Growing up, I wasn’t much of a reader. Despite my teachers’ best efforts, I just couldn’t muster up an interest in Captain Underpants or Harry Potter. I preferred to spend my time outdoors, fighting invisible monsters and fleeing from the “Giant Pincher Bug” (forked Redwood tree) that lived across the street. I had a voracious imagination and a passion for writing stories, but I could not for the life of me finish other people’s stories.
This quirk landed me in special reading classes, and unfortunately, I began to think that something was wrong.
“I’m not good at reading”, I used to tell my elementary school friends.
As time went on, this phrase morphed into “I don’t like to read”.
And because self-talk matters,
I eventually stopped buying books altogether.
Before college, my worldview was limited to small-town America. I knew next to nothing about philosophy, feminism, public health, or politics, and it never occurred to me that I could waltz over to the non-fiction section of the library and educate myself on these topics. I simply didn’t think I was smart enough for that.
As a biology major, I was required to take several social science and art history courses in order to graduate. The non-fiction books listed on those courses’ syllabi dramatically altered my worldview, and they also changed my attitude towards reading in general.
As it turns out, I don’t have a reading disability; I just have a short attention span and scattered interests. Non-fiction books are perfect for people like me.
My favorite non-fiction books read like a story but are packed with historical facts and statistics. At twenty-two years old, I know absolutely nothing about the world, so reading non-fiction helps me fill in the gaps. I can learn about philosophy, psychology, and economics without forking over $30,000 for another degree-shaped wall ornament.
I do my best to read books cover-to-cover, but sometimes I lose interest in a particular theory or event and skip ahead. Unlike fiction books, non-fiction books rarely penalize readers for skipping chapters. This is excellent for those of us who are easily distracted.
If you have a racing mind and a million different interests, non-fiction books can serve as the glue that holds everything together. You can read about airplanes one day and climate change the next. Names are only relevant if you want them to be, and the setting of the book may or may not exist. The only thing that matters is that you are learning something cool.
Reading non-fiction is the best education hack I’ve ever found.
I graduated last year, and my goal for 2019 was to read 20 books.
For most Medium users, this is amateur hour. But when you’ve spent several years of your life avoiding bookshelves and engaging in negative self-talk, finishing 20 books in 12 months is nothing short of a miracle.
Non-fiction books have saved me from a life of ignorance, and my only regret is not reading them sooner. Rather than feigning interest in Harry Potter to bond with my peers, I wish I had indulged in non-fiction works as a teen. My conservative parents might have frowned at my book choices, but that would’ve meant I was doing something right.
Fiction serves a purpose and I mean it no ill-will, but life is too short to pretend to enjoy The Pretend!
Reading is important, so read what you like.