Monday, January 18, 2010

Fiction Versus Non-Fiction?

What effect does each have on you?

It's a well known fact that a really good novel has the reader daydreaming about the fictitious life long after the book is closed. And, oh, what a lovely way to work through menial tasks like cleaning out hamster and guinea pig cages. (Can you tell what I did this morning before logging on?)

Seriously, it's been far too long since I enjoyed reflecting on a good story and contemplating what it was about the story and characters that drew me in and continue to hold me to them long after the story end is complete. That contemplating brings out characteristics I long to discover and/or develop in myself. And of course the writer in me has me wondering when I can fit a second "educational" read in to dissect that baby and figure out how the author created such an enjoyable world to travel into.

Now, Non-Fiction on the other hand offers a more immediate opportunity for change, complete with suggestions, of course. Whether it's a book teaching you to write that gives suggested ways to up the conflict, deepen the character, or spin a twist in your novel in progress, or a faith-driven book that reveals how to live your life more purposely for God, you have something at your finger tips to guide you along having an immediate impact on your life whether in work or personal growth.

The knowledge driven Non-fiction books for one reason or another always seem slow going for me. I suspect it's because I want to apply the suggestions. Test the new knowledge. Whereas, those really good fiction books get read in no time, but they live on, offering a wonderful dreamland to go to whenever I so desire.

Do you experience the same effects from your reading stack, or is everyone different?

A blessed Monday and Tuesday prayed for you all.


Surrendering to Him,

Eileen

30 comments:

Patti Lacy said...

Been reading nonfiction about China and fiction about China but HAVE picked up "The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow" which has enchanted me with Southern colloquialisms and quirky characters.

Sigh. I always love my fiction best.

Patti
P.S. You might drop by my blog today...and see yourself.

Georgiana said...

Like Patti, I enjoy fiction more :D But there's something about a great non-fic that has the power to change lives (of course this is true of fiction too.) One of my goals this year is to read more non-fic, as out of 100 or so books read last year, I'd be surprised if 2 of them were non-fic.

Joanne said...

I tend to be a little more analytical with the nonfiction, how-to type books, highlighting and flagging passages that might be helpful. Whereas a good novel (or memoir) will find me just moving through the pages seamlessly. I guess I read both with a different intent, so also a different style of reading.

Jody Hedlund said...

I love to analyze both. But like you, just don't always have the time to fit it in. I'm reading a great parenting book that I got for Christmas from my mom and I can immediately apply the things while I parent my children, so I really like that!

Anna said...

An interesting concept, one I'm gong to ponder, as I enjoy non-fiction as much as a juicy novel.

A blessed week to you too!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Very interesting! I'm just the opposite. I tend to go through nonfiction at lightspeed. Once I get the general argument, it's easy for me to see which parts I can leave out, so I tend to skim more.

T. Anne said...

This happens to me all the time once I've read a great novel. I love getting lost in the characters!

Maria I. Morgan said...

I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction. I tend to lean toward the non-fictional because it's too easy for me to get lost in a good fiction book and ignore my other obligations! Honestly, I tend to read several books at once - probably not the most effective method! I love books by Joanna Weaver, Beth Moore, Elizabeth George, etc.

God bless!

KelliGirl said...

I agree with the others. I get completely lost in fiction and go from one book to the next. Rarely do I not finish a fiction book.
With non-fiction, while I read many, I tend not to finish many that I start reading. However, I find I'm especially drawn to non-fiction books about aspects of our faith and provide insights into the Almighty. These I tend to read cover to cover.

I'd never thought about the differences between fiction and non-fiction. Thanks for the food for thought.

Erica Vetsch said...

I'm all about the fiction. The majority of the non-fiction I read these days is writing related.

I love to read a novel that grabs my imagination and has me thinking about it long after I finish the last page.

Sarah Forgrave said...

I love fiction, and certain books have inspired me to change my life more than many non-fiction books. There's something about seeing it applied in a story setting...sort of like Jesus' love of telling parables.

The thing I like about non-fiction though is that I can take it one chapter at a time and not miss too much momentum if I set it aside for awhile.

Kaye Dacus said...

As both an author, who was trained to read critically and critique, and as an editor, I find it much easier and more enjoyable to read nonfiction these days. It's just too hard for me to turn off that internal analyst who wants to break apart the story structure, the dialogue, the emotional content, etc.

That said, I don't even read much nonfiction anymore. As someone who spends all day focused on words (either coming up with them or editing them), sitting down to read just isn't as relaxing as it used to be!

I'm scouring the used books on Amazon and e*Bay as well as the public library system here for Madeleine L'Engle's nonfiction. One of my favorite books of all times is Walking on Water, and I've enjoyed other excerpts of her essays that I've read, both as a writer and as a Christian.

Terri Tiffany said...

The only non-fiction I've been reading lately are writing books. I prefer fiction but it's been weeks since Ive read one I really really love!

Anonymous said...

Eileen--just a suggestion:
"verses" are lines in poetry or songs; "versus" means against or contrasted with, which is what I think you had in mind
also,
"effect" is the noun you were probably looking for; "affect" is a verb.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Anonymous: Thanks for pointing out my faux paus. Can't get away from editing no-how, can I? LOL. Thank heaven for critique partners and blogger critiquers.

Kara said...

I seem to read fiction faster, just can't put good books down. But non-fiction, even though I enjoy, I can walk away from for longer periods of time because there is generally no plot drawing me back to find out "what happens".

Heather said...

Hello there! Nice to meet you! I agree, it seems much easier to get lost in a fiction story, Im sure because the author has more license with thought detail and actions where non-fiction tends to (by its nature) only stick to the facts. I have read some great non-fiction though, although its usually written in an autobiographical sense or the author takes extreme creative license...
definitely food for thought!

Karen Lange said...

I feel the same as you. Although there are some nonfiction books I go through more quickly, like factual accounts or biographies. It kind of depends what I am using them for. The how to and writing books often have post it notes marking passages. I can blaze through a good historical fiction in no time, but I do find myself examining passages and phrases, and wondering if I could write as well. I also examine characters, setting, and plot. In other words, I dissect while enjoying them:)
Blessings to you and your readers!

Warren Baldwin said...

I wish I could read nonfiction the way Rosslyn does. My brother does that. I still haven't caught on. I read for details, and often get bogged down in them. But I always wonder, how will I be able to use this information in something I teach/preach/write?

I've only been reading fiction for hte past several years. I find it a pleasant break from nonfiction (mostly theology and history). Also, I have found that well-written fiction does last well after the reading has finished. It lives on in the heart and mind. It also shapes some of the nonfiction I write. Even within nonfictin there is often room for a well spun story, and I'm trying to do that more.

Stimulating post.

And thanks for listing Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks on your right column! wb

Jeanette Levellie said...

Yes, I am the same. I savor the nf and try to apply the principles; the fiction I gulp for sheer love of its flavor and aroma.

Great post!

Heather Sunseri said...

I read both. I definitely get more entertainment value from a fiction book, but I grow my knowledge of certain topics with nonfiction. Great thought-provoking post, Eileen!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Eileen -

I read and write both non-fiction and fiction. Fiction is so powerful because we can see non-fiction principles worked out in the character's lives. It takes concepts and turns them into pictures.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Tabitha Bird said...

It depends which kind of 'non-fiction you are talking about. I read very few self help books. I get over them quickly. And frankly no book can tell you how to live. You have to put the book down at some point and go live. Memoir holds me and lives on in much the same way that fiction lives on long after the story is finished. I think it is interesting that Jesus chose to teach in stories a lot of the time. I think he knew a thing or two about what stays with the human mind and what is quickly forgotten or never fully taken in.

Linda Kage said...

I'm the same as you, Eileen. Non fiction goes a lot slower for me. I usually don't read nonfiction books all the way through, even the ones I like. But I rarely leave a fiction book unfinished.

destrella said...

I do seem to hit a lot of self betterment books for lasting effects. Once in a while a fiction story does keep me thinking and that is a good thing. The author really delivered a keeper. :O)

quietspirit said...

Eileen:
When I first read Jan Karon's Mitford series, I wanted to move there. When a friend of mine read them later, she'd tell me of an incident or a character and I would relive the scene.
The writing craft books, I read them slower and mark the parts that teach me something. Yes, they are slower reads

Roxane B. Salonen said...

I bounce back and forth. For me, memoir seems to be almost a happy medium, because while it's nonfiction, it's not a "how to" guide. There's still a story in there, and it really happened, which always intrigues me. When you're a writer/author, it's hard to not study while you read!

Anita said...

"Effect" and "affect" - gets me all the time. :)

I used to read autobiographies mostly, and non-fiction "How to..." books.
Joined a book club to force myself to vary. Actually, its on my list of blog topics, so you may see it in the near future.

Koala Bear Writer said...

I tend to read nonfiction books at a rate of about a chapter a day, while I'd devour fiction books as fast as I can read. Something about fiction just touches us, much deeper than nonfiction every can. Emotions are more powerful that intellect, I guess.

Susan Panzica - EternityCafe said...

Hi Eileen,
I've just been catching up with some email/blog comments. Thanks for stopping by Eternity Cafe and leaving me a message. I so appreciate it.

Regarding your post about nonfiction vs. fiction. I write nonfiction, but prefer to read fiction. As you said, I do find the characters lingering in my mind long after the book closes.

Many blessings,
Susan