What if I told you that non-fiction books can be just as magical, wondrous and leave you as content as a good hearty fictional story? You probably wouldn’t believe me. After all, there are no characters in such books to keep you engaged with their fictional yet relatable lives and experiences. But the point of reading non-fiction books goes beyond the feel-good factor. The purpose of these books is to expand your understanding and create a well-connected web of all the information, thoughts and ideas that you have within yourself. What makes a good story great, is an understanding of how and why a writer writes.
As I express this, interesting parallels between fiction and non-fiction books come to my mind that I will use to try and justify the joy of reading non-fiction and hopefully encourage you to do the same.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and Metaphorsis by Franz Kafka – Both these books talk about instances where a human being is mentally trapped or changed in a way that is incomprehensible to a sound linear person. In the former, you will find an easy recount of cases studies that a neurologist dealt with in his patients undergoing the most bizarre and inexplicable thoughts and behaviours. These were then scientifically explained as some form of neurological defect or issue. In the latter, you will find an infamous story of a man who turns into an insect overnight and eventually faces the consequences of his transformation in a world that doesn’t get him and does not have a place for him.
Both these books are an insight into the human mind and give us a view on how things may not always be as they seem. If you’re like me create some form of connection to satiate your logical self enough for you to enjoy reading and relating to both books immensely.
The influence of Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged on modern thinkers cannot be overlooked in our times. The novels by Ayn Rand, for those of us who have dared to endeavour of her journey, always leave you with some sense of sweet rebellion. While her books evidently express some severely condemned core concepts of capitalism and the importance of self interest; if you gave a read to The Virtue of Selfishness by Rand you would probably understand her ideology better. As readers, we don’t read to judge, agree or disagree with the author. We read to understand how each individual as a consequence of their circumstances and life experiences within society and culture, come to be. If we give her ideology, which propagates selfishness as a virtue and states that selfishness by definition is, looking after one’s own interests rather than the negative cultural connotation attached to the word as someone inhumane, we’d probably be able to understand her stories better.
Shashi Tharoor has written several non-fiction books to express his knowledge on pluralism, politics, diplomacy, history and religion that he has gathered through experience. He interacts with the world’s foremost academicians, authors, politicians and the youth alike. So, when you read a detailed factual account like The Era of Darkness, Pax Indica or his newest book, The New World Disorder and the Indian Imperative you would probably see his book The Great Indian Novel in a different light and what shaped his thoughts. And also, why he deserves to put his ideas out there for people to read and consume and make an educated decision about whether to read his work or not, as an author.
I had a similar experience while reading God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and then reading her essays on The Algebra of Infinite Justice, Listening to the Grasshoppers and Broken Republic. The central theme that Roy employs in her books is the voices of those who have been silenced, by walking alongside them in forests and having direct interactions with tribal communities.
These inspiring authors have pushed me to expand my understanding of human behaviour, the world and the society, while cooped up at home quarantining myself. I urge my fellow readers to take an initiative to pick up non-fiction books to gain insight into varied perspectives that propagates respect for individual opinion, scientific and spiritual thought and rationality as human beings and keep your curiosity alive, just like I did mine. I do hope that my takeaway from these books inspires you to take some time out to explore the wondrous world of non-fiction!