Recently, I read several tweets bashing self-help and business books. These tweets reminded me of a debate about which books are superior; fiction or nonfiction. Also, around the same period, I defended my decision not to read biographies and nonfiction to someone who reads them. I left that conversation with her copy of a nonfiction book (mainly because she recommended it, if you know, you know). I started reading the book the very next day, and it got me thinking: maybe I should read nonfiction more. Let me tell you how I arrived at that conclusion.

I started reading before I was 10. I read anything that caught my interest, from Bible stories to nursing textbooks (I learned about Pap tests from these). But the first proper nonfiction book I remember reading was My Command: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War by Olusegun Obasanjo. This brings me to my first point.

I am very interested in history. Especially the political aspects of it. That is why some of my favorite novels include The Book Thief, The Nightingale, and usually anything written by Ruta Septys. These books are classed as historical fiction, and while this can satisfy my indulgence in history, I find that reading real-life accounts adds more substance to these events.

One of the first novels that made me tear up was a little German kid sneaking into a concentration camp to join his Jewish buddy in the ‘showers.’ Reading this made me sad, but a different sort of sadness from when I read The Diary of Anne Frank. Another example is reading a scene where a girl holds a severed head in Chimamanda’s Half of a Yellow and then reading The Biafra Story by Frederick Forsyth. The latter was a sort of behind-the-scenes. Now this is personal, but maybe there are other topics asides from history you are interested in. Reading nonfiction about what interests you can provide more color and context that might make your fiction reading experience more enjoyable.

The first book that comes to mind when I recommend a book to someone who does not enjoy reading books of any sort is Trevor Noah’s nonfictional memoir Born a Crime. Sometimes, I think that’s odd because I can list several fiction novels that could be more enjoyable. But Trevor Noah is an actual person who they might know or easily google. In my opinion, most people already pay a lot of attention to celebrities or famous people. We follow them on social media, comment on and share their posts. There is your second reason to read nonfiction; to take the very short step from social media to pick up a book they wrote.

A bit of warning, though, their stories might not be entirely nonfictional, but that should make you even more interested in reading what they have to say. Reading these nonfictional stories strongly reminds us that there’s almost no difference between these people and the average Joe; we are all humans.

My final reason has to do with real-life people and experiences. Before you toss this in the garbage can, hear me out. I am an introvert, and I am terrible with people. I do not know what’s going on with them. For most of my life, I have gained more insight into human nature from fiction novels than from real-life experiences. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl will forever scar me about the crazy things that happen within a marriage. But I dare you to say that knowing people with bad marriages are at the same level as Nick and Amy Dunne’s.

However, let me turn away from the negativity. After all, we don’t read to find realistic portrayals of the harsh world we read to escape from. In 2021, I read Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport. I wouldn’t go into much detail, but this book helped me know why I spend a lot of time on my phone. With hard facts, it showed me that my phone addiction (don’t judge me, you are addicted too) wasn’t entirely my fault. And that is what nonfiction does sometimes: it shows you hard facts about why the world is the way it is.

I do not intend to become an avid or regular reader of nonfiction. I still struggle to finish them. However, I hope I’ve convinced you to give them a chance. Nonfiction provides more information about things you already enjoy, adds context to your fictional world and behind-the-scenes into your favorite celeb, and gives you hard facts about the world to show off that you don’t only have an immense vocabulary but are also well-informed.

If there are other benefits, let me know in the comments section.

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