Nontraditional Nonfiction: Forms and Formats

Nontraditional Nonfiction: This week we will be focusing on the nontraditional side of reading nonfiction. Nonfiction comes in many forms. There are the traditional hardcover or paperback print books, of course, but then you also have e-books, audiobooks, illustrated and graphic nonfiction, oversized folios, miniatures, internet publishing, and enhanced books complete with artifacts. So many choices! Do you find yourself drawn to or away from nontraditional nonfiction? Do you enjoy some nontraditional formats, but not others? Perhaps you have recommendations for readers who want to dive into nontraditional formats.

Nonfiction November 2015 celebrating nonfiction

This week’s Nonfiction November discussion approaches the subject from a different, nontradtional perspective.

The question directly addresses unusual book formats, but my first thoughts in response to it went toward nontraditional forms of nonfiction, and I really don’t read those very much. My tastes lean toward the narrative varieties of nonfiction–memoir, biography and autobiography, journalism, history and current events. I’m really not drawn to the dryly informational, and I tend to avoid books that approach the “self-help” genre. (That’s not to imply that I don’t need self-help–I just prefer to obtain it in small, article-sized doses rather than in books.)

nontraditional nonfiction shelf essays etc.

One exception to this preference for storyline is essay collections–not the increasingly popular memoir/essay hybrid, but proper topical, not entirely personal writing. This is a type of nonfiction I find I want to read more than I end up doing–there are quite a few of these collections languishing in TBR Purgatory at the moment–and considering that it’s also where my own writing interests lie, I’d really like to make a bigger commitment to reading these.

I tend to read most nonfiction in audiobook or ebook. Since the largest block of potential reading time I regularly get comes during my daily work commute, audiobooks have become my preferred nonfiction format, and in many of the nonfiction audiobooks I’ve read, the narrators even include the footnotes. Also, since a lot of topical nonfiction tends to run to high page counts, it’s just more comfortable and convenient to read it in a format other than traditional print.

The exception to this preference is, once again, essay collections. I like them in print and don’t mind them in ebook, but I find they don’t work very well for me in audio. It’s not usually necessary to read essay collections straight through, in order, without interruption, but that’s exactly how I read audiobooks–for me, it’s just not a great fit. The only two audiobooks I’ve read and never discussed on the blog were essay collections.

What types of nontraditional nonfiction are you into?

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,318 other subscribers


  1. I enjoy nonfiction audio books if the narrator is right. Sometimes they make the book too dry.

    1. This is true–it can be a real challenge to match a nonfiction narrator to the material. That’s part of why I liked FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL so much, and didn’t like GOING CLEAR as much as I’d expected.

  2. So many are reading audiobooks! That is a skill I have not yet mastered. Usually if I’m in the car, I’m listening to a podcast — which is nonfiction since they are usually about history.

  3. I love essay collections, although I’ve only read one collection this year. Essays, like short fiction, are usually hit or miss so I can completely understand why it wouldn’t work for you in audio!

  4. I love ebooks as well, probably because I tend to be the type of person who is always reading at least 3 books at once. I haven’t really taken to audiobooks, though, since I do enjoy the act of reading… and usually I find narrators are too slow for me. I’m like “Get to the point already!” since I read pretty quickly, and unless it’s meant to be more of a performance piece (like a book written by a comedian), I would rather skip ahead on my own.

    1. I used to feel that way about audiobooks myself, and the first few I read were comic memoirs–they were a good way to ease into the form. And since my commute is a long one–40 miles each way–audiobooks make all that time in my car feel more productive!

  5. I definitely enjoy audiobooks, Florinda; other than during Nonfiction November, that’s probably the only time I get my nonfiction reading done! I listen to them while running; it makes for a great way to keep my mind and legs going at the same time.

  6. This one was a hard topic for me…I don’t do well with audiobooks and my thinking wasn’t too outside of the box this week. But, the one kind of audio that works well for me is essay collections!
    After reading some other posts, I realized I probably could have written one on documentaries…as I do watch those! And I like the idea of podcasts and TED Talks.