Nonfiction or Fiction?

Hi y’all! I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything in almost four weeks. Fortunately, I’m going to cut right to the chase. I’m in a nonfiction mood and I’m starting to wonder what is better: nonfiction or fiction. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. I’ve just been starting to wonder when nonfiction or fiction begins to be too much.

For example, for a long time I really only read memoirs. I loved them, I loved being able to transport myself into someone else’s life for a short while. But for whatever reason I stopped reading them. I decided that fiction caught my eye more and that I could transport myself into not just someone else’s life but an entirely different universe and that was extremely appealing to me.

…Until recently. Recently I’ve been on a Netflix binge of crime documentaries. And I’m not talking about watching Law & Order type stuff. I’m talking watching shows about serial killers, about man hunts, about treatment in prisons and prisoners stories – even about the Drugs War inside prisons. I’ve been going ALL OUT to the point where I decided it would be a great idea to start reading nonfiction books again. But fear not, I decided to stick to the scary theme of murderers and bought The Strange Case of Dr. H.H. Holmes.

H.H. Holmes was America’s “first” serial killer. After murdering dozens of people during the Chicago World’s Fair in the late 1880s and continuing his murder spree by using his home (dubbed “The Castle”) as a glorified torture chamber, H.H. Holmes became an infamous name in history. Quite the uplifting story! This nearly 500 page book was extremely graphic and extremely strange to read because a part of me wanted to believe it wasn’t true, even though it 100% was. Also it was partially written by H.H. Holmes himself as his written confession of a lot of murders.

To give myself a change of pace after reading it, I decided to buy a book called Deep Down Dark by Héctor Tobar. This book is about the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped 2,000 feet below ground for over 60 days. Again, so uplifting. I’m almost done with this book, and to be honest it’s absolutely incredible. I think it’s even being turned into a movie, which would be really cool. But it’s nonetheless a very depressing story. As nice it is, and as great as it is that they were found and rescued, it’s still about 33 men living in their own filth in pitch black eating a spoon full of canned tuna a day and drinking dirty oil filled water that the men bathed in. So, yeah, not very happy.

But to top it all off (and to bring into light my predicament) I started thinking of books I should read next. And rather than read the many books I’ve already bought, or even to read the Star Wars prequel book that my boyfriend surprised me with, I’ve started thinking I should re-read The Diary of Anne Frank AND Night by Elie Wiesel. Because apparently serial killers, dying miners and crime documentaries weren’t enough, I had to decide to not only read, but RE-read two of the most depressing books of all time.

Now here’s where the predicament lies: I don’t think it’s at all bad to be reading these things! There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to learn more about things that school doesn’t go over. I’ve never been in a classroom that was like, “Hey kids! Lets talk about Jeffrey Dahmer!” It’s just not going to happen. Sometimes you need to use your own curiosity to learn things that aren’t publicized too much. Knowledge is power.

But when is it enough? When do you tell yourself, “you know what, I know it’s really interesting, but maybe limit yourself to one depressing book every now and then.” or “instead of watching The Killer Speaks, let’s watch Bob’s Burgers for a while”?

The hard thing is: I have no idea. For years and years I only read fiction. To give you a time frame, the last two memoirs that I read were the hilarious Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? in 2012 . and then The Devil at My Heels in early to mid 2014. That’s THREE years ago and more than a year ago! So am I going to be stuck on this autobiographical kick for the next three years, or at the very least a year? That seems like a really long time. But in comparison, I’ve been reading fiction books for that amount of time and haven’t felt like that was too much. It seems normal, it seems like what a regular reader does.

Which makes me wonder: which is better? What captures the attention more? What makes nonfiction seem somewhat scary in comparison to a fiction book? Fiction can be just as depressing (see my Letter to John Green. God damnit The Fault in Our Stars) but I guess it’s that disconnect: when you’re reading fiction you know that at the end of the book, it’s over. It’s done. But with a true story it hits you in the empathy gut really hard for a long time. It’s something that won’t leave you.

So I guess what I’m saying is, what’s better? Reading something completely depressing and horrible but knowing that it’s just fiction, or reading something that is true and horrible, but will ultimately give you more insight into the real world?

Comment below or send me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com so I can hear your opinions. I always love your opinions!

Until next time (and hopefully it won’t be four weeks from now!)

Rachel

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