Reading nonfiction quote on book cover background.

“Let’s suppose that the worst thing you can do when reading nonfiction is to believe everything you read is true. What’s the second worst? Not believing any of it.”

How to Read Nonfiction Like a Professor

I have always enjoyed reading nonfiction.

From histories and biographies to sociology and philosophy, but this book made reading nonfiction even better. In fact, it could very easily be on my required reading list when I take over the world. Maybe because it’s non-fiction, but I’m finding it difficult to pull a single quote from this book to illustrate any simple idea. It’s all connected and the book in general illuminated something big for me. I think I’ll attempt to sum that up, but I highly recommend reading it. It was not a complicated read and really made me feel better about the world and our current “information” age instead of worse.

I’m not sure what I love most, classic fiction or non-fiction. I love classic literature. I get so much peace from reading about other worlds, real and imagined. It’s not only an escape into another time but a way to understand people, how they might think, how the world could be better, how we could behave or maybe how we should behave, if things were different. The older books, the ones that have survived the test of time, show me how people used to live, what they thought of the world they lived in or imagined. Adventures are my favorite.

Non-fiction, though, intrigues me. I can learn so much. Philosophy and history are my favorites, and that’s what you would think a book about reading non-fiction would focus on. The idea of newspapers, magazines, blogs, and social media being listed as “non-fiction” never even occurred to me. This book not only gave me some inspiration and direction about reading those, but it put a new (for me) spin on biography and history, too.

I had a few big take-aways from this book. I made the following table to illustrate the ideas.

Reporting: newspapers (some social media): a rough draft of history and events: immediate
Arguing: magazines: add context and current thought: more time needed
Perspective: books:
begin to get closer to truth as we add more information over time

Inside each of these are even more divisions. There is spin, slant, bias, whatever you want to call it, in everything we read. Not everything we read is true. Not everything we see is useful. We have to use some discernment when we read, not only with the daily information that we come across in the news media, but magazines and published books too.

That starts with knowing our own bias (yes, you have them, we all do) and those of the author of what you’re reading. It’s not easy, but to be a citizen of a self-governing nation, it’s imperative that we think for ourselves. This book can help.

I underlined and noted so much in this book. I went back through, like I always do, and put markers on pages I thought I’d pull quotes from and write about here. I began with the graphic I made for this post, which led me to another quote, yet I can’t pull it apart. I wish I could, but it seems like I’m only rewriting what he said but in less coherent ways.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, if I ruled the world, this may be required reading. It’s not hard to read, isn’t depressing, and is extremely enlightening about how we can be wiser about how we use information in our daily lives. Want to be a more informed person? Want to do your part to make the world a better place? It would be a great start to read this book.


This was the first book I started a new blog series on! If you’d like to read my original post, go read “New Read: “How to Read Nonfiction Like a Professor”

If you’d like to read the book or more from the author, go check out his blog at Thomas C. Foster.

And, as always, scoot on over to What’s An Autobibliography? to sign up for my monthly What in the World is She Reading newsletter. Every time I finish a book, I close it and tap out a paragraph of whatever comes to mind, tie them all together at the end of the month and send it to you, my curious readers, as an exclusive for those that opt in by signing up for it. You won’t regret it!