Fiction books that teach non-fiction material

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Ninety percent of the books I read are non-fiction. I like fiction and it is slowly creeping it’s way back into my life thanks to some great recommendations from podcasts, but right now my heart is with non-fiction. Recently, however, I’ve read two fiction books  that taught me about non-fiction subjects better than a non-fiction book ever could, and I am realizing that perhaps this a genre of books I’ve been missing out on.

I came across the first book, How Yoga Works by Michael Roach a few months ago at a used book store. I assumed it was a non-fiction book so I bought it since I was interested in any yoga books I could find and had already read everything my library had. I was surprised once I started reading it to realize that it was a fiction book! I kept reading and was delighted to discover that despite being a work of fiction, it was a special kind of book that could educate readers about a non-fiction subject. In the case of How Yoga Works, the fiction story is meant to convey the teaching of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and it does so much better than reading the Sutras themselves, especially for someone new to yoga. While the prose was not exactly literary quality, it was a really wonderful and helpful book for me. I learned a lot and added many new tools to my mindfulness practices.

The second book, The Course of Love by Alain de Botton, was recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy. I’ve read non-fiction by de Botton before and the review for this book was so positive that I knew I would like it. Just like How Yoga Works, this beautiful book teaches us about important non-fiction topics in a way that cuts straight to our emotions and makes the subject matter so much easier to learn and absorb. In this case, the topic is marriage, love, and attachment styles.  de Botton takes us into the marriage of a couple for the course of 14 years, making the normal but never easy struggles of every marriage the star of the show rather than the focus on infatuation as love that we normally find in our culture. To de Botton, marriage is not the end to a love story but the beginning, where all the work and struggle and growth actually occurs. Throughout the book de Botton intersperses his own thoughts on the couple’s issues as the third party voice of the narrator, giving us perspective and reflecting on how each person in this marriage is managing or not managing their own issues and emotions. It’s really thought provoking and encourages entering into the inner world of those we are closest to with less defensiveness and more compassion. I would love to put this book into the hands of everyone getting married so they know that they are not alone, that every marriage is a struggle and a trial.

The fiction story as teaching aid is nothing new, of course. From Aesop’s Fables to Jesus teaching in parables, stories have always been the most powerful way to teach real human truths. It’s a lesson I was glad to learn with these two books and I hope my reading future brings me more of these gems.