Non-Fiction November: Choosing Non-Fiction

A week into this Non-Fiction November business and it feels like one of the best book blogger decisions I’ve ever made. Not only has it given me an excuse to make a serious dent in all the non-fiction titles I have kicking around my house, it’s allowed me to connect with a whole new world of bloggers who share the love of non-fiction.

The only downside? I have so many more books on my TBR list now.

If you’re into it, check out Doing Dewey for the schedule. And then hop on over to Rachel @ Hibernator’s Library for this week’s discussion.

This week, we’re talking about how we choose the non-fiction books that we do.

What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book? I’m a weirdo – I started reading non-fiction when I was like 11. One of the early titles I was obsessed with was Kitty Kelley’s The Royals – it was supposed to be super scandalous and reading it made me feel like an adult. Over time, I’ve come to recognize that I like stories – in fiction and non-fiction. The non-fiction that I like the best has to have some kind of narrative or personal hook. It’s why I will always gravitate towards Malcolm Gladwell, Erik Larson and Gretchen Rubin.

The other thing that I think about when I’m picking a new title is what I’ve been reading about lately. Sometimes it’s a matter of having read a fictional story that made me want to learn more about what really happened; other times, I’ve been reading entirely too much about a subject or time in history and I need something else. This mostly happens with WWII and the Tudors.

Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to? A part of me will always be that 11-year-old obsessed with Royals and I have the collection of books to prove it. I especially love books about Royal women (this is not news to anyone that’s been a visitor to this blog in the past), most especially the ones who caused trouble. In recent years, that interest has expanded to include any woman ahead of her time. I also read a lot about WWII and the Nazis…

Do you have a particular writing style that works best? Not especially. I do not enjoy writing that’s super journalistic though! For example, I couldn’t get through Three Cups of Tea if my life depended on it.

When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you? I think we’d all be lying if we said that we weren’t influenced by cover design. It’s incredibly important. I love books that have portraits or photos of the subject on the cover, or ones that are super graphic (not in a blood and guts kind of way, in a design way).

But more than covers, I tend to read a few lines of a non-fiction book to see if the writing style works for me. And I prefer my historical non-fiction to be in hardcover because the photos are so much better on the nice shiny paper.

Here are some of the covers that I appreciated:


29 thoughts on “Non-Fiction November: Choosing Non-Fiction

  1. Ooo When Books Went to War! I just heard somewhere (I’m sure it’s common knowledge) that The Great Gatsby was popularized when it was part of a program where books where send to soldiers in WWII.

  2. Hahah. I was about the same age when I started geting into horror novels and true crime, which I also thought was very daring (based on whose bookcases, in the family, the books resided upon). The Royals were big in our family too, but the reading was more considered essential rather than scandalous.

    • I’m an anomaly in my family with the royals obsession. But do you remember the stir this book caused when it came out??? I remember it was on Entertainment Tonight! It just felt so big, so forbidden. But really, I think it was just one of the first biographies to be openly critical of The Firm.

  3. Kitty Kelley – haha!! I used to read her too! I can’t remember which of her books I’ve read though. Maybe the one about the Bush Family? Or maybe The Royals? It was a long time ago.

    And – I love Gladwell and Larsen so maybe I should try Gretchen Rubin. She’s new to me.

    • I can’t believe that I’ve never gone back and read any of her other work, really.
      Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project. If you’re at all interested in happiness, give her a shot. She’s also got a podcast with her sister that’s pretty great.

    • I just always find the women more interesting. I really liked the first half of that book but the second half introduces nine new families and it started to get hard to keep track. Still, I learned a lot about the women and the time they lived through!

  4. I’m attracted to a lot of nonfiction – I’m just not as good at reading it! Although, I did just finish one yesterday. I felt like something different after all that Giller reading. 🙂

    • I will say that I’m jonesing for fiction a little bit. I’ve read 5 non-fiction books in a row which is definitely a personal record and I really want some character development. I’m going to binge on fiction so hard in December.
      Reading non-fiction is so different from reading fiction.

  5. I started reading nonfiction in middle school too! I mostly read books about animals and wanted to be a zookeeper 🙂 I also appreciated the cover of The Nordic Theory of Everything. I’m not sure why it appeals to me, but it does.

  6. Those covers are so attractive, it makes me think they might be fiction! It seems like so much nonfiction has boring covers. I started reading nonfiction in middle school, mostly biographies, but by high school was reading almost all fiction. Only came back to nonfiction in the last 5-10 years.

    • Some non-fiction covers really do miss the mark. More people would probably stop and look at them if the covers were more engaging.
      Now that you’ve come back to it, are you finding that you’re still reading mostly biographies? Or do you read other stuff as well now?

  7. Pingback: Links I Loved This Week – 11/11/16 – Novels And Nonfiction

  8. How lovely that you found a love for nonfiction so early on. I had my head poked into chunky adult fiction for the same reason that you were reading nonfiction.
    All of those covers are lovely, but there is something about So You Have Been Publicly Shamed that especially calls to me.

    • Totally accidental. I started taking out golden age movie star biographies to bond with my grandmother and they were so interesting that I started looking for more.
      So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a really interesting read too!

  9. Yep, that nice paper for the photos/illustrations is so great. There are few things more disappointing than opening up a paperback nonfic to plain black & white pictures on cheap paper, right?

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