Clearly, I don't fit into that exactly. I'm not the bookworm my wife is (I don't usually finish books in a day), but I do read quite often. Fiction (mainly of the Star Wars variety) and non-fiction (mainly of sales and religious variety) are both frequently found in my hands. But I can understand why some people stop. Life gets busy, television fills the entertainment (and information) need. Not to mention we're forced to read some really bad fiction and really dry non-fiction (how I still loathe my Western Civilization reading assignments) while we're in college.
But 16% is a really, really low number. I mean, 40% I can live with. But 16%? That's less than how often Casey Blake gets a hit with RISP and 2 outs in his career. That's way too low.
And maybe it's because most people simply don't know how to find good non-fiction. Or how to tell if they're reading good non-fiction.
I mean, most of us know how to find good fiction. We pick it up, and the characters, world, magic, or romance draws us in. We're able to see things in our head, and anticipate and hope for outcomes.
But we don't get that in non-fiction. We get opinion, belief, and hopefully advice and insight. If it was predictable, we wouldn't want to read it. Most of the non-fiction I like I didn't know was my type, it came on a recommendation.
Now, I know what bad non-fiction looks like. And feels like, more importantly. It feels and reads like the aforementioned books from the Western Civ classes. It makes me dread turning the page, constantly count to a break/end of chapter, and keeps me from hoping there's more of the same to follow.
But, I really couldn't describe to you what good non-fiction looks like. Or feels like, more importantly.
But, last night I started reading a new non-fiction book. My good buddy David and I did a book swap last weekend. I loaned him Christ the Lord by Anne Rice, which was so far down my reading list at the time, it wasn't getting read until at least October. In return, he loaned me Simply Christian, which he had just finished and thought would be a great fit for my mindset.
So, again, I pick up some non-fiction on recommendation.
But, I do think I've found what makes good non-fiction good.
And, you'll have to excuse me, because I'm only one chapter (plus the introduction) into it, but I'm ready to say I like the book.
And I think it's because of this litmus test for (certain types of) non-fiction:
The author is able to say something that you've wanted to be able to say, but haven't had the words or wisdom to be able to say.
It's why Rob Bell works so well for me.
And let me give you an example from this book:
"Haven't Christians been part of the problem rather than part of the solution?
Yes and no.
Yes: from very early on there have always been people who have done terrible things in the name of Jesus. There have also been Christians who have done terrible things knowing them to be terrible things, without claiming that Jesus was supporting them. There's no point hiding from this truth, however uncomfortable it may be.
But also no: because again and again, when we look at the wicked things Christians have done (whether or not they were claiming God was on their side), we can see in retrospect at least that they were muddled and mistaken about what Christianity actually is. It's no part of Christian belief to say that the followers of Jesus always got everything right. Jesus himself taught his followers a prayer which includes a clause asking God for forgiveness. He must have thought we would go on needing it"
Like I said, something I've always wanted to be able to express, but haven't been able to find the words, spirit, or wisdom to say so myself. And thus it passes my new litmus test.
Seriously, last night, I wouldn't have been surprised if there was literally a light bulb over my head explaining this new idea I had on why I like certain non-fiction.
And, like I said, I'm only one chapter in. But this book is off to a promising start. And, I'm thinking it will end up not only on my "perpetually recommend to anyone willing to listen to a book recommendation" list, but also on my "not enough to have read it, must also own it" list.
And so while it might not help me in recognizing from a distance what is good non-fiction, maybe it will help you all do a better job in recommending good non-fiction to me.