Why Young People Should Read More Non-Fiction

Why Young People Should Read More Non-Fiction

"It only takes one book to start a love for a new genre"

When I applied for an internship at Drift + Focus, I was slightly worried because while I’m an avid reader, even studying English at university, I admittedly don’t read much non-fiction.

But something I quickly realised during the first week in the job is the importance of including non-fiction in our daily lives. And now that reading has never been more accessible to young people thanks to the rise of social media, BookTok and Bookstagram alike, there’s no excuse for me and people my age not to branch out into non-fiction.

What are BookTok and Bookstagram?

You've probably scrolled past social media posts from online book communities such as Bookstagram (on Instagram) and BookTok (on TikTok). They're usually videos or photographs of book collections, recommendations, stationery, anything ‘bookish’.

I watched these communities rise exponentially in popularity during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Waves of users, predominantly young women and teenagers, rediscovering their childhood interests in reading, picking up books when the world outside was suddenly shut down.

Even today, these communities are powerhouses for promoting and recommending books to the masses. In 2022 alone, TikTok-famous author Colleen Hoover sold more books worldwide than the Bible. She’s a household name for young girls who get their book inspirations and recommendations on social media.

Arguably, these book communities have since bled into displays of over-consumption: new bookshelves, new book accessories, and the books themselves, in overwhelming quantities. Reading has become a modern day spectacle, but one thing for sure is that reading is back in fashion for many of today’s youth.

However, one thought refused to go away as I scrolled through the hundreds of book related posts. Non-fiction is entirely glossed over, almost ignored, by online book communities. Until I started my internship with Drift + Focus, I had hardly noticed this exclusion, but it was impossible to ignore once I started researching.

Image of BookTok influencers

Image via TikTok

There's an impenetrable wall of romance, fantasy, sci-fi and thriller; if social media is anything to go by, non-fiction isn’t regularly read by young women. Stigmas around reading are in decline for young people with the rise of BookTok but non-fiction remains firmly out of reach from those who do choose to read.

Why should we read non-fiction?

As a supporter of Drift + Focus, you understand that non-fiction gives us invaluable insights into the world we inhabit – arguably even more so than fiction. From memoirs to scientific essays, non-fiction allows us to step out of ourselves into a world of intellectual what-ifs, rather than the imaginative worlds of fiction.

There needs to be a drive to regain young people’s interest in non-fiction, which I believe should start in the digital world of online book communities. It only takes one book to inspire a love for a new genre.

In last months’ newsletter we wrote about the inequality between male and female writers when it comes to non-fiction. The same is surely also true for younger versus older writers. Perhaps the way to kickstart a love of non-fiction amongst young people is to highlight non-fiction books written by younger authors and try to amplify younger voices. 

So, here are 5 non-fiction books written by younger writers or designed for young readers, if you’re looking to gain some understanding of what young people are thinking and talking about.

Maisie's 5 recommendations for non-fiction by or for young writers

Mikaela Loach book cover

It's Not That Radical: Climate Action to Transform Our World

by Mikaela Loach

This book is both informative and thought provoking, offering new ways of tackling global warming and getting involved in fighting for justice. Debut author Loach dives deep into what must be done to help save the planet and society – and how you can help.

Buy it on Bookshop.org


Maya van Wagenen book cover

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

by Maya Van Wagenen

After deciding to put the rules of high-school popularity to the test in hopes of climbing up the social ladder, Wagenen decides to follow a 1950s guide to popularity. Using the written advice of former teen model Betty Cornell, this humorous exploration discusses the temporariness of popularity’s trends and the importance of being ourselves in high school.

Buy it on Bookshop.org 


Dashka Slater book cover

The 57 Bus: A Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives

by Dashka Slater

Based on the real incident which occurred in Oakland, California, The 57 Bus follows the lives of two teenagers from opposite ways of life, who happen to cross paths on the same bus every day. The victim of a violent hate crime by Richard, Sasha is left with burns covering 22% of their body. It covers topics such as raising awareness for agender individuals, homophobia, forgiveness and persistence in recovery.

Buy it on Bookshop.org


Jennette McCurdy cover

I’m Glad My Mom Died

by Jennette McCurdy

This one did make an impact on BookTok, mainly because many young people know McCurdy from her role as Sam in ‘iCarly’ and ‘Sam and Cat’, the popular Nickleodeon television shows. In this best-selling and critically acclaimed memoir, McCurdy explores the sinister realities of growing up as a child actress in Hollywood. She recalls the mental health consequences that have followed her since rising to fame as a child, from eating disorders to parental abuse.

Buy it on Bookshop.org


Steve Sheinkin cover

Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

by Steve Sheinkin

With the recent pop-culture battle between Barbie and Oppenheimer to top the box office, many young people may want to get involved in the cinema fun but know little about Oppenheimer and the atomic bomb. Sheinkin explains the frantic scientific race to build the first atomic bomb during World War 2, in an easy to read manner perfect for young people.

Buy it on Bookshop.org

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