Nonfiction November 2016: How I Choose My Nonfiction

Nonfiction November 2016

Today’s Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, Julz at Julz Reads, and me) is how we pick our nonfiction! Hop on over to Rachel at Hibernator’s Library to link up your posts and check out the plans for the month at Doing Dewey.

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

It depends on whether I’m looking for a read or a listen.

For nonfiction I’m going to read…

I tend to look for mostly backlist nonfiction or recent releases that have been vetted by a couple trusted sources. So, this means I request very few nonfiction ARCs. I have a hard time selecting nonfiction that would interest me just based on the publisher’s blurb. It’s much easier for me to do this for fiction. Depending on how the book is written, nonfiction about a topic that really interests me could fall woefully short (i.e. The Midnight Assassin) or nonfiction about a topic I don’t care about could end up being fascinating (i.e. The Boys in the Boat). There are also only a few nonfiction authors I can comfortably rely on (i.e. Michael Lewis, Erik Larson, Jon Krakauer), whereas I have tons of go-to authors for fiction.

For nonfiction I’m going to listen to…

I’m much more willing to try an un-vetted nonfiction audiobook because the writing and storytelling style is less of a factor for me on audio. Plus, there’s Audible’s Great Listen Guarantee! That being said, I’ve found that lighter nonfiction (particularly these topics) is my audio niche.

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

My weird little nonfiction niches are cooking / food, sports, business (the behind-the-scenes, not boring kind), true crime and juicy celebrity biographies (what I like to call “biogossip”). I’ve been reading these types of books for years. Lately, I’ve also been interested in PTSD in returning soldiers, North Korea, and dysfunctional childhood memoirs.

On audio, I stick mainly to celebrity memoirs, life improvement, social/behavioral sciences, sports memoirs and trashy celebrity exposes.

Do you have a particular writing style that works best?

Definitely narrative nonfiction (aka nonfiction that “reads like fiction”) or investigative journalism.

How do you choose your nonfiction?

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  1. I’m a huge Erik Larson and Jon Krakauer fan, too, so if you enjoy them, I would also recommend Robert K Massie.

    Posted 11.8.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I’ll check out Massie…always looking for more authors like Larson and Krakauer!

      Posted 11.10.16 Reply
  2. Toady wrote:

    I approach things very much the same way. I recently requested a historical nonfiction for review, but it was by recommendation from someone who had already read it.

    Posted 11.8.16 Reply
  3. Biogossip! I love it! I’m so enjoying reading everyone’s post on this week’s topic.

    Posted 11.8.16 Reply
  4. These are some good tips for choosing nonfiction. I resisted The Boys in the Boat for a long time, but then loved it and have recommended it to so many people. I’ve been thinking of reading Missoula. Did you read it?

    Posted 11.8.16 Reply
  5. Helen Wells wrote:

    I suggest Mei Fong’s One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment. I haven’t read it, but heard her speak at UNC-W. She was fascinating and I could have listened to her for hours.

    Posted 11.8.16 Reply
  6. I haven’t read Lewis, Larson OR Krakauer, but given that you feel you can rely on them, I’m going to try.

    Posted 11.8.16 Reply
  7. Oh I absolutely love the celebrity biography for audio book. i’m still waiting to get my hands on the Leah Remini but that may be one I have to read because I’m not sure if I can listen to her voice for that long. Lauren Graham has a bio coming out this month that I’m incredibly excited for because I’m assuming it will mostly be fluff and I am 100% okay with that.

    Posted 11.8.16 Reply
  8. I find it so interesting that you have a hard time choosing non-fiction for yourself based on a blurb only! I totally get what you mean – writing style is such a huge part of non-fiction – I just have never thought about it. I’m reading Jane Austen’s England right now and it’s much more academic than I’ve read in a good long while and I’m having a hard time getting into the swing of things. Maybe one that I should have vetted better!

    I haven’t read any Michael Lewis, but I’ve loved Larson (I need him to get going on his new project ASAP) and Jon Krakauer (Prophet’s Prey is one of the most disturbing books) so perhaps I have a new go-to author waiting in the wings!

    Audiobooks…I’m getting closer to giving them a whirl but still not there.

    Posted 11.8.16 Reply
  9. Investigative journalism — I’m right there with you!

    Posted 11.8.16 Reply
  10. Amanda wrote:

    I agree about Lewis/Krakauer/Larson for sure. I need to read Dead Wake soon. Mark Bowden is another totally compelling one. Killing Pablo is excellent and Black Hawk Down reads like you are right there. I’m with Eva – I am so tempted to try audio but I just haven’t done it. Some day!

    Posted 11.9.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I love Bowden as well! Killing Pablo was fantastic! Haven’t read Black Hawk Down, but have obviously heard of it.

      Posted 11.10.16 Reply
  11. Hmm, thought I commented on this post earlier in the week…

    Erik Larson are Jon Krakauer favorites, so I should try Michael Lewis, too…my husband enjoyed Flash Boys. A good recommendation, especially from a trusted blogger, is even more important for nonfiction!

    Posted 11.10.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Definitely try Michael Lewis…Flash Boys was actually my least favorite of his. The Blind Side, The Big Short, Liar’s Poker, and Boomerang were my favorites. Blind Side and Boomerang might be good places to start.

      Posted 11.10.16 Reply
  12. Ellie wrote:

    I don’t come across many non-fiction ARCs in the UK, I’d actually really love some of the randomness I get through publicist requests. I tend to choose my NF reads without any endorsements; I might check they don’t have an awful average rating on Goodreads, but mostly I just dive in base on a feeling I get 😀

    Posted 11.12.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I can think of 2 random nonfiction ARCs that I read without knowing anything that were successful (Dirty Chick and Never Leave Your Dead), but it’s not the norm for me. Good for you for taking the plunge!

      Posted 11.14.16 Reply
  13. Catherine wrote:

    Nonfiction is one of the few areas where I don’t rely so much on trusted opinions simply because I have so much trouble reading it- even if it is a subject that seems like a good fit. It really is a matter of what catches my eye.

    I can’t quite tell- have you read Boys in the Boat? Because if not…DO. IT. It’s sports, the Olympics, the human spirit! And I, who does not love nonfiction thought it was one of the best books I’ve read this year.

    Posted 11.13.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      YES – obviously!!! I read it years ago and absolutely loved it – you know it’s right up my alley.

      Posted 11.14.16 Reply
  14. For audiobooks, I tend to like lighter nonfiction topics too! I’m currently listening to A Short History of Nearly Everything and it’s too heavy. If I stop listening for a second, I’m lost.

    I’d like to do more reading backlist nonfiction. Next year, maybe I’ll commit to using my library more and ARCs less. It’s hard though, because I love the lack of deadlines with ARCs so much and I hate returning books to the library unread!

    Posted 11.18.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      True that about the libraries – especially when all the holds come in at once!

      Posted 11.22.16 Reply

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