If there’s anything my family loves other than Jesus, it’s reading. I grew up involved in both, but for me, the Jesus didn’t stick, but the reading did. My books are obviously not the kind that my family would want me to read, but that’s irrelevant.
As a kid and a teen, I read a lot of fiction and fantasy. My first book-love was the Warriors series by Erin Hunter, about wild cats that vied for territory and hunted and had forbidden love and a whole bunch of nonsense that I was absolutely obsessed with reading. The books first started coming out in 2003, and they will probably never stop being released. They have me wrangled in an endless cycle of wanting to see what happens in these books intended for ages 9-13, as a 23-year-old, but that’s the way it is sometimes.
Anyways, I continued to read these and other young-adult fiction books into my teens. Some of my favorite series were The Mortal Instruments, The Hunger Games, and Maximum Ride. In the more romantic genre, I loved The Fault in Our Stars and If I Stay (and its sequel which was honestly better than the first).
In my later teen years, I really didn’t read all that much. I still identified as a book-lover, but I had that guilty feeling where I hadn’t actually read any books in years. If you’re familiar with my blog and my deconversion story, then you know that this literary dry spell ended when I was in college and I picked up a copy of The God Delusion.
Since then, I’ve been reading atheist and apologetics books only with the occasional fiction book or memoir, although those are mostly atheism-related, too (like Aaron Hartzler’s Rapture Practice and Katie Henry’s Heretics Anonymous). I have a hard time knowing how to find good fiction books otherwise, because there are just so many.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of nonfiction atheist books out there. And when I say atheist books, I really mean anything that interests me as an atheist specifically. My bookshelf has philosophy and ethics, deconversion stories, cosmology, and a lot of books on evolution. But of all the books that exist in the English language, I think those on these topics make up a small fraction of a percent compared to all the fiction books that are out there.
Most readers and writers that I’ve met absolutely love fiction. There’s something magical about it and about being able to write your own reality or take a walk in someone else’s universe for an afternoon of escapism. If I read enough fiction that really captured my heart, I would probably feel the same way. But I think that I am of the minority that prefers to read and write nonfiction.
I like nonfiction because it’s a conversation and I can really be a part of it. I know you could say something similar about fiction: “You can put yourself in the character’s shoes,” or “You can use your writing to say something about the real world.” But nonfiction literally is the real world.
When Dawkins wrote The God Delusion, for example, he wasn’t making up characters to say quotes that tried to get across his feelings about religion. He could just say it. And when he talked about atheists, or addressed them, he was talking about me, or to me, and I was able to write a book review where I directly commented on his own statements. (Not to say that I idolize Richard Dawkins, but you could say the same thing of any nonfiction author.)
There’s something spectacular about nonfiction stories in that they’re real. No matter how great a fiction book is, I think any story would be elevated if I knew that it was a true story, produced by reality. This is why, if I had to pick a favorite book as of right now, I would probably choose Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True. Because evolution is true. And it’s an awesome story.