9.11.2009

a flaw in my education

I've always been proud of the fact that I have made the most of my education career. I took AP classes in high school, I've done my best to fully engage myself in the material (well, maybe not with physical science. . . .), and I read a ton on my own anyway. And yet, given all my propensity and love for learning, yesterday I realized a serious hole in my education, more specifically my literary education. Surprised? Me too.

I never learned to read nonfiction. I've always read fiction books, especially when I read for fun. In all my English classes, I've read primarily fiction books. (I'm racking my brains for nonfiction I've read in school and came up with Night by Elie Wiesel, and I've also read and loved Rocket Boys, but do memoirs count as nonfiction?) In my major, I've read fiction books. Almost exclusively. With the exception of excruciatingly boring early American lit and horribly condescending Heideggerian theory, I've been conditioned to read and appreciate fiction, with no thought for nonfiction.


In my Literature for Adolescents class, we just read a nonfiction book, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, about Captain Shackleton and his expedition to Antarctica. It wasn't my favorite, but it was still okay. What most concerned me about my reaction, however, was that I didn't expect much, simply because it was nonfiction. I am currently completely unable to see how a teenager would want to just pick up a nonfiction book. Do teenagers read nonfiction just because? I never did. I'm completely jaded by my own constructed bias for fiction.

What went wrong?! I'm a reader. I've always been a reader. I love being able to call myself a reader. But now I feel that I'm not real reader because I don't appreciate nonfiction--I don't even know how to appreciate or enjoy nonfiction. It's not even just about appreciation--I haven't even given nonfiction enough of a try to see if I could or wanted to appreciate it.

Who would have thought that my literary education--my literary education--was flawed like this?

In an effort to help me fill that serious gap and better round out and complete my education, please give me titles of your favorite nonfiction books. I'm serious.

14 comments:

Daniel said...

Anything at all by John McPhee. Specifically: "Pieces of the Frame" and "Coming into the Country".

paws said...

I was thinking about this just the other day, as I read fiction almost exclusively. However, I consulted my list of favorites (http://imutimuinc.blogspot.com/2008/01/this-ones-for-hanna.html)
and came up with quite a few:

Survive!: My Fight for Life in the High Sierras by Peter DeLeo

Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See by Robert Kurson

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Between A Rock and a Hard Place by Aaron Ralston

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

Hm...I see a common theme. Do you? ;)

paws said...

You can "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and "Every Second Counts" by Lance Armstrong to that list...

Pamski said...

1) "Manhunt" James L. Swanson
2) "Team of Rivals" Doris Kearns Goodwin
3) "Long Walk to Freedom" Autobiography Nelson Mandela
4) "Undaunted Courage" Stephen E. Ambrose (actually anything by S.E.A.)

I love historical Non-fiction! But I didn't when I was your age. I think the love of non-fiction comes with age. :)

I read Into Thin Air and was very frustrated by the fact that these people would risk their lives just to climb a mountain, but I'm not much of an adventurer...it's interesting.

We read "Three Cups of Tea" for our book club and everyone loved it. I actually "accidentally" bought the young person's edition (YPE), which was very enjoyable, and during our discussion I discovered that the YPE was more light hearted and fun because it's written from a 12 year-old's point of view.

Happy Reading!

Jill said...

I have the same hole in my education and it is a nuisance that has bothered me many times.

michelle said...

I certainly hope that memoirs count as non-fiction, because that 's my favorite variety!

I enjoyed Three Cups of Tea, The Know-It-All, The Middle Place, The Year of Living Biblically... and I have a lot more memoirs on my to-read list.

Katelyn said...

k well if this counts...i love love love it: Tender at the Bone. you can borrow it:0) sounds creepy. it's sooo good.

Denise said...

I'm with Jill on this one.

Dad is the one who needs to comment here, as I think he has read quite a bit of non-fiction, including the one Pam recommends by Stephen Ambrose (he has his own copy). I'm loving "Rocket Boys!"

Petey said...

FYI: I don't think that failing to revel in a nonfiction book disqualifies you as a real reader silly goose.
You just haven't aqcuired a taste for it yet because fiction has such a variety to choose from that satisfies your wants in a book.

paws said...

I would argue that there's way more variety in the non-fiction genre. For example, I know a really great book about breastfeeding that I forgot to mention in my last, ahem, two responses...

Besides that, there's cookbooks, knitting books, travel guides, most blogs, textbooks, instruction manuals, history books, etc, etc, and so forth.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.

Marianne said...

I am just reveling in the fact that I have friends and family who think this "hole in education" is worth discussing. I certainly have other friends and family who don't even read.
I really liked:
1)Into thin Air
2)Mother's book of Secrets
3)Continuous Atonement
4)Rold Dahl's Autobiography (reads better than fiction)
5)I Hate it when Exercise is the Answer.

Quanta said...

I also suggest Three Cups of Tea =)

Melissa Marilyn said...

Memoirs definitely count! I am also a more recent non-fiction reader, but have enjoyed most of what Ive read so far.


1)The Glass Castle
2)America Alone
3)Eat, Pray, Love
4)The Devil in the White City (Reads like fiction and is fascinating!)

Love you!

Natasha and Jesse said...

This is an old post but I found the book "How We Got to Now" by Steven Johnson really, really interesting. And I also like anything by Malcolm Gladwell.

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