Nonfiction November Week 4: Reads Like Fiction

Published November 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the fourth week of Nonfiction November! If you’d like to find out what it’s all about, please see my post two weeks ago where I revealed my Nonfiction November TBR. my post for Week 1 where I talked briefly about my year in nonfiction so far and Week 2 where I paired up three nonfiction books alongside similar fiction tomes. Week 3 invited us to Be The Expert/Ask The Expert/Become The Expert.

This week as the title suggests, it’s all about non-fiction that “reads like fiction,” and is hosted by the lovely Rennie from What’s Nonfiction. You can check out her post HERE.

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?

I’ve found this topic so interesting this week and have been racking my brains regarding my personal thoughts on it. I have to admit, it took me a little while to find my niche in nonfiction, I used to read solely fiction and found the nonfiction I was picking up a little dry and uninspiring. It’s only over the past six or seven years or so (and mainly due to the interaction with all you lovely bookish folk) that I’ve found nonfiction that really works for me.

As I mentioned in my previous posts this month, this tends to fall in the categories of popular science (particularly neuroscience but I’ll read anything really!), psychology, feminism, books about books and anything animal/nature related. I’ve only recently started getting into memoirs after reading two stonkingly good ones this year – I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell and Educated by Tara Westover and am dipping my toes into the true crime genre after enjoying I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara.

Nonfiction doesn’t have to read like a novel for me to get something personal or moving from it – the memoirs I’ve mentioned above are a perfect example but I have to say, the O’Farrell and the Westover did have a bit of a “fiction flair,” and gave me the same sort of feeling as if I was reading a novel i.e. all the emotions and all of the pace and grittiness that you get from a captivating story. Then there’s the books that fall in the middle. They don’t necessarily read like fiction but at the same time you’re completely gripped throughout and find it difficult to put the book down.

Animal:The Autobiography Of A Female Body by Sara Pascoe for me is one of those in-between books which I read and reviewed last year and if you’re interested you can read my review HERE. It was hilariously funny, eye-opening, feminist and frank and made me angry for all the right reasons. I find it difficult to give nonfiction five stars usually as there’s almost always a certain point of the book, no matter how brief where either the pace slows or the topic becomes a little dry. This wasn’t the case with Animal, it was an easy, no-brainer of a five stars and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

On the other hand, a lot of the popular science I read certainly doesn’t have a story-telling or gripping “must read another page right now” style and that’s okay too – sometimes when I read a nonfiction, I want to be informed, educated and learn something a bit different and usually, I prefer to read these books in smaller chunks to absorb all the information I’m being given.

One book that pops into my mind is Stiff: The Curious Lives Of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach, which I read in my pre-blogging days but was another automatic five stars from me. It is a fascinating and occasionally humorous look at death and what happens to our bodies postmortem and was a completely fascinating and illuminating read. It’s a book filled with mind-boggling facts that I read in small doses but was written in such an approachable way that I never felt overwhelmed with the scientific aspects of the topic. I must get round to reading some more Mary Roach soon!

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and have found something you might be interested in reading too. I’d love to know your thoughts on the books I’ve mentioned so please let me know in the comments below if you’ve read them or want to read them!

Coming up next week on Nonfiction November Week 5: New to My TBR (hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey) – the last week of Nonfiction November!


22 comments on “Nonfiction November Week 4: Reads Like Fiction

  • I’ve eyed up Stiff a few times – I find death and post-mortem stuff so incredibly fascinating (I’m a little weird I know!) Glad I’ve caught your post, Beth, as it’s reminded me to stick it on my ‘to buy’ list 📚

  • Wonderful post, Beth! I’ve added Animal, and I think Stiff was already on my TBR. I won’t miss them! Stiff made me search for another book I own but have not read – From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, more of an anthropological look at death that sounds fascinating to me. Another buddy read? 😂 ♥️

  • What a great take on this topic, Beth! It is hard to “find your niche” in nonfiction, I had a hard time with it at one point too. I found that narrative nonfiction with a “fiction flair” as you put it so well was the best for me, and then I had an open mind for reading more nonfiction in general. Reading certain books in smaller doses is also a good way to manage the ones that are more information-heavy.

    Animal sounds really interesting, I hadn’t heard of it before! And I’m still considering Stiff, knowing it was a 5-star one for you is certainly motivating..

      • Haha yes please! 🙂 I just read All That Remains, and it had some detailed descriptions of dead bodies in dissection…I was a bit light-headed at one point…so I’m hesitant about what I could handle here but it does sound so good!!

      • Yes, that one!! How do you like it so far? It took me awhile to get into, I ended up liking the roughly second half better than the first, but grisly was exactly the word to describe it! I had a few “not sure I can do this” moments 😳🤭

      • I’m enjoying it so far, she comes across really well on the audio, nice, soft Scottish accent (but I’m a bit biased there as I’m Scottish myself! 😂). But the descriptions of her anatomy classes have been quite graphic so I definitely see what you mean!

      • I watched some videos of her on youtube while reading it and loved how she spoke too, really calm and softly. And I appreciated her tone in writing even more having heard her speak.

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