Monday, 7 November 2016

#NonficNov: Choosing Non-Fiction

This week, Nonfiction November is hosted by Hibernator's Library and we're talking about how we go about choosing what non-fiction to read.

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

I want to be both entertained and to learn something, not necessarily anything relevant to my life or that will be any use, ever, even in a pub quiz.

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

I really like books that are super niche, really exploring a small subject from many angles. These can be quite hard to define and discover, though. More wider subjects I enjoy are science (particularly biology and medical), psychology, mental health, natural history, books about books, food and travel. Hah, that's quite a big list!

I used to steer clear of memoirs but I have read a few more recently and enjoyed them. I do prefer a memoir that revolves around something in particular, like We Bought a Zoo.

Do you have a particular writing style that works best?

I like narrative non-fiction and often a conversational manner with a touch of humour. Although it really depends on the subject. I'm not a fan of dry, academic text. If there's a writer whose work I've loved in the past, I'm more likely to pick up a non-fiction book by them even if I'm not sure about the subject.

When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you?

Yup, I can be really put off by meh covers actually. Rightly or wrongly, a boring cover makes me think the contents will be boring too, or at least rather dry. I love good cover art and will admit to buying books just for their looks. Generally, a great cover will draw me in initially and then I'll decide if the book sounds like something I'd enjoy.

How do you pick your non-fiction reads? If you'd like some more non-fiction recommendations, do check out the week one wrap-up @ Doing Dewey.


  1. Wow, I had not heard of any of these and they sound fantastic! The covers are exceptional too.

  2. The cover isn't generally what draws me to a NF boo0k, but these are great examples of ones that might!

  3. Good point about not necessarily wanting to learn something useful, just to learn! I'm the same way :)

  4. I also love super niche nonfiction. I must pick up that zombie brain one since I work with neuroscientists!

    1. I loved their efforts to try and explain how zombies could possibly exist!

  5. Ooo, Time Warped looks good and "looks" good too!

  6. I really like books that are super niche, really exploring a small subject from many angles.

    I agree with this completely, although I probably couldn't put it into words quite as well as you did. I have non-fiction about rabies, about the art theft from one particular gallery, about blood, about decapitated heads... but I love them.

    And I think I've read We Bought A Zoo three times now, but it makes me happy every time :)

    I agree with your preferred writing style too!

  7. So many of us prefer narrative nonfiction! I'm not familiar with any of the titles you've mentioned here, but I'm going to check them out. At lest a couple must belong on my wish list ;-)

  8. I agree with you, that explorations of niche subjects or bios/memoirs focused on particular adventures are just the best. I've heard these called "microhistories" which I think is kind of a cool term.

  9. I dig your approach to what you are looking for. I would like to be entertained as well as learn something, and yeah...Who cares if it's actually useful or not?
    I am in love with the Penguin Lessons cover.


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