How World War II Gave Rise to the Non-Fiction Writing
The dark period in history when the media started documenting reality from the first-hand experience.
I have George Orwell’s 1984 in my Kindle library, but that’s it. I forgot what it tastes like because I’ve only seen its table of contents — if it counts as reading, lol.
Where to start reading non-fiction books?
Suppose you ask for recommendations to start reading books about personal development or any non-fiction book to help you learn more about your behaviour patterns.
The most common suggestion is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
Sapiens is hard to read because of the cross-references it makes across different civilisations. It also challenges our thought process about why we act the way we do.
I’ve partially read it three times and will be starting from scratch when re-attempting the fourth time.
A simple book to improve your non-fiction writing while learning about its history
Once I started my writing journey in March 2020, I read tonnes of writing advice on Medium. I reached saturation in a few months.
I’ve even blocked authors who deliver the same advice over and over. Let’s leave the rant here before this blog turns into hate speech.
When I finally picked up On Writing Well by William Zinsser, it gave me a solid understanding of why we read non-fiction in the first place.
The book says World War II was a pivot in the history of non-fiction writing after The Attack on Pearl Harbour:
“World War II sent seven million Americans overseas and opened their eyes to reality: to new places and issues and events. After the war that trend was reinforced by the advent of television. People who saw reality every evening in their living room lost patience with the slower rhythms and glancing allusions of the novelist. Overnight, America became a fact-minded nation. After 1946 the Book-of-the-Month Club’s members predominantly demanded — and therefore received — nonfiction.”
— Chapter 11: Nonfiction as Literature from On Writing Well by William Zinsser
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, Americans finally saw what it’s like to breathe on the frontline. Television started showing the dire conditions of the war. The stories got global outreach.
People wanted to know more about what is happening in the world. Warfront stories became a daily digest.
If you’re going through a tough time and you think you’re the only one going through it, turn the pages of history to understand how small your problem is in the grand scheme of life.
Harry Scherman founded The Book-of-the-Month Club in 1926. In its early days, the club sent fiction books mainly like Ben-Hur.
After the demand for stories shifted from the disaster of World War II with the advent of coverage established by non-fiction writers, the Book-of-the-Month Club published more non-fiction writing because the readers demanded it.
I’ve never finished a book in the fiction genre, except in school. But it’s been 15 years.
We have short stories in schools. I didn’t know the word “non-fiction” back then, let alone start eating self-help books.
I don’t have any comments or criticism about the people who prefer reading fiction because who am I to comment on it if I haven’t read it myself?
The takeaway from this post is:
The non-fiction writing started in one of the darkest ages in history.
Whenever the world drags through time at a sluggish pace, some people become observers to learn important lessons, which they share with humanity in the rawest way possible. Look around you, on your screen. Here. I’m doing it.
Non-fiction writers are one of them to share historical events in their verity. Fiction writers also come in this category. But when we prefer the truth from the first-person experience, non-fiction is the winner here.
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Sanjeev is a writer, mentor and recovering shopaholic. He writes about emotional intelligence, productivity, relationships, and practical psychology for everyday life. When he is not busy with his muse, he is sweating either in a workout or playing badminton. He is active on Instagram.