Big Kids’ Table: Switching It Up with Non-Fiction

big kids' table - adult fiction feature on rather be reading

Greetings, friends! You made it to Friday and (believe it or not) the final Friday of September. Hasn’t this year just sped by? I can’t even keep track of the days lately. It’s all a blur.

I hope that you are out there reading some fantastic books right now, and maybe, quite maybe, picking up a grown up book. Part of my reading resolution to myself this year was to branch out more. I didn’t just want to read young adult books. Reading is about learning about new things and new people, and I wanted to make sure I was making a conscious effort to do just that.

So today we are going to talk a little bit about non-fiction.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying a BIOGRAPHY. Shocker, I know. It’s been so long since I’ve read one, and I feared it so much. What if it was boring? What if I just wasn’t getting the point? You know, the natural fears we have when we embark on something new. Lucky for me, I was reading Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. Jim Henson was the creator of the Muppets and he helped created Sesame Street. The bio tells an honest story of a creative, hardworking man who never ran out of ideas but instead died way too early. (He was only in his 50s.)

Jim Henson The Biography by Brian Jay Jones

For those of you who aren’t Muppets fans, I hope you’ll keep reading but Jim faced a stigma that certain grown up young adult readers seem to face all the time. That self-consciousness that we are adults reading little kid stories. Jim wanted to create an art through puppetry that reached adults AND children. But he hit several roadblocks because critics and audiences couldn’t always look past the fact that puppets were just for kids.

“Good, solid entertainment is funny for young and old,” he patiently told one reporter. “There is a tendency to think of children’s entertainment versus adult entertainment. It’s possible to have an identical level for both.” Still he admitted it was difficult to convince adults that puppetry wasn’t just kids’ stuff. “People don’t tend to like [puppets],” Jim said. “They turn off alt the idea, but that’s because puppets are generally not well done.” (page 178 of Jim Henson: the Biography ARC.)

I couldn’t get over how much his struggle compared to our tastes in books or even our tastes in other hobbies. (For me, loving Walt Disney World as a travel destination fit too.)

As much as I enjoy fiction and being wrapped up in a character’s story, there’s something to be said about journeying through someone’s life and hearing from the people who loved them, the trials they faced, and the accomplishments that set forth their legacy. It’s also quite fun to have a few facts up your sleeve. Think of what a hit you would be a dinner parties!

Here are a few other non-fiction books, I’m hoping to cross off my list soon:

  • Mrs. Lincoln: A Life by Catherine Clinton — I’m sad to admit that I’ve owned this book for more than 3 years now (thanks to my lovely coworker) and haven’t read it yet. I’m a huge fan of the Presidents and I love American history. The prologue to this book is so intriguing, and I can picture myself in a warm, woolly sweater reading this while it’s snowing outside.
  • Everything was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies — I bought this book about two years ago after seeing Follies on Broadway. This musical is very special to me. I spent a lot of time at my first college, the summer they put it on and the story itself reminds me so much of my school closing. I’m a huge musical theater fan and I want to know the backstory!
  • Slimed: an Oral History of Nickelodean’s Golden Age — I’m actually going to an event for this book tonight. (Marc Summers from Double Dare is going to be there!) When I was a kid, I loved SNICK so much. I stayed up every Saturday to watch it and made sure I always had the lights out for “Are you Afraid of the Dark?” I’m also a pop culture junkie so I’m looking forward to checking out this “history” book.

Just for kicks, here are three I’ve already loved + adored:

  • Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett: I read this book for a memoir class and ended up loving it so much, I kept it. It’s about Ann Patchett’s friendship with a gal she meets in college, and soon-to-be fellow writer. I loved this book because I felt Ann portrayed the struggles of wanting to be a REAL writer so well, and of course, the girls together are heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.
  • What Remains by Carole Radziwill: This one is kind of a tearjerker but it’s remained a steady recommendation from me for years. Carole was best friends with Carolyn Bessette, who was married to JFK Jr. This book details their friendship, the tragic passing of the pair, and also the cancer that will take Carole’s husband.
  • Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion:  This book is near and dear to my heart — a collection of short stories by a fantastic journalist who writes about writing, home, and pop culture. Definitely something I would suggest to the budding writer or a fan of travel writing.

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For me, non-fiction is a way to make way for my other passions. I never want to be just about fiction books or just about young adult. There are so many different genres out there to discover, and fun facts and stories to learn about living and breathing people. It’s important to make space in your reading wish lists for these too.

Now it’s your turn! Have you been reading non-fiction? What subjects do you want to learn more about? I’d love some suggestions and just to hear from you about embracing other genres and true stories!

Happy reading, all!