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Last updated on Apr 21, 2021

Nonfiction: 24 Genres and Types of Fact-Based Books

Many readers think of nonfiction as a genre in itself. But take a look through your local bookstore and you’ll see dozens of sections devoted to fact-based books, while fiction titles are sorted into just a few broadly defined genres like ‘Fantasy/Sci-Fi’ and ‘General Fiction’!

To give nonfiction books the recognition they deserve and help authors choose the right category for their work, here’s a list of the 24 most common genres of nonfiction along with their identifying features. 

Expository nonfiction

Expository nonfiction aims to inform the reader about its subject —  providing an explanation for it, be it a historical event, natural phenomenon, fashion trend, or anything else. 

1. History 

History books are not to be mistaken with textbooks. Rather than cherry-picking details to be memorized about a person, an event, or an era, these nonfiction titles are more like cross-sections in time. They provide readers with as much of the social and political contexts of events as possible with the use of rich primary and secondary sources, so as to better understand their causes and their legacies. 

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond Tapping into geological, agricultural, and biological evidence, Diamond challenges perception of genetic differences and contextualizes the history of human development using various external, environmental conditions.

Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944 by Anna Reid The Eastern Front of WWII is not as well-discussed as the Western one, though it's just as important. To balance the viewpoints out a little, Anna Reid explores life in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) during one of the longest, costliest, and deadliest military blockades in history. 

Types of Nonfiction | History Books

2. Philosophy 

This is where the big questions get asked. While ‘philosophy’ conjures up the image of impenetrable books written by Nietzche and Confucius for the enjoyment of beard-stroking academics, that isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of this genre! Contemporary authors have taken care to make their writings more accessible without sacrificing depth of analysis.

Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy by Simon Blackburn An introduction to life’s grandest topics (ethics, freedom, self — all that jazz) as told through the prism of history’s greatest philosophers. Suitable for curious readers who don’t know their Aristotles from their Kants.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson The author smuggles in a history of the great philosopher king by presenting it as a self-help guide. By showing his readers how Marcus Aurelius’s beliefs can apply to modern life, Robertson appeals to readers who wouldn’t otherwise pick up a copy of Meditations from the library.

A Grammar of the Multitude by Paolo Virno See how philosophy has evolved in today’s international world through Paolo Virno's perspective. He advocates for the understanding of people as "multitudes" (courtesy of Dutch Enlightenment thinker, Spinoza). It's recommended that readers go into this book with some previous knowledge on classic philosophical paradigms. 

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3. Religion and Spirituality

Books about religion and spirituality can take many forms. Some are theory-based, some are written from personal experience, and some are structured like a self-help book, with the end goal of helping readers find their spiritual home. Oftentimes, each book focuses on a particular belief system — there are even Christian publishers who are solely dedicated to publishing books about their religion. 

📚 Examples 

Waking the Buddha by Clark Strand An interesting cross between a historical research and a personal spiritual exploration, this book details the rise and continued influence of the Soka Gakkai, an international Buddhist organization that works towards egalitarianism and social justice.

The Power of Now by Ekchert Tolle This self-help-style book brings readers closer to spiritual enlightenment by acknowledging how our mind focuses on the past and the future rather than the present. It's the first step on the path toward mindful connection with the joys of the moment. 

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Science books, or  “Science & Maths” books — as Amazon would categorize them — can get quite technical. Most of the time, they’re reporting on scientists’ academic research. And so, science books tend to be well-organized and follow academic conventions like referencing and indexing . But while they sound dry, the intriguing questions that they address can always be presented in ways that keep readers coming. In any case, readers can always choose to scan over the complex mathematical proofs, or authors can put all that into the appendix.  

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking See the concept of time through the logical and characteristically witty eyes of this world-renowned scientist. It doesn’t make for the breeziest read, but it will give readers a very in-depth understanding of this arbitrary but ever-present concept. 

Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith Neil deGrasse Tyson takes readers on a tour of the universe's transformations through the years, introducing concepts of moons’ orbits and expanding stars along they way. All of this is a sturdy stepping stone to the complex realm of cosmology. 

Types of Nonfiction | Science Books

5. Popular Science 

Is this type of nonfiction just academic science books but repackaged for laypeople? Why yes indeed. Popular science books take complex research and processes and get rid of most of the jargon, so that your average Joe can pick them up and learn something new about our universe. They’re almost like Vox videos, but that you read instead of watch. 

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson Bill Bryson isn’t a scientist or an anthropologist, but he’s brought together knowledge from various disciplines to create this digestible, comprehensive exploration of the universe and the human race. 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson Tyson’s expertise as a science communicator shines through with this armchair-expert version of astrophysics, which he claims can be read on noisy buses and trains without much headache. 

6. Politics and Social Sciences 

With the ongoing social and political tumult across the world, there has been a rise in both the reading and writing of this kind of book. Some political and social science books are based more on anecdotal evidence, others are on par with academic papers in terms of depth of research. Either way, they usually pick out a specific feature or structure in society to analyze with a critical eye. 

Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson Discover why some nations are stuck in poverty traps with these economists. Using empirical data, they compellingly demonstrate the importance of inclusive institutions in fostering growth. Their writing continues to inspire development theories and strategies worldwide.  

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge It started with a blog post which the author wrote to express her frustration toward the domination of white people in discussions about racism. It became a tour-de-force work on the experiences and realities of deep-rooted racial discrimination in society. 

A book of essays is a collection of themed pieces of writing written by an author, or multiple authors, who often has some sort of authority on or personal experience with the subject matter. While they sound incredibly serious, they don’t require as much research as the types of nonfiction we’ve mentioned above. They’re often quite introspective and personal, like op-ed pieces or magazine articles. In fact, many essay books are made up of articles that were previously published in newspapers or magazines.

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin A collection of articles published in Harper’s Magazine , Partisan Review , and The New Leader , in which Baldwin discusses representations of Black people in the media, as well as his experiences as a Black man in Europe. 

The Good Immigrant , edited by Nikesh Shukla 21 writers of color come together to talk about their lives in the UK, and how they're sometimes made to question their sense of belonging despite being born and raised there. 

Types of Nonfiction | Essay Collections

8. Self-Help 

Out of all the non-fiction genres out there, this is probably the most popular one. The name itself is explanatory: a self-help book provides you with some guidance and actions through which you can solve personal problems. Self-help books can be research-based, or they can be reflective — like an extended blog post. Note, though, that while the latter kind may read somewhat like a memoir in style, if you choose to write a self-help book , you must explicitly advise the reader. 

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell What makes a person successful? Gladwell argues that it’s hardly just luck — even prodigies aren’t guaranteed recognition. Pulling from various examples and sociological studies, he identifies several factors, beyond genetics, that anyone can optimize to boost their chances. 

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson Sometimes what you need is for someone to give it to you straight. That’s when conversational, hilarious, blog-style books like this become handy. Mark Manson’s self-help book is all about accepting what you’re given and not allowing expectations ruin your happiness. 

9. Business and Economics 

While this a broad category that may include volumes with a journalistic flavor, business books tend to be guides to entrepreneurship and management. It’s a medium for those who've had experience in the workplace or the market to share their tips and tricks (and also a good tool for authors to bag guest-speaking events). In this sense, this kind of book is like self-help, but specifically for entrepreneurs and business managers. 

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz Master the art of financial management through real-life case studies and a four-principle system with which can be applied to any business. It's straightfoward and has enough examples to demonstrate its success. 

The Big Short by Michael Lewis Lewis makes the mess of the financial crisis of 2008 that little bit easier to wrap your head around in this darkly humorous book. He follows the stories of ordinary people who fell victim to the American financial sector, revealing the precariousness of this ever-expanding industry. 

10. Health and Wellness

There's no shortage of health and wellness books out there — what do we care about if not a long and healthy life, right? These books cover many different topics, from diets to sleeping habits, from stress management to dealing with anxiety. Most are written by researchers and doctors, who have the technical knowhow to offer sound insight and advice. 

Lifespan by David Sinclair Drawing from his knowledge as a geneticist, Sinclair gives readers the scoop on the ever-popular topic of aging. He assures us that for a long, healthy, and happy life, we should enjoy our chocolate and wine (in moderation, of course).

This Is Your Brain on Food by Uma Naidoo Food provides more than just nutrients for sustenance and growth — what you eat also impacts your mood and mental health. Dr. Uma Naidoo is a psychiatrist, nutritionist, and a professional chef, so you can trust she knows what she’s talking about. 

Types of Nonfiction | Health and Wellness Books

11. Crafts and Hobbies 

Once upon a time, before Google became the omniscient engine that held the answer to all our questions, people relied on craft books to teach them how to pick up a new hobby. Origami, crochet, calligraphy, gardening — you name it, there’s a book about it. Nowadays, books like these appeal to the audience not solely because of the skills but also the author. Authors are usually someone with an online presence and authority when it comes to the craft, and their book's tone and interior design usually reflect a bit of their personality. 

By Hand by Nicole Miyuki Santo Beautifully designed with plenty of samples with which readers could practice their own calligraphy, Santo’s guide is a meditative exercise book. It’s also a great avenue for her followers on Instagram to come closer to her art by practicing it themselves.  

Alterknit Stitch by Andrea Rangel For knitters who have already nailed down the basics and want to experiment with new patterns, this is the book to get. It demonstrates ways to have fun with this cozy hobby by defying the conventions of knitting. 

12. Travel Guides

Again, the internet seems to have taken over from books when it comes to helping travelers and tourists discover new places. Still, travel guides are a lot more comprehensive, keeping everything you might need to know about budgeting, languages, places to visit (or avoid), and much more, in one place. Ebooks are the perfect format for these guides — they’re easy for travelers to refer to on the go, and they’re not as costly to update to include the latest information. 

The Lonely Planet series This collection has been growing since the 1970s, and it now holds plenty of books with various focuses. There are guides solely on helpful phrases in foreign languages, and then there are regional, country-level, and city guides, all made with contributions from locals. 

The Time Out series While also written by locals, these books focus only on cities (mainly in Europe and the US). As with the magazine of the same name, the content of the books is all about local haunts and hidden shops that tourists may not be aware of. 

13. Cookbooks

Cookbooks make up another type of nonfiction that’s evermore popular, and not just because we’re cooking more and more at home nowadays. They’re increasingly beautiful, and to write a cookbook is to have a vision in mind about what kind of mouth-watering photos (or illustrations!) it would offer alongside easy-to-follow instructions. They also tend to have cohesive themes, i.e. desserts for vegans, at-home experimental fine-dining, or worldly culinary adventures from your kitchen.

In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen Grandmothers from eight different Eastern African countries show readers both hearth and heart through the familial stories associated with their food. Beyond the loving taste of traditional homecooked dishes, readers will also get to learn about life in the villages of Africa. 

Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi Israeli-English chef Yotam Ottolenghi is the owner of several branches of restaurants, bakeries and food shops in London, but you can get a taste of his cuisine with this collection of 130 Middle Eastern recipes that can be made within 30 minutes. Who says simple cooking couldn't be adventurous?

Midnight Chicken: & Other Recipes Worth Living For by Ella Risbridger A slightly different take on cookbooks, Midnight Chicken is a manifesto for an joyful life, built on homemade food. Her recipes are simple and homely, just like the illustrations of her book, so that anyone can make them even after a long and tiring day.

Nonfiction Genres | Cookbooks

14. Parenting and Family 

Parenting is anything but easy, and since Supernanny is not always on air, a little help from experts and those who've had experience dealing with children is the next best thing. From understanding with the psychology of young minds to finding the best environments and ways to nurture them, parenting books with sound academic backing provide useful insights and advice to help readers become better guardians and caregivers. 

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Laura Markham Based on the latest research on brain development and clinical tests, Markham emphasizes the importance of the emotional connection between parent and child in development. When parents understand their own emotions, they can raise their children with empathy, set healthy boundaries, and communicate with clarity. 

Unequal Childhoods by Annette Lareau Beyond the home, there's a complex world which parents don’t have control of. Annette Lareau sociologically examines the social and political contexts in which children would be exposed to (if they live in America) and how childrearing can be affected by it.

15. Children’s Nonfiction 

 Explaining the world to children, even on a limited scale, can be incredibly difficult, as it’s hard to keep their attention. Luckily, a bit of assistance from an illustrator can do wonders. As a result, many children’s nonfiction books are in the style of picture books and chapter books. Topics covered include short historical accounts and biographies, or stories that explain scientific phenomena and how they are studied. For a more detailed breakdown of children’s nonfiction, check out editor Melissa Stewart’s system of classification .

The Little Leaders series by Vashti Harrison Read about exceptional men and women of various ethnic backgrounds throughout history, and enjoy their adorable portraits in this series. There’s hardly a better way to help children embrace differences than through nonfiction books about diversity such as this.

There Are Bugs Everywhere by Britta Teckentrup Open young minds up to the natural world through this colorful elementary guide to the insect world. Answering questions about where insects live or how they find and store food with engaging drawings, it’s a great educational tool for parents and teachers. 

16. Educational Guides 

Many educational guides as the YA version of nonfiction books. These are targeted at final-year high-schoolers and young college students, with the aim providing them some guidance as they reach that strange age where independence is desperately craved but also a bit scary. Unlike popular YA fiction , this is still definitely a niche, yet, as rising study-with-me YouTubers would show you, there is potential for growth. Other than that, there are also learning guides for older audiences as well. 

The Uni-Verse by Jack Edwards Sharing his experience in preparing for and being at university, Edwards hopes to ensure readers that they, too, could emerge from univeristy happy and successful. From how to take lecture notes to how to get along with your roommates, this guide is full of helpful advice for anyone who’s feeling a bit overwhelmed. 

Beginners by Tom Vanderbilt Education doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom, as Tom Vanderbilt shows us in this call-to-action for life-long learning. As testament to the value of learning as an adult, he tells the stories behind his journey with five skills: playing chess, singing, surfing, drawing, and juggling. 

Types of Nonfiction | Educational Guides

17. Textbooks 

We’ve all had our fair share of poring over these books: each comprehensively puts together information about a specific subject (and sometimes even the subject of teaching itself). The content of textbooks also include questions that stimulate learners, encouraging them to reflect on certain matters. As they are meant to accompany a curriculum, textbooks have to be written with a good overarching grasp of the subject and solid understanding of pedagogy. Given all this work, textbook writers deserve more appreciation than they get!

Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series by Oxford University Press This popular series offers a short and concise introduction to just about every topic out there. Breaking big concepts and lesson outcomes into bitesize definitions, they make great overviews or quick refreshers before an exam.

Letting Go of Literary Whiteness by Carlin Borsheim-Black and Sophia Tatiana Sarigianides This textbook is made not for students but for teachers. Based on experiences and examples from their own classrooms, the authors supply advice, and real-life scenarios in which they apply, on how to be anti-racist in schools. 

18. Language Books 

Language books can be general guides as to how to learn any language, or they can go into the nitty-gritty of a particular language. Some of them aren’t even about learning to use and communicate in a language; instead, they take a dive into the origins and inner workings of these complex systems. Regardless, because of the complexity of the subject, these nonfiction titles require expert knowledge from the part of the author. 

Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher Linguist Guy Deutscher (a perfect name for the profession) makes the case for the connection between language and culture in this volume, opening up a whole new perspective on language learning beyond the practicalities. 

How to Speak Any Language Fluently by Alex Rawlings This book does what it says on the tin: it gives you the tools to pick up any language you want. Rawling's advice is as fun as it is helpful, so everyone can learn their language of choice with extra enjoyment! 

Many of them are memoirs of comedians and talk show hosts, others are written by celebrated essayists and journalists. The celebrity profiles of authors in the genre explains humorous nonfiction's popularity. While form may vary, most of these titles are penned as social commentaries that candidly talk about issues that are often overlooked.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell A witty exploration of the legacies of presidential assassinations in America, which notes how they’ve been used for political and commercial purposes that ridiculously undermine their historical importance. It’s history and politics, but with a healthy dose of sharp humor. 

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh Bill Gates says it’s “funny as hell” , and that’s all the advertising it needs. Taking the unconventional form of meme-worthy comic strips accompanied by texts to provide context, Brosh’s memoir is a candid reflection on both hilarious and bleak moments she's been through. 

Nonfiction Genres | Humor

20. Arts Books

The arts section is a fun mix — to name a few, there are photography collections, art catalogues, books on theory and critique, and volumes that teach artistic endeavors. With nuggets of wisdom from industry experts and often great attention paid to design details these books really are like pieces of artwork themselves. 

The World of Art series by Thames & Hudson This collection offers a variety of art styles and their hallmark pieces from across time and space. You could pick any one of them and feast your eyes on not only the art itself, but the wonderful interior design — courtesy of Adam Hay .

Women Artists by Flavia Frigeri In a now seminal feminist art history text written in the 70s, Linda Nochlin raised a provocative question: “Why have there been no great women artists?” Well, this addition to the Art Essentials series answers the question by showcasing 50 women artists throughout history, proving that the problem lies not in the lack of female artists, but in the failure to give them the recognition they deserve. 

Narrative nonfiction 

While narrative nonfiction books are still factual, they're written in the style of a story. As such a book's chapters have a flow — a story structure , if you will — rather than being systematically organized by topic. 

21. Memoirs and autobiographies

Memoirs and autobiographies are books about the writer’s life. The former covers a shorter time period, focusing on a particularly noteworthy moment, such as experience in a certain industry, or an unconventional childhood. It’s thus often written by younger authors. The latter follows a longer timeline, going through a whole life, like a personal history. As such, while anyone, with or without a public presence, can write a memoir , autobiographies are always penned by well-known figures. Autobiographies are also often used by politicians and activists to share their journey and views.

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym Prodigal violinist Min Kym was the youngest pupil at the Purcell School of Music, though her life wasn't a bed of roses. While struggling with the theft of a 17th-century Stradivarius in her possession (which made national headlines in the UK in 2010), she came to realize with incredible clarity that she had lost much more on the journey to meet the expectations of her teachers, her parents, and the world. And all of it was beautifully recorded in this memoir. 

A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa Masaji Ishikawa's life in Japan is just like any ordinary person’s life, but to have gotten there, he’d undergone the challenges of escaping the totalitarian state of North Korea. His experience with this totalitarian state and his subsequent escape makes for a memoir readers can't put down. 

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela The man at the heart of one of the biggest, most publicised international movement against racial discrimination and for political freedom shares his journey from being an activist to his 27 years in prison in this autobiography. 

22. Biographies

Take note, biographies are different from auto biographies in a very crucial way, even though both are basically life stories. While autobiographies are written by authors about themselves , biographies are written by an author about somebody else . If the subject is alive, their consent should be acquired for ethical purposes (though this isn’t always done). A biography could also be penned long after its subject’s death, presented as a history book that’s focused solely on the life and circumstances of one person. Many of these have gone on to inspire award-winning movies and musicals.

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow Ron Chernow is truly the master of biographies, and any of his titles would be a great example of his brilliance as a writer and researcher. This Pulitzer Prize winner on America’s founding father is recommended for its nuanced portrait of a legendary figure. Chernow took four years to research and an additional two to complete the manuscript — it was no easy project!

A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar Perhaps more famous for its movie adaptation starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, Sylvia Nasar’s biography provides a window into the turbulent life of schizophrenic mathematician and economist John Nash. While it challenged ethical practices by not consulting with Nash even though he was alive, the book was still very well-received. 

23. Travel Literature 

Some call them travelogues, others call them travel memoirs — either way, travel literature books straddle the line between informing on the many cultures of the world and self-reflection. Books that fall into this genre are usually quite poetic and insightful (unlike practical travel guides). They’re all about personal journeys that are meditative and eye-opening, and can be about a specific place or a series of places. 

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bike by Dervla Murphy In 1963, Dervla Murphy kept a daily diary of her trek “across frozen Europe and through Persia and Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and into India.” After the trip, she published the diary and invited readers to join her on this remarkable feat, whether from their couch or as they start their own journey.

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson Focusing on the place and not the journey, Bill Bryson documents his “farewell tour” of the UK as he prepared to return to America after almost two decades of living across the pond. Mixing cultural insights with a healthy dose of humor, he wraps his travel notes in social commentary to both satirize and praise the idiosyncrasies of the British. 

24. Journalism

Follow investigative journalists as they uncover ugly truths. Other than doing justice by in-depth and sometimes even dangerous investigations, this type of nonfiction also enthralls readers with the twists and turns of real events and details of actual underground operations, conspiracies, and court dramas, to name a few. 

All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein Journalists Woodward and Bernstein's reports in The Washington Post won them a Pulitzer Prize and led to President Nixon’s impeachment. In this book, they recollect the process behind their famous exposé on Watergate.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow On his trail to investigate Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults, Farrow discovered a systematic mechanism which favors offenders with big pockets and silences the voice of victims. His book is thus an exposé on the journalism industry itself.

Voilà! Those are 24 of the most popular types of nonfiction along with some typical exmaples. And keep in mind that as more and more titles get released, the genres will expand beyond this list. It goes to show how expansive this side of the publishing world can be. If you’re writing , publishing, or marketing a nonfiction book , hopefully this list has clarified the purpose, styles, and formats of each genre so that you can find the perfect fit for your own work.

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What Is Nonfiction? Definition & Famous Examples

POSTED ON Sep 15, 2023

Sarah Rexford

Written by Sarah Rexford

What is nonfiction, and why does it matter to know its definition?

Consider this: you want to write a book about your life, but you’re unsure if it will be listed as fiction or nonfiction . 

Why would a book about your life be fiction, you ask?

Well, while some authors prefer to base their stories strictly on reality, other writers choose to draw from true events while infusing the story with creative liberties. When people see a book listed as nonfiction, they assume that everything in it actually happened and is completely accurate – to the best of the author's knowledge.

Conversely, when a book, movie, or series says “based on true events,” there is a lot of room for interpretations, exaggerations, and even completely made-up characters and parts of the story.

Need A Nonfiction Book Outline?

To get clear about this genre, I first ask (and answer) the question, what is nonfiction? Then, I explain how you can confirm a book is nonfiction, list popular subgenres and types of nonfiction books, share three classic characteristics of nonfiction books, and highlight a few famous nonfiction authors. So, are you ready?

This guide answers, “What is nonfiction?” and more:

First, what is nonfiction .

A nonfiction book is one based on true events and as factually correct as possible. It presents true information, real events, or documented accounts of people, places, animals, concepts, or phenomena. There is no place for fictional characters or exaggerations in this genre.

But that doesn't mean it won't read like fiction. There are plenty of people who have such a fascinating or unbelievable story to tell that it doesn't feel real. The Prince Harry memoir comes to mind. It has everything that you might find in a fantasy novel – except it really happened. A real-life prince? Yes. War, drama, and family conflict? Yes. A movie star wife? Also yes.

Others about trauma, death, and struggle have less magic to them, but could be equally difficult to believe due to the difficulties encountered by the author. An example here is the Jennette McCurdy memoir , I'm Glad My Mom Died .

There are plenty of other memoir examples , but memoirs are just one answer to, “What is nonfiction?” In reality, it includes a whole host of other subgenres.

How can I tell if a book is nonfiction?

For starters, any nonfiction book should be listed as nonfiction – whether online or in a physical book store. But if you want to be sure the book you have in your hands falls in this category, here's what you can do:

  • Examine the cover. Fiction books often have more artwork on the cover and may include a character or symbolism. Meanwhile, nonfiction book covers are often (though not always), more minimalist. Some may not have any artwork or may include a picture of the author.
  • Find clues in the title and subtitle. Nonfiction book titles are often much more literal and descriptive about the subject matter. Exceptions to this are memoir titles, as they might be more interpretive.
  • Read the author bio. A nonfiction author bio often leads with the author's qualifications (a degree or lived experience) and reasons for writing the book, while a fiction author bio might be more personal or speak to other books the author has written.
  • Look for a preface and/or table of contents. Most nonfiction books are penned to educate or help the reader. Many of them will have a preface introducing the concept or the author's background on the subject matter. Similarly, they'll likely include an easy-to-navigate table of contents, similar to a textbook or educational text.
  • Scan the pages for citations or a reference list. Nonfiction books are factual. Therefore, the presented information should be backed up by studies, academic papers, or other reputable sources.
  • Read reviews. This is much easier if the book is listed online. But nonfiction book reviews usually use words like “transformation,” “helpful information,” and “life-changing.”
  • Consider the style and tone. While any author is free to use any tone in writing , most nonfiction authors default to an educational (even if casual) tone. Memoir authors may be the exception to this one, as most personal accounts are written in the distinct tone and voice of the author.

What types of nonfiction books are there?

When posed with the question, “What is nonfiction?” it's also worth noting the different subgenres, types of writing, and themes in books that appear in the nonfiction category.

Popular nonfiction book genres include:

  • Memoir and autobiography
  • Spirituality or faith
  • Health and fitness
  • Art and photography
  • Motivational and inspirational

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Each of these sub-genres includes the three characteristics of nonfiction that we'll discuss in a bit. But before we get there, consider the different types of writing that could also appear in nonfiction:

  • Narrative nonfiction
  • Creative nonfiction
  • Scientific works
  • Historical accounts

3 purposes and characteristics of nonfiction 

Now you have a strong foundation and can confidently answer the question, “What is nonfiction?” Let's go deeper. Why do people read nonfiction? What is the purpose of a nonfiction book?

Equally as important as being able to define nonfiction is to be able to describe the characteristics that make a book an effective nonfiction piece.

1. What is nonfiction? Inspiration.

One of the primary characteristics of nonfiction is its inspirational themes. While there are many types of nonfiction, most of them find a way to weave in enough inspiration to help readers want to better themselves and lead a better life.

Whether your book focuses on a personal victory – instilling in readers the idea that “I overcame this and so can you” – or uses data to inspire readers to join the 5 a.m. Club, nonfiction is inspiration, no matter how overt.

2. What is nonfiction? Education.

Educational nonfiction exists as its own sub-genre. However, even outside of strictly educational books, nonfiction includes lessons for readers who desire to self-educate.

Need an example? James Clear’s bestseller, Atomic Habits , stands as a key example of the power nonfiction has in educating readers – while inspiring change.

3. What is nonfiction? Self-discovery.

Some of the bestselling nonfiction today acts as a guide for readers intent on self-reflection. It often uses repetition in writing to portray a theme.

In fact, at a deeper level, answering the question, “What is nonfiction?” often comes down to identifying how a particular book helps readers see parts of themselves they would not otherwise see. 

Top nonfiction authors

Let's finish this long-winded answer to “What is nonfiction?” with some concrete – and a bit famous – examples. What better way to define what a nonfiction book is than to read some of the top books in the genre? Who knows, maybe you'll learn something along the way!

Elizabeth Gilbert

Readers know Elizabeth Gilbert for her New York Times bestsellers Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic . She put travel memoirs – and nonfiction books – on the map in a whole new way with the former and continues to write great books to this day. Big Magic is a nonfiction book that focuses on creativity – and does so from a vulnerable perspective.

Fiction writers often create vulnerable characters. However, with nonfiction memoirs, it’s arguably more difficult. Why is this? You, the author, are often the protagonist. Whatever you reveal is likely personal.

What you can learn from her: How to write with appropriate vulnerability to connect with your readers on a more personal level. 

Related: Memoir Writing Do's and Don'ts

James Clear

Another bestselling author, James Clear, focuses on self-development through small, atomic-sized habits in his aptly-named nonfiction book, Atomic Habits. His mindset shift guides readers into self-discovery, and his writing inspires change that lasts. Within the pages of his book, you'll find top atomic habits quotes to inspire your personal goals and habits.

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Now known as one of the leaders in the self-development world, Clear didn’t start at his current success level. His personal journey further proves the results of his message. 

What you can learn from him: How to provide small, actionable next steps that lead to large, impactful results.

Related: 14 Books Like Atomic Habits To Read Next

Jennette McCurdy

To say Jennette McCurdy is famous would be a massive understatement. With nine million Instagram followers and a bestselling memoir, her writing style is one to take note of. 

I’m Glad My Mom Died is an evocative title that sets readers on a hilarious yet heartbreaking look at Jennette’s life, including deep-seated, personal struggles. 

What you can learn from her: Balance humor and heartbreak to communicate your story with the highs and lows associated with great plots.

David Goggins

At times a polarizing figure, David Goggins’ work ethic is no joke. Known for his extreme self-discipline, stringent workout routine, and early mornings, his book, Can’t Hurt Me , has sold four million copies.

What you can learn from him: Don’t shy away from fully communicating your passion, your past as it relates to your writing, and your progress. Combining all three can help your readers in profound ways. 

These iconic authors paved, and are paving, a definitive answer to the question, “what is nonfiction?” with their work:

  • Svetlana Alexievich
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Rebecca Skloot
  • Mark Twain 
  • Caroline Fraser 

Fraser focuses on America’s beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder. Svetlana Alexievich’s Nobel Prize winner is known as a landmark work of oral history. Frederick Douglass’s personal narrative tells horrific stories of overcoming with beautiful prose. Rebecca Skloot shares scientific knowledge in a way that resonates with her readers. 

Mark Twain’s adventures are iconic in American history. C.S. Lewis is known for his compelling nonfiction works (as well as his original fiction plots). 

These names, and many more, can provide a foundation on which to draw from as you move into ideating your draft, especially when seeking guidance on how to write a book chapter . But you might still be asking if nonfiction is the right path for you – and your book.

Should you write a nonfiction book?

Don't just want to know what nonfiction is but why – and how to write a nonfiction book as well? Well, can you answer any of these questions with a resounding “yes!?”

  • Do you live a unique life?
  • Have you overcome something life-changing or mindset-altering?
  • Do you have a desire to teach a valuable lesson?
  • Is there something you know due to your profession, education, or background that could help others?
  • Do you want to shift from teaching one-on-one as a service provider to changing multiple people's lives with the same amount of effort?
  • Do you have a business that you want to grow?
  • Are you passionate about a specific event or time in history – and want more people to learn about it?

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The next time someone asks you, “What is nonfiction?” you can explain that nonfiction encompasses writing based on factual events or data – and then hand them a copy of your own book as an example!

Define nonfiction with your own book

So what is nonfiction? As you can see, it's a lot of things. Great nonfiction is storytelling grounded on facts, written with purpose, and crafted in a creative way that readers connect with. Excited to craft your own nonfiction narrative but feeling unsure where to start? Fret not! Here are some helpful guides to get you started:

  • How to Write a Biography
  • How to Write a Book About Christianity
  • How to Write a Psychology Book
  • How to Write a Self-Help Book

Now it’s your turn to become the protagonist in your own story. Whether you choose to write a memoir or autobiography or want to share lessons learned from a less-personal perspective, it’s your turn to answer the question, “What is nonfiction?” 

While many nonfiction books (especially self-help) include data and stats, the stories mentioned above are not simply a collection of data but a framework that ties the following together:

  • Inspiration 
  • Education 
  • Self-discovery 

It's important to define what is nonfiction as it relates to your specific writing goals . Think about the themes, topics, and characteristics you want to include in your manuscript. Consider how you want your readers to feel during and after reading your book.

Your nonfiction can mix horror and heartbreak, tragedy and triumph, failures and persistence. You can use your expertise to inspire others to health, wellness, and new levels of self-development. 

Every writer has a unique perspective to share. Your viewpoint matters, and what you have to say can play a vital role in the trajectory of the nonfiction genre!

Need book writing help ? Reference the free resource below for further guidance!

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

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Do You Know Your Nonfiction? Understand the 6 Types Before You Write

By   Boni Wagner-Stafford

April 17, 2018

Nonfiction – literary work that is based in fact – covers more than one genre. Or sub-genre. With so many potential subjects to cover, and so many possible ways to approach nonfiction writing, it’s important to understand the differences between these sub-genres. This way you can better direct your work and flesh out its ultimate potential.

Here are the six types of nonfiction writing, and some of the most famous examples of each sub-genre:

Memoirs aren’t necessary told in chronological order, allowing much room for creative retelling. Some famous examples of a memoirs include Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love . (I recently read and loved Under an Afghan Sky , written by my former colleague Melissa Fung.)  Although The Diary of a Young Girl is more of a diary than a standard memoir, it can also be loosely considered a memoir for Anne Frank’s specific retelling of the German invasion. Some of Ingenium Books’ soon-to-be-famous (nudge nudge wink wink) memoirs include Cynthia Barlow ‘s Four Fridays with Christina , C.A. Gibbs ‘ The Picture Wall , and Yvonne Caputo ‘s Flying With Dad . 

The sub-genres memoir and biography/autobiography often get confused as being one and the same. The main differences between them are the scope and focus of the book. Memoirs are often about a single important experience: a break-it-or-make-it business deal, a detrimental career choice, a life-changing experience. The length of the book doesn’t have anything to do with the memoir vs autobiography debate.

Autobiography

Autobiographies begin from a person’s childhood continuing up to the writer’s present. Autobiographies are considered one of the most intimate sub-genres of nonfiction.  Influential people often write autobiographies as a way of sharing their story with the world and inspiring others. B usinessmen, artists, politicians, and influencers lay bare their secrets and reveal previously unknown truths about their experiences and their life.

High profile examples of autobiographies include Malala Yousafzai’s I am Malala , Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom , and Tina Fey’s Bossypants .

There can be more than one biography on a single person. For Barack Obama alone, there are about ten biographies available, each focusing on a different aspect of his life. The most popular ones include David Garrow’s Rising Star and David Maraniss’ Barack Obama: The Story .

Biographies still offer plenty of opportunities for creativity. Biographers have to watch out for style and direction. These two things can separate their work from other existing biographies, and can tell someone’s story from a brand new perspective.

For example, Jenny Nordberg’s The Underground Girls of Kabul details her experience as a journalist with Afghan girls and the phenomenon of bacha posh. As with other expository books, she reveals her subject’s daily routine and brings to light an unknown problem in present day Afghanistan.

Expository often poses a problem for inexperienced writers. As a form of journalistic nonfiction, it requires a deep understanding with the subject. Writers who come in contact with controversial topics must approach their writing with sensitivity and understanding. If you’re not conscientious with your story, you run the risk of looking insensitive, naive, or both.

Prescriptive Nonfiction (Self-help)

Everyone encounters problems. Not everyone can hire a private life or business coach or make significant changes on their own. Self-help books allow people to improve what they’re lacking. It doesn’t have to be something as big as battling drug addiction or getting over PTSD. The most popular self-help books are about finding motivation and improving skills, typically those that have something to do with interpersonal skills. Business , leadership, and management books often fit into this category: check out Gwyn Teatro ‘s In the Thick of It, and Lisa King ‘s Just Do You .

Famous self-help books include Spencer John’s Who Moved My Cheese and Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  (the paper back version has sold more than 15 million copies – we can aim for that, right? :-)). Not-so-famous include our own Rock Your Business . Motivating people and helping them change their lives for the better are the main purposes behind prescriptive nonfiction.

Narrative Nonfiction

Anything from crime thrillers to essays and interviews can fall under narrative nonfiction. What distinguishes narrative nonfiction from the other sub-genres is its playfulness with language. While other sub-genres are can also be written in the same manner, narrative nonfiction is premised on the creativity of a narrative, so much so that it doesn’t even feel like nonfiction.  

Which Style of Nonfiction Writing is for Me?

Embarking on a nonfiction book writing journey requires a lot of research and hard work, precisely because you’re in the business of journalism and creative writing.

To understand what sub-genre will suit you best, figure out what stories you respond well to. Does telling other people’s stories interest you? Or, perhaps you would rather tell your own? Do you want to expose an unknown cultural phenomenon, or inspire the world? Knowing what you’re passionate about helps you find material that you can easily convert into a full-length and even potentially best-selling novel.

Ingenium Books is a hybrid publisher of nonfiction. With us, it’s all about you: your book, your goals, your journey. Check out our #mswl (manuscript wish list) . When you’re ready to submit your manuscript, go here . Reach out and connect with us today . 

What do you think?

Hi I have lots of ideas for books i want to write this website is awesome by the way..I am planning out a book which shares some struggles of living with small amount of money but focusing on how to be thrifty with meal planning cheap and healthy meals. Also including my foraging and food growing knowledge. So a cook book, with low cost eating ideas plus foraging and tips for simple veggie growing…plus snippets of my experiences……is that 2/3 different book types? And is it something people will want to read? Should I start with blog and recipes maybe?…..I am so eager but also right at my start of my journey here. Thanks in advance

Hi Ishy 🙂 I’m glad you’re enjoying our site 🙂 All of your ideas for the book that you’ve outlined could indeed fit into a number of sub-genres, depending on what the final manuscript / book looks like. But they are all pretty close. My advice for you (shhhh, don’t tell anyone I said this LOL) is not to worry too much about that right now, try to be clear about who the reader is going to be and what they need to know from you, and just get the thing written first. Then, once you’re working with an editor, or perhaps a publisher, you can revisit sub-genre as you are working through the editing process. I hope this helps!

Hi, I am writing my second non-fiction book, the first was self published and distributed locally. it read like a text book. The one I am currently writing will be what you call, a Narrative non-fiction. Its about group property investing and I want to distribute it globally. It will have American/British/Aust related content. Interested?

Jeff, check out our submissions page and set up a discovery call!

Hi – I am writing a non-fiction book that examines the way we were socialized into believing certain ideas, beliefs, behaviors about different topics (relationships, mental health, physical health, career, etc.). I use my personal stories to offer alternative solutions to the way were “programmed”. Would this be a self-help or a hybrid? Thank you

Hi Rasha! This sounds fascinating! If you don’t have a publisher yet, do reach out. The specific genre will depend very much on how you position the content — but the way you’ve described it here could fit the self-help category IF you have a clearly-identified pain point the reader is struggling with. Hope that helps!

Hello, I am doing some self help writing based on fear, failure and focus. I would like to impact the younger generation by my writing as I share what causes set backs and disappointments and how to avoid it to gain greater achievements for their lives. But I want to also ask authors and successful people to allow me to write a biography of how they succeeded as I travel and scout for them and their stories. WHAT TYPE OF GENRE IS THIS IN,PLEASE?

Deyalonda, as with so many manuscripts, the genre can morph as the writing progresses. The first part of your description suggests self-help. The second half, where you invite the contributions of other people, could turn into an anthology if the other contributors write their own pieces — which could still be self-help. If you are just interviewing others and writing their stories yourself, this could still be self-help. And… I hope that helps!

Hi, I am writing a nonfiction book about being an empath and I look to inform people about what an empath actually is. What genre would this be in?

HI Paige :-). Sounds like an important book! A nonfiction about being an empath, with the goal of informing people what an empath is, could fit into a number of different sub-genres depending on how you treat the content. You could write a memoir about your experience as an empath (if indeed that’s the case) which would inform people about what an empath is. You could write a self-help book that would give other empaths tools they need to make their lives better/more successful, for example, which would fall into a self-help sub-genre of nonfiction. Hope that helps, and good luck with the writing!

Hi I’m writing a book about living with a mental illness. I realize this is a broad topic, but it will have my first hand experiences. I will also discuss the things/events that have helped, hurt, or trigger me. It’ll also help others who struggle with it as well.. With that being said, would this fall under Memoir or Expository non-fiction? Or neither?

Hello Shay. This sounds like it would be memoir, with a side of self-help — given you aim to help others who struggle. You have a worthy cause!

Hi, I am writing a non fiction book on philosophy, that touches a little on psychology. What genre would this be?

Hi Ashli. In order to determine what type of nonfiction your book is, we’d need to know more about what you’re trying to say beyond the broad topics of philosophy and psychology. Is it an academic examination of research around a particular position or point? Is it an instruction manual of some sort that readers would use to guide them in some way? Is it challenging mainstream views on a particular point or perspective? Is it a narrative of what these topics have meant to you in your life and how they’ve influenced things for you personally? Your answers to these questions — along with examining your goals for your book — are what determine the genre, not the broad topics. I hope that helps!

This is very insightful. I am new in writing but your tips are very useful. Thanks a lot.

Thank you for the insightful information, Boni. I enjoy watching and making documentary films as a storyteller and now I want write non-fiction books. Presently, I have stories of personal accounts of two people I would like to tell and I think they’re quite compelling stories. My purpose is simply to craft the stories on the background of a certain theme/setting to interest my readers and make them laugh or cry, entertainment basically. I guess I’ll be looking at the narrative non-fiction genre.

Any comments would be deeply appreciated. Thank you.

Thanks for comment, Temitope. Narrative nonfiction is likely the writ-large genre. However, you might be well served to dig a little deeper into what kind of stories these are, and see if you can do some research, for example, by digging into how and where book retailers might put your book/books on the shelf—whether virtual bookshelf or physical. That will inform more about your writing—knowing what your reader audience both expects and is looking for based on where they’ll find the book will go a long way to helping you produce a book that serves the market and is poised for success.

Struggling to find my genre pigeonhole… My book is about understanding the body in a new way and using that understanding (and developing the skill) to eliminate chronic pain. But it’s not a manual or how-to, so it’s not prescriptive, right? I discuss current treatments and how they fall short but I wouldn’t classify it as expository either. My own experiences are a large part of it, but it’s not a memoir. My goal is to introduce radically new concepts to the general public, as well as to receptive people in the healthcare field. Your response is welcome!

Nancy, GREAT question. The clue likely rests in your answer to the question: what do you want your reader to do, think, and feel after they’re finished reading your book? Based on what you’ve said, it sounds to me like you want them to take new action to eliminate chronic pain. If that is indeed the case, then you are actually writing self-help, which is how-to. Just because the main genre is self-help doesn’t mean you can’t have elements that could also fit if the book were in another genre…. it’s important to bring your own story, or parts of it, into the explanations of concepts, how you came to understand and apply them, and what a difference it made in your life. The explanations of current treatments falling short is an important part of the motivation for the reader — motivating them with why messages for why it will be worth their while to make the changes you’re suggesting. I hope that helps! Sounds like an interesting book!

Thank you for responding. What I want the reader to do is understand their body differently, expand their own sense of touch, and spur some healthcare people to … idk, use the concepts in the book to treat patients in a better way, or maybe take a training that I haven’t developed yet. There are some elements of experiential self-exploration, and a chapter of What You Can Do but mostly it’s not prescriptive self-help in the usual sense. It’s more like ‘Hey, did you know your body works like this?! and not the way you’ve always thought!’ It takes training and practice to do the treatment I describe, so you can’t just read the book and help yourself. Which makes me think self-help isn’t the appropriate genre but I don’t know what is. Given what I’ve said, would you still say ‘self-help’?

Nancy, yes, I would still say self-help would be your primary genre even given these conditions. Good luck!

[…] But what if you just can’t recognize those elements I just described in your nonfiction book? Maybe you don’t see your nonfiction book as really telling a story (hint: they always are), or maybe your book is a how-to (prescriptive) or one of the other types of nonfiction? […]

True story. 2020/21 Asking which sub-genre, please? I’m writing about three things, beating COVID-19, my world travels and me trying to get home to Australia – the country with tight closed borders. (Borders still closed so it’s current). Adventurous: fearful, sudden cancellation – by flight, country, and accommodation, so this had me country-hopping beyond even my belief. Duration of 14 months trying to survive.

Problem: Style… I wanted to write it as light and shade, serious but also shooting for injections of humour and irony. I think I can manage irony as the story tells itself in parts.

Memoir, narrative nonfiction? Or other? Thank you and I love your information! 🙂

Hi Kaz, your story does certainly sound current! Memoir is narrative nonfiction — but not all narrative nonfiction is memoir :-). And you get to decide which sub-genre you can work this story into — it all depends on your goals (which we often refer to as your “why”). You could take these experiences and weave them into a memoir. You could take what you learned from the experiences and write a prescriptive nonfiction (self-help) book to help others learn what you have. Or, you could take these experiences and turn it into, hypothetically and for example only, an expository nonfiction work where you’re shining light on (hypothetically, and for example only, repeated for effect) what you see as flawed decision-making around travel during a pandemic… there are myriad ways to treat the same core elements of the same story! I hope that helps.

Thank you, the information provided, was very helpful

Very good clear descriptive information

Hi I’m Mimi. I have started on two books one is non fiction and the other is friction, but then when I have to continue writing my non fiction, it somehow feels as though I’m writing something that is supposed to be friction, or is it me just relating to both stories somehow??

Hi Mimi. Are the subjects related in any way? If yes, perhaps ask yourself why you feel the need to write two different treatments? The answer to this night be easier to sort out if you are also clear on what is motivating you to write in the first place: what are you hoping to achieve, who is your reader and how will your book serve them? Hope that helps.

how do I start writing a non fiction book about my school life and everyone in it, and is it ok if I use real people in my story

Hi Daneen. The trick is just to start. Start writing what comes to your mind and don’t worry about what you keep in or out until you are closer to being ready to publish. Hope that helps, and good luck with your project!

I have a collection of spiritual experiences that I want to publish. The goal is to encourage others to connect to earth-based spirituality and personal story-telling as a source of healing. What catagory would that be? How can I keep my own story-telling voice in tact during the publication process?

Hi Kate. You’d have two possible categories of nonfiction for a book like the one you describe: either a memoir, or a how-to book. You get to pick. And as to how to keep your own voice — a good editor will know how to ensure your voice isn’t lost through the editing process…. however you will want to expect changes to your original draft which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re asking you to change your voice. Hope that helps!

This is a great article. Thank you. What if the book contains many real stories about different people, undergoing a common problem? is that a biography or a narrative nonfiction or an expository? Thanks

Monica, it will depend on how the stories are treated. It wouldn’t be biography, as that is typically about one person’s life. But it could be either narrative/expository or prescriptive. If the purpose behind the stories is to demonstrate “how to” and includes, for example, action steps for the reader to follow, that would be prescriptive. 🙂

What about purely informational books about things like writing or plants?

Abby, great question. It depends on how those books are written. If the intention is to tell someone how to write, or how to grow a healthy plant, those would be prescriptive nonfiction. If it was to outline an opinion as to the healing properties of plants or the therapeutic value of writing after trauma, for example, that would be expository. Or it could be narrative nonfiction if it was an exploration of the most recent research….. or something like that. I hope that helps!

THANK YOU! I want to be a writer and am currently writing film scripts but it doesn't fulfil me so I am now going to start nonfiction writing and this page helped me understand where and how to start. Thanks

How do a start to write a book parents awareness about their children and raising children

Hello June, many ways to start, all depending on where you are starting from and where you want to go. Check out our YouTube channel and look for videos that talk about ‘your why’ and also how to identify your readers… lots of other resources there to get you going. And when you’re ready, reach out and schedule a discovery call 🙂

I am writing a novel about Nikola Tesla. Should I use real names? Can I add some fictional relationship to bolster Tesla's character and the story? Thank you very much. Ivan

What happens when I am writing a book about My personal account of being caught in a relationship with a pediphile? What genre would it fall into?

Sadly, that would likely be a memoir, or autobiography. Good luck.

This is a story about Tesla, the great inventor who discovered AC and who worked with Edison. I repeat, can I add a fictional relationship to bolster his character and the story? Thank you. Ivan

Ivan, you can really do anything you want, as an author. The trick is to know how to appropriately handle each choice. If you are writing a nonfiction treatment of Tesla, and you wish to introduce a fictional relationship to bolster the story/character, then you’ll want to indicate, perhaps on the cover, most certainly in an introduction, that this is “based on a true story.” As long as you are up front with your readers about your choices, you are fine.

Ivan, you can do this as long as you flag for your readers that you’ve done it…. this can be an alert in the introduction, or foreword.

I enjoyed the article,but I want to expand my children’s book writing. I am a teacher. I have ideas for children, to information for teachers (professional learning)

Ann that sounds very interesting. Let us know if you ever want to brainstorm and chat through some of the options and considerations. We’d be open to that. Just schedule a discovery call 🙂

Thanks for the tons of information and instructions on how to write that you have provided us with. Hope,I shall be able to convert, at least, most of these into my writings.

Thank you. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I had no idea where to start.

We’re always here to help! Feel free to reach out and set up a discovery call. 🙂

I love this,exactly what I needed to put my book in place

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what are some forms of nonfiction literature

The Write Practice

7 Types of Nonfiction Books

by Joe Bunting | 0 comments

While people have been telling stories and delivering speeches for thousands of years, the history of nonfiction book writing is fairly brief. Still, over the last 500 years or so, patterns have begun to emerge, tried and true ways of writing nonfiction books, depending on the author's goals.

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

Nonfiction encompasses a variety of kinds of books, from travel guides to business books to how to approach creative writing or historical nonfiction. Each nonfiction category approaches information differently. By studying and applying the lessons of these structures, you can write a better nonfiction book in much less time. 

Need a step-by-step process for planning and writing your book ? Check out my comprehensive article on how to write a book .

In this post, I'm going to share the seven main types of nonfiction books. We'll also talk about how each of these types of nonfiction writing is usually structured. 

Which type of nonfiction book are you writing?

1. How-to Books and Self-Help

How-to and self-help books guide people to solve a particular problem or achieve a particular goal in their lives. This is an extremely popular category of nonfiction book. 

Most how-to and self-help books will have chapters that flow through the following pattern:

  • Problem OR Promise. What problem is your reader experiencing? Or what promise do you offer if they apply what you're going to talk about in this book?
  • Story . The story either illustrates the problem and/or promise, or it acts as a solution story for how the solution to the readers' problem was discovered.
  • Principle . Finally, a universal principle or process is shared that will solve the readers' problem.

Here are some other features found in How-To and Self-Help books:

  • Introduction focuses on the problem or promise, solution story, and principles or steps will be covered in book
  • Chapters focus on 5-12 principles or steps
  • May have caveats/objections/applications section
  • Conclusion focuses on exhortation and/or a promise

Examples of a Self-Help Book:

  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
  • Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey

2. Investigative

Investigative nonfiction books are trying to understand what is really going on in the world and in people's lives. They may share some universal principles or solve people's problems, but the primary aim is to better understand one aspect of the world. Sometimes they cover controversial topics or aim at cultural criticism, but in the end, they all begin with curiosity about something. 

True crime or forensic psychology books follow this structure, but it's also used by writers like Chip and Dan Heath and Malcolm Gladwell .

Investigative books will have chapters that flow through the following pattern:

  • Story . The story brings up an attention grabbing or misunderstood subject for investigation.
  • Investigation or Analysis. Next, the author delves into what's really going on with this subject.
  • Principle or Result. Finally, a universal principle or the result of the investigation is shared. Sometimes, this result may be applicable to the readers' lives or work.

Here are some other patterns found in investigative books:

  • Introduction focuses on the topic of investigation, who the book is for, and what principles will be covered
  • Chapters organized by questions
  • Often includes principles but not steps
  • Conclude with “here’s what have we learned”

Examples of Investigative Books:

  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
  • Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

3. Reference

Reference books collect definitions, terms, and practices for a specific field. Examples of reference books include dictionaries, recipe books, craft books, and even many writing guides.

Reference books will have chapters that flow through the following pattern:

  • Define . Define the term or focus for the chapter, e.g adobo street tacos or nonfiction book types.
  • Expand . Give context on that term, either through a story, illustration, history, or some other way.
  • Process, Steps, or Tips, if applicable . What steps, process, or tips will help the reader better understand the subject or reproduce its results.
  • Examples . Share examples, if applicable.

Examples of Reference books:

  • The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
  • The Write Structure by Joe Bunting (that's me!)

4. Inspirational/“How to” Memoir

Inspirational or “How-to Memoir” is a book type similar to how-to/self-help but with a greater emphasis on narrative and story telling and exhortation. They can rely on personal experience or collect other true stories to explore their themes. 

Most inspirational books will have chapters that flow through the following pattern:

  • Story. The story either illustrates the problem and/or promise, or it acts as a solution story for how the solution to the readers' problem was discovered.
  • Problem . What problem is your reader experiencing? Or what promise do you offer if they apply what you're going to talk about in this book?
  • Exhortation . The exhortation not only solves the readers problem but exhorts them to go solve it.

Examples of Inspirational books include:

  • Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins
  • Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
  • Most religious books

The riff is a type of book usually by an expert in a field that may combine pieces from each of the above book types in varied patterns and lengths.

For example, On Writing is everything Stephen King thinks about the craft of writing. Or New Seeds of Contemplation is everything Thomas Merton knows about prayer and God.

It may combine stories, exhortation, problems, and principles, but does it in a varied pattern and with chapters of various lengths.

6. Biography

Autobiography is a particular style of narrative book that often combines personal stories and historical context to tell the story of one person's life from their own perspective. It's the author's take on their own life. 

Examples of autobiography include:

Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing  by Matthew Perry

Educated by Tara Westover

Biography is the story of one person's (or entity's) life, centered around real events which may or may not include historical events. It must be true, and it usually contains the complete life story, from birth until death (or the person's life thus far, in case they are still alive). Biography will be written by someone other than the person who the book is about. 

In all but rare occurrences, biographies are written about notable people and celebrities, which differs from memoir (see below).

Biography is usually organized chronologically, following a person from their key early experiences to death (or current time period if still alive). 

Examples of biography include :

The Grimkés: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family by Kerri K. Greenidge

King: A Life by Jonathan Eig

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

7. Academic

Academic books are informational books designed to give specialized knowledge on a tightly defined topic. The structure will vary based on the field of study, but academic books can include textbooks, field manuals, and other reference books. The main difference in this category is the target audience: academic books are typically written by and for experts and for students studying in a particular field. 

Not included here: Memoir

Memoir is a specific style of nonfiction writing that is based on the writers' own life but much narrower in focus than autobiography. Thus, memoir has much more in common with the novel than most nonfiction books, and most writers will benefit more from learning about the types of story here than nonfiction book types.

However, some memoirs are more instructional and inspirational focused, and if so, these writers will find the Inspirational book type most useful.

These are seven of the most common types of nonfiction books, and hopefully you identified the one that best aligns with your project. Looking through a few books in your genre or category can always help you with both structure and content. 

Which nonfiction book type are you writing? Let us know in the comments below.

For today's practice, choose the type of nonfiction book that most interests you from the list above or that best describes your current project. If there is a pattern to the chapters listed, set your timer for 15 minutes and write out the strongest story or principle that guides your book. When finished, share in the Pro Practice Workshop and leave feedback for a few other writers. 

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Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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Types of Nonfiction: A Comprehensive Guide for Writers

by Harry Wallett

As nonfiction writers, we know that our world is vast and diverse, encompassing a wide range of styles and genres that cater to various purposes and audiences.

In this article, we’ll dive into the various types of nonfiction you could focus on, exploring everything from literary nonfiction and journalism to academic writing and creative nonfiction.

We’ll also offer some tips for choosing the right type of nonfiction for your writing project, as well as techniques for adapting your writing style to suit different nonfiction genres.

Our goal is to provide you with a comprehensive and insightful overview of the nonfiction landscape so you can make more informed decisions about your writing projects and better connect with your readers.

Let’s begin!

Types of Nonfiction

Since the world of nonfiction is very vast, in this article we’re going to focus on the five most popular categories of nonfiction writing:

1. Literary Nonfiction

A biography tells the life story of a real person. This type of nonfiction delves into the subject’s experiences, accomplishments, and personal growth.

Biographies can be about famous figures, like Abraham Lincoln, or ordinary people who have a remarkable story to share.

A memoir is a personal account of a specific period or aspect of the author’s life.

It’s more focused than a biography and often explores themes like love, loss, and personal transformation.

Personal Essay

Personal essays are short, reflective pieces that discuss the author’s thoughts and feelings about a particular subject or experience.

They’re less formal than academic essays and can cover a wide range of topics.

Travel Writing

This genre is all about the author’s experiences exploring new places.

From vivid descriptions of landscapes to cultural insights, travel writing aims to transport readers to the destination.

2. Journalism

News articles.

News articles are factual, timely reports on current events. They’re typically written in an objective style and follow the “inverted pyramid” structure — starting with the most important details and ending with the least.

Feature Stories

Feature stories are longer, more in-depth articles that explore a specific topic or person.

They often include personal anecdotes, interviews, and background information to provide a well-rounded perspective.

Investigative Reporting

This type of journalism uncovers hidden truths through extensive research, interviews, and analysis.

Investigative reporters delve deep into issues like corruption, social injustices, and environmental concerns.

Opinion and Editorial Writing

Opinion pieces express the author’s viewpoint on a specific issue, while editorials represent the official stance of a publication. Both aim to persuade readers with compelling arguments and evidence.

3. Academic Writing

Research papers.

Research papers present the results of a study or investigation. They’re structured, formal, and follow specific guidelines for citation and formatting.

Case Studies

Case studies examine a particular situation or problem in detail, often focusing on real-life examples. They’re used to illustrate theories, analyze solutions, and draw conclusions.

Reviews and Critiques

These types of nonfiction analyze and evaluate the work of others, such as books, articles, or academic research.

They require a deep understanding of the subject matter and the ability to express opinions clearly and concisely.

4. Practical Nonfiction

practical nonfiction

How-to Guides

How-to guides are instructional materials that teach readers how to accomplish a specific task or develop a certain skill.

They break down complex processes into manageable steps, making it easy for readers to follow along.

Self-help Books

Self-help books aim to inspire and motivate readers to improve their lives. They often focus on topics like personal growth, mental health, and relationships.

Instruction Manuals

These practical guides provide detailed instructions for using a product or service. They’re essential for helping users get the most out of their purchase.

5. Creative Nonfiction

Narrative nonfiction.

This genre tells true stories using storytelling techniques typically found in fiction, like strong characters, engaging dialogue, and vivid descriptions.

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction blends fact and fiction to create engaging stories set in the past.

While the main storyline might be fictional, the backdrop, historical events, and some characters are often based on real history.

True crime is a subgenre of narrative nonfiction that explores real-life criminal cases, often with a focus on the psychology of the perpetrators and the impact on victims.

Tips for Choosing the Right Nonfiction Type

Understand your purpose and goals : Before diving into a project, clarify what you want to achieve with your writing.

Do you want to inform, entertain, or persuade? Your goals will help guide your choice of nonfiction type.

Consider your target audience : Who are you writing for? Knowing your audience will help you choose a style that resonates with them and keeps them engaged.

Assess your strengths and weaknesses as a writer : Reflect on your writing skills and interests.

Choose a type of nonfiction that aligns with your strengths and provides opportunities for growth.

Research the market and competition : Before committing to a project, explore the existing market for similar works. This will help you identify gaps and opportunities for your writing.

Writing in Different Nonfiction Styles

Each type of nonfiction requires a different writing voice. For example, journalism calls for objectivity, while personal essays demand introspection.

Here are some tips to help you experiment with different voices and find the one that suits your project best:

  • Read widely : Familiarize yourself with various nonfiction styles by reading works from different genres. Observe the writing voice used in each piece and consider how it contributes to the overall effect of the text.
  • Practice writing in different voices : Try writing short pieces in various nonfiction styles, focusing on adapting your voice to match the genre. Reflect on how your writing changes as you switch between styles and what aspects of each voice resonate with you.
  • Seek feedback : Share your writing with others and ask for feedback on your writing voice. Listening to different perspectives can help you refine your voice and better understand the nuances of each style.

Researching and citing sources

Nonfiction relies on accurate information. Make sure to research your topic thoroughly and cite your sources properly. Here are some tips for effective research and citation:

  • Use reputable sources : Always rely on credible sources for your information, such as academic journals, established news outlets, or expert-authored books. This ensures that your writing is well-informed and trustworthy.
  • Organize your research : Keep track of your sources and the information they provide. This will make it easier to cite them accurately and create a strong foundation for your writing.
  • Cite your sources properly : Follow the appropriate citation style for your genre or publication, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago Manual of Style.

Balancing facts and storytelling

While nonfiction must be rooted in truth, engaging storytelling is essential to keep your readers interested. Strive for a balance between presenting facts and crafting a compelling narrative.

Consider these tips:

  • Choose the right structure : Different nonfiction styles may require different narrative structures. For example, a journalistic piece might follow an inverted pyramid structure, while a memoir could be more chronological. Select the structure that best serves your story and the information you want to convey.
  • Incorporate anecdotes and personal experiences : Adding personal stories or anecdotes can make your writing more engaging and relatable. Use them strategically to support your main points and bring your narrative to life.
  • Use descriptive language : Enhance your storytelling by using vivid language and sensory details. This will help create a more immersive experience for your readers.

Engaging the reader through a conversational tone

Your writing should feel like a conversation between you and your reader. Use a personable and relatable tone, as well as varied sentence structures, to create a more enjoyable reading experience.

Here’s how:

  • Write as if you’re speaking : Imagine that you’re talking to a friend or colleague about your topic. This can help you find a natural, conversational tone that will resonate with your readers.
  • Use contractions and colloquial language : Incorporate contractions and informal language to make your writing feel more approachable and friendly. Just be careful not to overdo it, as excessive informality can detract from your credibility.
  • Vary your sentence structure : Mix up short and long sentences, and use a variety of sentence structures to keep your writing fresh and engaging. This can help prevent your writing from feeling monotonous or robotic.

By applying these techniques to your nonfiction writing, you’ll be well on your way to crafting captivating and effective pieces that resonate with your readers, regardless of the style or genre you choose to explore.

In Conclusion

As you explore and experiment with different nonfiction styles, you’ll not only grow as a writer but also discover your unique voice and niche in the literary world.

Also, remember that nonfiction writing is all about connecting with your readers, sharing valuable insights, and telling compelling stories rooted in truth.

So, as you embark on your nonfiction writing journey, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new genres or styles. Each type of nonfiction offers its own set of challenges and rewards, and you never know which one will unlock your full potential as a writer.

Keep learning, stay curious, and most importantly, enjoy the process of discovering your place in the vast and inspiring world of nonfiction writing!

Best of luck!

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

Harry Wallett is the Managing Director of Cascadia Author Services. He has a decade of experience as the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing, which has sold over 3 million copies of books in all genres for its authors, and looks after a team of 50+ industry professionals working across the world.

Harry is inspired by the process of book creation and is passionate about the stories and characters behind the prose. He loves working with the writers and has shepherded 1000s of titles to publication over the years. He knows first-hand what it takes to not only create an unputdownable book, but also how to get it into the hands of the right readers for success.

Books are still one of the most powerful mediums to communicate ideas and establish indisputable authority in a field, boosting your reach and stature. But publishing isn’t a quick and easy process—nor should it be, or everyone would do it!

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what are some forms of nonfiction literature

Even though some children’s nonfiction books cross categories, these five general groupings can help students make sense of the wide world of nonfiction and all it has to offer.

Traditional Nonfiction

Browsable Nonfiction

Narrative Nonfiction

Expository Literature

Active Nonfiction

A New Way of Thinking

  • Is the focus broad or narrow?
  • What kind of text features does each book include?
  • What kind of text structure, writing style, and craft moves does the author employ?
  • Does the writing have a distinct voice?
  • What similarities and differences do students notice across the categories?
  • Caswell, Linda J. and Nell K. Duke. “Non-Narrative as a Catalyst for Literacy Development.” Language Arts , 1998, p. 108-117.
  • Hynes, Myrna. “‘I Read for Facts’: Reading Nonfiction in a Fictional World.” Language Arts , 2000, p. 485-495.
  • Mohr, Kathleen A. J. “Children’s Choices for Recreational Reading: A Three-Part Investigation of Selection Preferences, Rationales, and Processes.” Journal of Literacy Research , 2006, p. 81-104.
  • Repanskey, Lisa L., Jeanne Schumm, and Jacqueline Johnson. “First and Fourth Grade Boys’ and Girls’ Preferences for and Perceptions about Narrative and Expository Text.” Reading Psychology , 2017, p. 1-40.

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An Introduction to Literary Nonfiction

Using Literary Techniques Usually Found in Fiction on Real-Life Events

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

Like literary journalism , literary nonfiction is a type of prose that employs the literary techniques usually associated with fiction or poetry to report on persons, places, and events in the real world without altering facts.

The genre of literary nonfiction, also known as creative nonfiction, is broad enough to include travel writing, nature writing, science writing, sports writing, biography, autobiography, memoir, interviews, and familiar and personal essays. Literary nonfiction is alive and well, but it is not without its critics.

Here are several examples of literary nonfiction from noted authors:

  • "The Cries of London," by Joseph Addison
  • "Death of a Soldier," by Louisa May Alcott
  • "A Glorious Resurrection," by Frederick Douglass
  • "The San Francisco Earthquake," by Jack London
  • "The Watercress Girl," by Henry Mayhew

Observations

  • "The word literary masks all kinds of ideological concerns, all kinds of values, and is finally more a way of looking at a text , a way of reading...than an inherent property of a text." (Chris Anderson, "Introduction: Literary Nonfiction and Composition" in "Literary Nonfiction: Theory, Criticism, Pedagogy")
  • Fictional Devices in Literary Nonfiction "One of the profound changes to have affected serious writing in recent years has been the spread of fiction and poetry techniques into literary nonfiction: the 'show, don’t tell' requirement, the emphasis on concrete sensory detail and avoidance of abstraction, the use of recurrent imagery as symbolic motif, the taste for the present tense, even the employment of unreliable narrators. There has always been some crossover between the genres. I am no genre purist, and welcome the cross-pollination, and have dialogue scenes in my own personal essays (as did Addison and Steele). But it is one thing to accept using dialogue scenes or lyrical imagery in a personal narrative, and quite another to insist that every part of that narrative be rendered in scenes or concrete sensory descriptions . A previous workshop teacher had told one of my students, 'Creative non-fiction is the application of fictional devices to memory.' With such narrow formulae, indifferent to nonfiction's full range of options, is it any wonder that students have started to shy away from making analytical distinctions or writing reflective commentary?" (Phillip Lopate, "To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction")
  • Practical Nonfiction vs. Literary Nonfiction "Practical nonfiction is designed to communicate information in circumstances where the quality of the writing is not considered as important as the content. Practical nonfiction appears mainly in popular magazines, newspaper Sunday supplements, feature articles, and in self-help and how-to books... "Literary nonfiction puts emphasis on the precise and skilled use of words and tone , and the assumption that the reader is as intelligent as the writer. While information is included, insight about that information, presented with some originality, may predominate. Sometimes the subject of literary nonfiction may not at the onset be of great interest to the reader, but the character of the writing may lure the reader into that subject. "Literary nonfiction appears in books, in some general magazines such as The New Yorker , Harper's, the Atlantic , Commentary , the New York Review of Books , in many so-called little or small-circulation magazines, in a few newspapers regularly and in some other newspapers from time to time, occasionally in a Sunday supplement, and in book review media." (Sol Stein, Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies)
  • Literary Nonfiction in the English Department "It might be the case that composition studies...needs the category of 'literary nonfiction' to assert its place in the hierarchy of discourse comprising the modern English department. As English departments became increasingly centered on the interpretation of texts, it became increasingly important for compositionists to identify texts of their own." (Douglas Hesse, "The Recent Rise of Literary Nonfiction: A Cautionary Assay" in "Composition Theory for the Postmodern Classroom") "Whether critics are arguing about contemporary American nonfiction for historical or theoretical purposes, one of the primary (overt and usually stated) aims is to persuade other critics to take literary nonfiction seriously—to grant it the status of poetry, drama, and fiction." (Mark Christopher Allister, "Refiguring the Map of Sorrow: Nature Writing and Autobiography")
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Defining Nonfiction Writing
  • Genres in Literature
  • A Guide to All Types of Narration, With Examples
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  • The Writer's Voice in Literature and Rhetoric
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what are some forms of nonfiction literature

An Introduction to Literary Nonfiction

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Senjuti Patra

Senjuti was born and raised in Bankura, a small town in India. A reluctant economist, fierce feminist and history enthusiast, she spends most of her time reading. Her interaction with other people is largely limited to running away from them or launching into passionate monologues about her last perfect read or her latest fictional crush.

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Literary nonfiction, also called creative nonfiction, is an umbrella term that includes all writing that is based in reality and has been written with specific attention to the craft of writing, using literary techniques to talk about subjects that are not made up. Potentially any kind of nonfiction can be literary nonfiction, except, perhaps, technical and academic writing whose subjects and purpose demand precision and unambiguity. As Creative Nonfiction puts it, literary or creative nonfiction is simply true stories, well told.

Fiction and nonfiction have always shared techniques and approaches. Many novelists do extensive research to recreate a place or a time in the pages of their novels, and this enables them to create intricately detailed scenes, which help draw the reader in. Even speculative fiction narratives that operate in their own worlds conceived by the writers’ imagination often draw from the real world, and from the works of writers before them. Similarly, a mere recitation of dry facts do not make for compelling or convincing reading, and all influential works of nonfiction are characterized by a mastery of the craft and excellence in style. It is, then, a little unfair to define literary nonfiction as nonfiction that borrows elements of style and narration from fiction — since writers of nonfiction have skillfully wielded these tools in their work in all of literary history.

Literary Nonfiction: the Question of Ethics and the Line Between Fact and Fiction

Even though literary or creative nonfiction has been around for a long time, the relatively recent nomenclature and its establishment as a broad genre receiving wider readership has people questioning the propriety of using creativity in the presentation of facts. Can a text that creates or manipulates facts pass off as creative nonfiction?

In a 1987 article, Eric Heyne, following a distinction between fictional and factual narratives originally proposed by by John Searle, breaks down the determination of the factual nature of a text into two parts. The first is factual status — whether the writer intends their work to be perceived as factual. The second is factual adequacy — how true the facts that the writer proposes are. In other words, the intention of the author is what determines whether or not a text will be read as nonfiction. On the other hand, for a text, literary or not, to be factually adequate, or good nonfiction, its factual correctness has to pass the scrutiny of its readers.

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The scope for creativity in nonfiction is vast in style, structure, and narrative, but writers of good creative nonfiction cannot create facts or use their craft to deceive readers or manipulate the truth. The contract between the writer and the reader should be explicit — the narrative should allow the reader to distinguish between creative maneuvers by the author and objective truths. Literary nonfiction often involves more in-depth research, for the literary narrative has to be detailed to be compelling, and at the same time factually correct.

Types of Literary Nonfiction

Almost any subject under the sun can be approached with a creative, refreshing take and with the right arsenal of literary tools by the right person. Understandably, literary nonfiction comes in many forms. It can be personal, like memoirs, autobiography, or personal essays. It can be topical, like history, science writing, and nature writing. Here are some popular sub-genres of literary nonfiction, with reading recommendations for each.

Lyrical Memoir

The lyrical memoir is probably the flag bearer of the genre at the moment, with its seamless blending of personal stories with larger themes that resonate with readers, as well as poetic, engrossing narratives. Unlike autobiography, in which the author talks about their whole life, memoirs have a specific focus. Following are two examples, and you can find more here .

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s beautiful coming-of-age memoir is a classic of the sub-genre. This beautiful book about a young girl overcoming trauma inflicted on her by an oppressive racist society does not shy away from discussing intimate personal details, and does so with stunningly poetic prose.

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

There are three threads in this book — the author’s grief at the sudden death of her father, her experience training a goshawk she adopted shortly after her father’s death, and the writer T.H. White, who shared the author’s interest in falconry. These threads are artfully woven together in a moving memoir that is also great nature writing.

Personal Essays

In personal essays, a writer might explore a variety of subjects through a subjective, personal stand point. The are often anchored by a personal event that impacted the writer’s life or world view in a major way. Personal essay collections are a great point of entry into the genre, with their shorter format and specific narrative threads that hold the reader’s interest. Here are a couple to get you started.

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

Notes of a Native S on by James Baldwin

A classic of American literature, Notes of a Native Son is a collection of ten essays that established James Baldwin as a leading literary voice. The essays cover a variety of topics, ranging from literary criticism, life in Harlem to lives of black people outside America, informed by Baldwin’s experiences as an African American at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement.

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

This collection of essays is a classic of the genre, and a portrait of America, especially California, in the 1960s. Joan Didion is one of the most prominent authors of literary nonfiction, and two of her more recent works, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights , are powerful explorations of grief.

Want more? Here is a list of 50 must-read contemporary essay collections .

Science Writing

Creative, literary treatment of scientific subjects make them accessible to lay-readers, and there are many authors today who write on a wide variety of scientific topics in engaging prose. My personal favorite are science history books, which not only break down complex scientific concepts, but also provide an account of the path through which humans arrived at this knowledge, a journey which is often as nail-biting as thrillers.

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

This is a superbly written book about the science and the history of genetics. Told with enormous empathy and backed by thorough research and expertise, the story of the discovery of the code that governs our lives is one of the most interesting stories I have ever read. Mukherjee’s Pulitzer prize winning history of cancer, The Emperor of all Maladies , is equally brilliant.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Silent Spring is credited with having launched the modern environmental movement. Centered around the adverse effects of the indiscriminate use of pesticides, this book was a timely warning against human arrogance about the ability to exploit the natural world. The far-reaching and long-lasting impact of Silent Spring is a testimony to the power of Carson’s writing.

You can find more recommendations here .

Narrative Journalism

Narrative journalism is reportage that uses techniques of storytelling to construct a gripping, but factual narrative. Through the use of literary techniques, narrative journalism often manages to have greater sway over the opinions of readers, and authors of this genre have sometimes successfully drawn public attention to injustices and catalyzed change.

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly

In 1887, Nellie Bly went undercover in one of New York City’s asylums to report first hand on the lives of its inhabitants. The horrors she bore witness to are the subject of this book, which is a precursor of both the stunt memoir and narrative journalism genres. Bly’s reportage shocked the public and eventually led to increased budget allocations for the asylum.

Hiroshima John Hersey cover in 100 Must Read Books About World War II | bookriot.com

Hiroshima by John Hersey

John Hersey’s Hiroshima is one of the earliest examples of narrative journalism that helped usher in the age of New Journalism, as it was called then. Hersey interviewed six survivors of the nuclear attack, and these accounts opened the eyes of the American public to the enormous scale of the devastation that had been wreaked by the bombing and made them question the morality of nuclear warfare.

Here are some more examples of narrative journalism.

Narrative History

History is overflowing with important and exciting true stories waiting to be told. Any well written historical narrative can potentially read like a novel. Another genre that is a personal favorite, it is replete with gems that blend extensive research with skillful prose.

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

Figuring by Maria Popova

This book is written by Maria Popova, whose blog, Brain Pickings , is a great source for your daily dose of literary nonfiction. It is an ode to the never ending human search for meaning, through a narrative that blends together the lives of several artists, writers, scientists and visionaries, including Johannes Kepler, Maria Mitchell, Margaret Fuller, Emily Dickinson, and Rachel Carson, among others.

the black count

The Black Count by Tom Reiss

The Black Count is the true story of the man who inspired classics like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers . General Alex Dumas, father of Alexander Dumas, was the son of a formerly enslaved person who rose through the ranks of the French Army. This true story of his life is an engaging tale of adventure in a multi-racial society.

Quotidian Nonfiction

I stumbled across this beautiful term in an essay in Creative Nonfiction , and it neatly fits two of the best nonfiction books I read recently. In the essay, Patrick Madden, author of Quotidiana , a collection of essays inspired by the commonplace, talks about the pleasures of slowing down to meditate on the ordinary components of everyday life. Another relatively recent and well known example of this category is Ross Gay’s uplifting Book of Delights . Indeed, there is something refreshingly calming to read about the quotidian, and the languorous, reflective tone of such books can accommodate exquisitely elegant prose.

sound of a wild snail eating cover

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

When Elisabeth Tova Bailey was struck by a mysterious illness that confined her to the bed, she found company in a common woodland snail that was left in a pot of violets in her sick room by her friend. This book is a beautiful tale of resilience told through the mundane occurrences in the lives of the snail and its human observer.

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

How I Became A Tree by Sumana Roy

In this gorgeous book, Sumana Roy muses about the lives of trees, and what it would mean to live like one. She talks about tiny details from the natural world at length, putting into perspective our own cluttered existence within it.

The books and sub-genres discussed in this article are a very small fraction of what literary nonfiction has to offer, but I hope it will serve as a good introduction — especially if you are primarily a reader of fiction who is trying to get into nonfiction. Once you are through with this list, we have more books that you can read here and here .

what are some forms of nonfiction literature

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Check out all types of non-fiction books – all genres explored with examples.

Nonfiction Book

Nonfiction books come in all shapes and sizes and if you are an author or meaning to become one and publish your book then it is very important for you to know the types of non-fiction books commonly in circulation.

That is why we bring you this blog where we help you learn about nonfiction books and all the common types of nonfiction books along with examples of nonfiction books.

While we do not have any specific section for nonfiction books’ meaning and general history but non-fiction books in general are books that are based on fact and data.

The more we explain and define these types of books, the more you will be able to understand this category of books and all its genres

So, let us look at the different genres and subcategories of non-fiction looks.

These Are the Types of Non-Fiction Genres

We are going to break down nonfiction genres into two primary categories and that is going to be narrative and expository non-fiction.

Narrative Non-Fiction

Biographies, autobiographies and memoirs.

This is going to be the first category of narrative nonfiction simply because this is primarily narration rather than stating facts.

There is going to be a single person who is going to narrate a lot of things about their life or even talk about the life of someone else in narration.

This is still considered nonfiction simply because it is fact-based and talks about something that really happened in reality rather than imagination.

If we talk about narrative nonfiction then this is probably the first thing that will come to anyone’s mind and let us talk about a popular example.

  • “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

If we talk about this genre then we have to talk about one of the most impactful and one of the most renowned autobiographies ever created in the world.

You probably know about this but it is an autobiography about Anne and she is a Jewish girl who is hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation.

Crime Literature Books

Crime literature or true crime literature  as it is popularly known as, is about criminal cases and it is about journalists trying to uncover the truth behind different crimes.

While it might be expository in nature stating facts but it is presented in a narrative structure with the journalist following different investigations and legal proceedings.

There is definitely storytelling  in play and it can definitely be something like Sherlock Holmes but only based on reality and something that actually happened.

  • “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote

If we talk about true crime then we have to talk about this because it is one of the pioneering works of narrative non-fiction crime novels.

It talks about specific crimes and also explores the justice system and delves deep into the trial of the criminals.

Capote uses extremely good storytelling and produces something that is a hallmark when it comes to this genre.

Travel Literature Books

Travel literature is also a quite popular genre of book and especially the narrative type of nonfiction literature.

When we talk about travel literature we do not just mean travel guides because these guides do not have a lot of narration in them and only talk about practical travel tips and much more.

But travel literature is just like travel vlogging but in a book format and is an acute record of travel experiences and narration about the experiences and self-reflection and much more.

  • “The Great Railway Bazaar” by Paul Theroux

If you like trains and if you like to know what it was like to travel from Europe to the Middle East and even India and South Asia then this is the perfect novel for you.

This book has everything from culture to encounters with incredible people and very deep and personal observations.

This is truly one of the most captivating examples of travel literature in the world.

Environment literature

And finally, we have environmental literature which talks about environment preservation and different issues regarding the conservation of nature.

While it is a rare genre in the category of non-fiction but it is still a remarkable category of literature simply because it talks about very important issues.

That is why if you care about the environment then you should truly check this out if you manage to find a good book about it.

  • “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World” by Peter Wohlleben

The name can be a mouthful but if you explore this novel then you are going to learn so much about trees and how they communicate and how ecosystems form.

This is a book not just for anyone interested in the environment but really for everyone because this book is a treasure trove of knowledge about our environment.

The best thing about this book is that it looks at trees from the perspective of living things that interact with each other just like us.

Expository Non-fiction

Historical non-fiction.

When we talk about historical expository nonfiction we do not mean textbooks because sometimes they can be confused with historical nonfiction but we mean books that dive deep into sociological as well as political context of history.

These can be history books about historical figures and they can be history books about different situations of the past as well.

This is properly the most popular kind of non-fiction book because it deals with facts and deeds and that is why they are highly regarded.

  • “The Guns of August” by Barbara W. Tuchman

This is a very important historical non-fiction book that talks about the events that led to World War 1.

This is the kind of book that talks about the political situation of that time and also talks about the different ideologies and the different structures of power in Europe before World War 1 and how everything led to the Great War.

Well, there is not much to talk about essays because you know how important they can be to literature because they can be about every topic possible.

They help in stabilizing arguments and they help inform society by talking about different topics in an analytical manner.

In fact, essays are one of the oldest forms of nonfiction and they can be informative but at the same time persuasive as well.

  • “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois

Now this is one collection of essays that is truly magnificent in dealing with topics like racial identity and equality for African Americans in the USA.

This is a collection that has been so influential that nearly every influential American has read it in some form or another.

This is the essay book that American presidents read and it is something that you should read as well.

Science Novels

In our quest to find expository non-fiction genres, we bring you one of the most popular types of nonfiction novels.

Science novels or popular science as it is also known are slowly but surely becoming one of the most popular categories for young people all over the world.

This is because these novels talk about some of the most complex and perplexing ideas about the universe and science in a non-scientific way that is understandable by everyone.

These novels or books should not be confused with textbooks because they are not.

  • A Brief History of Timeby Stephen Hawking

If we want to talk about science novels then this has to be the first and one of the most influential examples in the world.

This book deals with black holes and the Big Bang and the origin of time and space and so much more.

It definitely helps to have a degree in quantum physics if you want to completely understand this book but you can still try it out and it will be just as interesting.

When it comes to philosophical non-fiction books, this is quite a genre because the legacy of non-fiction philosophical books goes back centuries if not millenniums.

Every thinker of every generation who has ever written a book falls into this category.

You can expect everyone from Marcus Aurelius to Nietzsche in this category of nonfiction books and you should definitely give them a try because they have the power to change the world and if not the world then at least your perspective on life.

  • “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius

If we have to talk about philosophical non-fiction books then we have to talk about this book that talks about the belief system and reflections of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.

This is the perfect example of a book that talks about deep reflections that are stoic in nature.

Religious Books

This is quite a popular category when it comes to nonfiction expository books because religious books are always in demand.

You can find these kinds of books from every major faith in the world and they are sometimes written by the preachers of the faith.

These books can be sometimes written by someone outside the faith who is trying to learn more about that religion. You can even categorise these books into motivational books and self-help books as well.

  • “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion” by Sam Harris

If you want to explore spirituality without going into religion and power and politics then this is a very good book to read.

If you are an atheist then you are going to like this book even more because it talks about spirituality   from a very scientific perspective without the involvement of religion.

Sociological And Political Books

While these can be categorized into philosophical books but they are a little bit different from physical books.

This is because sociological and political books go deep into society in a more political and even economic context and explore different situations in societies.

These kinds of books are more academic in nature and they can be released by independent organisations and researchers and sometimes even by government institutions to help understand different issues in society.

  • “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

You don’t have to agree with this book to read this book because this is one of the most influential books of the 20 th  century for better or worse.

This book is primarily a sociological book that talks about society in general and while this book also goes into philosophy but it is very much a sociological and political book that talks about class divide and important issues.

Motivational Books

When we talk about nonfiction books we simply cannot ignore the impact of motivational books and self-help books.

These kinds of books can also be classed into the category of philosophical books but they should have their own class in our opinion.

These kinds of books are primarily written for motivation and to help individuals improve their life and their outlook on life and much more.

While it is debatable how effective they are but they are definitely popular and people do read them.

  • “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear

This is a fantastic book and if someone really follows this book and its guidelines then they can definitely bring a positive change in their life.

And even if you do not agree with the ideas in the book you can simply pick up a copy of Atomic Habits from your nearest bookstore and just give it a read because it is a good read.

We thought this had to have its own because they are definitely one of the most read genres if you can even call it that.

You can even call textbooks it’s on sub-category because there is so much that you can include within this category of books and it can be anything from the book of a toddler to the book of a PhD student.

This is probably the most popular and the most readily available type of book in the world because this kind of book is not for casual reading.

  • Anything that you might have read in school can be categorised as a textbook and if you are still in school then you need to open your backpack and take out anything and it will be a textbook.

This is one of the oldest and one of the most traditional types of non-fiction expository books out there in the world.

These kinds of books can be just about recipes and they can also be history books that talk about society as well as the origin of recipes and food.

This is a rabbit hole because cookbooks are a treasure trove of information and may start with a recipe and end with the political situation or the societal situation of an empire or civilization.

They are highly influential and you can get them in every language in the world.

  • “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” by Anthony Bourdain

If you have to talk about cookbooks then we have to talk about something by Anthony Boudain, one of the greatest legends in the culinary world.

This is not just a cookbook but it is a book that talks about the entire restaurant industry and behind the scenes of the industry.

Parenthood Books

This is a very unique category of nonfiction books that not only speaks about motherhood but parenthood as a whole.

These books can be in the form of books on how to be parents and also books on things to avoid as parents.

These kinds of books are not only very popular but actually very helpful for new parents who are trying to figure out what is parenthood for the first time.

  • “The Montessori Toddler: A Parent’s Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being” by Simone Davies

If you want to learn about the Montessori style of raising a child then this is the perfect book for you.

It will definitely help you understand how to help your child grow in a supportive and educational environment full of growth and understanding.

Business Books

Business books are exactly what they sound like and they talk about business and economics and other important aspects of knowledge like investing and management etc.

Business books can talk about how to manage businesses and they can also talk about different historical events in the world of business such as the 2008 financial crisis.

Business books can be anything you want and it can be about the global economy or a regionalised economic understanding of business.

  • “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek

If you want to understand business and leadership and organisation and if you want to imbibe those skills before you start a business, this is the perfect book for you.

This book will help you understand the relationship dynamic between clients and companies and will also help you understand how to manage employees and do excellent organisation.

Fitness and Diet Books:

The name is self-explanatory but we are still going to help you understand what kind of books these are because these can be books recommended by your nutritionist.

These can be books about exercise and these can be books about healthy lifestyles and so much more.  They will help you focus on your health and develop good eating habits and good lifestyle habits.

These kinds of books can also be used by people who are into exercise and fitness and these books can help you gain a deep understanding of muscle development and much more.

  • “The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet” by Robb Wolf

You might have probably heard about the Paleo diet because this book is just about that and it will help you understand how our diets have evolved from our ancestors to the modern human being.

This book offers quite a different perspective on diets and health and will definitely help you understand the science behind a good diet and how to conserve energy and lead a healthy lifestyle.

DIY and Crafts

If you are into art and you want to start a business by creating your own art then this is the perfect kind of book for you.

If you are into recycling things that other people throw out such as bottle caps and other household items into art then this is the kind of book you are going to love.

Do-it-yourself(DIY) books will help you with everything and not just make something that looks good but is also very functional.

  • “The Big-Ass Book of Crafts” by Mark Montano

If you want a book that has everything about arts and crafts as well as do-it-yourself(DIY) projects and if you are a true crafter then this is the perfect book for you.

It has excellent step-by-step instructions that are surely going to improve your arts and crafts skills by a lot.

Then there are books on learning languages but language learning paperbacks  are not as popular because of learning apps and how can we forget children’s nonfiction books?

Then we also have comedy books and books on jokes and so much more. There are so many genres that we need a part 2 to truly explore non-fiction books.

We hope this blog helps you understand everything you need to know about the different kinds of nonfiction books.

And if you are someone who wants to publish fiction and non-fiction books at some of the most affordable rates in the entire Indian publishing industry then we are here for you.

We are Orange Publishers and we are the fastest-growing and most popular legacy publishing company in India and all our operations are in-house. We will help you publish your dream non-fiction book and much more.

We welcome you to publish with us and we would love to publish your fiction and nonfiction books.

Common Non-Fiction Books FAQs

Is non-fiction a genre.

No, non-fiction is not a genre and it is a category of books that are based on fact and reality rather than imagination and fiction.

Within non-fiction, there are many genres and subgenres. And they go on and on.

What Are The Types Of Nonfiction?

When it comes to nonfiction, you basically have two subtypes and they are narrative and expository. Within them, you have a lot of genres.

These can be in the form of historical books as well as philosophical books and biographies and autobiographies and educational books such as textbooks and so much more.

You can have books on philosophy and you can have books on music and art as well as culture and anything and everything you can think of that is based on reality.

How Many Nonfiction Genres Are There?

There is no definite answer to this because some people say that there are 25 genres in nonfiction and others say there are 30.

Some people can categorise both fiction and nonfiction into nearly a hundred genres and this is why the number of genres is just a subjective way of looking at things.

You can have very few categories and you can have a lot of categories.

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Humanities LibreTexts

1.9: The Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction

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Is all fiction literature? Is all nonfiction literature?

Fiction refers to literature created from the imagination. Mysteries, science fiction, romance, fantasy, chick lit, crime thrillers are all fiction genres. Whether or not all of these genres should be considered “literature” is a matter of opinion. Some of these fiction genres are taught in literature classrooms and some are not usually taught, considered more to be reading for entertainment. Works often taught in literature classrooms are referred to as “literary fiction” including classics by Dickens, Austen, Twain, and Poe, for example.

Like fiction, non-fiction also has a sub-genre called “literary nonfiction” that refers to literature based on fact but written in creative way, making it as enjoyable to read as fiction. Of course there are MANY other types of nonfiction such as cook books, fitness articles, crafting manuals, etc. which are not “literature,” meaning not the types of works we would study in a literature classroom. However, you may not be aware of the many types of nonfiction we would study, such as biography, memoir or autobiography, essays, speeches, and humor. Of these literary nonfiction genres, they can be long like a book or series of books or short like an essay or journal entry. Some examples of these you are already familiar with, like The Diary of Anne Frank or Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. These works of literary nonfiction have character, setting, plot, conflict, figurative language, and theme just like literary fiction .

Clarification : The test of categorizing a work between fiction and non-fiction is not whether there is proof the story is true, but whether it CLAIMS to be true. For example, someone writing a first hand account of being abducted by aliens would be classified in the nonfiction section, meaning the author claims it really happened. Further, a story in which imaginary characters are set into real historical events is still classified as fiction.

Contributors and Attributions

  • Introduction to Literature (Nonfiction). Provided by : Extended Learning Institute of Northern Virginia Community College. Located at : https://courses.candelalearning.com/zelixeng125/chapter/introduction-to-non-fiction/ . License : CC BY: Attribution

Fiction vs. Nonfiction: Literature Types (Compared)

  • by Team Experts
  • July 2, 2023 July 3, 2023

Discover the surprising differences between fiction and nonfiction literature types in this eye-opening comparison.

In conclusion, literature types are an essential aspect of written works that help readers understand the content, style, and purpose of a particular piece. Fiction and nonfiction are two major literature types that differ in their narrative style and content. Fiction includes imaginary stories and creative writing, while nonfiction includes fact-based writing and informational texts. Understanding these literature types and their differences can help readers choose the right book for their needs.

What are the Different Literary Types?

Narrative style in fiction and nonfiction writing, real-life events in nonfiction vs creative writing in fiction, informational texts: understanding their role in literature, common mistakes and misconceptions.

Overall, understanding the differences in narrative style between fiction and nonfiction writing is crucial for effective storytelling . While some elements may overlap, such as plot structure and conflict, the use of characterization, dialogue, imagery, tone, mood, setting, theme, foreshadowing, flashback, symbolism, irony, and climax differ greatly between the two styles . It is important to consider these elements when choosing a narrative style and to use them effectively to engage and captivate the reader.

Overall, the key difference between real-life events in nonfiction and creative writing in fiction is the purpose of the writing and the level of fictionalization. Nonfiction aims to inform and educate readers about real-life events, while fiction aims to entertain and engage readers through creative writing. Nonfiction requires accurate and reliable information about real-life events, while fiction requires creative ideas and imaginative storytelling. Nonfiction should be based on real-life events and should not be overly fictionalized, while fiction can be completely made up or based on real-life events with varying degrees of fictionalization. Both nonfiction and fiction require editing and revision to improve the clarity, coherence, and effectiveness of the writing.

Overall, understanding the role of informational texts in literature can provide readers with valuable knowledge and insights on various topics. However, it is important to approach these texts with a critical eye and consider the potential risks of biased or false information. By analyzing the purpose, type, structure, credibility , audience, and impact of informational texts, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Genre Introduction

The difference between fiction and nonfiction, is all fiction literature is all nonfiction literature .

Fiction refers to literature created from the imagination. Mysteries, science fiction, romance, fantasy, chick lit, crime thrillers are all fiction genres. Whether or not all of these genres should be considered “literature” is a matter of opinion. Some of these fiction genres are taught in literature classrooms and some are not usually taught, considered more to be reading for entertainment. Works often taught in literature classrooms are referred to as “literary fiction” including classics by Dickens, Austen, Twain, and Poe, for example.

Like fiction, non-fiction also has a sub-genre called “literary nonfiction” that refers to literature based on fact but written in creative way, making it as enjoyable to read as fiction. Of course there are MANY other types of nonfiction such as cook books, fitness articles, crafting manuals, etc. which are not “literature,” meaning not the types of works we would study in a literature classroom. However, you may not be aware of the many types of nonfiction we would study, such as biography, memoir or autobiography, essays, speeches, and humor. Of these literary nonfiction genres, they can be long like a book or series of books or short like an essay or journal entry. Some examples of these you are already familiar with, like The Diary of Anne Frank  or Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. These works of literary nonfiction have character, setting, plot, conflict, figurative language, and theme just like literary fiction .

Clarification : The test of categorizing a work between fiction and non-fiction is not whether there is proof the story is true, but whether it CLAIMS to be true. For example, someone writing a first hand account of being abducted by aliens would be classified in the nonfiction section, meaning the author claims it really happened. Further, a story in which imaginary characters are set into real historical events is still classified as fiction.

  • Introduction to Literature (Nonfiction). Provided by : Extended Learning Institute of Northern Virginia Community College. Located at : https://courses.candelalearning.com/zelixeng125/chapter/introduction-to-non-fiction/ . License : CC BY: Attribution

FOX News

6 chilling nonfiction crime books that provide shocking accounts of true stories

There's a certain allure to true-crime stories that draws in readers. 

Some true-crime books tell stories otherwise untold — while others provide a unique perspective on highly publicized crimes. 

The authors who pen these eerie stories often interview people who were close to the crime, and sometimes even the murderer themselves. 

18 MUST-READ CLASSIC BOOKS THAT HAVE REMAINED POPULAR YEARS AFTER THEIR PUBLICATION

Some draw from their personal experience with the case or even with the killer.

Below are a handful of bestselling nonfiction true-crime books that are sure to send shivers down your spine.

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  • "In Cold Blood," Truman Capote
  • "Helter Skelter," Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
  • "The Stranger Beside Me," Ann Rule
  • "Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez," Philip Carlo
  • "American Predator," Maureen Callahan
  • "The Devil in the White City," Erik Larson

"In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote tells the terrifying 1959 murder of the Clutter family.

The four members of the Clutter family lived in Holcomb, Kansas . 

There were very few clues left behind about the mysterious murders.

5 QUICK-READ ROMANCE BOOKS FOR WHEN YOU'RE IN THE MOOD FOR A PAGE-TURNING LOVE STORY

Upon hearing about the case, Capote headed to Kansas to write about the crime. He gathered information through interviewing residents of the town and talking with investigators. 

After all of his interviews, he had gathered thousands of pages of notes to use in his true-crime novel — or a work of "creative nonfiction," as some have called it.

Capote spent about six years working on this book, which became one of the best-selling true-crime books in history. It was originally published in the New Yorker magazine and was put out as a book in 1966.

With more than 7 million copies sold, "Helter Skelter" is the bestselling true-crime book of all time.

This book covers the Manson murders of 1969, when a series of mysterious killings were conducted by cult leader Charles Manson and his followers.

"Helter Skelter" gives a firsthand account of the Manson case ; author Vincent Bugliosi was a prosecuting attorney during the trial.

This book includes everything from the investigation, arrest and prosecution of Manson. It was released in 1974, just a few years following the Manson trial.

Ann Rule has written many successful true-crime books.

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Her most popular title is "The Stranger Beside Me," a chilling firsthand account of one of the most well-known serial killers: Ted Bundy .

Rule formed a friendship with Bundy while they were co-workers at a Seattle crisis clinic. 

Rule knew Bundy as a friend before he was revealed to the world as a serial killer.

Other popular true-crime books by Rule are "Green River, Running Red," "The Want-Ad Killer," "The I-5 Killer" and "Everything She Ever Wanted."

"The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez" is the result of years of research by author Philip Carlo. 

The book is based on nearly 100 hours of interviews Carlo did with Ramirez while he was on California's death row .

"American Predator" is about a serial killer named Israel Keyes who was described as "a force of pure evil" by a prosecutor.

Keyes struck targets all over the United States for 14 years.

Author Maureen Callahan was intrigued by this killer who evaded capture for more than a decade. Callahan spent several years working on this book before it was released in 2019.

The 2003 true-crime book "The Devil in the White City" tells two stories in one. 

It tells the story of Daniel H. Burnham, the architect who led construction of Chicago's World Fair in 1893, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who created what has been dubbed as the "Murder Castle."

For more Lifestyle articles, visit foxnews.com/lifestyle .

Original article source: 6 chilling nonfiction crime books that provide shocking accounts of true stories

True-crime books often provide a new take and deeper dive into well-known cases. iStock

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