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How to Start Reading Nonfiction

When you think of nonfiction, what do you think? Does your mind go to stuffy, 500 page books that could’ve been written by your old boring college professor? Maybe you already have some not-so-great preconceived notions of what nonfiction is, (or isn’t).

But contrary to the popular belief, this genre can actually be super interesting. It also doesn’t have to be daunting or a pain in the ass to read. You just need to lay a good foundation and know where to start.

That’s why I created this beginners guide on how to read nonfiction. By the end of this post, you will be well on your way as a nonfiction connoisseur.

Affiliate links may be included at no cost to you. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. To learn more, see here.


Benefits of Reading Nonfiction

Let’s first start out with the benefits of reading nonfiction. If you’ve been on my blog before, then you will know that I consider myself to be a lifelong learner (learn my tips on lifelong learning here). And I’ve always advocated for reading, especially reading nonfiction, as a tool for lifelong learning. From improving your vocabulary, to expanding your knowledge, reading nonfiction has many great benefits that can still be fun and entertaining.


Brush up on Old Subjects

You may have forgotten some things from school, or you just never grasped certain topics in class. But nonfiction can be a perfect refresher for any long lost topic you want to rediscover. If you can’t quite recall what happened during the Cold War, pick up a history book or select an autobiography to help fill in the gaps.

Learn What’s Happening Around You

Nonfiction can be a great way to learn about what’s going on around the world. From books on the Black Lives Matter movement and Black history, to the newest scientific advancements that will shape our future, reading nonfiction can keep you up-to-date and educated on current events.


Hear Different Perspectives

Similar to above, nonfiction can pull back the curtain and let you into the lives of others. Like this autobiography written about a man’s brave escape from North Korea, nonfiction gives you insight into different lives which helps foster understanding and empathy.


Build Your Vocabulary

Reading, in general, helps improve your vocabulary, but nonfiction tends to use more uncommon words that you might not already know. And growing your vocabulary offers a lot of benefits from improving your reading or writing skills, to making you a better communicator.

You can highlight words to refer back to later, or you can pick them up naturally as you go. I’ve seen this first hand. I oftentimes notice I’ve picked up new words that I can either trace back to the books that I’m reading or the podcasts I’m listening to.


How to Read Nonfiction

Now that you know the benefits of reading nonfiction, hopefully this gave you some motivation to dip your toes into this under-appreciated genre. But where do you even begin? Keep scrolling for 5 tips on how to start reading nonfiction for beginners.

Start Small

Don’t start out with a giant 500 page book if you’re new to nonfiction, or any genre for that matter. If you’re used to reading fiction, then you’ll be surprised to see that it may take longer to get through compared to what you usually read. This is because there is more information to digest and no storyline that helps carry you through the book.

I’d recommend starting out with books that have at most 300 pages, maybe even 250. This will help make sure you won’t get bored and quit halfway through.


Choose the Subject Wisely

If you have a certain topic you’re interested in, pick a book on that subject. If you like science, peruse the science section and niche down accordingly. Do you want learn about astronomy, neuroscience, biology? Whatever it is, there is most likely a the perfect nonfiction book out there for you.


Related: 6 Books to Combat Speciesism


Pick Something Lighthearted

Nonfiction doesn’t have to read like a college lecture. There are a lot of nonfiction writers that cater to the lay person. One example of this is science writer, Mary Roach. Authors like her and many others write in an approachable tone, while still remaining factual and educational.


Find Similarities Between Genres

If you usually read thrillers, read a true crime biography. If sci-fi is more your thing, pick up a book on scientific advancements. I’ve seen eerily similar books in the sci-fi and nonfiction science genres. Fiction authors oftentimes use real life events or research as inspiration for their novels. It really puts things into perspective!

Know When to Put Down a Book

Life is too short to waste your time on a book you don’t even like. If you find yourself dozing off while reading, set it down and choose something else. Reading is supposed to be fun! And that includes nonfiction, as well. But this could become an expensive habit, so here are some resources for cheap or free books:

For Physical Books

Bookoutlet.com | Discounted books

Thriftbooks.com | Discounted books


Ebooks and Audiobooks

Scribd | Subscription service. Sign up and get 2 months free here

Hoopla | Free via your library

Libby | Free via your library


Related: 12 Tips for Eco-Friendly Reading

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