Non-fiction: do you read it?

If you had asked me a month ago if I read non-fiction for enjoyment, I would have told you I only read it when I have to.

Like for a class.

Or to figure out how to do something.

Or for a class.

Photography and cookbooks aside, I recently realized that there is a type of non-fiction that I do enjoy and will read willingly: biographies and auto-biographies.

Now, not just any biography will do. It has to be about someone from a different culture. Why? Because to me that’s just a good as picking up a fantasy novel, or a dystopian novel. It’s a book about people who play by a different set of rules than we do. THAT is what I enjoy reading about. If it happens to be true, then so be it. It’s still a story. 🙂

Here are two I have read recently that led me to this shocking epiphany.

chinese cinderellaChinese Cinderella is appropriately named. It’s tells of a Chinese girl whose mother dies given birth to her. Her step-mother doesn’t want her or her siblings and tries everything to get rid of her. You learn about Chinese culture in the 1940’s and see the effects of WWII. I wish it had gone on a bit longer, but apparently there is another book that finishes her story as an adult.

I also very much enjoyed is The Iron Butterfly: Memoir of a Martial Arts Master: The True Story of a Mermaid’s Daughter. While the title on this book is longer than Chinese Cinderellairon butterfly, it only tells you part of what the book is about. A girl grows up on one of the islands in Korea. Her family is very poor and survival is difficult after the Korean War. Here, we learn about Korean culture, martial arts, the haenyo–Korean women who would dive year round to gather food from the sea, all from the perspective of a girl with an indomitable spirits. A truly inspirational read.


So now that I’ve found this whole new genre of literature that I like, I’m taking recommendations.


5 thoughts on “Non-fiction: do you read it?

  1. I also don’t think of myself as much of a nonfiction reader. I guess most of my nonfiction reading comes in the form of spiritual readings. Funny you should mention biographies, as my current night-time read is both a spiritual book and sort of a biography: Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin, S.J. He takes you through the Gospel stories through the eyes of his own pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

    I have yet to read Chinese Cinderella, but I hope to do so one day. Quite a few of my students have read it and enjoyed it.


    • I enjoy reading the Bible more than I enjoy reading books about the Bible, as a general rule. Although, there are a few that have tramsformed my life. Once in a while you find ones that resonate with your spirit. Is this book by James Martin one of those for you?


  2. That second one sounds really interesting – is it Jeju Island? I’ve noticed Asian titles tend to be rather flowery sometimes. It happens in the dramas I watch, too, as well as some manga and when they host events. I’ve heard of haenyo – there was a recent Korean drama with a main character who is a haenyo, though I haven’t watched it yet.

    Biographies that are about different cultures almost feel like fiction, since they are so different from our perspective. The realness just adds another layer of depth to the story. They always interest me but I don’t always like them – does that make sense?

    I don’t go out of my way to seek out nonfiction unless I am researching something specifically. Usually it has to be something I stumble across and I tend to prefer books about topics that interest me. I remember finishing Rilla of Ingleside and going straight to the library to check out an armload of books about WWI since I wanted to learn more. And as a single, college student I read multiple “christian dating” type books. And oodles of missionary biographies/memoirs. Or the book about cemetery symbolism that my family gifted me recently.

    Hmm, I have a fondness for Bob Hope’s Don’t Shoot, It’s Only Me. I find his perspective on WWII and the things he encountered, mixed with his cheesy humor but also very serious, fascinating and moving.


    • The Korean island was Koje Do. And you’re right, it has to be well written. I prefer history filtered through the eyes of an individual, I guess. Although that has changed some since I have become a Bible student. Now I enjoy seeing God’s hand throughout history.

      I might have to find that Bob Hope book. Thanks!


  3. There was a time that was all I ever read. Bible college nearly beat the love for fiction out of me. I went for decades only reading non-fiction. Don’t get me wrong, creative non-fiction can be wonderful, but I don’t touch non-fiction in great doses anymore.


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