Extracurricular Passion

by Steve Hooley

March is National Reading Month. Since we are writers, and readers are vital to our success, I thought it would be appropriate to “share” our national month with the rest of the world and rename it “World Reading Month.”

Reading month was established in March to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss (3/2/1904) and his contribution to increasing the interest of reading in children.

We’ve discussed ways to get young people interested in reading.

We’ve discussed our favorite writers’ style and the Rushmore authors.

If you thought “extracurricular” in the title of this post is being used with the connotation of “extramarital,” I’m sorry. It’s not. I did use the phrase to draw you in, and please don’t stop reading now. We have a three-course meal, plus dessert and drinks, so stay with us.

Our “extracurricular” activity today is “outside our normal curriculum” of writing fiction and the craft of writing fiction, specifically reading nonfiction.

Now we’re getting into hobbies and special interests. And this is where your passion for your special interest kicks in and you can’t wait to tell the rest of us how exciting it is to study entomology and the Giant Weta.

Therefore, we will dispense with any pretense of an academic prelude, and move directly to the discussion where each of you can lecture on the importance of your beloved subject.

But, on second thought, I better provide some “meat” for our meal, or I’ll lose my job here as a cook. So, here are three dishes for our main course: (Remember, it’s World Reading Month.)


Benefits of Reading

This is a short list of the many benefits of reading.

  1. Improves brain connectivity and memory
  2. Increases vocabulary and comprehension
  3. Empowers ability to empathize with other people (note this was listed under reading fiction)
  4. Aids in sleep readiness
  5. Reduces stress
  6. Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  7. Helps fight depression
  8. Helps prevent cognitive decline with aging
  9. Can help increase IQ in children
  10. Improves concentration and ability to focus
  11. Improves analytical thinking skills
  12. Improves writing skills and communication skills


Reading Disorders

  1. Dyslexia – occurs on children with normal vision and intelligence. Symptoms are late talking, learning new words slowly, and delay in learning to read. Common with 3 million cases/year in the U.S. Treatment can help, but doesn’t cure.
  2. Phonological Dyslexia (auditory dyslexia) – difficulty processing the sounds of individual letters and syllables, and cannot match them with the written form
  3. Surface Dyslexia (visual dyslexia) – difficulty recognizing whole words, from probable vision issues or processing
  4. Rapid Name Deficit – difficulty with naming a letter, number, color, or object quickly and automatically
  5. Double Deficit Dyslexia – combination of both phonological and rapid naming deficit, and is the cause for the majority of the weakest readers
  6. Alexia – occurs after stroke or brain injury
  7. Hyperlexia – have advanced reading skills, but have problems understanding what is read or spoken out loud
  8. Specific Skills
  9. Word decoding – similar to phonological dyslexia with difficulty sounding out words
  10. Fluency – difficulty with reading quickly and accurately
  11. Poor reading comprehension – difficulty understanding what is read
  12. (My addition) – Sine Tempore Legere – Without Time to Read – children and adults who are too busy with work, hobbies, school activities, TV, and social media – currently undecided whether there is a cure, or whether this is terminal


Early History of Reading


  • 4th millennium BC – Mesopotamia – picture symbols on clay used to keep track of business transactions
  • 2600 BC – beginning of cuneiform script – used to document laws, record deeds of kings, and keep records of transactions – each syllable had a different sign – number of characters ran into the hundreds – learning to write and read was an enormous achievement
  • 2300 BC – earliest author named, woman, Akkadian princess and High Priestess, Enheduanna – wrote temple hymns, signed her name

 Reading as Performance

  • 200 BC – punctuation was added – erratic into the Middle Ages – written material reached the illiterate masses through public readings
  • 5th century BC – Greek historian Herodotus read his latest works at the Olympics
  • 1st century AD – author readings became a social convention in Rome
  • Being read to became an avenue for entertainment and acquiring knowledge, especially for women, well into the 19th century
  • Texts were meant to be heard rather than seen – reading silently remained a curiosity

 Reading Silently

  • 330 BC – Alexander the Great’s troops were awestruck when he read a letter silently in front of them
  • 9th century AD – first regulations requiring scholars to work in silence in monastic libraries
  • As better punctuation was added, books became more accessible, and pictures were included, silent reading became the norm, with more and more readers
  • 14th century – Chaucer recommended reading in bed

 Print Revolution

  • Earliest print technology originated in China, Japan, and Korea by rubbing pages against inked woodblocks
  • 13th century – print technology reached the western world – woodblock printing widespread by the 15th century
  • 1430s – Gutenberg – first mechanical printing press in Strasbourg, Germany
  • 1450 – press was operational and printing copies of the Gutenberg Bible
  • Churches began to educate the masses
  • Village schools and literacy grew
  • Book sellers began printing copies of popular ballads and folklore
  • Early 18th century – periodicals began to be published
  • Novel as a literary form took root in France and England
  • 1849 – Dickens – Pickwick Papers – serialized in a magazine, combining the attraction of the novel and the affordability of the magazine


  • 7th century BC – Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, put together the first library – collection of clay tablets
  • 331 BC – Alexander the Great’s successor, Ptolemy I, founded a library in Alexandria, Egypt
  • 2nd century BC – library in Alexandria is catalogued
  • 18th century – proliferation of lending/circulation libraries in Europe and N. America


Okay, enough of the main course. It’s time for dessert and the after-dinner drinks and entertainment. It’s time for you to share your extracurricular passion, your nonfiction passions and interests.


Our Questions:

  • Do you read any nonfiction beyond craft-of-writing? What topics do you like to read or study? And why do you think they are important.
  • Have you written any nonfiction books (excluding craft-of-writing)? Tell us about them, and why we should buy and read them.
  • Are there any nonfiction projects you are considering, planning, researching, or currently writing? Is there anything you can tell us about them without revealing your trade secrets?
This entry was posted in non-fiction, reading, Writing by Steve Hooley. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Hooley

Steve Hooley is the author of seven short stories published in four anthologies, a Vella serial fiction, and is currently working on the Mad River Magic series – a fantasy adventure series for advanced middle-grade to adults. More details available at: https://stevehooleywriter.com/mad-river-magic/

35 thoughts on “Extracurricular Passion

  1. Good morning, Steve. Thanks so much for this today’s post. It made me realize how much I take reading for granted.

    Concerning your questions…”no” to 2) and 3) but “yes” to 1). Currently, I’m reading about the Book of Enoch, a book excised from the Old Testament and written by Enoch (what a coincidence) who was Noah’s great-grandfather. I first became aware of it through John Connolly’s Charlie Parker canon, where it figures prominently. The Book of Enoch purports to explain why evil exists in the world. Deep stuff, some of it too much for little old me. But I persist!

    Have a great weekend, Steve!

    • Good morning, Joe. Thanks for your answer. I knew you would be into something deep, with the width and depth of your reading.

      Genesis 5:24 – “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” NIV

      Book of Enoch – why evil exists in the world. Wow, that sounds really deep. And we currently have a lot of hot spots to test the theory. And I see it is available on Amazon (even in large print). Very interesting, maybe especially interesting for someone writing thrillers.

      Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend!

      • I must read Enoch. Job, as does Enoch, apparently, speaks on ????????, defense of God’s actions. However, the book of Job does not answer the “why?” of innocent suffering. It only affirms that when one meets God, such questions fade in relevance.

        In the movie, “Time Bandits,” Kevin asks the Supreme Being, “Why is there evil?” Unlike the God of Job, the God of Kevin gives him a straight answer: “I think it has something to do with free will.” Not a bad answer, even if it was not God, but a screenwriter who said it, and it is, in fact, free will that is the cornerstone of modern theodicy. (I was once talked into giving a homily on the problem of evil at the local Swedenborgian chapel.)

  2. History and biography for me, Steve. So many current ills can be explained by ignorance of history. Right now I am studying Marx, reading two biographies of this giant of a man who profoundly influenced my outlook on life.

    I refer, of course, to Groucho.

    • Good one, Jim. You had me with “Marx, a man who profoundly influenced my outlook on life.”

      My eyes were getting wide. I knew you were into philosophy, but Marx?

      With your Mike Romeo character, I thought one of yours would be philosophy. And oh, how I agree with the price for the ignorance of history. Even a knowledge of recent history could prevent so many bad choices.

      Thanks for your answers. Have a great weekend!

  3. ✪ Do you read any nonfiction? What topics? Why they are important.
    ✫ Some, mostly on psychology, which is important for self-knowledge and understanding my characters and those in my social life, such as it is.
    ✪ Written any nonfiction books? What and why?
    ✫ Two 3rd party manuals for AutoCAD [computer aided design]. These are obsolete, but one can still learn much of AutoCAD from them, assuming you can find a copy. Some users loved them.
    ✫ Similarly, a manual for Lotus Agenda, a PIM [personal information manager], long off the market, but still in use in boutique settings. I threw all but one of my copies away; someone recently talked to me about acquiring it, so it still has value.
    ✪ Are working on any nonfiction projects? What can you reveal about them?
    ✫ Since Feb 2019, I’ve written and uploaded six monographs to ResearchGate on my Guardienne Hypothesis. They have had >2000 reads. The Hypothesis states: “Every normal human brain has an autonomous, semi-sentient protective network, separate from and faster than the conscious mind, and which can take control of the body without conscious permission in an emergency.” The Hypothesis accounts for dozens of phenomena, such as sleep creativity, hypnosis, hypnic jerks, “The Zone,” somnambulism, deja vu, etc., usw. A Feb 2022 paper by Stuyck et al [“Aha! under pressure: The Aha! experience is not constrained by cognitive load”] confirms that the “Unconscious” [lousy terminology] is both independent of and faster than the conscious mind. My project, along with links to my monograph preprints, can be found here: https://www.researchgate.net/project/Guardienne-Hypothesis . I plan at least 4 more monographs on the Guardienne and, eventually, a book, as well as science fiction works based on the precept. I’ll need a co-author with advanced degree(s) in Psychology for the non-fiction book.

    ❂And, for dessert, please come and meet the delightful Professor Irving Finkel, a British Museum treasure in himself: https://blog.britishmuseum.org/how-to-write-cuneiform/

    • Good morning, JG. You are busy! I look forward to when you publish your book on The Guardienne Hypothesis. In the meantime, thanks for the update, and good luck with finding that Psychologist.

      Have a great weekend!

  4. Steve, another meaty post. Thanks for the fascinating background on reading. I just self-diagnosed hyperlexia (who knew there was a word for that?) which explains why I learn better from reading than listening and why audiobooks don’t appeal to me.

    As to what nonfiction I read–mostly research for articles I write. I subscribe to FBI newsletters to track interesting crime trends. This morning there was a story about arrests of four Russians who began cyberattacks on the power grid going back as far as 2012, Attacks on the grid were the theme in my first thriller, Instrument of the Devil.

    Medical journals, psychology, brain science, consumer alerts of scams, the Holocaust, history, predictions of the future (depressing to the max). The more history I read, the more I realize how little people learn from it.

    Write a nonfiction book? Maybe someday. For now, I prefer articles b/c they’re short and easy to publish. Also I can learn a little bit about many different subjects.

    Posts like this one explore topics that reach far beyond craft of writing. Thanks for today’s education, Steve!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Debbie. And thanks for your wonderful comments.

      With your background in journalism, and your comment about your preference for writing articles because they’re short and easy to publish, it made me think that it would be interesting to hear from you (in a TKZ post) how to put our research (for a book) into an article that could be published. Just a thought.

      Thanks for your thoughts. Have a great weekend!

  5. I read and write nonfiction. PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND is narrative nonfiction/true crime about female serial killers of New England. I also have a small town murder mystery (also narrative nonfiction/true crime) on submission. In the past year I’ve written four narrative nonfiction/true crime book proposals, but only two held up enough to become books. That’s the thing about true crime. Until you dig in and research enough to write a chapter by chapter outline, you don’t know if there’s enough to write a gripping tale. Thus, I read nonfiction all the time.

    The subject of serial killers and psychology, especially as it relates to why and how people kill, is important for many reasons. One, it helps to develop realistic villains. And two, we learn how we might avoid becoming a victim.

    Great subject, Steve. Hope you have a nice weekend!

    • Good morning, Sue. Great comments. Sorry, I didn’t think about you and Garry writing true crime.

      That must be frustrating, to do a bunch of research on a particular case, only to find there isn’t enough to write a gripping tale. Do you ever think of turning it into fiction at that point (with enough changes to hide the true identity)?

      Good points on the significance of your research and the topic.

      Have a great weekend!

      • I do steal from real life for fiction. Or the research becomes blog posts and/or true crime stories for my Murder Blog. Research is never wasted. 🙂 I’m fascinated by other subjects, too. Forensics of all kinds, graphology, all aspects of the brain, moon, symbolism, nature, astronomy, anything about animals with a special focus on crows and ravens. I could go on and on. We writers are curious about a lot of things. No one can ever call us boring!

    • Historical serial killers are a favorite subject for paranormal shows, evil’s emotional stain lasts forever, and “the first US female serial killer” keeps being argued about as others are found. I would not be surprised if one came over on the Mayflower. Historically, women were so abused that many broke and became monsters.

    • I like your focus, Terry. I could use some of that. I find myself distracted by so many new ideas, so many rabbit holes, that are begging to be explored.

      Stay focused. Have a great weekend!

  6. Happy Saturday, Steve! This post is near and dear to my heart. Reading really does rule, as we used to say. It opens up so many worlds to us, both fictional and non-fictional, and opens so many doors to young and old alike.

    I’m a long time reader of non-fiction. History, especially ancient and medieval, military history, early Christianity, amateur astronomy, self-help, philosophy (especially Stoic) are all favorite areas. I also read books on self-publishing.

    Recently I’ve been reading books writing process and mindset:

    “The Pocket Guide to Pantsing,” by M.L.Ron, “Writing into the Dark,” “Heinlein’s Rules” and “Stages of A Fiction Writer,” all by Dean Wesley Smith, and “Breakthrough: Overcoming Creative Self-Doubt, Writer’s Block, and Imposter Syndrome” by J. Dharma Kelleher, which I found transformative.

    “Breakthrough” uses techniques such as gratitude lists, free writing, journaling, reframing, meditation, and especially affirmations, to help you overcome the self-doubt and fears so common to writers. Her variable dial approach to affirmations was something I hadn’t seen before. She discusses embracing your own writing process, and the joy in your writing as you focus on what you can control, namely what goes on between your ears (as I like to put it 🙂

    I’m now reading Becca Syme’s “Dear Writer, You’re Doing It Right,” part of a series that Syme has written for writers, which has you question the premise of any belief or thought you have about your own writing and publishing efforts, as well as your expectations.

    Thanks for a wonderful banquet and dessert! Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Happy Saturday to you, Dale. Wow, you’ve been doing a lot of reading. And thanks for sharing your reading interests. Your time and experience at the library must have been especially valuable to explore various topics and potential interest, a book smorgasbord. Some really interesting topics there.

      Thanks for your thoughts and comments. Have a great weekend!

  7. 1. I read nonfiction most recently completed Hitler’s Hangman, a biography of Reinhard Heydrich and am nearly through Colin Thubron’s The Amur River. I like good travelogues. I also read true crime and I’m fascinated with it. Right now I’m deep into The Corpse In The Cellar And Further Tales of Cleveland Woe by John Stark Bellamy II
    2. No.
    3. My father grew up on the Caliph, a charter boat based in south Florida and I am working on documenting the story of the Caliph, which was built in 1910 and was working as a charter boar until at least 1934. There’s a connection between my grandfather and Erl Roman, the fishing editor for the Miami Herald in that time, In time it may become a smallish book.

    One thing that was not mentioned in reading disorders is traumatic dyslexia. A blow to the head can trigger it.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Robert. Your research on the Caliph sounds interesting, especially with the family connection.

      Thanks for adding to the subtypes of dyslexia.

      Let us know when you publish the book on The Caliph.

      Have a great weekend!

  8. How timely & relevant! This morning I was thanking God that I have the ability & means to read His word directly myself, rather than living in a time where you had to rely on others to read it to you. 😎

    That last reading disorder – Sine Tempore Legere – is my big issue. Last year was an abysmally low reading year for me. And while 2022 hasn’t started off well, I hope to rectify that in the remaining 9 months.

    80-90% of my reading is nonfiction. I read the occasional business-related title on topics related to productivity, process, etc (the day job world can get mundane so books like Adam Grant’s “Originals” help stir you up); health & fitness (there is still tremendous deficit in PREVENTIVE care and education & being knowledgeable about health & fitness as you age is imperative to fill that huge gap); Bible studies; psychology; the occasional memoir.

    But above all I am an American History nut, especially as it relates to the history of the American West. Also I have a goal to read biographies of the U.S. Presidents, mostly for presidents up through the early 1900’s more so than recent presidents (& if anyone has recommendations for fair & balanced biographies for any presidents, I’d love to hear them).

    My next project is studying more about life in the west and the impact on settlers in the early 1860’s when troops were pulled back east for the Civil War (again, welcome any relevant titles anyone can suggest). The population in the west may have been sparse but they were still impacted by that decision.

    It’s important to read history because we need to understand where we came from to know where we are going & we must read history ourselves so that we don’t allow it to be twisted by others. Also, I am studying the Constitution because we have gotten away from knowing what it says & have just blindly assumed that our various leaders would heed its directives.

    And my hyper-focus is on Arizona history particularly. I love my beloved state and love to study her history. Toughest challenge in studying history of the American West is getting past folks’ obsession with Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, etc and focusing on all the REST of the history of the west that is out there.

    Have I written nonfiction? Not yet. But I want to. In several areas: a few history related texts; a few Bible studies; and while there are tons of writing craft books, I find a lack of resources on writing series fiction and writing collaboratively. There are a few titles on these things, but I find they rather superficially deal with the subject matter and are not that helpful. Also, it’s a longshot, but I’d like to write a common sense guide for healthy aging specifically with regard to remaining mobile for as many days of our life as we can manage. That’s a big passion of mine.

    And as a writer, I don’t see any good reason to put all my eggs in just one basket. My interests lend themselves to both fiction and non-fiction. Publishing non-fiction has some different challenges (example, I don’t have 12 MD’s or PhD’s so creates a challenge on writing health & fitness), but it still makes sense to me to do both.

    • Great, BK. Your interests are wide and deep. As I read your comments, I remembered that your hobbies were also broad and varied.

      Your comment on the importance of reading history is so timely. If more Americans were truly aware of our history, we wouldn’t be in some of the current predicaments we find ourselves.

      I hope you’ll find a topic or area that really grabs you until you get a book written.

      Thanks for your comments. Have a great weekend!

    • Yes, BK, I have the same problem: it’s almost impossible to publish non-fiction if you don’t have relevant credentials AND platform in that field.

  9. Hey Steve! I told you I’d be here today… 🙂

    Wow! Thanks for the history lesson. It was my favorite subject in school. Alas, I fear that what kiddos get in most schools these days, albeit called history is merely a Hollywood soundbite, with fake plot twists. *Ahem*

    I don’t read a lot of non-fiction unless it’s a craft book. However, I do like to go down rabbit holes in the internet ether. Mostly about bugs and animals. I’m fascinated by Creation, and how much life we miss over our heads and under our feet.

    Happy weekend, all. I’ll be off to my book signing in a couple of hours…can you smell the fear in my words?

    • We saved a chair for you, Deb. Pull it up and make yourself comfortable, until you have to run to the book signing.

      Thanks for sharing your nonfiction interests. I’m with you on history. And I agree that there is so much hidden design in the world around us that goes unnoticed, or that we don’t even begin to realize for it’s significance. Ants pulling our next meal back to the ant hill.

      Good luck with the book signing! Sell a bunch of books. And have a wonderful weekend!

  10. Most of my nonfiction is articles in other people’s books. All are OOP. In the early days of ebooks I was an expert on the introduction and use of ebooks into public libraries. I wrote a yearly article on the subject for a book on ebooks I’m too lazy to look up the title to. One of my articles on writing book back copy was turned into a fun how-to article for middle and high schoolers on writing a book report. Everything else is writing craft and professional writing issues like copyright.

    Expertise outside of craft. Former expert on American literature, particularly the 19th Century. That was for the degrees. Otherwise, if something really interests me or I need the info., I research the crap out of it. Until recently, two of the subjects were organic gardening and paranormal research.

    • Good afternoon, Marilynn. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your knowledge. All those annual updates on ebooks and use in libraries sounds like it could make a good history of the subject.

      And the “until recently” attached to the subject of organic gardening makes me wonder why you dropped that interest. The coming year is predicted to bring food shortages. I hope you can put your knowledge to use.

      Thanks for your comments. Have a great weekend!

      • My mom died so I no longer needed to grow strict organic for her and her health issues, and I cut back on the gardening to a few things only I would eat. Then the deer and the ground hogs showed up, and it wasn’t worth the hassle to fight them for just me. The squirrels had already destroyed consistently destroyed my fruit tree crops.

  11. Wonderful, informative post, Steve. Thank you.

    I do read some non-fiction other than craft of writing. I recently read “Destiny of the Republic” about President Garfield. It was a fascinating description of the man, the assassination that ended his presidency almost before it began, and the role Alexander Graham Bell played.

    My other non-fiction is reading scripture and commentary, especially on the Torah. Although I’m an author, I cannot begin to describe the impact this has on my life.

    Write non-fiction? Do blog posts count?

    Sorry to be so late in commenting. Have a great rest-of-the-weekend.

  12. Thanks for stopping by, Kay. You’re never late. This is a “rolling” blog.

    Interesting nonfiction topics. I’ve recently restarted my morning devotions, currently reading Billy Graham’s Unto the Hills. With all the frantic concern for marketing, I needed to be reminded of my goals and purpose for writing.

    And, good point, writing for a blog is a nonfiction, extensive nonfiction, project.

    I hope you had a restful day yesterday, and the coming week is fruitful and successful for you.

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