Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

#NonFicNov 2018, Week 4 ~ Reads Like Fiction

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.

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine

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.)

Thunderstruck Heaven's Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal

All in all, “does it read like fiction” is probably a question I’m going to give more thought too!


Writer, publisher. Hobbies include reading, studying magic & illusions from a historical/theoretical perspective, and playing ultimate frisbee.

10 thoughts on “#NonFicNov 2018, Week 4 ~ Reads Like Fiction

  1. “I have a tendency to see narrative everywhere” is a pretty wonderful way to look at things 🙂 I’m glad it’s a question that was interesting for you, great to hear your thoughts on it!

  2. Great observation and nicely phrased! No matter how well researched a book, if it’s not well organized, it’s likely going to be difficult to finish.

  3. I honestly don’t care if it reads like fiction as I don’t really like fiction anyways. In my post I shared some memoirs that read like fiction but it’s not something I will purposely give thought to in the future.

    1. It’s still pretty good book. My husband is reading it now. His opinion is that maybe it needed a good overview to tie it together. I could definitely read more about the Erie Canal, though.

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