Want to write great non-fiction? Read great great non-fiction!
Want to learn how to write great non-fiction? The best place to start is by reading it.
No matter if you’re writing memoir, a business book, a cookbook or any manner of non-fiction, reading books in your category will help you grow as a writer. And not just that, but as a human being too.
I’ve recently read the memoir One Hundred Years of Dirt by Australian journalist Rick Morton, and the true crime book The Winter Road by Australian writer Kate Holden. Wow. Wow. And wow.
It was serendipity that they both lined up in the library reserves for me, as the books are hard-hitting and go brilliantly together as a tandem read as they touch on some similar ground. I’d recommend reading One Hundred Years of Dirt first, followed by The Winter Road.
Both these books are beautifully written and executed. Both weave history, facts, description, experts, quotes and observations into truly compelling reads. Illuminating, infuriating and heartbreaking, these fleshed out stories – real stories – are captivating, moving and will stay with you for a long time.
Sure, when reading great non-fiction it can also cause us writers to fear we will ‘never be that good’, never meet those standards. And that’s okay too, not everyone’s going to win the Walkley Book Award (as Kate Holden did in the 66th Walkley Awards for Winter Road), but by reading great books like these, we can experience what works, how structure benefits the reading experience, how sentences are constructed and how a writer’s unique style can lift a line to sublime heights. We also get pure enjoyment too and grow as people, not just as writers.