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How To Choose Nonfiction: Academic

A less popular choice of book in the reading ‘scene’ is nonfiction by academics. Most readers perceive such genre as dry and boring but I beg to differ. In my years of reading, nonfiction by academics have a profound impact on my knowledge and influence the decisions I make. Do note that I’m in no way saying reading nonfiction is better than reading fiction. I’m writing this post as a guide for those who want to diversify their reading choices.

In the course of creating this blog, I have created a few other posts on how to choose nonfiction. The reason I wrote such articles about choosing nonfiction is that so many of us avoid the nonfiction genre. Having gone through the nonfiction book section and finding joy in such reads, I wish to see more people pick up more nonfiction as a form of learning. You may find more blog posts about how to choose nonfiction in their specific categories from the below:

  1. Social Science
  2. Self-Help
  3. Terminal Illness Memoir
  4. Science
  5. Strategic Business Books

My experience with reading nonfiction by academics is a serial case of hits-and-misses. The ones that hit are intellectually enlightening yet the ones that miss are usually due to the author’s writing style. But the chances we take with the misses unearth a huge collection of gems that can potentially change the trajectory of our lives. So, read along to find out how to choose your kind of nonfiction in the academic section.

Know The Great Reasons Behind Reading Nonfiction Academic Books

1. Data-Based Research Findings

The case studies the authors present in academic nonfictions are legit and are non-fictional. This means we get a glimpse of reality that we might not have insight from outside of our own industry. For example, Dr. Brene Brown studies the subject of Shame and creates theories that revolve around Shame.

Her studies find that 85% of people could recall a school incident from their childhood that was so shaming that it changed how they thought of themselves. On the flip side, 90% of people could recall an authority (school teacher, coach, etc) who reinforced their self-worth to believe in themselves and their ability. This shows the huge influence adults with empathy can have on children.

The findings from her research construct this theory: Empathy is not connecting to an experience, it’s connecting to the emotions that underpin an experience. From such findings, her book ‘Dare To Lead’ talks about empathy skills and how we can practise empathy more consciously and effectively.

2. Proven and Replicable Theories

In Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ he discusses the availability cascade theory. He touches on incidents such as the Alar Scare that was blown out of proportion due to its availability cascade. The stories covered by the media frightened the public and kept the public glued for more updates, much to the liking of the news channels.

However, subsequent findings of Alar showed that the chemical used on apples to improve their appearance has the most minimal carcinogen possibility. And the huge damage caused by the availability cascade was done. The apple industry sustained large losses.

Basing on our understanding of the availability cascade, we would be more aware of the probability of harm in situations we encounter. We would understand that the availability cascade plays up the numerator and not the denominator. And it is up to us to equip ourselves with the information on the denominator to decide on our action or nonaction over the situation.

Recommended Nonfiction Academic Writers

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

As a person who reads nonfiction as a form of leisure, I find Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book enlightening in its randomness. He candidly touches on proven theories to explain the why behind any incident.

Take for example ‘Skin In The Game’, which is actually a nonmathematical work in social science. The author is clearly a mathematical statistician by profession. As a reader, I find such insight an easy way to gain knowledge on topics I’m not familiar with. Moreover, his books often suggest other topics that I might be interested in.

Angela Duckworth

My experience reading Angela Duckworth’s Grit was enjoyable and I attribute my love for the nonfiction: academic taking root from having read her book. The book ‘Grit’ is about how we overemphasise talent and underappreciate effort. We romanticise great achievements with talent to delude ourselves that achievement is somehow ‘meant’ for the people with the talent. And when we underappreciate effort, we are telling ourselves that we overcompensate the seemingly mundane tasks that pave the way to greatness (if only we knew better!)

This is not to say that ‘Grit’ taught me how to be steadfast in finishing the book or any other nonfiction by academics. This book taught me that academics CAN certainly write books that cater to non-academic readers. The writing skills of academics are not limited to just academic journals and papers, there are plenty of their books out there that are written for the masses.


I wish to put it out there that there is nothing intimidating about reading nonfiction by academics. My experience exploring this genre has been delightful, enlightening, and worthwhile. If you enjoy reading Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, know that he is an academician whose books sold over 10 million copies and translated to over 50 languages. In fact, the graphic novel version of Sapiens is now available to entice more readers on the findings of his academic research.

Let me know in the Comment section below what you think about reading nonfiction books by academicians. Include details about the book you’ve attempted or the ones you find delightful. I’m interested to know!

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