Week 4: (Nov. 19 to 23) – Reads Like Fiction (Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction): Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?
Weirdly, this is not a thing I think about before, during, or after reading nonfiction. I have a tendency to see narrative everywhere and also have a tolerance for information-driven info dumps in fiction (in contrast to plot info dumps). So, I feel that the majority of nonfiction I read has some narrative fiction qualities to it. Even a books like NeuroTribes or The Turk use story as example or to relay history.
Lately, though, I have noticed that organization is very important, in both “narrative” nonfiction and more didactic nonfiction. It’s probably the difference between a nonfiction book being readable and it just having lots of (good) information. One of the things that Erik Larson does very well is weaving histories and information together. On the poorer end of this is Heaven’s Ditch. Jack Kelly’s book has a lot of story, but the chronology of events was difficult to keep track of. (I’d still recommend it, but it’s not best of class.)
All in all, “does it read like fiction” is probably a question I’m going to give more thought too!