Friday, May 31, 2013

Armchair BEA Non-Fiction

killer stuff and tons of money cover

Today's topic for Armchair BEA is non-fiction (also ethics, but to quote Lawrence Block, "I’m not sure there’s any good sense in imposing questions of ethics upon a profession which has muddled along for centuries without any." He was talking about writers, obvs, but bloggers are writers, right???)

I actually read a lot of non-fiction, even though this isn't necessarily reflected on my blog. That's because I don't react to non-fiction the way I do to fiction. With fiction, I pretty much always have something to say; but with non-fiction, I'm usually just reading it to garner specific information, so I only write about it on my blog when I think it's a book that would appeal to a broad range of people or when it's a book I really, really, REALLY think is a piece of caca. Mainly I read books about art and history, because that's my background, but there are so many non-fiction books out there. If you think fiction is overwhelming, look at non-fiction some time.

That being said, there is one--yes, ONE--non-fiction book I think everyone should read, and that's Killer Stuff and Tons of Money by Maureen Stanton. I thought this book wasn't just a portrait of antiques dealing, but of the American dream; and it's one of the VERY few non-fiction books I've read from cover to cover and been entranced all the way through.

For bloggers, I would highly recommend The Blogger Abides by Chris Higgins. Chris Higgins is a professional blogger at Mental Floss, but I think his advice on blogging is useful both for people who look at blogging as a hobby AND for those who want to go professional. Another book I'd recommend for anyone who's interested in writing is Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block, because 1. it's hilarious; and 2. it gives some really good advice. It might be one be one of my favorite books on writing of all time.

I approach non-fiction books very differently from how I approach fiction books. With novels, I start at the beginning and go through to the end. I obey, aside from prologues (which I refuse to read) the order the author dictates. With non-fiction books, thanks in part to years in grad school, I jump around from introduction to conclusion to footnotes to different chapters. A non-fiction book that keeps me engaged from start to finish is very rare indeed. Nevertheless, I love nonfiction because sometimes it elevates information to an art form.

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