Just A Summer Read? (Part II: The Value of Non-Fiction)

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

―Dr. Seuss

For many of us, reading non-fiction began in the halls of higher learning, shortly after we mastered “See Jane run.” Depending on our bent, earthworms, ants and mathematical equations may not have endeared us to non-fiction. I am, although, fairly certain geology set the foundation for my love of bling.

In parochial school, my education would not have been complete without reading the lives of the saints. I couldn’t imagine leading an army with the courage of my namesake Joan of Arc only to be burned at the stake.

Names and dates relating to dead people may spawn yawns. But who isn’t enthralled with a tea party or the late night ride of Paul Revere? The adventures and the audacity of our Founding Fathers formed my introduction to non-fiction characters.

Genres of Non-Fiction

  1. Biography. An account of someone’s life penned by another person.
  2. Autobiography. An author shares his or her own life story.
  3. Memoir. A collection of memories and anecdotes woven together relating to a specific theme or time period in an individual’s life.
  4. Academic. Textbook learning including English, history, math and science.
  5. Instructional. How-to books or step-by-step manuals designed to improve skills such as music, art, crafts, sports, travel, gardening or cooking.
  6. Inspirational. The author shares valuable life lessons.
  7. Self-Help. Experts share their expertise on a specific topic.

What are the Benefits of Reading Non-Fiction?

  1. Teaches us new skills.
  2. Increases our knowledge of the world around us.
  3. Helps us grow in wisdom.
  4. Inspires hope.
  5. Motivates us to meet new challenges.
  6. Builds courage to overcome adversity.
  7. Promotes understanding others.
  8. Increases our empathy for other people.
  9. Changes our perspective by shifting our mindsets.

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

(Proverbs 18:15 NIV)

A Few Memorable Works of Non-Fiction

Recipes, disguises and humor pepper the pages of Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires: the Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.”

Plots, character development and writing myths punctuate Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, a book devoted to the art of writing.

Who of us have not been touched by The Diary of Anne Frank, a teen-ager hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam because she was Jewish?

The godly wisdom of Oswald Chambers graces My Utmost for His Highest.

In Through the Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis poured out his heart on life, love and loss. He penned numerous books, including Mere Christianity.

Elisabeth Elliot describes the faith and martyrdom of her husband and four other missionaries in Through Gates of Splendor. She later brought the gospel to the Ecuadorian tribe who had savagely murdered these husbands and fathers.

Other missionaries include Amy Carmichael in India, Eric Liddell from Chariots of Fire and Katie, an 18-year-old who shares her journey of adopting Ugandan children in Kisses from Katie.

Many have been persecuted for the sake of the gospel including Vanya, a soldier in the Soviet Red Army, Dietrich Bonheoffer in Nazi Germany, and Nora Lam from China Cry.

In The Hiding Place Corrie ten Boom describes God’s grace mingled with the horrors of a concentration camp. Tramp for the Lord highlights her travels sharing her testimony—“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

The pages of the Bible are filled with the stories of real people, their struggles, their failures and their triumphs—Abraham, Joseph, Esther, David, Daniel, and Paul. Ultimately, the Bible is the story of Jesus Christ.

I have discovered along with C.S. Lewis, “We read to know that we are not alone.”

I love stories of real people pressing through trials, facing adversity, and making choices that shape their lives and the lives of others for the better. Their heart, passion, motives and transparency inspire me long after I’ve read their story of how they lived out these life lessons.

Do you have a story that needs to be shared?

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