Non-fiction vs fiction books?

I don't read stories. They're not real and it takes longer than a film - I find it's a waste of time.

I prefer to read non-fiction. I much prefer to learn something during my reads. What do you think? And are you mainly a fiction or non-fiction reader?


Leah, I see beauty in the world. In the workings of the mind and the universe, in human actions in the past. A bunch of rhyming words (i.e. poems) doesn't make anything more beautiful.

Update 2:

Pip, interesting thought. You're my favourite for best answer so far, but I still find non-fiction more compelling. "Catch22" is still a story about war, but I find "Rape of Nanjing" much more hard hitting because it's very very real. Some of the things I couldn't believe I was reading and ... yes ... I shed a few tears.

Update 3:

Some people are side-lining non-fiction as dull? Why? Just like fiction, there are engaging story-tellers and the most mundane stories.

People in glass houses.

Update 4:

Steph P, I don't really limit myself to a specific genre. All of the above I guess. Some that come to mind:

- A brief history of time by Stephen Hawking

I think this is poetry. The concepts are hard but the revelations are so beautiful that it has tremendous humility. I can see why Jim studied it.

- The Art of War by Sun Tzu

You have got to appreciate how this book is so influential in history.

- A child called it by David Pelzer

Harrowing. I can't read too much of these "liketolisten".

- Use your head by Tony Buzan

Very interesting. A kind of manual for the brain I guess.

I do tend to gravitate towards popular psychology and philosophy. I have many of these books at home, but they're written by non-famous writers.

Btw, I study something completely different to any of these subjects ( MSc/PhD biochemistry if people must know (I know what you mean Pip about student loans >_<)).

18 Answers

  • Pip
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    Sure, the details and specific points of a story are not real, but the ideas and people that they represent are. The point of non-fiction is generally to communicate facts, while good fiction will emphasize ideas. It is important to understand both. Fiction exists to say things that you can't just say, that people won't listen to if you state outright.

    For instance, Joseph Heller could have released a statement saying, "Hey, war is bad." Uh, ok. No kidding. But instead he wrote Catch-22, which showed (in its own measly fictional way) WHY war is bad, HOW it affects people, etc.

    Of course, you could get a book documenting the facts of specific wars, and that's important too, but that book, by using immense exaggeration for comedic and functional purposes, communicated something that a non-fiction book never could. If you're basing your opinion of fiction as a whole on books like Harry Potter (not that I'm undermining the importance of escapist literature; I love Harry Potter), then I can understand your confusion as to fiction's value. But look more closely at the books that have REALLY changed things in the world, and you'll realize that it was Animal Farm, not A Complete Guide to Modern Communism, that convinced people that a communist government is easily corrupted, therefore making communism a second choice to other socialist options. It's Oliver Twist and Hard Times that we look at now for reference and understanding, not A Dull and Complete Documentation of the Life of the Poor in Victorian East London. The facts of non-fiction build the reality of fiction, making it just as valid a learning tool as non-fiction.

    IN RESPONSE TO YOUR RESPONSE :-D : Yes, the Rape of Nanjing was definitely hard-hitting! I was blown away by it. However, it was a different sort of gut-twisting than you would get if you read a fictionalization of the same event. And I am by no means undermining the effects of the all-the-facts-ma'am, this-is-what's-going-on approach. I think that's vastly important, in fact, reporting on such things are what I'm currently planning to do with my life, and immersing myself deeply in student loan debts to do so. :-)

    Fact: Genocide is a terrible thing. You can be told this either through a non-fictional medium (like The Rape of Nanjing) or a fictional one. Someone could write a science fiction story about mass genocide in a made-up society that would also move people to hate violence and brutality. Each medium can be compelling in its own way, if done well. In fact, I think when examining an issue, a healthy balance of informative fiction and non-fiction is probably best (for me, at least).

    Interesting question, by the way. I usually don't go this in depth for yahoo answers.

  • 1 decade ago

    First, B.S. in Physics, so I am no stranger to non-fiction.

    I read fiction strictly for entertainment purposes. Why read instead of see a film? Because 99% of the time the book is *significantly* more enjoyable than the movie. Exceptions: books based on the film, and Frankenstein. Also, most great fiction never makes it to the big screen, and that which does is often horrible (no matter how great the book is).

    I have met people like you - and I admire your lack of interest in fiction. It will allow you to pursue a career much more successfully than most of us. But, for me, reading fiction is like playing volleyball or bowling - it's actually fun. I often find non-fiction enjoyable and interesting, but rarely *fun*.

    If you want to try your hand at some enjoyable time wasting, check out these:


  • 1 decade ago

    I'm primarily a fiction reader, though I appreciate and understand the desire to read nonfiction...I hadn't really read much of the latter genre until I got to university and I started taking nonfiction workshops for my major and other classes that assign such books. My favorites are in travel writing; Playing with Water has beautiful prose and offers different views of the Philippines and England, ocean and dry land, etc. I have a great interest in nonfiction concerning China. I'm currently reading Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler, which does a great job of putting modern China into perspective given the nation's history, and another good on is Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux - a book that's almost painful to read since it ends right before Tian'anmen Square. For me, fiction allows a reader to suspend disbelief and follow anything while nonfiction works to focus the real world. I love both.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It's an interesting question - and I also find it interesting that you don't care for fiction simply because it's "not real". I'd be curious to find what you do read - "non fiction" is pretty non specific. Do you read manuals, history, biographies, popular science, travelogues? All of the above?

    Any piece of writing is a reflection of the writer. Even a dry-as-dust textbook is filtered through the personality and preconceptions of the person collecting the information. Choices are always made about what to include, what to emphasize and what to ignore. It is up to the reader to believe or not, but the fact that a piece of work is considered non-fiction doesn't make it real. An if you're talking about biographies, auto biographies and travelogues the "truth" is even more suspect. Witness James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" - published as a "memoir", he later admitted that it was a "partial fabrication".

    It's also interesting that you feel that you can't learn from fiction. Most fiction is well researched - sometimes more meticulously than the non-fiction stuff! A writer like Sharon K. Penman (an American writer of English historical fiction) is accurate down to times of day and clothing worn - she will use direct quotes, if possible. As a result her novels are rich, interesting and educational. Much of modern technology has also been predicted or even inspired by writers like William Gibson, and most hard science fiction is full of accurate information about planets, atmospheres and potential ways to harness worm holes (and these writers know that any errors will be pointed out to them by readers immediately!)

    I think most passionate readers will read both - the real difference is in the quality of the text. A mediocre non fiction book written by a sloppy researcher (or worse - a bigot with an axe to grind) is more dangerous than a poorly written airport novel because it CLAIMS to be the truth. A well written novel can teach us truths that can never be found in the most accurate history treatise - truths about human relationships, insights into the brutal acts people are capable of, possibilities of the future and speculations about the past. Truly challenging novelists like Peter Hoeg, Umberto Eco, Susan Sondheim, AS Byatt, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Peter Ackroyd and Paul Auster use their own education and intelligence to encourage us to think for ourselves rather than spoon feeding us what they think we should know. And that, I think, is what good fiction is all about.

    There's a place on every bookshelf for both - just read with your brain switched on and an open mind and you'll learn regardless of what you're reading.

    Source(s): I have a degree in medieval literature with a minor in medieval history - I've read a lot of both
  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    I read for an escape. You often find me reading fiction on the train home in the evenings because I am tired and I find fiction is easier to read.

    It is, however, that fiction that triggers an interest in a particular subject and sends me off into non fiction books. Rosemary Sutcliffe's The Eagle of the Ninth has founded in me a lifelong love of Roman History and has lead me to read many books on the subject.

    The link can some times be tangential. Clan of the Cave Bear sent me off into reading the history of British Sign Language and got me reading about developmental linguistics.

    I think both types of book are important and if you only read one that you are missing something. It is one thing to read a social history of the early 1800's and another thing entirely to experience a bit of it by reading Jane Austen. But reading the history book also means that you get more out of your reading of Pride and Prejudice. Rather than being mutually exclusive the two each increase you appreciation of the other.

  • 1 decade ago

    I'm currently doing an MA in English Literature and I think that says it all. Did you know that you can learn more about the past by reading the fiction of the time than the so called factual historical books written in the present? Personally I love a bit of imagination in fiction and find that non-fiction is often written in really dull prose which doesn't have to same liveliness of style as a fictional work. Where does poetry fit into your dull little view point, you muggle?

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    At the moment I am writing a fiction book that has non fiction in it`s essence. It has a plot, etc - based on my imagination and real facts = fiction . But if you can see the inside of the book - the soul of the book you will see new philosophical ideas, etc

    As for what I read, well both.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I'm mainly a non-fiction book reader. Child abuse books interest me; it gives me insight to the life of the person who lived through it and how they survived.

    However i read a fantasy book not to long ago called Eragon. It was written by a 15year old boy and was one of the best books i've read, even though i don't usually like fantasy. Eragon was made into a film, which degraded the book profusely and upset me with its lack of detail.

    For me, the film was a waste of time. I agree that learning from a book is enlightening, but i have learnt a lot from fiction books aswell. xoxo

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think the division between fiction and non fiction doesnt exist. Rather it is a case of books slipping in and out of both. Any factual book will have a theme, a way to collect the facts and a way to interpret them. This act is a creative act and as such destroys the concept of facts as disinterested. Fiction, in my mind, brings this invisible compiler of facts to the forefront and delves deeper into them personally. Or something...

  • 1 decade ago

    I much prefer fiction. Non-fiction is kind of boring because I love the worlds of the characters in fiction. The imagination is what counts really and non-fiction doesn't have that.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.