Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Back on the Blog Chain: Reading Non-Fiction

It's my turn to pick the topic for this round, and it requires some deep reading:

We all know it's important to read fiction if you want to write fiction, but what about reading non-fiction? How much non-fiction do you read? What kinds of non-fiction books do you read, and why? Has reading non-fiction influenced your fiction writing style?

As always, I come between Kate and Christine in the blog chain.

So far, I've read 45 books this year. Of these, eleven are non-fiction, so 24% of my reading this year has been non-fiction. I'm currently in the middle of three books, one fantasy, one a non-fiction book on writing, and one about Native Americans (research for a story). This is actually a lot of non-fiction for me; last year, I read 34 non-fiction books out of 174, or 19% of my total reading. I typically aim for one or two non-fiction books a month. I suppose the proportion of non-fiction reading would go up if you include news articles, blog posts, and issues of Scientific American.

As for types of non-fiction I read, they include books on writing/self-publishing/marketing, science, history, parenting, and what I'll call home economics (cookbooks, cleaning/organizing tips, or other practical advice books). I mostly read non-fiction to learn. Sometimes I'm looking for something specific--perhaps to research something for a writing project--but other times I'm just absorbing tidbits of knowledge to use later for world-building. Reading history gives me ideas on how to construct societies in my worlds. Some of the non-fiction applies more to my personal life, such as books on parenting.

Has reading non-fiction influenced my writing style? Well, I could point to my unholy love of semicolons and complex sentences as an example. That aside, I do try to keep my fiction style easy to read while respecting my readers' intelligence. By "easy to read," I try keep my writing as clear as possible to avoid misunderstandings that might take the reader out of the story. That's probably an influence of my technical writing training.

How about you? Do you read non-fiction, and if so, what types of books do you read? I'd love to see some people answer this question in the comments.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's been a while since I read a non-fiction book, outside of Save the Cat. I have read several non-fiction Christian books in the past couple years.
And I am really impressed by your reading total!

Sandra Almazan said...

Thanks, Alex! And Save the Cat is one of those books I intend to read. I'll get to it eventually, when the time is right.

Maria Zannini said...

I buy a lot of books on gardening and farm animals. My book buying is seasonal too. More non-fiction in the spring and fiction in the winter.

Sandra Almazan said...

Seasonal buying makes sense when it comes to gardening and farm animals, Maria. I don't think the seasons affect my reading so much.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I hadn't thought about reading history for world-building ideas, but that's brilliant!

Tima Maria said...

Reading history is a great way to build worlds. As a historian I used my knowledge of Roman Britain to create a fantasy/vampire story. As for the amount of reading, I'm actually jealous at how many books you manage to get through. That's excellent!

Sandra Almazan said...

Thanks, Katrina!

Tima, that sounds like an interesting setting for a story. I'll have to check that out.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oh, I didn't think about cookbooks - well that definitely raises my non-fiction reading up quite a bit then!

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