In an effort to be more professionally well-rounded, this year I decided that I would read more nonfiction. I have never disliked nonfiction, but I have been wilfully neglecting it, for no good reason. If I feel saddened when a customer says “I only ever read nonfiction”, I can’t justify reading only fiction, can I?
So I’ve been trying to read at least one work of nonfiction per month. Finding someone or something that interests me is almost embarrassingly easy: turns out I have a penchant for memoir, particularly memoir with a medical aspect. I’m currently reading Do No Harm, the recollections of English neurosurgeon Henry Marsh; before that it was When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi; I started this whole endeavour with Get Well Soon! by Kristy Chambers. These books have been (in turn) fascinating, heartbreaking, and hilarious. Fiction delights me and moves me, but it doesn’t AWE me in the same way these stories do.
Here are some of the other nonfiction reads I’ve been enjoying:
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield – I tend to be wary of ‘inspirational’ books, but I could not resist Hadfield or his subject matter. Space! The mind boggles. Hadfield’s writing is engaging and he also sounds super lovely: I understand now why this book was so popular a few Christmases ago.
Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim – This is the account of a Korean-American writer who masqueraded as a missionary masquerading as a teacher at an elite North Korean university in the time shortly before the death of Kim Jong-il. In equal parts compelling and disturbing.
How to Be Happy by David Burton – I’m a keen follower of The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, which ‘How to Be Happy’ won in 2014. The book chronicles the author’s struggles with depression, anxiety, and his sexual identity, which he recounts with great compassion and much humour. If ever you’ve been (or if you are) young and felt lost or miserable or confused – read this book.
Furthermore, if you’ve read any wonderful nonfiction recently, let me know. I’ll add it to my list.