Hello friends! I am writing this blog post to inform you that I, Lilly, lover of high fantasy, having semi-actively avoided nonfiction for years, have been kidnapped and replaced by an alien creature with a wild appetite for memoirs.
How did this happen? Well, I read 59 books in 2017. Most of them were Young Adult fiction, and many of them were… underwhelming? Disappointing? I’m not sure, exactly, but at the end of the year, I found myself disappointed with both the amount and the quality of the reading I’d done throughout the year. Simultaneously, as the year was coming to a very stressful, tearful close (for boring and irrelevant personal reasons, December was not a great month for me) I was reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, which 1) Reminded me that your life is actually wonderful, Lilly, calm down, and 2) Made me realize that wow, nonfiction can actually be… compelling? Interesting? Good?
I know that this whole post is making me sound like a bit of an idiot. But seriously: up until that moment, I’d never really experienced the powerful joy of nonfiction. And it was wonderful. I’ve never been great at New Year’s Resolutions– I have this bad habit of setting ridiculously unattainable goals for myself– but this year, I found a good one. I resolved to read more nonfiction. And I have! So far in 2018, I’ve read 17 books, and and 7 of them have been nonfiction, meaning I’ve already read more nonfiction in the first two months of 2018 than I did during all of 2017.
Why do I suddenly love nonfiction so much? A couple reasons. First: I am no longer in school. Like, for the first time in 12 years, I am not actively pursuing an education. Being the huge nerd that I am, I always liked school, and because of my homeschooling background, the need to continue my own education independently is ingrained in me. Reading nonfiction is the easiest and most enjoyable way for me to continue Learning Stuff despite not being in any kind of school.
Second: writing. One of my greatest struggles when it comes to fiction writing is my tendency to subconsciously copy– or, to put it more gently, “borrow”– elements of my favorite books and apply them to my own writing. Lots of people make the case that this is inevitable and a natural part of writing. But personally, I kind of hate it. I don’t want to subconsciously re-write my favorite books. I want to find my own voice, my own style, and my own stories. Nonfiction presents an elegant solution to this problem. By distancing myself a little from genres similar to the ones I like to write, I’m less likely to subconsciously “borrow.” Furthermore, nonfiction is also a great source of inspiration, all on its own. (For example, my short story Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow was inspired by the widespread culture of conformity and self-repression in 1950s America, which I read about in AP U.S. History. See how seamlessly I pulled off that self-plug?)
So its seems nonfiction and I are friends now. Whatever the root of my own tiny reading revolution, I’m enjoying it. Sorry that I ignored you for so long, nonfiction. I’m making it up to you now by singing your praises in this blog post.