Readers should navigate more nonfiction

Reed Omara
October 21, 2014

There’s a typical path for the people who consider themselves readers.

The first milestone, after ABCs have been learnt, is the time when fifth graders start reading eighth grade level work to maximize AR Reading points – this is the time of “Wind in the Willows,” “Harry Potter,” and for those who were extremely motivated, “The Lord of the Rings.”

After elementary school picture books comes the middle school dredge. The time no one is proud of. If you weren’t team vampire, you probably enjoyed the werewolf, zombie or bad boy sub-genres of the travesty that is young adult literature.

The next phases are transitory; the reader embarks on themes – “I’m only reading Fitzgerald right now.” The break into adult literature is usually coupled with a deep relationship with the classics and a profound absorption in the soon-to-be classical writers.

The last phase, however, is the consummate of where all readers should tread but often don’t: the nonfiction section. Informative by definition, nonfiction works provide readers with the same quality of fiction, but with the addition of being wholly real. Nonfiction is usually a dreaded genre, coupled with textbooks and dry history books 5,000 pages long. This is unfair. The modern nonfiction is riveting and enlightening.

The following are some of the newest and best works in the genre and are completely factual accounts of the human experience.

  • “The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light” by Paul Bogard: When cuddled up in bed with a book at night, who thinks of the encroaching night outside? The night seems dark enough to give children nightmares, but for Bogard, the world is far too bright. Calculating the rate at which light has been encroaching upon the night skies (via light pollution in cities, etc.), Bogard enlightens his readers about the dark and man’s relationship with it, weaving a magical story inciting nature lovers and really anyone else to be more conscious of their habits after sundown.
  • “Stung!: On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean” by Lisa-Ann Gershwin: While jellyfish are probably not at the forefront of many people’s thoughts, “Stung!” might begin to change this with every new reader. Chronicling the negative changes in the world’s oceans through changes in temperature, toxicity and overfishing, the book begins with morbid news: many species are becoming extinct. Then a silver lining dawns for at least one species: jellyfish are actually thriving. Instead of only discussing the negatives of the jellyfish overpopulation, Gershwin masterfully embraces the reader with the beautiful, simple life of the species, making this a consuming and factual read.
  • “Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power” by Andrew Nagorski: Though the title reads somewhat grotesque, “Hitlerland” is a masterpiece in its own right. For history lovers, sociology lovers and journalists, this work is a must-read. While WWII’s warfront is enough for some people, many find the lists of numbers and ranks un-relatable. “Hitlerland” makes the 1930s and 1940s accessible to most anyone, as it details the personal lives of Americans, journalists and diplomats living in Berlin during the rise of Adolf Hitler. Surprisingly suspenseful, “Hitlerland” will leave readers asking for more.
  • “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed: Recently published and soon to be a movie, “Wild” is as personal as a nonfiction work can get – it’s a memoir to the author’s time spent hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in California and Oregon by herself. Detailing as many physical challenges as emotional ones, Strayed captures a story so mesmeric it would have to be true. The book is informative of the personal psyche and contains some interesting facts about hiking and backpacking, making it a great segue into nonfiction. 


American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power

Hitler’s rise to power, Germany’s march to the abyss, as seen through the eyes of Americans—diplomats, military, expats, visiting authors, Olympic athletes—who watched horrified and up close. By tapping a rich vein of personal testimonies, Hitlerland offers a gripping narrative full of surprising twists—and a startlingly fresh perspective on this heavily dissected era.