How did you get into reading nonfiction? Do you remember your first nonfiction book or subject? If so, do you still read those subjects?
I mentioned in a previous post I was an avid reader as a teenager. Living on a farm in rural Wisconsin my reading was more about trying to figure out life (or the life I thought I was missing out on) than anything else. The books I read were mostly fiction with no particular preference for any one genre. In college I gave up recreational reading for textbooks and did not return to reading for pleasure until after I had passed the CPA exam over a decade later.
It had been so long since I had read an actual novel I initially had a hard time determining what I wanted to read. I started with the classics and fiction recommended in the newspaper or featured on best-seller lists. I discovered Oprah's book club and began making my way through her selections. With each book I became increasingly disenchanted with fiction. If you have ever read any of Oprah’s book club picks you may understand my disenchantment – the majority of them are down right depressing. The book that pushed me over the top and into the forays of nonfiction was Tawni O’Dell’s Back Roads - it seemed as though O’Dell had taken every horrible thing that could possibly happen to a person and crammed it into one book. After Back Roads, I was done with Oprah’s book club and began looking for a different reading experience.
Shortly thereafter, I took Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail with me on a camping trip. This book was one of the funniest books I had ever read and a perfect pick for a vacation in the woods. I enjoyed learning about the Appalachian Trail and jotted the following note from the book in my journal:
200 year old pecan trees were commonly chopped down just to make it easier to harvest the nuts on the topmost branches.When I returned, I decided to read more nonfiction and found this list* of Nonfiction That Reads Like Fiction at the library. I read Steven Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, Tony Horwitz’s Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before and Caroline Alexander's The Bounty : The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty. Each of these books led to more note taking and a realization that I enjoyed reading to learn and discover the truth instead of the propaganda.
From there I discovered book blogs most notably Citizen Reader reading many of the books she featured. Some of my favorites include Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War, Paul Clemens's Made in Detroit, and Richard Longworth's Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism.
Currently I read nonfiction almost exclusively. I enjoy almost anything nonfiction, but prefer memoirs, biographies, history, business and economics books; basically any book that teaches me something new about what is going on in the world.
*This is the on-line version of the original list. Steven Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage is no longer featured.