Non-fiction is a versatile genre that, unfortunately, is often written off as dull and difficult. However, trade non-fiction books are usually very engaging and specifically written for a lay audience.

Reading non-fiction is therefore a fantastic way to broaden your knowledge in a fun, non-academic way. Here’s how to get started:
DO start with a topic you are already familiar with. Reading non-fiction can be daunting if you are usually an avid fiction reader. Picking a familiar topic you would like to understand better can make non-fiction more accessible.

DON’T read it like a fiction book. Non-fiction often requires more concentration and engagement than a fiction book, so you can’t just sit down on your sofa and expect to read 100 pages in one go. You need to be in the right mindset to enjoy a non-fiction book; for instance, if you tend to be tired in the evenings, that is probably not the right time for non-fiction. There are, of course, non-fiction books that are very entertaining and easy to read. Just be aware that that is not always the case.

DO alternate with another read. If you are used to reading fiction, non-fiction probably won’t be as engaging at first. To avoid falling into a reading slump, read a fiction book at the same time so you can alternate between the two when one gets boring or if you want to read but don’t feel like delving into non-fiction.

DON’T give up when something seems difficult to understand. The point of reading non-fiction is to learn more about interesting topics you are unfamiliar with, which is bound to be challenging. To help you get through the book, read with a pencil in hand to underline surprising facts or take small notes. This will encourage you to think more closely about what you just read and gain a better understanding of it in the process. Looking unclear passages up online can also be very helpful.

DO set small daily reading goals if you’re stuck. If all of the above things fail, set an achievable goal of around ten pages a day. In this manner, you will read a bit every day, but it will not get boring or too tiring, and in the end, it does not matter how long it takes you to finish the book or whether you finish it at all. An additional benefit of setting these goals is that they might even motivate you to surpass them by a couple of pages.

DON’T limit yourself to one kind of book. Non-fiction is an incredibly broad genre that includes everything from scientific books to self-help, biographies, or histories. Basically, everything based on facts rather than fiction falls into this category. Therefore, it is quite unlikely that you simply don’t like any non-fiction books.

DON’T write the entire genre off just because the first book you tried to read wasn’t to your taste; instead, explore the large variety of the genre.

DO use a library. While libraries are great in general, they can be especially useful when starting to read-non-fiction. If you are new to reading non-fiction books, borrowing them from the library is a better option than blindly buying something that might end up gathering dust on your shelf. The library allows you to test-read various books, and because you did not pay for them, there is no pressure to finish reading the book if you don’t like it. Also, librarians are usually lovely people who will be happy to help you find the right book.

DON’T be afraid to skip chapters. Depending on your book, the chapters might be split up according to themes and do not necessarily progress linearly. Skipping one that does not interest you in the slightest will not diminish the benefits of reading the book, and, unlike fiction books, skipping pages won’t massively impact your understanding of the text. The same counts for foot- and end-notes; if you only read for leisure, you can skip these unless you absolutely want that extra information.

DO read non-fiction with a friend or as part of a book club. Knowing that someone else is reading the same book as you will encourage you to get on with your reading. Discussing what you have learnt from the book will consolidate the newly gained knowledge and help clarify unclear aspects.

Happy reading!