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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Starting a New List of Favorites


Do all of you know Goodreads the site that combines book reviews with social networking, so that you can share the books you are reading and see what your friends or colleagues are reading? I had liked stopping in on their site to see how people reacted to books I wrote or edited, but then a reviewer I’ve known for years invited me to actually join. I was hesitant since so much of my reading centers on manuscripts (mine or those I am editing for others) that the rest of the world cannot yet see. But I do visit the site often enough, so I said yes. I did not pay close enough attention, for soon I was being linked in sharing reading experiences with many others who are veteran Goodreads posters. And that has been interesting.

I’m afraid I’ve been a bad guest, I have not cited a single book yet. But I am getting a cross-section of what some of the best reviewers in children’s and young adult are reading, or considering important to discuss. And can you guess what nearly all of the books those readers cannot wait to share and discuss have in common? I bet you can — the books are novels, picture books, graphic novels, occasionally a memoir. I saw one post about How We Work, and two about an adult book about the New York Marathon. Now maybe I am missing something, or the selection of posters I happened to connect with at the start was misleading. I know some of the posters are judges on committees, perhaps they must exclude books they are evaluating professionally — which certainly includes some nonfiction. But I suspect that what I am seeing on Goodreads is simply a roughly accurate portrait of what the best readers and reviewers of books for children and teenagers prefer to read, enjoy reading, like sharing with others. And those books, overwhelmingly, are not non-fiction. 

I noticed this in part because overwhelmingly the books I read for pleasure are nonfiction. So how about this — let’s start a list of favorite nonfiction books that you have read for pleasure. Maybe we can not only create a great list of fav raves, but also identify what the pleasures of nonfiction reading are — so that fiction readers better understand what we enjoy. My current bedtime read is Nicholas Ostler’s history of the world’s languages I read it slowly, like a desert that is too rich. But on every page I learn more about the languages of the world, how they formed, spread, changed. I feel I am being given a chance to learn, to go from ignorance with bits and fragments of knowledge to a satisfying and coherent understanding of how we all speak and write, and how it got that way. I can’t wait until I have that free moment at the very end of my day to learn more.


  1. Susan Thomsen says:

    I’m an avid reader of fiction and nonfiction. My current book is Edward O. Wilson’s memoir “Naturalist,” which is fascinating. What a mind! I am so happy to have a new (to me) author to read.