You Should Read Nonfiction

 How Economics Class Made Me Read

From as far back as I can remember, I have loved reading. 

I have a difficult time understanding people who don’t enjoy a good book, but I’m also a huge bookworm and I shouldn’t pass harsh judgment. But a library is in the imaginary floor plan for my future dream house.

I don’t ever remember a time when books and stories weren’t a huge part of my life. Some of my favorite memories are curling up with my mom and siblings with our favorite picture books. Dr. Suess, Little Critter, and Henry and Mudge turned into The Boxcar Children and the  Little House series. 

I quickly picked up reading on my own and found my groove mostly in historical fiction. Even today, that is my soft spot in the world of literature, although I have somewhat broadened my horizons (not much, but some). 

I never thought much of the nonfiction section. As my world grew from “American Girl” and “Nancy Drew” to adult Christian fiction such as “Left Behind”, the nonfiction sections remained untouched. I suppose it never occurred to me that, beyond the occasional autobiography, that there was more to that side of the library than encyclopedias and long, drawn out pages of facts with big words.

I don’t remember the first nonfiction book that I picked up, but it had to have been a part of my mom’s collection of Christian nonfiction. I don’t know what clicked in me, but I started to read them sporadically. I don’t think that I devoured them the way I did my novels, and I probably still don’t, but I could not merely ignore the genre anymore. It left an impression.

It was a slow start, but bit by bit, I found myself reading a nonfiction book or two a year. The real kicker, and I still hate to admit it, was Dave Ramsey.

To elaborate: Economics class was required senior year of high school. It was far from my favorite class, but I was relieved that it was only a semester. My teacher followed Dave Ramsey’s curriculum in many areas, and we got to watch Ramsey’s videos about once or twice a week.

I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t pay extreme attention to the videos we watched in high school, especially watching a Dave Ramsey lecture. Aside from stating multiple times that no one should ever have use for a credit card, I remember that he said, in paraphrase, that the “average millionaire reads about one nonfiction book per month”. 

Do with that info what you will, and while I don’t see a pattern between nonfiction books and millionaires, it struck a chord.

I guess I could say my goal is now to read at least one nonfiction book every month, but not because I think it will make me a millionaire. I just want to learn.

If I can choose a nonfiction book that interests me, I love it almost more than any novel that holds my attention. Reading nonfiction is, in short, reading to learn, and opens up a whole new world, similar to taking new classes.

Nonfiction, as I learned when I first began my journey with the genre, doesn’t have to be an encyclopedia or memorizing boring facts just for the sake of memorizing them. The choice of subject to learn is yours. My own personal preferences lean to history (American history is a side interest of mine, especially World War Two and the Revolutionary War, as well as the pioneers and early immigrants), almost anything to do with France or French culture, nutrition and exercise, or autobiographies and biographies.

Some of my personal nonfiction favorites that I have discovered over the past few years would include The New Birth Order Book. I have included this book in a previous article, and it remains in my top favorite books. The author, psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman, studies the impacts of birth order in people’s everyday lives and personalities. It definitely opens up a whole new aspect of life. As a psychology major, this new perspective is fascinating.

I also loved the memoir of Christian singer Jeremy Camp, I Still Believe. The story follows him from childhood to present day, focusing on his growth in Christ in his journey to the spotlight.

Mainly, the story focuses on his first wife, who died of ovarian cancer just four months after their wedding. 

Camp’s strong faith, even in the midst of chaos, is powerful, and very real. As a huge fan of his music, as well as the movie by the same title, I enjoyed learning the inspiration behind many of his songs. 

Because I love stories, reading the lives of real people is to learn their story. Unlike a novel, instead of only getting a snapshot of a fictional character’s life during a certain time, a biography can follow the real life individual from birth to death, or present day if they are still alive. You can get an entire view into their life and learn from their experiences with the world. Anyone can learn so much from people who came before us, even if you never even heard of them before picking up their book.

This is also true when reading history. Many of today’s issues arise from a series of events that were set in motion years ago, sometimes centuries back. In a crazy world, knowing some of the root causes just helps make sense of it all. 

Even if the history isn’t super impactful on your life today, such as learning how people used to call the police without phones, some of it is just plain fascinating.

To stay on my biography kick, reading the stories of missionaries of the past is so, so eye-opening for Christians today. The lives of Amy Carmichael, David Livingston, Lottie Moon, and so many others makes us appreciate the religious freedom we have been blessed with in our nation today, but it also shows us how on fire for God these people really were. To step away from the comforts of home, some walking away from great material wealth, leaving everything and everyone to tell people you don’t even know about Jesus’ love is so humbling. Most risked their lives, many lost their lives, for the sake that others could gain theirs in Jesus. 

It makes you think.

Nonfiction brings a whole new world right into your lap. You can learn about places and people you probably will never meet or see. You can expand your knowledge on a subject that you love, or learn something completely new. Nonfiction is far from boring – it can be exciting and change your view on the world in so many different ways. 

This is your sign: if you haven’t already, pick up reading. Either you used to read before and fell out of love, or you never committed to the hobby. Try it, either again or for the first time, and don’t forget to read nonfiction, too. Pick out something you like, and start small. Don’t jump into forty-six chapters right off the bat. Even if it means the children’s section, that’s better than nothing. It doesn’t have to be one nonfiction a month – you do what works for you. But give it a try and see if you don’t learn something.

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