Nonfiction Reading Patterns

November 18, 2018 • #

My nonfiction interests have evolved quite a bit. When I browse what’s new, recent, or recommended I find most of it uninteresting. I now find myself picking up books I wouldn’t have attempted several years back; I’d have been too intimidated by their length or complexity.

But now I’m comfortable with those and interested to visit “first principles” on whatever the topic is. Rather than reading current takes on economics, I’d prefer to pick up Adam Smith, Hayek, or Keynes. Instead of modern political writing, I’ll go for Locke, Hamilton, or Burke.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy contemporary writing. If newer works make reference to the original thinkers (which any worthwhile ones do), they’ll cite sources you can pick through to build a gold mine of other interesting angles to take on the same subject.

One of the biggest issues that plagues modern publishing is that books are too long. I don’t know enough about the industry to understand the reasoning, but more often than not I find a 300 page nonfiction book could be edited and condensed to 200 pages with no lost meaning or description. In fact it could result in a more concision, making the point quicker. I’m typically not in a hurry to get finished, but an author belaboring a point can diminish its effectiveness. Books in the “self help” category tend to exhibit this problem worse than others, in my experience. Biographies can be long-winded, also; but to me the experience of reading a biography sort of implies that you want to go deep on the subject’s life and experience.

This year’s books made an eclectic list. I don’t make big plans on what my “up next” looks like, but I’ll be curious to look back again this time next year to see how my interests have moved.