The Future of Non-Fiction

Excuse the rather broad title, but recently I’ve been drifting away from fiction books, and trying out more non-fiction novels. Whilst non-fiction books are subjective based on what the book covers, I’m finding some of them to be particularly interesting.

The first example of this, which aren’t exactly non-fiction books, are The One-Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared and The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson. Whilst the basis of the book is purely fictional, the book also eludes to important historical events and perspectives such as communism and capitalism. Bizarre but hilarious works of fiction, Jonasson’s novels cleverly disguise a ‘non-fiction style’ which enables to me to learn about these things whilst laughing at the same time.

Perhaps it was his books which started it, as I was then quick to buy Alain de Botton’s News: A User’s Manual. Whilst this book didn’t necessarily have story-telling within the non-fiction, as a journalist I was still fascinated by the book and it remains one of the most intriguing non-fiction books I ever read.

However, the latest non-fiction novel I picked up was So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (which I hope to buy when I next visit a bookshop). Upon reading the first few pages as a sample, I was drawn to the ‘fiction’ style of writing. By that, I don’t mean that the story was ‘made up’ – of course not – but the storytelling mimicked the style of fiction novels.  Other non-fiction books would be purely factual and wouldn’t have this conversational style.

Admittedly, as a child I was put-off by non-fiction. Despite having a strong love of facts as a kid – which I still had now – I feared that it would just be a book listing all the key points of the topic discussed. But of course, non-fiction has developed and has become more engaging.

But if there’s any way to develop non-fiction further, then it’s through this idea of story-telling in non-fiction. With that in mind, readers put off the style of writing (with my similar belief in mind) will realise that there is more to the intriguing and fascinating genre.

What do you think? Should non-fiction books remain purely factual, or should they contain an element of conversational language common in fiction works? Comment your thoughts below!


5 thoughts on “The Future of Non-Fiction

  1. Chuckle! Liam, you were a child only a few years ago. These books have been around for ages. (As a teacher librarian, I have to say you would have been one of the few children I know of who didn’t enjoy non fiction). You weren’t born when I wrote my first non-fiction-for-entertainment book for children – this form of non fiction even has a name, narrative non fiction. I’m sorry you missed out, by assuming that if it was non fiction it must be to help with homework. I suspect you would have loved NF!

    The idea is that the writer chooses a quirky theme and has fun with it. For example, one of my books was a history of crime in Australia. I chose the most over the top stories I could find, eg the klutzy would-be robbers who held up a restaurant in the mountains and escaped with a bag of stale bread rolls and one of them wounded in an embarrassing place by her partner’s gun. I think it may have been used to help with homework once in all the time I’ve had it on my shelves and even that was because the book had a paragraph or two about the PM’s child convict ancestress, who had been transported for stealing another child’s clothes in the toilets and had shown no remorse. Not exactly Ned Kelly! There are five copies in my library and some of them are falling apart and all are battered. Kids are reading them for fun.


    • Haha! Sorry, there was no other way to describe it!

      OK, to be fair, I still rather enjoyed non-fiction books which mentioned random facts or answered curious questions. Otherwise, in-depth, essay-style non-fiction books didn’t really appeal to me.

      Ah, I thought it had a more professional name. Thank you!

      I’m sorry? Sorry, I never did think that! Non-fiction books – particularly the purely factual style I mention in the post – just didn’t appeal to me. When it comes to reading non-fiction now it’s never really for academic purposes – more genuine curiosity! I’m reading them for fun myself now, too! But what I discuss in this post is for those who, like me, dislike the purely factual sorts of non-fiction and are more fiction readers, they should try the narrative style of non-fiction as it is more likely to appeal to them as it did to me.

      Sorry for any confusion in this post, and thank you for commenting!


  2. This was such an interesting read! I study creative writing and I mostly write non-fiction, in various forms. This year we were encouraged to blur the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction, which I loved because it gives you much more freedom. I’d recommend reading The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard, which is a collection of autobiographical and biographical anecdotes – there were a lot of mixed opinions amongst my classmates, but I didn’t think that the fictionalised parts took away from it at all.

    As for whether non-fiction books should have conversational elements or not, I think that depends on the book, its topic, the voice of the writer, and what they’re trying to achieve. I don’t think people always realise how much variety you can get within the non-fiction category, which is a shame.

    Anyway, this has turned into a mini essay! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You study Creative Writing? That’s awesome! I did it as an AS level this year and I wrote in some non-fiction forms as part of the course. I loved it!

      Thanks for the recommendation, I shall give it a look! If it has ‘fictionalised’ sections I’m sure it’ll be interesting!

      Oh I completely agree with you there. There’s a lot of different factors. Also, that is true (encyclopaedia, reviews, etc.), and perhaps this belief that non-fiction is boring – which, admittedly, I believed when I was younger – comes from a similar belief that non-fiction books are purely factual encyclopaedias. I think people need to share this attitude that there are a lot of different categories of non-fiction. Whilst one of these styles may not appeal to them, another might!

      Not at all! Thank you so much for leaving such a thoughtful comment. I really appreciate it, and I’m glad you liked this post!


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