham Clinton.

It’s actually on my shelf right now and waiting to be read right now.

Say what you want about Hilary, I think she’s smart and had an interesting life. Who doesn’t want to read abour smart, interesting women?

Speaking of, I have never read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Mayo Angelou and think I probably should. It just seems like one of those books every woman should read.

Plus it’s a frequently banned books and everyone should go out of their way to read banned books.

Another book in that category of every woman should read, but I haven’t is Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.” I’ve read little bits of the book and know it’s important to women, especially women writers, so I think I should read it for the sake of feminism.

A few years ago I directed a production of 1776 and became moderately interested in that time period. Directing shows had a way of doing that to me. I read “Working” only because I was directing the show and the same with “Tales from the South Pacific” by James Michener (Another non-fiction books I’ve read!)

So I’d like to attempt “1776” by David McCullough.

I say attempt because I’m not convinced I’d make it all the way though it. What interests me most about revolutionary America are the personal stories and I don’t know how much McCullough goes into those. But I’d like to try and see.

The next one is embarrassing, but I’d like to read “A Stolen Life” by Jayce Dugard.

Her story just fascinates me, in a National Enquirer / People magazine sort of way. I want to know how she survived for so long. Plus I loved “Room” by Emm Donoghue which is kind of the same story.

Then sometimes there are books that you don’t really want to read but it feels like everyone else in the world has read and so you can’t be considered well-read unless you’ve read it too.

I’m talking specifically about “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt. I have absolutely no desire to read it. It sounds depressing and dreadful. I know it’s inspirational, how he endured such poverty and end up flourishing and all, but I don’t want to read all the miserable details.

But everyone in creation has read “Angela’s Ashes.” Even people who don’t consider themselves readers have read it. So I sort of have to bite the bullet.

I’d like to say that my goal is to read all these books in 2012, but I’m not quite ready to commit to that yet. I do promise to get through “Quiet” and then maybe I’ll feel like tackling one or two off this list. As long as I get to read novels in between.


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