Non-Fiction Reading Challenge

I love reading non-fiction. I also love the library.

My city has a particularly good public library system, and not far from me is one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen (not including, of course, the public library in Manhattan that has been featured in several films with its giant lion statues.)


Photo from the MetroLibrary site. The interior is even cooler.

I end up at the library frequently because a) I love working on my freelance writing projects in a quiet place that isn’t my apartment, and b) I can’t really afford to go out and buy books more than once or twice a year. It’s just not in the budget.

The non-fiction section at Northwest is one of my favorite places to wander, and I usually end up picking up at least one (if not more) books from this section each time I visit.

On Goodreads, there are several “reading challenge” groups. While perusing one of these, I found a really neat challenge to read more non-fiction called VampAmber’s The Dewey Decimal System is My Friend Challenge. The challenge involved reading one (or more) book(s) from each of the 100s grouping in the Dewey Decimal system.

Due to my love of the library, I’ve decided to take it a step (okay, several steps) farther.

Basically, I started at the first line of shelves, in the first four foot section, and chose a book. I ended up choosing Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century by Hunter S. Thompson.


I had never read anything by Thompson, or seen the films based on his work, but he has been recommended to me in the past, so I thought his memoir would be a good place to start. I’m not entirely sure that I’ll read anymore of his work (as it’s all in the same section), but eventually down the line, I probably will.

Next, I moved to the shelf on the other side and did the same thing from the first four-foot section. I read The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety by Alan Watts.

wisdom of insecurity

The whole section was full of philosophical books that I found intriguing, but I chose this one because it was pretty short (~130 pages) and insecurity and anxiety are two things that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I actually had a hard time focusing on this book, but I do think it has some great ideas that tie into Buddhist thought, which I found particularly relevant to me.

I skipped the next two four-foot sections down the line because they were all about Christianity, and while I was raised in that religion, I have since turned to Buddhism for my spiritual needs. I did scan the shelves to see if anything looked interesting from a historical perspective, but nothing caught my eye.

Instead, I moved to the fifth four-foot section and ended up looking at a bunch of books on politics and political thinking. I have always wanted to read The Prince by Machiavelli, but I ended up picking up Niccolò Machiavelli: An Intellectual Biography by Corrado Vivanti instead.

Niccolo Machiavelli intellectual biography cover

I’m only about 40 pages in, but I like that it’s giving me an overview of 1) Italian history in the late 1400s and early 1500s, 2) Machiavelli’s life, and 3) his works including The Prince.

Maybe this is a crazy challenge, but I’m having fun with it so far.

This is less of a “read this many books in this amount of time” challenge, and more of a way to organize my nonfiction reading so I can broaden my horizons a lot and spend less time wandering the shelves waiting for something to catch my eye.

The full Wikipedia list of the Dewey Decimal System classes is here, though I just kind of see what’s in the area and pick something.

If this sounds neat, you should totally do this too, and let me know what you’re reading!


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