Non Fiction – the books that really live?

After attending the launch of Brett Wigdortz’s new book, ‘Success Against the Odds: five lessons in how to achieve the impossible’, Afua Kokayi takes a look at the position of the non -fiction book in today’s literary world.

The non-fiction book market has seen better days. Sales are down 10.8% compared to last year with declines in every category except The Arts and Religion. Only two of last year’s bestselling books were non-fiction- ‘Jamie’s 30-minute meals’ and ‘Guinness World Records 2012’. Review space for non-fiction publications has decreased and the time individual non-fiction books spend on bookshop shelves has reduced. Even sales of children’s non-fiction are down 9% on five years ago. This is a huge shame since non-fiction really has the chance to enrich and inspire our lives. Non-fiction can open our minds to worlds we didn’t know existed and change the way we view things we live and experience, day to day. Most of us definitely wouldn’t be able to get through our degree without the knowledge and information we gain from non-fiction texts.

In view of the current situation of non-fiction, it was really refreshing to go to a book launch and feel the buzz around a newly released piece of non-fiction. The book ‘Success Against the Odds: five lessons in how to achieve the impossible’ by Brett Wigdortz (CEO and founder of Teach First) is an autobiographical account of how the author founded the charity Teach First and serves as an inspirational ‘how to’ book about overcoming challenges and of course… succeeding against the odds. The event was set up as a leadership panel which included the author Olympic; silver medallist, Bryan Steel; Head of Education and Academies at Brown Jacobson, Bryan Steel and Imogen O’Mahony an Early Identification Programmes Manager at PwC. Each guest spoke about their experiences of leadership and what being a leader means to them, with many interesting and inspiring anecdotes. There were then readings from the book interspersed with ‘live footnotes’ from the author which gave a unique and personal glimpse into particular stories and ideas. There was then a chance to ask questions, many of which were about the future of Teach First. This highlighted that non-fiction doesn’t usually end with the last page of a book but continues in real life and is something we can be a part of.


Guests at the launch event.


This is where non-fiction excels. It is about real life, real people and real experiences.. Non-fiction needs to capitalise on its more human side in order to appeal to an audience which can find entertainment and information from a variety of sources. This approach is already a notable part of the promotion of celebrity biographies and although there is much to be said the about literary value of these books, they are on to something. People feel a connection to the subject matter and want to find out more. More non-fiction work needs to connect with the human aspect of its material and events such as book launches are a perfect way to engage people with a book’s material and bring it to life before they even turn the first page.

Afua Kokayi

ArtsExploring Arts

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