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Friday, April 29, 2016

Reading Hacks: How to Integrate Nonfiction into Your TBR

Yes, I made a vow to read more non-fiction this year. And I was serious about it. So, I thought I would talk a little bit about how I make that happen.

One of the things that can be really daunting about non-fiction is that there are lots of huge tomes out there. There’s also a lot of very dry non-fiction which can read more like a textbook than something informational and fun. Here’s my first piece of advice: if it doesn’t interest you, don’t read it! There’s no need to slough through something that puts you on edge or to sleep. There’s other non-fiction available that can get you excited. Read that.
For my taste, I really enjoy entertaining collections of biographies or interesting facts that are just a few pages each. I like being able to pick something up and put it down easily, reading bits at a time whenever I feel like it. The Best Non-Fiction and The Best Science Writing books are GREAT for this because they’re always interesting and the essays are informative while being an easily digestible few pages. They also don’t have to be read in one sitting, so I can mix them in between novels, read one to help me fall asleep, or just use it to take a break somewhere in my day. Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love is another all-time favorite for this. It’s a collection of short biographies that’s interesting and hilarious. It also makes a great Valentine’s Day gift!

 “Ah women, they make the highs higher and the lows more frequent.” – Nietzsche 

Badass is another great option, but instead of philosophers, it focuses on, well, “the great ass-kickers of world domination.” With a mix of historical figures you’ve heard of, along with many you haven’t, Ben Thompson crosses cultures and includes women (a big thank you for that) while talking about manifest destiny more than a lot of books about US westward expansion. I highly recommend it.
Short books (around 300 pages or less) are a great option too. They may not be the type of thing you can pick up and put down as easily, but if they’re interesting, you can generally speed through them. Jon Ronson and Bill Bryson both have books on a variety of subjects that fall into this category. Travel and food memoirs are particular favorites of mine in this range as well. I recently read Among the Cannibals by Paul Raffaele, which encompasses both of those things. Kidding! He’s a travel writer who explores cultures around the world that have historically partaken in cannibalism. No recipe suggestions. Don’t worry.

Sometimes it’s nice to take on large books with topics you’re REALLY interested in divided into smaller sections. This is a lot easier for me with non-fiction than fiction because I don’t lose track of what’s happening in the same way, unlike large works of fiction I try and read in smaller increments. Example: the War and Peace read along that was supposed to take a year which I DNF’d like a champ after a couple months. I’m currently enjoying Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters, which is an interesting look at the man behind Sherlock and Watson. The book is HUGE, but it’s divided by sections of his life, and I can handle about 50 pages at a time.

Audio books, audio books, audio books! How do I love thee? We don’t even have time to count the ways, but my goodness do I love nonfiction audio. David Sedaris and Jon Ronson are two of my favorite authors who read their own books and do a fantastic job, but there are so many wonderful things out there read by great readers too. DO NOT let anyone tell you that audio books don’t count as reading, because they definitely do and they are a wonderful way to incorporate things you have trouble getting through, or just helping your make time for books during your commute, or while cleaning, or while typing book reviews… Embrace it!

So, those are some of my hacks for incorporating more nonfiction into my reading this year. Watch for some more in depth reviews and soon to come, the classics…

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