Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Non-Fiction Read for the Fiction Lover

I'm a reader of both fiction and non-fiction, and I usually have one of each going at the same time. However, I know that not everyone enjoys reading non-fiction, and understandably so. The purpose and delivery are often so different from that of fiction, that it's hard to appreciate when you're not used to it. It's hard enough going between different genres of fiction, and it's an even greater leap to cross the fiction/non-fiction barrier.

If you're the fiction lover that's apprehensive about non-fiction books, I highly suggest you start with The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum. The various components in the writing and content work smoothly together to produce a piece of work that a wide variety of readers can enjoy. Like a science book, it lectures and informs about the properties and dangers of different poisons. Like a reverent biography, it follows the careers of two men who forged and shaped the path of forensic medicine and toxicology in this country, Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler. Like a thoughtful piece of sociopolitical commentary, it criticizes the choices of the American government during the Prohibition years, from the ratification of the 18th amendment to its undoing in the 21st amendment. Like an unputdownable thriller, this book takes you on a journey filled with poisoners, suspicious deaths, and dramatic courtroom scenes, and like a properly-written whodunnit it keeps you guessing until the very last minute.

This book reads just like a novel, but another reason I think it's a good first step towards non fiction is its great potential for pointing you in a new direction of interest. Part of the reason non-fiction can be so intimidating is the wide array of topics and the diverse levels of detail within those topics that are available to you. After reading The Poisoner's Handbook, you may discover you have an interest in poisons, or ever chemistry in general. You may also be drawn in by the history and find yourself wanting to know more about The Prohibition. The possibilites are endless, but at the very least, you will have walked away with a pleasant first encounter with non-fiction.

I do hope you pick this book up and give it a try. If you do, come back and let me know how it went!

Love and (a book) light,



  1. huh, that sounds really interesting. my non-fiction reading is usually spent on books in my career field. i'm a therapist and i am completely fascinated by the brain, so i'm often reading one fiction book for fun and one psychology/neurology book for... well, a different sort of fun. :) i definitely appreciate non-fiction that reads smoothly and easily. i suppose it's a gift on the part of the author to be able to combine the realities of the world with an attention-grabbing and intriguing form of writing.

  2. Good to see this is out in paperback now, I wanted to read it ages ago but it was overpriced. Will have to pop it back on the wishlist.

  3. I haven't been a big NF fan, but I do read some! Usually more self-reflection type ones though but this one sounds so COOL! Enticing and kind of dark.. I like how you described its similarities to other styles of writing as well.

    I think I may just have to look into this one a bit more... educate myself a bit more on poison haha. Did you find the facts to be reliable?

    Brenna from Esther's Ever After

  4. @Brenna I had a book club meeting where we discussed this yesterday. There were several chemists there, and barring a few errors that were eventually omitted in the later editions, the facts were reliable.

    You should definitely check it out!


Your comments always make me smile. <3