Nonfiction November: Choosing Nonfiction

November 7, 2016 Uncategorized 24

fall-festival It’s week two of Nonfiction November and I’m excited to answer a new discussion question, put together by this week’s host – Rachel at Hibernator’s Library. Today we’ll be talking about how you choose nonfiction to read and what you want to get out of it. Check out my answers below and then be sure to hop over to Rachel’s post if you have your own answers to link up.

What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book?

I’m looking for something to will be entertaining, but which I also know will teach me something. Depending on the topic, I may be looking for something more technical or something meant for a beginner. I’m often looking for a good people story. Even topics I’m not usually excited about can draw me in if the people studying a topic or involved in an activity have interesting stories.

Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to?

Definitely! I started my blog with the goal of reading broadly within the nonfiction genre and I’ve let myself get a bit distracted by the subgenres I like the most. I love reading about biology, science in general, social issues, and interesting women (both historical and contemporary).

Do you have a particular writing style that works best?

I think there are a couple of writing styles I really like. Funny authors, like Mary Roach and AJ Jacobs, are some of my favorites. I also love narrative nonfiction that reads like an adventure (think Mitchell Zuckoff or Hampton Sides’ In the Kingdom of Ice). Authors who mix their experiences into their narrative often write stories I find particularly engaging, such as Michael Blanding’s The Map Thief. More generally, I like nonfiction authors to be as objective as possible and to be clear about their sources. And, as I mentioned above, authors who focus on people stories, perhaps mixed in with broader historical context, can really win me over.

When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you? If so, share a title or cover which you find striking.

Absolutely! I love nonfiction subtitles. They’re almost informative and can grab my attention with hype or humor. Looking over my nonfiction reads this year, I don’t see any particular pattern in the covers. However, I have noticed that there are some fonts that make me immediately assume the book is going be to narrative nonfiction, probably an adventure. Here’s an example of one:


Here’s one more link to Rachel’s post, where you can all share your answers too 🙂

24 Responses to “Nonfiction November: Choosing Nonfiction”

    • DoingDewey

      Me too! It was a new topic that Rachel added and I thought it was great. Snarky or funny subtitles are definitely ones that can catch my attention 🙂

  1. Kailana

    I just read The Promise of Canada and for each chapter she focused on one famous person to tell the story of that time frame. I really liked this method! And, it got me thinking how diverse the people she picked were and if another author would have been as diverse…

    • DoingDewey

      That does sound like a good strategy! I find that history feels more relevant to me when the author connects historical facts to personal stories.

  2. Toady

    It’s interesting that a couple of people participating in Nonfiction November have said that science is one of their favorite topics in nonfiction. I honestly can’t imagine it, although I have never read one. Here is another area where I will have to climb out of my box and try something new. NeuroTribes is a book that I might be willing to try. I have seen several people with it on their shelves, and have read a couple of favorable reviews.

    • DoingDewey

      It’s a really good read, although it is also pretty long. It’s got great people stories and isn’t exclusively about science though, so I think it could be a good intro to science nonfiction.

    • DoingDewey

      Same! An unprofessional looking cover can make me not want to pick up a book, but it’s much more likely to be a subtitle that convinces me to read something.

  3. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Oh I do love nonfiction subtitles, but I also sometimes turn my nose up slightly if the subtitles are trying too hard. Descriptive but not trying too hard. That’s the sweet spot for my very, very judgy mind.

    • DoingDewey

      Me either! One of my favorite nonfiction reads last year was In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides and this looked and sounded similar, so I have high hopes for it 🙂

  4. Paul Cheney

    The majority of my reading (as you know) is non fiction. I use the library extensively and am always prepared to take a chance on a book. An attractive cover will make me pick it up, and the title and blurb it the thing that makes me want to read it.

    My favourite genres are travel and natural history and will read anything and everything about these. But what ever i choose, the important thing is the narrative; even though it is non fiction, the author still has to tell the story.

  5. JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    I love subtitles, too, especially when they are catchy and creative. Narrative nonfiction that reads like adventure is a favorite for me, too. The Oregon Trail was a favorite last year, and you’ve reminded me that In the Kingdom of Ice is still on my wish list. Thanks 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      Ooh, I’ve been wanting to get to The Oregon Trail for a long time myself, so thank you for the reminder too! Perhaps the waitlist at my library has gone down by now 🙂

  6. looloolooweez

    I’d never thought about it, but you’re right about the title font choice giving the reader some ideas about the content/writing style. And I’m also totally on your page about authors trying to be objective & their stories well-sourced.

    • DoingDewey

      I’ve noticed the font thing because there are some books where I look at the font the title is in and am immediately sure that a book is going to be narrative nonfiction that I’d probably want to read. The cover designers have got me all figured out 🙂

  7. Ellie Warren

    I’ve heard so much about Mary Roach being so funny in the last two weeks, I enjoyed Stiff but I really can’t remember it being that funny…I’m wondering if it’s that difference between US and Uk humour I’m seeing in action.

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, that seems possible. I’m not sure if the bloggers I know who enjoyed her books are American or not, but I do think humor can differ a lot, both from person to person and country to country.

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