We are experiencing a renaissance in non-fiction: I cannot remember a time when publishers have produced such interesting and well-written books. This realization has dawned upon me slowly over the past couple of years, but I am now ready to proclaim to anyone who will listen that it’s a great time to be reading non-fiction!
Non-fiction encompasses our lives and the world around us, from the microscopic to the cosmic. Authors are taking a look at everyday concepts, behaviors, and items which we typically take for granted – such as time or dishonesty or maple syrup -- and telling their stories. People are writing about their experiences with candor, insight, and frequently, humor: A mother decides to attempt to go one year without buying anything made in China for her family; A man sets out on a quest to build a medieval catapult in his back yard; A woman resolves to eliminate sugar from her diet for 12 months.
While non-fiction books are factual by their definition, publishers are realizing that “Just the facts, ma’am” is not good enough for today’s reading public. The author’s ability to write in an engaging style is equally important. This, combined with the wealth of resources now at their disposal, has resulted in some superior reading.
Just as research and writing are critical to great non-fiction, the graphics in many titles – whether they are photographs or other renderings – have never been better or more captivating. The best new book I can think of which demonstrates the marriage of research and art is one published this year by the University Press of Kansas. Kansas Fishes is proof that book publishing can indeed be a true craft.
I can only speculate why publishers have gotten their act together when it comes to their non-fiction offerings. Perhaps the book-reading public let it be known through their buying habits that they expected better. Perhaps publishers realized that the eBook tsunami was more of a wave and decided to get on with business. Many of you know that I have been somewhat critical of the American publishing industry in the past, but this time, they got it right.
You can expect this non-fiction renaissance to continue at the McPherson Public Library. We also are embarking on a major project which, over the course of the next year, will result in changes to both our adult and children’s non-fiction collections that will make them easier for patrons to use.
While we won’t be changing the order of the books, we will be adding greatly improved signage and creating areas which encourage browsing and discovery. We also will simplify the way we classify non-fiction titles, as well as enhancing our online catalog.
It’s a great time to read new non-fiction, and it’s going to be a new non-fiction world at the McPherson Public Library!