October 11, 2017

Finding nonfiction that’s fun to read

It’s easy to gravitate towards fiction when deciding what to pick up at the library on your next visit. Even as the head of the Nonfiction Team at NoveList, novels are what I find myself reading most often. To be honest, it’s easier to apply appeals to the latest thriller than the newest book about the Second World War.

But many readers -- including my stepmother -- prefer their reading to be rooted in fact. Providing readers’ advisory help to these patrons can be challenging, but not impossible! Nonfiction readers are on the hunt for books they can’t put down and authors that teach them something -- but also entertain. Titles that spring to mind are: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore, which has won a number of awards; Grunt by Mary Roach, who is a great author to explore if your patrons are into science writing; and for those readers who prefer something a little more gruesome, Cannibalism by Bill Schutt. These books (and others like them) cover a wide range of topics while being entertaining, which is a crucial ingredient to keep patrons coming back for more.

Need help searching for engaging nonfiction? Keep an eye out for titles that include these appeals:

  • Upbeat
  • Accessible
  • Conversational
  • Offbeat
  • Fast-paced  

You can search for those appeals, too. Type AP Conversational into the search bar and limit your results to nonfiction. From Julie Powell to Willie Nelson, you’ll find a long list of books who read like a friend telling a story. 

High school students are often assigned nonfiction reading as part of their courses and so are pining for titles that aren’t dense or scholarly. For these readers, NoveList has a dedicated genre which we call Adult books for young adults. We apply this genre when the review highlights its appropriateness for younger readers. Finding these books is as simple as typing GN Adult books for young adults into the search box and selecting the nonfiction check box, then narrowing your search down from there. Looking for more guidance? Watch a tutorial on how to find narrative nonfiction for younger readers.

Need a refresher on the difference between upbeat and conversational? The Secret Language of Books is a handy reference guide for appeal terms and their use. Download a copy or ask us to send you some hard copies for a staff training. You can also learn more about exploring these appeals in NoveList with a tutorial.

Hopefully this helps in the quest to find a book for every reader! Happy searching.

Kate Fletcher is a Metadata Librarian at NoveList.


Comment from Amy on October 26, 2017

When I enter a keyword search of “AP Conversational” as a keyword search in Novelist, I get 9 titles, almost all fiction.  Did I misunderstand your instructions on generating a list of NF?

Comment from Jennifer on October 26, 2017

Amy—thanks for writing in. Only NoveList Plus and NoveList K-8 Plus have nonfiction book information. Libraries with NoveList or NoveList K-8 will only see information about fiction.

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