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Read True Stories Like Novels – the Art of Narrative Nonfiction

Experience the thrill of real events told with the drama of a novel. Find books that transform real-life facts into captivating tales and learn with a thrill!
by Chris Allmer | Jun 3 2024
Read True Stories Like Novels - the Art of Narrative Nonfiction

“For months, they drifted on ice floes, living in cramped quarters and battling the relentless elements. Hunger gnawed at their bellies, and despair threatened to consume them.” 

This is not the plot of a high-seas adventure novel; it is the harrowing true story captured in Alfred Lansing’s “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage,” a prime example of narrative nonfiction.

Narrative nonfiction takes real-life events, like Ernest Shackleton’s incredible journey to Antarctica (you should really check this one out), and weaves them into captivating tales. 

Unlike textbooks or dry news reports, narrated nonfiction injects history, science, and personal experiences with suspense and emotional depth, making them as thrilling as any fictional adventure.

Do you want to learn more about this captivating genre and how it transforms factual accounts into unforgettable reads? Dive into this article, your guide to the world of narrative nonfiction!

What is Nonfiction?

Nonfiction Definition

Nonfiction often gets a bad rap – dry textbooks and monotonous news reports come to mind. But at its core, nonfiction is any content that strives to present factual information about real-world events and subjects. 

Unlike fiction, which uses imagination to create fantastical stories, nonfiction prioritizes accuracy. It relies on evidence, research, and data to support its claims, aiming to educate, inform, and shed light on the complexities of the world around us.

What’s Narrative Nonfiction?

It takes real-life events and people, and then weaves them into thrilling tales that hook you from the first page. You’ll feel like you’re right there, exploring alongside explorers or just like scientists making groundbreaking discoveries.

It’s learning that doesn’t feel like learning at all – it’s pure adventure!

How do you know it’s Narrative Nonfiction?

  1. Reads Like a Novel: Forget dry facts and figures. Narrative nonfiction uses engaging language, transporting you right into the heart of the story.
  2. Brings History and Science to Life: Complex topics become accessible and relatable through the power of storytelling. You’ll feel like you’re experiencing history firsthand or alongside the scientist making a groundbreaking discovery.
  3. Emotional Connection: Narrative nonfiction allows you to connect with the characters and their struggles, making the information even more impactful.

And the world of nonfiction is massive and includes a wide range of subgenres, each with its own focus and style. Let’s dive into some of the most captivating genres of narrated nonfiction, and we’ll give you an example for each to pique your interest. 

And because we are at Blinkist, you can easily access all the book summaries mentioned here to decide if they’re your cup of tea or not – all in just 15 minutes. 

Plus, with the 7-day free trial, you can explore all the books mentioned in this article at no cost.

The Subgenres of Narrative Nonfiction

1. Biographies

Biographies offer a glimpse into the fascinating journeys of real people. They explore the triumphs and struggles of historical figures, celebrities, or even ordinary individuals who have lived extraordinary lives.

This hilarious and insightful memoir explores Noah’s childhood in apartheid South Africa. And it’s a great example of narrated nonfiction because it goes beyond simply recounting events. Noah’s engaging writing style and personal anecdotes make history come alive, offering a humorous perspective on a complex social and political issue.

Interested in exploring more lives of remarkable individuals who have shaped our world? Discover our list of the world’s best biography books.

2. History Books

History books transport us back in time, allowing us to explore the events and people who shaped the world we live in today. From thrilling accounts of wars and revolutions to the lives of influential figures, these books provide a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of historical events.

“Sapiens” doesn’t just present a dry chronology of events. Harari uses clear language and engaging storytelling to paint a vivid picture of human history, making complex topics accessible to a wide audience. 

If you are into history, take a look at our list of the best history books from around the world.

3. Science Writing

Science writing takes complex scientific concepts and translates them into clear, understandable language. It covers a wide range of topics, from the intricate workings of the human body to the vastness of space, making science accessible to a broader audience.

Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” explores the remarkable journey of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells made a significant impact on medical research. This narrative nonfiction book goes deep into the science and ethical implications of this story, offering an inspiring testament to the power of science writing.

4. Journalism

Journalism serves as a vital source of information, keeping us informed about current events and issues happening around the globe. Journalists act as watchdogs of society, reporting on news objectively and accurately, allowing readers to form their own conclusions.

“Poverty” by Matthew Desmond tells the story of several families facing eviction in Milwaukee, highlighting the human cost of poverty in America. It’s a prime example of how journalism can use storytelling to raise awareness of important social issues.

5. Self-Help

Self-help books offer practical tools and strategies for personal development. They cover a wide range of topics, from career advancement and managing finances to building healthy relationships and overcoming challenges. These books provide actionable advice and insights, empowering you to improve your life.

This nonfiction book summary explores the Rubin’s year-long experiment to test different happiness theories and strategies, offering practical advice for personal growth. 

“The Happiness Project” showcases how self-help books can be engaging and relatable, and even spiked with actionable strategies to improve their well-being.

Looking for the best self-help books to kickstart your personal growth journey? Check out our curated selection of must-reads here: The Best Self-Help Books to Read During Downtime

6. Travel Writing

Travel writing takes you on virtual journeys, immersing you in the sights, smells, and customs of diverse places. Seasoned travelers share their experiences and insights, allowing you to explore new places, learn about local customs, and discover hidden gems from the comfort of your own home.

This humorous and insightful account chronicles Bryson’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, offering a glimpse into the beauty and challenges of long-distance trekking. “A Walk in the Woods showcases how travel writing can be both entertaining and informative.

7. True Crime

True crime dives into the world of criminal justice, delving into real-life crimes and the investigations that follow. These books explore the motives and actions of perpetrators, the psychological aspects of crime, and the legal proceedings involved. They can offer a chilling glimpse into the dark side of human behavior.

This groundbreaking work of “New Journalism” investigates the brutal murders of a Kansas family, offering a chilling portrait of the killers and the aftermath of the crime. “In Cold Blood” is a prime example of how true crime can be both gripping and thought-provoking.

Are you ready to delve deeper into the chilling world of true crime? Our curated collection of the top 54 true-crime books awaits.

From the infamous Jack the Ripper to the unsolved Zodiac Killer, these stories will grip your soul, challenge your mind, and keep you glued to each page.

8. Sports Writing

Sports writing goes beyond box scores and game summaries. It explores the lives of athletes, the history of different sports, and the cultural impact of athletics. Engaging narratives can capture the excitement of competition, the dedication of athletes, and the drama that unfolds on the field.

“Moneyball” explores the revolutionary approach of the Oakland A’s baseball team in using data analysis to build a competitive team on a limited budget. This narrated nonfiction read, demonstrates how sports writing can be more than just game reports. 

9. Food Writing

Food writing goes beyond recipes, exploring the history and culture of food, the art of cooking, or even the science behind different cuisines. It can be a mouthwatering adventure, transporting you to different parts of the world through the lens of food.

“Salt Fat Acid Heat” by Samin Nosrat book looks at the four essential elements – salt, fat, acid, and heat – that are the foundation of delicious cooking. Nosrat’s exploration of these fundamental principles of cooking provides practical tips and insights for all levels of cooks.

10. Art History

Art history delves into the world of visual arts, exploring different movements, artists, and iconic pieces. These books can shed light on the historical context in which art was created, the techniques used by artists, and the symbolism embedded within the works.

This narrated nonfiction book explores the concept of creative inspiration and how to learn from the work of others. Author, Austin Kleon uses examples from various artistic movements to illustrate his points and offers practical advice for anyone seeking inspiration.

Learning with Blinkist’s Stories

Forget dry textbooks and monotonous lectures! Narrative nonfiction throws open a door to a world of knowledge, where learning feels like an exciting adventure. 

It invites you to experience history firsthand, stand alongside groundbreaking scientists, and step into the captivating journeys of remarkable individuals.

But what if you don’t have hours to flip through a massive book?

That’s where Blinkist comes in. With our curated collection of Blinks (concise summaries) of the best narrative nonfiction books, you can grasp the key ideas and captivating stories in just 15 minutes.

Ready to write your own story of lifelong learning?

Start your free 7-day trial of Blinkist today! With Blinkist, learning becomes an adventure, not a chore.

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