Non-Fiction Findings: How Readers are Taking Knowledge into Their Own Hands
By Maisie Clarke and Gemma Mathers
Recently, there has been a noticeable surge in the popularity of non-fiction books. Readers are consuming intriguing texts at a higher rate than before and are discussing their independent findings online. Is this a sign that readers want to take research into their own hands or is it just a general trend due to the high quality of these non-fiction texts?
Non-fiction’s rise in popularity, as shown by Wordsrated’s Global Book Sales Statistics, shows a 5.7% growth from 2021 to 2022. In a post-pandemic world, people seem keener than ever to educate themselves through non-fiction texts. A lot of the trending texts relate to current and thought-provoking issues or ideals, and they incite a large audience. Many of these are spread over a wide range of genres, from memoirs like Jennette McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mom Died to important biographical accounts like Robert Samuels’ His Name is George Floyd. McCurdy’s memoir was hugely popular as an account of her childhood rise to fame and her life behind closed doors, shocking the world by selling over 200,000 copies in its first week of release. Samuels’ His Name is George Floyd tackled the important topic of 2020’s Black Lives Matter movement in the name of George Floyd, a topic that sparked a racial revolution in America and considered by some to have changed the way the world looked at racism. These texts are just two examples of the power of non-fiction, especially when written by those with expertise and care for the topic.
Furthermore, non-fiction allows a break from the paradoxical world of social media, in which information is more accessible than ever but fake news spreads at the click of a button, providing a space for the reader to slow down and take stock of their thoughts. The chaos of the world seems to be driving more people into bookstores in favour of literary solutions. Written text tends to feel more trustworthy than the quick-fire aspect of today’s media. Of course, social media, while an incredible tool, can create the spread of false (yet compelling) information. Due to the pace and accessibility of social media, news is easy to misconstrue. The spike in non-fiction sales may be due to the desire for educated, informative research from a trustworthy source. A lot of these authors are perceived as experts in their field, conducting their own research and aspiring to spread their message through their readers. For example, Snowflake by Lucy Nichol explores the stigma surrounding mental health and stereotypes in an informative way, stemming from her own experiences. Snowflake explores the impact of labels and the ways in which humans can evolve in their thinking. This is a clear-cut example of the power of non-fiction breaking the stigma around certain topics and trends to deliver an honest account of someone’s life. Many readers of non-fiction can find something to identify with and use an author’s work to discover something about themselves or the world around them.
Moreover, thanks to the vastness of the non-fiction genre, readers have the opportunity to delve into a multitude of topics they may not have encountered before. Intriguing topics are being picked up on thanks to authors such as Amanda Montell, with her book Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism. This trending text explores how language is used as a powerful tool by groups such as Scientology and social media influencers. She explains that we experience “cultish language” everyday, opening readers’ eyes to this vocabulary used in the world around them. Montell’s study is a great way to explore non-fiction due to the identifiable examples she gives and their pertinence to our society. Additionally, Simon Kuper’s Chums is another accessible and engaging non-fiction find, as it delves into the questions supposedly “on many British voters’ minds: how has a tiny caste of Oxford Tories taken over the UK?” An Oxford graduate himself, Kuper investigates the reasons why so many of the nation’s Conservative cabinets are filled with longtime chums dating back to their uni days. Kuper’s findings plainly address potential reasons for this imbalance in Conservative cabinets whilst also suggesting explanations for decisions made during their time in office. This book, as well as Montell’s, offers readers the chance to do their own hands-on research about the world around them. Thankfully, there are plenty more of these excellent books available to us.
Overall, it is unsurprising that there has been a surge in the popularity of non-fiction over the last few years, considering the tensions in the political, cultural and technological scenes. However, this trend should not be looked on with negativity, as it encourages readers to individually explore their own interests and take the initiative to form independent judgements, regardless of the chaos being filtered in via phone screens. Luckily, this format will undoubtedly continue to grow, especially as more texts attempt to tackle the topics that so many of us grapple with.