Why non-fiction and I are not a match made in heaven

I won’t lie, I’m a fiction junkie.

Fantasy, sci-fi, horror, historical fiction, you name it, I love ’em all!

From a young age, reading has been my escape. My childhood and teenage years were not easy (I will spare you from the angst-filled details), so reading has always been a safe haven for me. It was never so much imagining myself in the books’ worlds, than just thinking of nothing else. I could read for hours and not see the time pass by, completely absorbed in whatever novel I was reading at the time. I remember as a child, reading under the covers with a flashlight after my mother had asked that I stop reading and go to bed (so typical, right?). As an adolescent, I would spend all-nighters trying to finish a book; the lack of sleep was so worth it. You could talk to me while reading and I wouldn’t hear a word.

There’s something just so satisfying in being able to lose yourself so completely in a story. To become so invested in the characters, that when you reach the end of the story (whether it be a stand-alone novel or a trilogy or a series), you can’t help but be heartbroken. It feels like a piece of you has just died, and no other book can every replace the gap that has been left in your heart. To feel that overwhelming all-consuming sadness because, this is it, there will never be more (cue the waterworks and violin music). That’s what fiction does for me.

Non-fiction, sadly, does not.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with non-fiction. I mean, what are they but stories themselves? The only difference is that these stories really happened, right? Moreover, non-fiction books can be quite well written, so I can’t really complain about the style of writing either.

What is it then? Am I just being a fiction snob? I mean, it’s not like I haven’t tried to like non-fiction. I’ve read Eat, Pray, Love, among others. I’m also currently reading Road Trip Rwanda by Will Ferguson. 

The problem is, I have never been able to completely absorb myself in the same way. It takes me twice as long to finish non-fiction books (think trying to read through one of those incredibly long passages describing the scenery in the Lord of the Rings x 10000). I’m on day 10 of reading Road Trip Rwanda and I’m only 2/3 of the way through – when it normally takes me on average 3-4 days max to read a book of that size. It’s not like it isn’t interesting – actually very heartbreaking (it discusses the Rwandan genocide), and the author is quite witty (many haha! moments). I’ve also had this obsession with the whole African continent since I was 14 (more on this another time), so it’s quite wonderful to read about the landscape, the nature, the cultures.

Could it be that it’s because there is some creativity lacking? Not so much in the style of writing, but in the story itself? Because the story is not made up, then it isn’t creative? But that isn’t fair. It’s not the authors’ faults; they’re only retelling what really happened, who really lived. And there’s something to be said of the creativity of words, if not the story. The way an author paints a story is just as important as the story itself. I mean, Wuthering Heights is fiction, but after three tries, I still haven’t been able to stay awake past the third chapter – that’s how dull it is to me (sorry to all of you Emily Brontë fans out there).

 Or could it be the big deal-breaker – that the heartbreak is just not there once I’m finally done reading a non-fiction book? Although, this does not yet apply to Road Trip Rwanda, as I have not yet finished (wondering when and if I’ll ever get there – but I digress). Is it so awful that once I reach the end, I feel a whole lot of nothing? Except maybe some slight joy that I am able to move on to the next one (how awful of me, I know)?

I guess it could be a mix of all three points. Or maybe I just haven’t pinpointed it yet. Nevertheless, this is why non-fiction will never have a special place in my heart, and why fiction will always reign. Please, don’t hate me.

But.

I am not ready to wave the white flag. What kind of bibliophile would I be, if I were not willing to give non-fiction another chance? 30000 other chances? So with that said, I would love some suggestions! Please feel free to leave a comment.

Sincerely,
The Struggling Librarian

 

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