My Sudden Love for Nonfiction Books 🌜
During sixth grade (which feels like ages ago), I had this strange aversion to contemporary books.
I would never read them. I stuck with fantasy books, rereading all the Harry Potter books and discovering Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities series. In my mind, contemporary books were fluffy, shallow, and simply not my thing — after all, why would I want to read about the real world when I live in the real world? I wanted to immerse myself in stories that would bring me out of this world and into another that was more magical, more mystical, and better.
At that point in my life, I still longed for my Hogwarts acceptance letter because school was kinda frying my brain. I wanted to be whisked away to the Elvin world and attend Foxfire to manifest telepathy instead of staying up until ten completing my project that was totally just busy work. And if either of those options aren’t going to happen, then why couldn’t I fall into a book like Alex and Conner Bailey into a land of mixed-up fairy tales?
Seriously — why was I still here?
This attitude bled into seventh grade, but I know it started to lessen then. Flash forward to the end of seventh grade and beginning of eighth, and my attitude towards contemporary books had started to change. I began reading YA contemporary novels, tentatively at first, and slowly realized how much I needed contemporary books in my life. I couldn’t read fantasy all the time anymore — I needed a dose of cuteness, of reality, of character who I could relate to in my daily life.
I still loved to read fantasy books, of course, but scattered throughout my TBR would be books that I never thought I would like when I was in sixth grade. As I progressed up in grades and I mentally started craving more and more breaks from complex fantastical worlds, more and more contemporary books found its way into my life — and some of them changed the way I view the world, myself, and life. 😊
The first contemporary novel that I can remember that really resonated with me is Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee. I am so glad I was able to capture my love for this book on this blog. In fact, my first book chat on Whisked Away By Words was actually for Tash Hearts Tolstoy, and though I would have written and edited the book chat a lot differently if I wrote it today, it still has a very special place in my heart. (I named the novel the “Best Contemporary YA Novel of 2017.” 😆) Tash’s voice felt so wonderfully authentic and I related to her character so deeply. It’s one of those rare books that I feel like came into my life at the perfect time, and that’s the case for Kathryn Ormsbee’s other novel, Lucky Few, as well.
With contemporary books, it’s inevitable that I would eventually read something completely romance-centered. And I guess it was also inevitable that I would love reading romantic contemporary books too? I haven’t read that many, but Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park was a book I started to read (and finished) during a super-busy school week, which proves how much I loved reading it. It was also the first time I read about a main character who was half-Asian and half-Caucasion (Park is half-Korean). Though I didn’t relate to every aspect of Park’s cultural life, I did relate to a lot of the family dynamics shown in Park’s home. The entire reading experience made me realize how sad it was that I’d never read a book with a character I could relate to culturally — someone who grew up surrounded by both the American culture and the Cantonese-Chinese culture like me.
In fantasy books, the cultures are often different than the ones present in reality (and, uh, sometimes characters aren’t even human? Like, they’re trolls and other fantastical species… 😅). Though these made-up cultures were fun to read about, I didn’t understood how much I was missing in terms of reading about a biracial character’s experiences growing up with two or more cultures within their family.
Though I did this before, ninth grade was the year I specifically began searching for books written by Asian authors in hopes of finding a character I could relate to culturally. I found Stacey Lee’s Outrun the Moon for an amazing representation of the Cantonese Chinese culture, and her other novel, The Secret of a Heart Note, for a character who carries around and EpiPen.
I had never realized, until the very day I started reading The Secret of a Heart Note, that I never had encountered a character who carried an EpiPen around with them every single day because of their allergies. I have severe nut allergies, so I have an Epipen with me at all times for those just-in-case moments. It’s annoying to have to remember to put it my bag when I go to school or leave the house because it might save my life one day, especially while I’m traveling. And here comes Court, the guy who gets stabbed with an EpiPen by page 24. This kid gets me and my annoying EpiPen experiences. We need more books with characters who carry EpiPens around because this is life and we need to represent it well and accurately, especially for those of use with seasonal allergies and food allergies.
Not all characters can run dramatically through a meadow of flowers to save the world without sneezing and desperately needing tissues. 😑
Fast forward the seconds, days, months, and years to
Now, I’m obsessed with nonfiction books. I’ve checked out books on Hong Kong, travel, body language, the mental lexicon, and an abundance of other topics from the library. I love textbooks, and history — which I thought I would dread — is one of my favorite classes. Learning about the reality of the world is such an empowering thing.
I used to think only old people enjoyed reading nonfiction books, yet now I have this sudden love for nonfiction books, and I’m pretty sure I’m not that old. Yet. 😋
Learning about other people’s lives are suddenly more interesting to me than a fictional characters’s life; I’m becoming curiouser and curiouser when it comes to understanding why people are the way they are. Why I’m the way I am. No one is a secondary character in their own life, so even though someone might be a minor character in my life, in my perspective, they still have a story to tell.
I want to know that story. I want to know everyone’s story.
I want to gain knowledge so intensely that it’s overwhelming — there’s just so much to learn. It seems like there isn’t enough time for me to learn everything I want to with the time I have, but at the same time, isn’t living life enough of an education? Every single day I go through is another day I learn how this world works, how I work; about these social rules that makes sense and nonsense; how strange social relationships can be; and discover what really matters to me and enhances my life for the better.
I’ve been thinking a lot these past few years about this transition of mine from just fantasy to contemporary, and now, to nonfiction books, and I now think I finally have the answer —
The transition happened
because I changed.
My mindset now compared to my mindset in sixth grade is very, very different. Similar in many ways, of course, but some core things changed — all for the better.
I’ve learned, over these years, to appreciate the world around me. As my awareness grew, so did my gratitude. I learned to love everything in my life good and bad, because each experience I had enlightened me about the workings of the world. The desire to be whisked away to some fantastical, magical land, slowly inched away, and I began to want to stay here, on Earth, and learn to live life the best I could.
Rather than reading fantasy books with a sense of longing for what I could never have, I now read them in hopes of understanding what it could teach me about the world I live in.
I still haven’t given up on Harry Potter, or Keeper of the Lost Cities, or The Land of Stories. I still read fantasy books and children’s books, both for my entertainment and a sense of nostalgia. It’s a reminder of my growth in mindset, worldview and positivity.
It’s a reminder that
There is so much beauty in this world that I’ve already uncovered. I can only imagine how much more there still is for me to discover and educate myself about. I no longer want to hide at home and just spend my days reading anymore. I want to drive to nowhere and everywhere and talk to people, make conversations, slowly and carefully uncover these shields people have reasonably put up in front of other human beings so I can understand where they’re coming from, their stories, and simply-not-so-simply their lives.
So… I guess that’s where my sudden love for nonfiction books has came from.
It feels nice
what a beautiful world it is
that I live in.