Thursday, November 18, 2010

Literary Blog Hop: Non-Fiction

It's time for another Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase. If your blog features reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, or general literary discussion, then grab the button, answer the question, and hop along!

This week's question:
Is there such a thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it? Examples?

My answer:
Of course literary non-fiction exists... and I love it! Defining it, however, is difficult. My attitude tends to be 'I know it when I see it' but, if pressed for a definition, it would be one of exclusion. It's far easier to talk about what literary non-fiction is not.

Literary non-fiction, in my opinion, is the polar opposite of a textbook. It's purpose is not solely to impart fact upon fact. The writing style is not dull, dry, or boring. Instead, the topic is explored in a style worthy of the best novelists.

My favorite literary non-fiction works include:

by Rebecca Skloot
a favorite this year

by Anne Fadiman
an all-time favorite

by Erik Larson
an audio favorite

by Truman Capote
a classic

My nonfiction tbr list is sure to grow over the next few days as I visit other participant's blogs. If you're not 'hopping', please share your favorite title in a comment. Reading more non-fiction is one of my goals for 2011.

Links to more posts on this topic can be found at The Blue Bookcase.


  1. I gotta check out those! Thanks...

    Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

  2. Oh, wish I'd remembered the Spirit Catches You. That's a great book. Hee--I listed the Henrietta Lacks book as one I'm sure is literary, even though I haven't read it yet! Just the blog buzz about it leads me to believe it is.

  3. I just read Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (I've heard Devil in the White City is even better) and that's is most definitely literary writing. Good stuff!

  4. I loved Devil in the White City, Thunderstruck too for that matter.

  5. Great list! I've read all but the last book, and they'd be on my list, too.

  6. great and very informative post-I have always resisted reading In Cold Blood for some reason

  7. Ah! All four of the books you mention are HIGH on my tbr list.
    One of my favorite literary nonfiction books is Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller. I'd definitely recommend looking into that one for your 2011 tbr list.

  8. I loved the first, own the second and third, and am frankly a little scared of your fourth pick! I'm wary of nonfiction, usually, because there is so much dry nonfiction out there. My favorite literary nonfiction titles, I think, are Nick Hornby's Believer essay collections: The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, and Shakespeare Wrote for Money. I hope they count, because they deserve to! I've also seen David Sedaris mentioned in response to this Literary Blog Hop question.

  9. I also included Devil in the White City -- wasn't that just a stunning creation? I couldn't put it down. Rumor has it Leonardo DiCaprio is going to play H.H. Holmes in the movie set to come out.

    I must read Henrietta Lacks, I know that I'm missing out.
    Here's my Literary view...: Coffee and a Book Chick -- Literary Blog Hop...

  10. Gautami - Hope you get to read some of these.

    Amy - I LOVED The Spirit Catches You. You must read Henrietta Lacks... my favorite nonfiction this year!

    Melody - Can't wait to check out Thunderstruck. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Carolsnotebook - Wasn't The Devil in the White City a great book?! I didn't know he had a newer one.

    Softdrink - I could read all nonfiction if they were written like the ones I listed!

    Mel u - It took me a while before I convinced myself to read In Cold Blood... it's quite a story.

    Christina - Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight was mentioned at a recent book club meeting, but I didn't know much about it. I'm adding it to my list!

    Erin - The fourth is a little scary... but hard to turn away from once you get started. I forgot about Nick Hornsby - loved The Polysyllabic Spree. David Sedaris is an audio favorite... even got to see him live last year!

    Coffee and a Book Chick - I'm looking forward to that movie... and you MUST read Henrietta Lacks. What an amazing book.

  11. I TBR list is getting longer, and longer, and longer... THanks for the great ideas

  12. Nice post, I loved The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Wonderful, wonderful book and certainly a great example of literary non-fiction.

  13. Why is it that every blogger on earth has read the Henrietta book...except me?! And I call myself a nonfiction reader?

    Here's my post on literary nonfiction. I'd love to hear what you think.

    And if you have read any wonderful literary books
    published in 2010, I urge you to nominate your favorites
    for The Independent Literary Awards. The awards
    include categories of Literary Fiction and Literary Non-Fiction.
    Nominations close December 15.

  14. I should read more non-fiction. Somehow, I don't or do it by accident (when a story turns out to be an account of a real event).

    I do want to read Henrietta Lacks. It sounds like an amazing story.
    Leeswammes (Judith)

  15. I've been wanting to read Henrietta Lacks after seeing so much buzz! I almost included Devil but since I haven't read it since blogging I didn't. I did pick In Cold Blood. Great minds think alike, huh? ;)

    And I like your "I know it when I see it" attitude--that's how I am, too.

  16. I haven't read any of those novels... except 'In Cold Blood'. Truly a great read.

  17. Excellent examples. I agree that literary non-fiction is much more than just facts ... it has some sort of aesthetic quality to it.
    Thanks for participating!

  18. I haven't read "In Cold Blood" or "Devil in the White City" but I may have to include this on my book challenge (2011) Thanks for sharing this.

  19. "Literary non-fiction, in my opinion, is the polar opposite of a textbook" I like your definition I would add that Litnonfict doesn't just reveal facts, it lights them up from the inside.Although I,ve not read any of these & the capote one is popping up alot on this hop, so gonna have to look it up.

  20. I read The Spirit Catches You . . . and really enjoyed it - I learned so much! Next on my list from your selection is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Thanks for the great recommendations!

  21. You mentioned some REALLY good books.

  22. I loved The Spirit Catches You. I was fascinated by the way the cultural dynamics played out in that book. I actually know a woman who was a nurse in that hospital, and she said that the story was fairly close to her memories of the case. Thanks for mentioning it-I hadn't thought of it in years.

  23. Beachreader - LOL! I know that tbr list has grown quite a bit with this hop.

    Petekarnas - The Spirit Catches You is one of my all-time favorites, and it also produced one of our best book club discussion ever. I'd love to reread it one of these days. BTW, I haven't been able to comment on your blog... maybe I'm ending up in your spam folder?

    Readerbuzz - It's not too late to read Henrietta ;-)

    Leeswammes - Henrietta Lack's story is truly amazing. I highly recommend the book!

    Trish - Definitely great minds thinking alike with this one. I think you'd like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

    Mywordlyobsessions - In Cold Blood has been showing up in a lot of answers this week!

    IngridLola - Thanks again for hosting this event!

    Bookaddict4real - They are both great books... hope you are able to get to them.

    Parrish lantern - I think In Cold Blood has been the book most often mentioned this week.

    Booksnyc - You're welcome. I think you're going to love The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks!

    Stephanie - Thanks!

    Heather - So interesting that you know someone with first-hand knowledge of the situation. That was such an exceptional book... wish there was something else like it I could read.

  24. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.

  25. I think your semi-definition is quite spot on and as it is not exclusive, which definition tend to do. You could probrably have a spectrum with the textbook as one extreme and whatever we are trying to define with these posts at the other extreme...

    First time visiting your blog and I love your picture heading :)

  26. *Literary non-fiction, in my opinion, is the polar opposite of a textbook. It's purpose is not solely to impart fact upon fact. The writing style is not dull, dry, or boring. Instead, the topic is explored in a style worthy of the best novelists.*

    What an excellent definition! I had trouble defining it myself, since I've read so little of it at this point, but 'the polar opposit of a text book' really says what I was trying to say. :-)

  27. I cold blood in the one of two non-fiction books on my American Project list, its such a huge American classic and I can't wait to read it.

    Unlike my husband I tend to only read non-fiction as part of book groups which is how I read the Devil in the White City.

  28. Bookaddict4real - Thanks, you too!

    Em - Thanks so much for visiting. I'm enjoying all the new people and blogs I've met through the hop. My header photo changes with the seasons, and it's about time for a new one with the leaves gone.

    Jillian - Thanks... I was worried that definition would seem too simplistic, but it works for me :-)

    Jessica - Hope you like In Cold Blood. Book clubs are perfect for getting us to read outside our 'comfort zones'!

  29. You have a very impressive list. I've heard great things about Devil in the White City, but it's non fiction status usually has me putting it back on the shelf in favor of something a little lighter.

    Sarah @ Loving Books

  30. Les - Thanks for pointing me toward your review! Cooper's book sounds wonderful. I'll bet my husband and father would like it, too.

    Letter4no1 - The best part about The Devil in the White City was that it reads just like a novel! It's the book that got me started reading nonfiction again. But you have to choose the right book to suit your mood... thanks for visiting!

  31. Care - Well done narrative nonfiction often ends up on my year-end favorite list... just wish I could find more of it!


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