Is your reading stuck in a rut? Do you read the same authors all the time? Do you ever search for something new (to you) and different to read?
I’m suggesting a little reading challenge for readers of this column: this year, read three books that take you out of your comfort zone.
In my last column, I was singing the praises of graphic novels – books for adults that look like comic books. Graphic novels bring a whole other dimension to reading by using images to convey plot and emotions.
Another type of reading that I frequently recommend is narrative nonfiction. Many people read nonfiction books without even realizing. Three of the most popular kinds of nonfiction are cookbooks, self-help, and how-to.
In your library, you’ll find how-to books about gardening, knitting, carpentry, drawing, engine repair, jewelry-making – you name it. Self-help comes in many flavours, from how to combat stress to how to get your children to go to bed, and just about every human issue you can think of.
These books can improve our lives in countless ways. But narrative nonfiction gives us more than information. It tells a story – a true story, using a huge amount of historical research, but told in a story form, with all the suspense and plot and character development that are used in fiction. In short, you’re reading facts but it feels like you’re reading fiction.
Here are some excellent and very popular nonfiction titles.
Dead Wake by Erik Larsen – You may already know the story of The Lusitania, but I guarantee you’ve never imagined it like this. The author takes you inside the luxury cruise ship – and the German submarine. It’s exciting and suspenseful, and it will give you a taste for what narrative nonfiction can do.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed – A woman with no experience or training embarks on a journey for which many people prepare for months or years. What happens to her on the trail, how she survives and what she learns, is riveting.
Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer – What happened to Chris McCandless, who gave up his trust fund to live in the Alaskan wilderness? If you enjoy this book, the author has written many other gripping tales of nonfiction.
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen – Memoirs written by creative and interesting people can make great reading. This book will amaze and surprise you. If you enjoy it, you might want to read memoirs by Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Elton John, Johnny Cash, Keith Richards, Tony Bennett, or Willie Nelson – there are dozens to choose from.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean – Yes, your librarian is recommending a book about libraries. Actually, Orlean’s book is about the huge fire that devastated Los Angeles’ Central Library in 1986. It’s also about arson, and the history of Los Angeles, and a whole bunch of other things. It’s fascinating. If you read it, you won’t be sorry.
If you’d like other reading suggestions for graphic novels, narrative nonfiction, or any other genre, ask at your library branch, or drop me an email. Readers’ advisory – that’s librarian-speak for what I’m doing here – is one of my favourite parts of my job.