“I Only Read Nonfiction”

At a book fair signing yesterday, a man I thought was a potential buyer told me, “I only read nonfiction.” He said it with an air of disdain and something approaching a sneer. As if made-up stories were beneath him.

I’ve heard this before and I still don’t get it. Nonfiction, of course, can be highly valuable and I’ve learned a lot from how-to’s, self-helps, biographies, memoirs, historical pieces and the like. But real wisdom, and even truth, seem to me to be a byproduct of fiction. Think back to the stories that have stayed with you throughout your life. Novels like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Jitterbug Perfume.” (Regarding the latter, “Erleichda” has become my personal motto. Thank you, Tom Robbins.)

Maybe it’s the marrying of craftsmanship and emotion. Maybe it’s that subtext is a better way of conveying a particular world view than hitting readers over the head with a blunt writing instrument. Whatever the reason, fictions taps into our souls and connects us with our fellow beings as we muddle through existence on this unfathomable planet.

I’ve shared a few books that continue to make a difference in my life. I’d love to hear yours.