Editor's DeskGuest Editor Kimberly Burton creates NoveList's Adult Recommended Reads lists and Book Discussion Guides.
The line that divides fiction and nonfiction readers isn't as hard to cross as it seems. We often praise fiction as "meaningful escapism." But great nonfiction takes readers amazing places just as far from their everyday: from the mysterious reaches of your very own brain chemistry, to the wilderness extremes of planet Earth -- and what lies beyond.
Great nonfiction also allows us to absorb new perspectives and experiences vicariously: hiking Everest is probably less fun than reading the accounts of hardy souls who've done it, just like actually being Ted Bundy's co-worker is a brush with "celebrity" I'm just as glad to have skipped (you go, Ann Rule!).
Other times, we read nonfiction to learn -- everything from "what really happens to soldiers at war?" to "why am I terrified of eels but not snakes?" Me, I'm fascinated by what every-day people's lives were like in the past: how people built their houses, made their clothes, provided for their families, and survived illnesses. But the facts of history -- just like the empirical observations of scientists -- are only part of the story when it comes to nonfiction. Nonfiction helps not only our capacity for critical analysis, but can also deepen our emotional intelligence.
In sum, nonfiction is human experience, unfiltered -- with all its potential for wisdom, tragedy, humor, and growth.