I don't write nonfiction. At least, I haven't written any yet and I didn't see it in the near future when I looked at my scrying mirror; I have too many novels to write. Yet a defense of the genre seems to be needed in this day and age, both to writers and readers alike, for people are much more eager to read fiction now than to pick up a biography or even a "religious" book. The reverse used to be true, of course. There was a time when the novel was considered to be a frivolity and the primary books read by literate men and women were works of philosophy, science, history, and religion. Now the tables have turned.
This is not, of course, to say that I dislike fiction or that I read as many nonfiction works as I would like. I agree with Jane Austen's tongue-in-cheek comment in Northanger Abbey: "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." Novels can have many truths in them, and stimulating the imagination is a good thing. I would rather see a person reading a decent novel than flipping through the comics section of a newspaper. The classics, especially, are classics for a reason and (generally speaking) ought to be read and enjoyed.
But what about nonfiction? This genre seems usually to be reserved for the middle-aged and elderly, while younger readers prefer novels. Many read widely - classics, fantasy, historical fiction, what-have-you - but don't read nonfiction, not realizing how much they are missing by never reading a biography longer than a hundred pages or delving into a Puritan Paperback. Few people take note that if fiction is an ode to man's imagination and creativity, the real world is an ode to God's. And fact, as they say, is stranger than fiction.
There are numerous reasons why the reading of nonfiction is an almost lost art, not least of which is the argument that biographies, histories, etc. are dull and tedious. I think, however, that this is more a holdover from textbooks than a truth about the majority of nonfiction; after all, writing something like a biography is still classified as "creative" writing, which implies that the author puts imagination into the crafting of his or her book. Writers like David McCullough and Robert K. Massie are so skilled at writing that their books read with the ease of a novel while still presenting the facts in all their fascinating detail. Nonfiction certainly is a different style than fiction and one that takes getting used to, but it is no more unusual or difficult than the style of classic authors like Jane Austen is today.
"Religious" works (the term seems rather loose and open-minded, but I don't really know what else they might be called) are just as important as histories, if not more so, for they feed the soul. Yet if anything, they are less read than biographies - or, if readers do pick up a book on some aspect of the Christian life, it is usually a modern, insipid work about what religion can do for you. Granted, these are easier to read than Jonathan Edwards, but they are, as a whole, neither well-grounded in Scripture nor lastingly worthwhile. Books by the Puritans or such men as John Piper and Charles Spurgeon are a little harder to read, but provide meat for the soul rather than what my sister-in-law calls "candy-reading."
As a caveat to all that, I will say that I don't advocate that someone who only reads novels run out and buy Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire or Jonathan Edwards' Treatise on the Will. The best way to slide into a habit of reading nonfiction is to start with something relatively small on a subject that interests you. My first adult nonfiction read was Robert K. Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra... but it's over 600 pages and was a long, hard slog to get through. That was, by the way, not because of any deficiency in Massie's writing, but because I wasn't used to such big books. I made it to the end through a combination of sheer determination (also known as stubbornness), interest in the Romanov family, and love for Massie's writing. On the other hand, the excellent book Amazing Grace, a biography of William Wilberforce by Eric Metaxas, is only about 300 pages and makes for a much lighter read.
As for books on the Christian life, there are plenty of good ones for laymen and laywomen; they are not all as overwhelming as Karl Barth's Dogmatics or John Owen's works. (Which I haven't read. Just in case you thought I was actually smart or something shocking like that.) Some good authors are John Piper, J.I. Packer, and A.W. Tozer, and the series of books called "Puritan Paperbacks," put out by the Banner of Truth Press, are well-worth getting as well. Once you've dipped your toe into the water, you may find that the pool isn't as terrifying as you first thought.