Reading Non-Fiction

The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one that makes you think. – Harper Lee

I have always been a story reader and my interest in non-fiction is fairly premature. I am developing it, in favour of my ardent pursuit of knowledge. I find that it is much more challenging than reading fiction and offers a vastly different experience. With a story, I start from the beginning and it just carries me through to the last page. I tried the same with my non-fiction reading choices but did not have as much success. So, I decided to go a little deeper and figure out how I can make the most of my non-fiction reading experiences. Here are some tips and tricks that I gathered and applied to improve:


  • Feel obligated to read every word from beginning to end. This is often very difficult and not necessary to benefit from the experience.
  • Give up. The genre is harder than fiction. The topic and style of discussion may not be a fit for you. If you are really interested in certain topics, you can try different authors.
  • Take the facts and ideas as absolute. Question and do further research for deeper knowledge and insight.


  • Know why you are reading and what key takeaways you are expecting to get from the book.
  • Do research on the writer or personality in focus for context and to build interest.
  • Review the table of contents to figure out the book’s structure and pick out focal points in the material that stand out for you.
  • Flip through the book and browse over titles, emphasized texts, quotes, pictures, and other exhibits for key ideas.
  • Make sure the book is approachable for understanding based on your current knowledge and vocabulary level (I tried reading the biography of Steve Jobs but lost interest because I knew very little about the technology field and the history of Apple).


  • Keep it up (unless you find out you strongly dislike the book and decide to not continue with it altogether). Like with fiction, once I lose the rhythm, I find it very difficult to get back into a story. Personally I have a hard time with this because I lose the essence of the message and do not want to start all over again to get back on track.
  • Try different locations, comfort and media (tablet, book etc.) to see what works best for you.
  • Do not forget to take notes depending on the topic and your purpose for reading.
  • Feel free to move around the book to connect the dots and go back to other sections and your own notes. It can make the process more fruitful.
  • Stop to relate and reflect to absorb more information and understand concepts. This process is key for me to retain anything from my readings and other experiences. If it makes sense, I am more likely to remember it and be able to apply it someday.
  • Do research as you come across new concepts not explained in the book to further learn and get the most out of the reading exercise.


  • Share or apply what you have learned by writing a review, posting book comments, participating in related topic discussions, or just chatting about it with a friend. These readings can be a great source of conversation leads in social or networking scenarios.
  • If the topic was interesting, use it as a foundation to explore further into other related reads or other sources, like documentaries or people in your network. Following through as such with the learning effort is great for knowledge expansion, developing expertise, or finding your next passion.

What are some of your favourite non-fiction reads and do you have any unique reading strategies? My non-fiction preferences are focused on lifestyles or awareness. They have inspired me, enlightened me, and taught me some valuable life lessons. That is what I seek from the books I choose to read and my tips are geared towards those outcomes too.

Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

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