(First off, apologies for the buzzfeed-y sub-title, but ever since I saw VisakanV make a joke out of it on his facebook, I’ve been doing it in my head as well. It’s entertaining, la!)
I recently was reading (listening to) a book that talked about the wisdom of grandparents. If you have people around you that are, say, 70 years old on average, and you have ten of these old people around you, what do you first think of? Do you think oh, all these old people are so troublesome, I have to take care of them and they’re so much hassle, there’s so much farting and oh no no no? Or do you stop to consider that around you is the accumulation of 700 years of life experience and wisdom? Hmm.
That, in a nutshell, encapsulates why I love non-fiction so much. Authors put in years of research and energy into putting these books together, and those of us who read quickly can ingest that information in a few days. In my buzzfeed-y headline I wrote that “this one simple trick will add years to your life”, and sometimes it really feels this way. It feels like I’m living years of other people’s lives from the books that they have written.
When I read Wave by Sonia Deraniyagala, the intensity of her prose and emotions made me feel as if I was living through the 2004 boxing day tsunami with her. When I read The Art of Happiness, it felt like I was accessing years of wisdom from the Dalai Lama, and years of research from psychologist Howard Cutler. When I read Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, I marvelled at how much effort went into turning scholarly research about the historicity of Jesus into a fast-moving, readable narrative mixed in with historical fact and conjecture. Since I know some of that scholarly research, I also understood why Christian scholars were complaining that Aslan presented scholarly debates as resolved to one side or the other, without touching on the complexities of some of the debates.
Living in this modern age, where we can download ebooks almost instantly, is a massive, massive privilege. But it is also a kind of disadvantage, since so many things are calling out for our attention. The choice that faces me daily is this: will I let media outlets, websites, the rush of social media, or trite entertainment shape my brain? Or will I direct my attention to things that I judge to be more helpful to me in developing my mind, my maturity, and my overall sense of well-being?
The pleasure of reading non-fiction is a pleasure that can be hard to get into, but I promise you, it is worth the effort. And for all your kids who need to write argumentative essays, listen up. The pleasure of reading non-fiction is one that will help you get that A for your English, General Paper, English Literature, and any subject that requires critical thinking and an ability to write well. So get cracking. Read some non-fiction today! 😀
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