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BAND August 2011 Discussion – How Did You Get Into NonFiction?

August 8, 2011

B.A.N.D., Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees, launched in July and is being run by a small group of bloggers as a way to promote the love of nonfiction amount bloggers. Each month a discussion question will be put forward giving everyone and anyone the chance to respond. If you are interested in hosting a month do check out the tumblr site and let us know!

Last month Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness hosted the first discussion, asking What’s your favorite type of nonfiction? I had a lot of fun reading the answers that everyone submitted and they helped lead me to my topic for this month. One of my favorite things about reading is how one book leads to another which leads to another and so on. For a lot of us, nonfiction wasn’t something we always read and it was a specific topic or book that drew us in. And then once we started, we just couldn’t stop. So this month I’d like to know:

How did you get into reading nonfiction? Do you remember your first nonfiction book or subject? If so, do you still read those subjects?

eta: There ARE links in the collection, I don’t know why it is showing 0! Do click through to read them all. Sorry about this!

I have a terrible memory so it is rather odd that I am asking a question to which I can’t come up with a perfect answer myself… I don’t recall reading any (or at least many)  nonfiction books while growing up. I would read anything I found in the house, but while looking for books I never consciously picked up nonfiction. It wasn’t until after graduation from university that I really remember searching out nonfiction.

The first nonfiction books that I got into were memoirs from the Middle East, often faith based. I started out with such books as Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi, Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat, I is for Infidel by Kathy Gannon, and others. These books gave me a glimpse into another life and made me see perspectives outside my own and taught me that what we see on the news isn’t always the full picture. They made me want to know more about the world and also about the events we hear about in the news.

What is odd is that while I occasionally read memoirs and books on religions and the Middle East, I’ve largely moved on from those areas. Although I am still interested in these subjects, I seem to never get around to those books, finding myself instead enthralled by whole new subjects. Perhaps I’ll come full circle back to memoirs and religion books set especially around the Middle East, but I can’t see it happening any time soon – there are just too many subjects I want to know more about first!

From those first books I moved on to more of an international politics kick, reading more about the United Nations and international development. I wanted to know why different parts of the world were so different politically and culturally and how we see that / how we interact. From here I started reading more on international health as well, reading about why different people have better or worse options and the ways in which we justify this. This led me to looking at the health care systems closer to home and how class and race (and gender) play such a huge part in North America, which led me to race and gender issues in general.

Phew. It’s been four years, a lot of nonfiction, and a lot of different subjects. I can’t wait to see what I can find to read about in the next four years! I think part of it for me was keeping my brain working after university ;)

So there you have it, a bit about my journey, that I don’t see ending any time soon. What about you?

72 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie (Blog from Bookstores) permalink
    August 8, 2011 8:40 am

    I agree with what you said about nonfiction writing giving you a glimpse into someone’s else’s life from a new perspective. I find that that is what I enjoy most about it too, because like you said, I always find myself wanting to know more about the world around me, yet the news does not always give you the full story.

    Studying literary journalism and reading writers like Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, and Joan Didion is what got me into nonfiction. I think the first nonfiction book I read was Hiroshima by John Hersey. Ever since, I’ve been very enchanted by the way writers like these can form such eloquently written pieces about real people, places, and events while also incorporating literary and stylistic elements.That takes true talent.

    • August 12, 2011 10:46 pm

      The writers you studied in your classes sound really interesting Katie. It really is talent, I think, to write about true events. There is so much more to juggle than in fiction I often think! I’m glad you agree with enjoying the new perspective, I really think it is my favorite part! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. August 8, 2011 9:47 am

    Great question! I think when I became interested in missions to Honduras in 2005 was when I started reading non fiction – learning more about people and the country. From there it stemmed to other impoverish countries. I really can not follow the paper trail but somewhere in there I started reading memoirs, and true stories of crimes, etc…. I now read a non fiction read (or listen to a non fiction book on audio) once a week on the average.

    • August 12, 2011 10:45 pm

      Oh that makes sense, life does sometimes push you toward nonfiction! I tried to pull mine together into a neat trail but of course there are numerous side trips and interests in there too that just didn’t fit so I left them out ;) It’s not as easy as I pretended! that is a great average too!

  3. August 8, 2011 9:48 am

    The first non-fiction book I remember vividly is Investing for Dummies. I learned so much from reading that book that I was hooked. Anything I wanted to know something about I went and searched for a book on it! I actually abandoned fiction all together shortly after that.

    I just started reading fiction again for the first time in several years. I didn’t think it would require such an adjustment. But the book is a classic and well worth the read.


    • August 12, 2011 10:43 pm

      What an interesting book to start with that hooked you! It sounds like an important and useful book for sure, I should pick it up some day :) It is hard switching back sometimes between the two, nonfiction is still my favorite even though it doesn’t quite make up half of my reading. I wish I had more time for it sometimes Shannon. Do you think you will keep reading mostly nonfiction?

      • September 1, 2011 8:35 am

        I picked up 4 literary fiction books at Borders last week so I think I’m slowly making a transition. Maybe my reading will become more balanced but I don’t see myself abandoning non-fiction anytime soon. After all, my blog is named Reading Has Purpose! And I do learn a lot from the books I choose, I did a quick lessons learned rundown at the end of last year: 2010 To Sum it All up……

      • September 3, 2011 11:27 am

        Glad to hear you won’t abandon them Shannon :D The more the merrier, I think! Also, thanks for the link.

  4. August 8, 2011 10:24 am

    I read non-fiction consistently for school, but the first time I remember actually looking for nonfiction was after I read Charles Bowden’s personal essay the Bone Garden of Desire. I feel in love with the language and promptly started reading personal essays which eventually led to literary journalism and then memoirs. Now, I sprinkle in some nonfiction from time to time (of many varieties) but I do tend to stay in the literary journalism/creative nonfiction area.

    • August 12, 2011 10:42 pm

      Hmmm I hadn’t heard of that one Trisha, so on to the wish list it goes, thanks. It’s fun sprinkling in books that fit the topic of the moment isn’t it?

  5. August 8, 2011 10:57 am

    I actually never read nonfiction before starting my blog. I was strictly a fiction girl, until the opportunity came to review some nonfiction, and I took a chance. I also started to read other websites where nonfiction was a big feature, and that got me interested as well. I think before I started reading nonfiction, I just assumed that it was boring and dry, and would hold no interest for me. My first nonfiction book was, I think, Summer World, by Bernd Henrich, which was about all forms of animals and their summer habits. I remember loving it, and wondering if there were more books out there like that! This is a great question, Amy, and has me reaching back into my brain for the answer.

    • August 12, 2011 10:41 pm

      Oh how awesome that the blog got you reading nonfiction zibilee! Ah the joys of blogging :D You read some really interesting stuff now too. I’m glad you enjoyed both your first nonfiction reads and the questions. Thanks for sharing your answer!

    • August 23, 2011 10:09 pm

      I just have to reply because I immediately recognized the name Bernd Heinrich. He’s published at least a few books with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where I was an intern recently. I think he’s signed on for a new one; I got the somewhat tedious task of entering his publishing history into a database. He’s written so many books!

  6. August 8, 2011 6:37 pm

    I didn’t read any non-fiction for a lot of years after college…I kept thinking it would be dry and boring like most of my college texts! But about 6 or 7 years ago I started reading travel memoirs and then I branched out from there. I still read way more fiction than non-fiction, but at least I’m not turned off by non-fiction anymore!

    • RogueAnthropologist permalink
      August 9, 2011 8:23 am

      I like this question! I’m also glad that your response reminded me I want to read Iran Awakening :)

    • August 12, 2011 10:40 pm

      Ooohh travel memoirs would be a fun place to start Jill. Do you still read them?

  7. August 9, 2011 10:05 am

    Great question! I’ve posted my full answer over at my blog.

    I have to say that I love, love, love Reading Lolita in Tehran. It was one of the first nonfiction books I read when I started reading nonfiction again. I have bought several copies as gifts for people, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I still haven’t read the author’s memoir about her childhood, which I have been meaning to.

    • August 12, 2011 10:38 pm

      Thanks for answering and sharing your link MJ. I’m glad you liked that one – I really did as well. Her second book is also good though I didn’t enjoy it as much.

  8. August 10, 2011 8:29 am

    This is a great question, but one I’m not sure I have an answer to. I’ve been reading non-fiction as long as I’ve been reading, I think – I had a few children’s biographies when I was little about famous personalities, and I read The Diary of Anne Frank and Zlata’s Diary about a girl living in Sarajevo in the siege of 1992. It was never a main interest until I discovered that I loved history, though, in college about 7 years ago now (eek!). Since then I’ve just adored reading all kinds of history, and expanded into other popular non-fiction as well.

    • August 12, 2011 10:37 pm

      So jealous that you’ve always read it Meghan, I missed out on so many years! Both great books, I read them in the past couple of years :) History seems to have been a big draw for many.

  9. August 10, 2011 2:13 pm

    Wonderful post, Amy! It was nice to know about how your nonfiction reading changed across the years and the adventures you had on the nonfiction landscape. I have read nonfiction ever since I can remember. I started out reading sports memoirs and essays and then branched on to other areas of nonfiction like history and science. Nonfiction is a really vast area and it is difficult to even call it by one name, I think :)

    • August 12, 2011 10:36 pm

      Thank you Vishy, I’m glad you enjoyed reading about my journey. I’m so jealous that you’ve always read nonfiction. Interesting topics too.

  10. August 10, 2011 3:24 pm

    Btw, Amy, it’s showing as 0 links added, even though mine and Cass’s are in there.

    • August 12, 2011 10:36 pm

      I don’t know how to make it update Amanda! :( Still fighting… argh.

  11. August 11, 2011 12:14 pm

    I tend to read books about books as my main non fiction reads ,I also like the odd music related book ,all the best stu

  12. August 12, 2011 9:08 am

    My nonfiction reading started so long ago that it was hard for me to remember the details! You can read my full post here.

    • August 12, 2011 10:35 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing Julie! I’m jealous of everyone who got into nonfiction early :)

  13. August 13, 2011 8:05 pm

    This is a great question — it’s fun to think back on the early nonfiction reading I did.

    These days I don’t often think of Leif Garrett, but your question brought back memories…

    If you’re brave, here ’tis:

  14. August 15, 2011 4:43 pm

    This sounds like a terrific journey through books around the world, geographically, and around the world of ideas.

  15. August 18, 2011 11:12 pm

    It sounds like you read in subject-clusters which sounds really cool, because it means you can make some judgments about what books you liked best about the subject, because you’ve read a range of them.

    I’ve added my response to the question and put it in the linky in your post, but I’ll put the link here too:

    • August 21, 2011 8:47 am

      That is true Christy, I find it easier to judge books when I know a bit about the subject matter. Thanks for sharing your answer, it was fantastic to read!

  16. August 21, 2011 8:59 am

    I used to say no to non-fiction because it was always what the adults read and I feared that if I read one I’d be expected to stop reading fiction. Crazy, I know. But you can only learn so much about history without picking up a book so I found one that was written like a novel and went from there. I still stick mostly to history, with a few biographies and a bit of science mixed in. And if I read a fiction book that is a fictional take on a real event/person, and I find myself interested, I’ll look for a non-fiction afterward.

    • August 23, 2011 11:07 am

      Thanks for sharing Charlie! That makes sense, the expectations. Funny what we sometimes think isn’t it? I think topics are what get a lot of people interested – after reading something fictional we want to know more.

  17. August 22, 2011 2:50 am

    I enjoy reading this post – when I answered this question (, I am actually surprised that I read NF far back further than I remember!

  18. Reese M. permalink
    August 23, 2011 6:12 pm


    This is a great question, and I was so pleased to discover BAND. Awesome idea. ;) I answered on my blog today. :)

    What I didn’t say on my blog is that I really thought that I would sort of “outgrow” my obsession with nonfiction. But instead it just got to be more of an obsession.

    I will say that it’s not as if I love nonfiction at the expense of fiction. I actually read plenty of fiction as well…but even in those cases…I tend to be a fan of historical fiction. My favorite author, Margaret George (who I interviewed this past April) is notorious for researching her subjects for years and years, straining to keep as many facts in as elements of her stories. So there you go. :)

    • August 26, 2011 8:07 am

      Glad you like BAND Reese! That’s really interesting that you thought you would grow out of it! I’ve always felt more like I’m growing into my nonfiction love :) And yes, that makes sense that you still read more but you read fiction that is a bit more true. Sounds like interesting stories! Thanks so much for joining :)

  19. August 24, 2011 10:37 am

    I think my first non-fiction book I read as a child was Winston’s Churchill’s A History of the English Speaking Peoples, and I’ve loved reading history books ever since. I used to read a lot more non-fiction when I was a student (history, philosophy, art, biography as a reaction to studying science) but I realise I don’t as much anymore, although I still try to read a bit of history and science now and then.

    • August 26, 2011 8:08 am

      Wow, that is quite the book to start with Sakura! I’m guessing it was good? Sounds like some great topics you’re exploring too.

  20. August 27, 2011 8:58 am

    I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying BAND. I have yet to come across someone in the “real” world that shares my love of nonfiction. I get responses like, “You read nonfiction; do you mean biographies? That sounds so boring.” Enjoying reading everyone’s response and jotting down titles for my TBR list. My response is on my blog and linked above.

    I also read “Hiroshima” in high school and remember enjoying it.

    • August 27, 2011 10:32 am

      I know exactly what you mean Savvy Working Gal! My parents read some nonfiction, but mostly everyone just thinks I’m crazy – especially because of the types of nonfiction that I enjoy most. That was really what led us to create BAND. We need to ‘band’ together and show how awesome nonfiction really is :D (And realize we’re not alone!)

      Thanks for sharing your response as well :) Also, you should consider hosting a month :D

  21. August 27, 2011 11:58 am

    Glad I’m not the only one who enjoyed those Middle East memoirs ! Love BAND !

    • August 30, 2011 9:53 am

      Glad to hear it maphead :) You read a ton of really great nonfiction!

  22. September 1, 2011 11:19 am

    I can’t actually say which book was my first non-fiction book. However, as a blogger I think the first one I read was Obama’s Dreams from my Father, because he was visiting Ghana. Then I read David Rooney’s Kwame Nkrumah: Vision and Tragedy because it was the centenary celebration of Ghana’s first president. I have received and read a travelogue and one which is difficult to categorise, but definitely not a fiction.

    My recent non-fiction is by Kwame Nkrumah titled Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism. And I visited non-fiction because I wanted to be part of BAND.

    • September 3, 2011 11:27 am

      Ah interesting choices Nana, both sound really interesting. I can’t wait to hear more about the one you just read!

  23. October 26, 2011 1:46 pm

    Late to the party:


  1. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? | Joy's Book Blog
  2. August BAND: Non-Fiction Discovery | Bonjour, Cass!
  3. Bloggers’ Alliance of Non-fiction Devotees (BAND): August Discussion: How Did You Get Into Non-fiction? « Opinions of a Wolf
  4. August BAND Discussion: Detectives and memoirs and obsessions, oh my « Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
  5. BAND: How Did You Get Into Nonfiction | English Major's Junk Food
  6. BAND August Discussion: Nonfiction Beginnings
  7. BAND Discussion: How did you get into non-fiction? | A Good Stopping Point
  8. August in the BAND — my nonfiction bio | Joy's Book Blog
  9. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? | Joy's Book Blog
  10. BAND Discussion: How I started reading nonfiction « rogue anthropologist
  11. August 2011 Reading Wrap Up « Amy Reads
  12. BAND September 2011 – Audiobooks and Nonfiction « Amy Reads
  13. BAND October 2011: Nonfiction Anthologies « Amy Reads
  14. BAND November 2011: Reading for a Cause « Amy Reads
  15. Band January 2012: Reading for Projects and Goals « Amy Reads
  16. Books for Resolutions, Goals, and Projects — January BAND wrap-up | Joy's Book Blog
  17. BAND February 2012: What Nonfiction Don’t You Like « Amy Reads
  18. BAND April 2012: Quirky Readomg « Amy Reads
  19. BAND May 2012: Nonfiction I Hate to Admit I Enjoy « Amy Reads
  20. BAND June 2012: When Bias is a Good Thing « Amy Reads

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