#NonficNov – Nonfiction Favorites

November 20, 2017 Uncategorized 29

This next-to-last week of Nonfiction November has come all too quickly, but I’m excited to begin the week with a new discussion prompt. This week, we’re talking about what qualities make you fall in love with nonfiction. I’ll be your host this week, so you’ll find the link-up where you can share your answer to the prompt at the end of this post.

Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

Writing style – Like many readers, I love nonfiction that reads like a story. Humor can be hit or miss for me – it can’t feel forced or be too flip when discussing a serious topic, but done well, it can make me fall in love with a book.

Author involvement – I almost always love when authors incorporate their experience researching their story into their telling of the story. Mary Roach is a good example of an author who does this, sharing information with the reader while describing her experience learning about a topic. I find this makes a story feel like it is happening as I’m reading it and can be very engaging.

Transparency and neutrality – It’s very important to me that an author make it clear when they’re speculating about something or when their is controversy among experts in a field. I’m sure I sometimes miss when an author doesn’t do this, but I always appreciate when authors do. For the most part, I also like an author to be unbiased on a topic. Again, I’m sure their are fields I don’t know enough about and I sometimes miss author bias. There are also subgenres, like memoir, where this doesn’t really apply. For the most part, though, I like to feel an author is reporting facts in a neutral fashion.

Topic – Of course, topic is the main thing that makes me pick up a book, but I think books on any topic can become some of my favorites. Books on social justice issues feel particularly important to me right now and can be extremely moving, but books on much lighter or less timely topics also make my favorites list.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the things that can make for a stellar nonfiction book, so I’m excited to hear from all of you! Link-up your answer to the discussion question below:

29 Responses to “#NonficNov – Nonfiction Favorites”

  1. Unruly Reader

    Writing style — I’m right there with you! If the style and tone agree with me, I’ll follow that writer anywhere. And if I dislike the author’s writing style, I’ll bail even if I like the subject matter.

    • DoingDewey

      Agreed! There are definitely specific topics that will make me excited to pick up a book, but good writing is much more important for making a favorite. And when I discover an author I love, I’ll read almost any new book they want to write 🙂

  2. Kazen @ Always Doing

    I’m also a big fan of transparency and neutrality. The best book I’ve read in this regard is Committed, about involuntary hospitalization for psychiatric care. The authors discuss biases, note holes in their reporting (no gun rights people would go on the record with them, for example), and even get a Scientologist to talk with them about psychiatry (!).

    And huzzah for social justice books – my reading has been tipping in this direction, as well!
    Kazen @ Always Doing recently posted…Nonfiction November – Nonfiction FavoritesMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I agree, there definitely need to be a balance there. I’ve read books in the past because I was interested in the topic they covered and was then disappointed because they were more about the author than the topic!

  3. TJ @ MyBookStrings

    Since my preferred nonfiction is historical, I really don’t like author involvement. Sadly, I think that is why I have had little luck with Roach’s nonfiction. I also don’t like when the author tells me how a character feels or what that character thinks at a particular time, unless we know the feelings and thoughts for a fact. Just give me the facts and I’ll figure out myself what I think about them. 🙂
    TJ @ MyBookStrings recently posted…Nonfiction November: Become the ExpertMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Even for history, I might enjoy reading about the author’s research experience, but I’ve definitely seen this done poorly and I get that it’s not for everyone! Like you, I only like an author to include what a character was feeling or thinking of their are primary sources to back it up.

  4. Kim@Time2Read

    I agree with you on topic and writing style, and absolutely want transparency! But I have to disagree on author involvement. I want a book to be about a topic and not about the author. Author involvement ruined The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks for me. I enjoyed the first part of the book very much and the second part almost as much, but by the third part the book was more about the author than it was about Henrietta Lacks. This caused me to drop it a star or two in my rating!
    Kim@Time2Read recently posted…Comments On Commenting…My Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I have read books where the author involvement was too much for me, but I think you’re right we have a different preference there. The amount of author involvement in Henrietta Lacks was about the amount I like, with the author sharing their experience researching the book. I have read some books that I expected to be about a topic but which basically turned out to be memoirs though and that really didn’t work for me!

  5. Angela

    I definitely agree that nonfiction written like a story appeals to me most. I spent a lot of my college years reading dry history. And humor is tough for me, too. Books rarely make me laugh – audiobooks are helping a bit, since the tone of voice can really make a big difference.
    Angela recently posted…Nonfiction November 2017: Nonfiction FavoritesMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I particularly love listening to funny audiobooks, especially memoirs! Hearing a story in author’s voice makes a big difference to me too 🙂

  6. Ceri

    I am completely with you on wanting an author to avoid being biased. That’s why I like it when they list their sources so that you can see the info came from a credible place and not somewhere like Wiki. Haha.
    Ceri recently posted…Non-Fiction FavouritesMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      It’s possible I should do more checking out sources than I do! I usually make sure there are some and might occasionally check citations for specific facts, but I don’t typically even skim through all the sources.
      DoingDewey recently posted…#NonficNov Week 4 Wrap-UpMy Profile

  7. Susie | Novel Visits

    Topic is everything, but I’m also so with you on the author involvement. It’s so important to me. I like nonfiction to still tell a story and the closer the subject matter is to the writer, the more of a true story it seems to be. Thanks for hosting this week.

    • DoingDewey

      Yes, exactly! I find that sometimes author involvement makes a story feel more immediate and more engaging than it would be otherwise. Thanks for participating 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      Even though I do enjoy books that include the author’s experience, I also appreciate that info in an appendix, especially if there are some bits where there was uncertainty or speculation. It’s nice to know exactly what’s true when you’re reading nonfiction 🙂

  8. Allison

    I like author involvement if the research process feels relevant to the story being told. A couple of my favorite nonfiction novels left the author out entirely, and they were done beautifully (Unbroken, Behind the Beautiful Forevers). But with others, like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, it definitely made sense to include the experience of digging up the information. I think it just depends on how it’s done. I think it just depends on how it’s done; I tend not to like it when there’s too much focus on the author (unless they’re writing a memoir).

    I missed the link-up in the holiday craziness, but here’s my post: http://www.mindjoggle.com/makes-nonfiction-book-favorite/

    • DoingDewey

      I agree! I don’t think every book needs to include the author and it can be done well or poorly. It can also sometimes take over and turn a book into a memoir when that’s not how the book was advertised, which I typically find disappointing. Thanks for sharing your post!

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