Fiction vs. Non-fiction

Recently I got into a discussion with a friend about fiction and non-fiction books, after we’d both entered a book store at the same time and walked off to opposite sections. This always happens whenever we go book-shopping; while I will make a beeline for the fiction section, my friend will turn and bury herself between the non-fiction books. At the checkout counter, I was holding a pile of novels and she says, “How can you like fiction so much?” And I counter with, “How can you like non-fiction so much?”

While I’m not undermining non-fiction books in any way, as I know it probably takes years of research to put one together, I just can’t bring myself to read them. I have a very short attention span, and facts and theories simply cause my eyes to glaze over. I can only read a few lines before it loses me. Often I find that I reached the end of the page without even registering the words I’d read. It’s impossible for me to read something that hadn’t been laid out in story form. But… take novels like Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder for example; it’s basically a lesson in philosophy, but I was able to read and enjoy it simply because it’s written in the form of a novel. In fact, all of Gaarder’s books discuss philosophy, and one of them – The Solitaire Mystery – has made it to my list of favourite books.

So really, it’s not about the fact that they’re non-fiction; it’s more about their presentation. I can watch documentaries quite easily. In fact, I’ve come across some that I’ve really enjoyed watching. I’m not averse to learning new things, but reading about them… it rather reminds me of all the reading I had to do at school, haha.

However, when it comes to fiction, I can get lost in the book. I can’t count the time I’ve completely lost track of time or stayed up till the wee hours of the morning reading a book. When I was still in school, I would read under the desk, or else put my paperback inside a larger book and pretend to be engrossed in the lesson, and I got away with it… most of the time, anyway. It’s so easy to fall in love with fiction, to like the characters, laugh at their misfits and feel sad about their pain, to try to picture the fantastic worlds and wish you could be part of them.

Currently I’m catching up on two books that somehow did not find their way into my childhood – The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman and Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo – and I’m enjoying them quite a lot. I can read almost any genre, and audience has never deterred me; I admit that I’ve read all my six-year-old brother’s books and liked them.

Of course I’m not saying that I like every work of fiction out there, but I would take a nice novel over a book filled with facts any day.

My question to you, dear readers, do you prefer fiction over non-fiction, or do you like them both equally? Why?

Also, if any of you know books similar to Sophie’s World, I’d love me some recommendations! =]

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20 thoughts on “Fiction vs. Non-fiction

  1. I’m like you, I prefer fiction over non fiction. How to books, history books, etc. can’t seem to hold my attention, even though I love philosophy! There is one book that I have read, it’s a series actually, and it’s non fiction, but many will tell you not to read it, because it is heartbreaking and that is, “A Child Called It” by Dave Pelzer. I’ve read all three books in the series, in fact I had all three books in paperback, but with all the sharing and loaning out, somehow I ended up with the first book and 2 copies of the second and who knows where my third book went or who has it. So have you read it?

    • If you love philosophy you should definitely check out Sophie’s World! It’s really worth the read. I’ve seen “A Child Called It” on the shelves of my local bookshop, but was always hesitant about buying it. I don’t mind sad stories, so maybe I will take you up on that recommendation! =]

  2. It’s fiction for me as well. I’ve just spent the better part of my weekend glued to Game of Thrones instead of doing any of the stuff I actually planned to do. That’s not to say that some non-fiction hasn’t grabbed me. Tom Holland is a fantastic writer, and Rubicon was a fantastic book. I’m keen on the subject but his style of narrative history would get me, no matter what he was writing about. And then there’s the old stuff too. I love the Fall of the Roman Empire, by Gibbon, (yep, same subject again) but mainly for the incredible language he uses.

  3. Wow. I have to say, probably fiction. I know what you mean about reaching the end of a page of facts and not knowing anthing about what you just reads. That sometimes happens to me at the end of paragraphs!

    • Haha, that always happens to me when reading non-fiction. I cannot for the life of me remember what was said at the beginning or middle of a paragraph. xD

  4. I read fiction for pleasure and to gain insight into how other writers write.I mainly read nonfiction for research. If you like fantasy, “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern is a good one.

  5. I read both and write both. My preference in non-fiction though, whether reading or writing, leans towards what is usually called creative or literary nonfiction. Personal essays, memoir, etc. I do enjoy some journalistic and research stuff as well, but not if it’s too dry. Adding the personal angle makes all the difference.

    • Well memoirs, biographies and essays are interesting! Even if they’re non-fiction, they still have a story-like quality about them and that makes them enjoyable. It’s the dry ones, as you put it, that I stay away from.

      Thank you for commenting!

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