BAND August Discussion: Nonfiction Beginnings

by Kim on August 16, 2011 · 10 comments

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BAND — Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees — is a group organized to promote the joy of reading nonfiction. We are “advocates for nonfiction as a non-chore,” and we want you to join us. Each month, a member of BAND hosts a discussion on their blog related to nonfiction. 

The host for our August nonfiction discussion is Amy of Amy Reads, who asks:

How did you get into reading nonfiction? Do you remember your first nonfiction book or subject? If so, do you still read those subjects?

It probably won’t surprise anyone reading this post that I’ve almost always wanted to be a writer of some kind. When I was in elementary school, I imagined that I’d be a novelist… not because I had great stories to tell, but because that was the only kind of writing I could wrap my brain around. As I got older, through middle school and high school, it dawned on me that I didn’t have the imagination to write fiction. I loved the techniques of fiction — strong characters, well-imagined settings, dialogue, plot, and conflict — but just couldn’t invent stories to save my life.

I didn’t find the words to describe the kind writing that I wanted to do until I discovered my love for narrative nonfiction in a college writing class called Creative Nonfiction. The class was about writing personal essays, but in order to write better we spent a lot of the class reading and discussing a variety of narrative nonfiction: Anne Lamotte’s Bird by Bird, Robert Sullivan’s The Meadowlands, Jane Brox’s Here and Nowhere Else, and Kathleen Norris’ Dakota, among others. While I didn’t love every one of the books, the class showed me beautiful examples of the kind of writer I aspired to be.

Unfortunately, most of my other English classes didn’t offer me more choices in narrative nonfiction. I loved the novels, poems, and plays we explored, but nonfiction really only came into the curriculum in essays and critical theory. I had to look out on my own to explore narrative nonfiction more, and I did that the best I could in the time I had outside all of the other projects and readings I had to do for classes.

I don’t think I fully started to explore everything that nonfiction has to offer until after I graduated from college. My first few reviews for this blog, started in May 2008, were nonfiction reads: Dave Eggers’ memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Ben Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House, and Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You. I think my love for nonfiction has just continued to grow since then as I’ve expanded the topics and types of nonfiction I love to read, and found more books that help me imagine the kind of writer I hope to be in the future. Yay, nonfiction!

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