Nonfiction Books that Changed My Mind About Nonfiction

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I do get it. I used to think that nonfiction was dry, dense and gasp yes boring. But over this past year I discovered several books that made me change my mind. Nonfiction can be fun, it can be entertaining, it can make you laugh and it can move you to tears. Nonfiction did require me to change some of my reading habits because the way I needed to read it was different than how I read my regular fiction books. It does take a little bit to get acclimated to reading nonfiction. So here are some tips and tricks that helped me discover all the goodness that is nonfiction and some books that were interesting enough to keep my interest.

Some Tips and Tricks

  1. Pick a book that interests you: Choose something that you’ve always wanted to learn about but never had the chance. For me it is American History, Ancient Rome and influential women.
  2. Don’t get stuck memorizing dates: If your like me you do want to learn about the subject and so you get bogged down by trying to remember the dates or specific details. Because you do want to learn everything about the book. Don’t. If you need to you can always come back to it or look it up.
  3. Set a goal: Read a specific amount of pages a day whether it be 5 or 20. I found this helped me not get intimidated by the larger sized nonfiction books. You will conquer that 900 page book just take it a little bit at a time.
  4. Take it Slow: Nonfiction takes me longer to read because there is more information and details packed into the sentences so I take it slow and I don’t worry that it is taking me longer to read than a fantasy book of the same length.
  5. Put it down if you hate it: You don’t have to finish every book you start if the book is one you really don’t like put it down and start another.

Back to the Books:

The following are the books that convinced me that reading nonfiction can and should be fun!

  1. John Adams by David McCullough:

    This is the book that started it all for me. John Adams is so well written and John Adams’ life is so dramatic that this book reads like a novel. The author describes Adams’ personality quirks and all so well and the story of John Adams is so engrossing. The author takes advantage of the fact that while Adams and the other founding fathers were writing letters to posterity as well as their intended recipient, Adams’ real voice definitely slips into his letters (especially the letters to Abigail). Which McCullough expands and explains in words that are beautifully written. McCullough provides a much more human portrait of Adams’ then some of the other founding fathers including stoic George Washington and elusive Thomas Jefferson. This makes a well written biography about John Adams thoroughly entertaining. John Adams definitely had his quirks which makes him one of the more human founding fathers.

  2. SPQR by Mary Beard:

    As I mentioned above I have always been interested in Ancient Rome. This book is extremely popular for good reason. I picked this up for nonfiction November and I found that it extremely interesting and led to me wanting to learn even more about the early Roman monarchies and the Roman Republic. The writing is very accessible and engaging. This book has the pictures embedded throughout the text and so the chapters go by very quickly. This book covers early Rome in detail but does not cover each of the emperors in great detail so if your looking for a book with detailed information on each of the roman emperors this one might not be for you but it does a fantastic job of describing early Rome.

  3. Hamilton by Ron Chernow:  

    If you think that I read this book because of the Hamilton musical you would be right! The musical certainly sparked my interest in this controversial figure and led me to read this book. However, this book does not disappoint. Hamilton like Adams had a leading role in the American Revolution and the forming of today’s government. Therefore the Hamilton’s story is extremely dramatic it has you laughing at Hamilton’s antics, throwing your arms in the air screaming seriously Hamilton! and has you in tears over his last letter to Eliza. This book does not have the same novel like writing that McCullough’s John Adams has but it is thrilling none the less. Hamilton’s story is sufficiently entertaining to keep you enthralled.

  4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff:

    The story of Cleopatra has been told many times through books and film. Stacy Schiff does Cleopatra justice with this biography. Like the other biographies on this list Cleopatra’s life is dramatic enough to keep the reader invested in her story. The amount of power and influence that Cleopatra weilded was amazing especially in contrast with the societies that she had to bargain and trade with (Rome). She not only was powerful herself but she had incredible influence over the leaders of the countries around Egypt especially Rome through Julius Caesar and Mark Antony) Her life is certainly one of the most dramatic on this list with all the romance, deception and murder within her story. This biography certainly has it all.

  5. Evening in the Palace of Reason by James R. Gaines:

    When you read this dual biography you learn about J.S. Bach and Frederick the Great. However, Bach is the one that shines in this biography. Bach the person shines through he wasnt just the boring composer whose music you were forced to play in your piano lessons but rather a person full of passion. (how else could he have fathered 20 children or have been thrown in jail) Bach’s passion for his craft and for what he thought was his mission is made apparent through the authors passion for Bach and his music and this enthusiasm makes this a very enjoyable read.

     

     

    What are some of your favorite nonfiction books or what would like to learn more about?

Relevant Links:

John Adams by David McCullough

SPQR by Mary Beard

Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

Evening in the Palace of Reason by James R. Gaines

Book Review: Evening in the Palace of Reason by James Gaines

 


 

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