Why People Read Non-Fiction
So much for the larger problems of non-fiction. Now let us consider why people read it. Here again we are confronted with complexities. Readers of fiction react to be amused, entertained, thrilled, though they are not averse to learning something if they may do so without too much trouble. Readers of non-fiction, however, read for a great variety of reasons.
Some read non-fiction merely to arch to their knowledge, some for escape. Others read it to find something on which to exercise their powers of mind, as a man might play a game to exercise his muscles. Some react for the satisfaction of having the author confirm their own beliefs. Some read to believe and take for granted, relaxing in the arms of the author like a child in its mother’s arms. Some read to gain the confidence that comes of feeling well-informed. Others read to find something to talk about. Some read to argue with the author and confute his doctrines. Some read to acquire materials which they can use themselves in their own work. Some read to amuse themselves by watching the author at work and observing him as a specimen of human nature. Some read to learn about manners, ways of accomplishing results, ways of avoiding pitfalls in real life. Others read non-fiction simply because they find reality more meaty and flavorful than the inventions of creamers. And some read non-fiction because they disapprove of fiction on moral grounds.
Some read biographies for the satisfaction of associating themselves in imagination with famous men, and to measure their own strength against them. And there are those who react to gain knowledge, believing that knowledge is power, while others read out of mere curiosity. Finally there are those who read to weigh and consider and exercise their judgment on the matters under discussion.
All these reasons for reading non-fiction must be considered by the writer of non-fiction. His success will depend upon his ability to choose his subject wisely and to find a reader who can be brought to take an interest in it. His method and his skill are simply a combination of facts and feelings, ideas and emotions, of presenting fact with passion.
The writer of fiction must beware lest he present an emotion without a fact to justify it.
The writer of non-fiction must beware to not present a fact without an emotion to make it significant and interesting.
Writing non-fiction is essentially the problem of rousing and maintaining the reader’s interest in something outside himself.
To make bread, one must have both dough and yeast, both fact and passion…
Next: Choosing A Subject