Reflections on Reading Non-Fiction

I recently started reading My Own Words by Ruth Bader-Ginsberg. I was really excited about this book when I heard about it and pre-ordered it but the only reason I actually opened it up is because I finished all the library books I have and didn’t want to go to the library. It made me wonder how and why I choose the books I do.

I have a habit of seeing a book mentioned or hearing someone talk about a book and I reserve it at the library, wait for it to be available and read it. That is my usual book-choosing process. I almost never start a book without finishing it. I did recently (and I can’t even remember what it was) but it took me awhile to convince myself it was okay to do that.

Anyway, back to the Notorious RBG’s book. Why am I not excited to read it? I don’t think I read fiction as an escape because it doesn’t help me forget what’s going on. I think it does the opposite. I think it gives me another lens with which to reflect on my life. Non-fiction doesn’t do this for me. With non-fiction, I think about about what this person did or how those events played out and I may take away a couple new ideas for how to accomplish something in my life. Instead of helping me get a new framework or perspective on things, it tells me exactly how to do x, y or z. It’s more rigid, less malleable. Do other people experience this too?

I find I read fiction when I’m stressed and life is hectic and I read non-fiction when I want to learn something. I’ve been reading a lot recently. Often more than a book a week and I find this is often one of my coping mechanisms when I’m stressed or unhappy. When I’m too overwhelmed to know how to handle my own life, reading about somebody else’s is a nice way to get a break and a bit of clarity.

There is one exception to my general lack of non-fiction: I will read a book written by Mary Roach any time, any place. I can’t get enough.