Fiction readers read fiction and nonfiction readers read nonfiction, and never the twain shall meet. Right? Pretty sure that’s what Rudyard Kipling had in 

Actually, while I would never encourage forcing someone to read something they don’t want to, I am a stalwart fiction reader who has been known to enjoy quite a lot of nonfiction. It just...has to be good! So how do I find “good” nonfiction? What makes it good, anyway? And why would you even care? 

Well, I’ll tackle the last question first. Discovery and serendipity are powerful forces when it comes to readers finding new favorite books, authors, genres, or interests. Combining fiction and nonfiction in book bundles, book displays, bookmarks, and even in face-to-face readers’ advisory conversations can lead to a lot of interesting discoveries, both for you and your patrons.  

As for how I find engaging nonfiction that I actually want to finish, well, that depends on how I want to define what’s good — and what I think is good is not necessarily going to be the same as what the next person thinks is good. I listen to what other people are raving about, but that only gets me so far. I’m not, for example, interested in celebrity memoirs. There are only so many grains of salt I can hold when I hear comparisons to Mary Roach or Bill Bryson, and as much as I loved Fast Food Nation back in 2001, I had no interest in Eric Schlosser’s 2013 book on nuclear accidents. I loved but got quickly tired of The Book of Animal Ignorance. According to GoodReads, I've been reading that fascinating encyclopedia since 2008. Ultimately, I need a narrative arc, writing I enjoy reading (with maybe some humor), and a topic that interests me

That’s where NoveList Plus comes in. While almost all of the adult nonfiction included in NoveList Plus is narrative, we’ve got an extra special genre for adults called Nonfiction that reads like fiction. This is where you’ll find books like I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Bad Blood, and Educated — all books that not only have a narrative arc but also are so compelling and so engaging that readers get totally caught up in what’s happening.

But there’s plenty of great stuff outside of that genre too (as of this writing, there are over 7,000 adult nonfiction books in NoveList Plus that have been published since 2020, which is when we debuted that term. Only 400 or so have earned the distinction of that genre.). For example, readers who like introspective first-person narratives in fiction might be drawn to memoirs; use appeal terms like candid, upbeat, or richly detailed to pinpoint a reading experience. And use subject terms to narrow a search too (for example, I like GN memoirs NOT (SU musicians OR SU actors and actresses OR SU personalities OR SU politicians)).

Much like the way some libraries stage adult displays near where they know parents will be (with the kids reading kids books!), you can stage displays that can capture unexpected audiences. Put an endcap display of Alison Weir’s biographies near a historical fiction display. If your suspense novels are shelved together, display true crime nearby. Heck, for April Fool’s or for a nod at Kristen Bell’s latest, mix your wine books with your psychological suspense titles and see what happens. 

For more ways to engage with your narrative nonfiction readers, make sure to check out our most recent Crash Course webinar on, you guessed it, Narrative Nonfiction

Help everyone in your community realize a love of reading with NoveList Plus.

Shauna Griffin is a Senior Collection Development Librarian at NoveList. She is currently reading Three Girls from Bronzeville by Dawn Turner.