Book-Talk Monday: Fiction vs. Nonfiction
What’s the ratio of fiction vs. nonfiction that you read?
And I’m not talking about devotionals or Bible study books. I’m talking biographies, memoirs, histories, essay collections, etc. And reading, not just books for research. A nonfiction book you choose to read versus one you have to read for a school paper or for what you’re writing.
Last month, I read the novel The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir, who, I learned, is better known for her nonfiction histories of eminent personages from the Tudor era (mainly) along with other historical British personalities. Since one of my major gripes with the novel was that it was apparent she was more accustomed to writing nonfiction (way too many info dumps/too much unnecessary historical context given throughout), I decided to read her nonfiction account of Elizabeth’s mother, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn. The same “wait, let me backtrack and tell you all the details leading up to this event” tendency is there, but in a nonfiction piece, for me it’s not only acceptable, but I appreciate it.
I don’t read a lot of nonfiction by choice. I do enjoy research when it’s for a project (I’m the person who, in college, wrote a research paper on a historical figure I was interested in just because I wanted to—properly annotated and everything—and no one else has ever read it!), but to just sit down and read something nonfiction isn’t really something I do. There are some nonfiction books I’ve enjoyed—many of which are memoirs/personal accounts of public figures or celebrities I’ve liked (I’ve read Bill and Hillary Clintons’ books, Barack Obama’s books, biographies of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, the psuedo-autobiography of the Judds, and a couple of Frank Schaeffer’s most recent books). I have a huge number of books on the Civil War—but the only ones I’ve actually read cover to cover are the ones I had to read for my college classes.
On the flip side, I enjoy watching documentaries: Rome: Engineering an Empire, Queen Victoria’s Empire, The Civil War, Ken Burn’s The West, The National Parks, and so on. When I had cable TV, more often than not, when there was nothing else on, I might find the TV parked on H2 (formerly History International) on something like The Dark Ages or America: The Story of Us or Life After People. But just don’t ask me to sit down and read 400 pages on those topics!
So I’d have to say that my fiction to nonfiction ratio (not counting research books, remember) is at least 100:1 (100 fiction books to every 1 nonfiction book). My reading goal for this year is to read at least thirty-six new-to-me books, and I’m going to alter that goal to include at least two nonfiction books read for pleasure, not research.
What about you?