Books are a world unto themselves, containing every sort of information imaginable. Some of it is imaginary. Much of it isn’t. Some sits somewhere between the two, such as historical fiction. We all have our preferences: there are some we hate, some we love, and a whole lot which sit somewhere between the two. Those that we can’t get enough of do more than just convey information; they inspire something within us, showing us through example what we’re capable of. Others put a kind face on otherwise dry subjects. Some do both. So here are six types of content we crave.
1. Success of the Underdog
In a world where it feels like the big and powerful always have a one-up on the little guy, we’re drawn to stories where the tables are turned, reminding us there’s more to strength than dollar signs, politics, bullets and social standing.
A great many of us identify with the underdog. There are things in this life we feel powerless against, and to hear the story of someone who survived and even thrived despite those who would hold him down is a bit of inspiration to each of us to stick to our guns and hold the line.
2. Making Dreams Reality
We all crave at least a little bit of magic. Not necessarily the hocus pocus type, but magic that, nevertheless, brings in rewards thought to be impossible.
It’s easy to ignore our dreams because they’re thought unreasonable. We think we just don’t have the time, or the money, or the intelligence, or whatever barrier we see as blocking our path. But there are other people facing the same hurdles that accomplish extraordinary things because they worked and believed hard enough to bring their goals into reality.
3. Educational Entertainment
A merely educational book is essentially a textbook, often attracting only die-hard fans of the subject. Treat these subjects as something that can also entertain, however, and you’ve opened them up to a much wider range of people. They’re funny or touching or inspiring, drawing the reader in for reasons other than a strict desire to learn. When a plan fails, it’s a punch to the gut. And when a plan succeeds, it might only be after you’ve been on the edge of your seat for 20 pages eagerly anticipating the outcome.
4. The Unlikely Biography
Biographies have traditionally been rather dry affairs, a catalogue of important moments of a famous person’s life interspersed with insights about the person that help explain how his history turned out the way it did.
Today, there are many more biographies of everyday people who have done something extraordinary, people you’ve never heard of unless you’ve picked up their book. That’s certainly one unlikely biography.
But there’s also the biographies of the famous and not so famous that shy away from the well-known moments and focus on the subjects as real, flesh and blood people: their quirks, their favorites and dislikes, the little moments in their lives that existed outside of what made them famous.
5. The Challenge of Assumptions
Our lives are ruled by assumptions. However, we see them as facts, and knowledge of them is so ingrained we don’t even think about how they affect our choices and understanding of the wider world.
Some books call out those assumptions. And, once we’re done shaking off the shock that our concept of truth is not only be wrong but, sometimes, hilariously wrong, we start looking at ourselves and others in a new, more enlightened way.
6. The Call to Action
There are evils in the world both big and small. The big ones make the news and make us feel powerless. We often never hear of the small ones at all.
But there are those who address these ugly truths and, often through their own example, encourage us to step out of complacency and take a stand for a cause, whether it be through charity, education, protest, activism, or changes in lifestyle.
There are, of course, many books that cover more than one of these categories, and that might be exactly the reason why people are drawn to them. There are also plenty of other reasons why we become so engrossed in reading. Whatever the content, we seek that which we can connect with. Without a touch of personality, a book is merely words on a page.