Nonfiction November Week 2: Choosing Nonfiction
I really enjoyed last week’s Nonfiction November kick-off. I’ll get to my answers to this week’s questions in a moment, but first here are some of the fascinating titles from other participants that caught my attention (titles are affiliate links to Amazon):
- The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time by Keith Houston from Louise at Lone Star on a Lark.
- On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads from Nancy at ipsofactodotme
- As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes from Sharlene at Real Life Reading
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson from JoAnn at Lakeside Musing
For a highlight of last week’s posts, see Katie’s wrap-up at Doing Dewey.
This week’s discussion is being hosted by Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, and here are the questions:
What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book? Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to? Do you have a particular writing style that works best? When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you? If so, share a title or cover which you find striking.
What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book?
Most of the nonfiction books I read are practical. I pick them with some aim or goal in mind. For instance, I read a lot of books on how to write, how to manage a classroom, or how to craft a homily. I choose other nonfiction books because I need the knowledge as background for something. This would include things like commentaries on Scripture, works of theology, or works of literary criticism.
Occasionally, though, I will read a nonfiction book simply because I have an interest in the topic. The last time I enjoyed a book like that was about a year and a half ago: Dean King’s Patrick O’Brian: A Life Revealed.
Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to?
I’m always reading books about spirituality and prayer, and I’ve also had a lifelong interest in books about books. I love books that discuss classic literature, books that describe how to read literature, and books that give the history of books and reading. For instance:
- How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
- The New Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman
- The Novel 100: A Ranking of the Greatest Novels of All Time by Daniel Burt
- Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books by H.J. Jackson
- The Book on the Book Shelf by Henry Petroski
Do you have a particular writing style that works best?
I like a conversational, informal approach more than an academic voice. While I don’t consciously think of a writer’s style while I am choosing a nonfiction book, I’m sure it’s important on an intuitive level.
When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you? If so, share a title or cover which you find striking.
Oddly, I am heavily influenced by the covers of fiction books, as I’ve written briefly about before, but it doesn’t seem to matter as much for nonfiction books. Many covers for the nonfiction books I read are simply big letters on a bright background.
However, the opposite is true for titles. Titles are more influential to me for nonfiction books than for fiction books. Sometimes a title strikes me because it is exactly what I’m looking for, and other times it hits me because it’s so unusual or creative. One of my favorite nonfiction titles is The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. It’s that last phrase about the OED that really grabs my attention, especially when juxtaposed with murder and insanity.
I look forward to reading about your nonfiction selection habits in the comments section. What are your favorite nonfiction topics? What titles or book covers have grabbed your attention?