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The Different Non-Fiction Genres

Updated on October 9, 2017
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

There is more to the non-fiction world than you could ever imagine. It is not just factual books that make up this genre. These books can entertain, educate, and support anything you are looking for.

Reference

The reference books include dictionaries, almanacs, and encyclopedias. They are the books you reference for information. The information sought is quick and usually summarized or listed. That means it doesn't include biographies or books that spend hundreds of pages on one topic such as the Wars of the Roses.

A dictionary is a list of words with definitions and grammatical uses. You don't read it from cover to cover. You look up specific words and move on.

The almanac lists achievements and facts. There is no in depth information, just the bare facts.

Encyclopedias are short explanations of different topics. There is not detail, but enough to understand the topics a little better.

If you are looking for more detailed accounts, you'll need to look into the other sub-genres that house millions of books with detailed information.

Biography

These are the stories about people told by others. If I wrote a book about the life of Whitney Houston, that would be a biography. If I wrote a book about the music industry that included Houston, than it would not be a biography. Biographies are about a person's life. They can be dead or still alive. The key is that it is about them, only them, and written by someone else.


Autobiography

An autobiography is another book written about someone's life but written by themselves. If I wrote about my childhood in the South, it would be my autobiography. If my sister wrote about me after I became famous, it would be a biography.

These stories have to be about yourself, and you don't have to be famous to write one. As long as you make it about your life.

Essay

An essay is a short piece that focuses on arguing or analyzing a particular subject. It is not a review or a book report. The purpose of an essay is to explore angles of a topic and present a solid argument. Typically, these are published in book format as a collection of either one author or a group of author on a common theme. One essay would be anywhere from two to ten pages long on average which doesn't make publishing profitable.

History

This is pretty self-explanatory. These books are about historical topics. It could be on anything as long as it was in the past at least one decade ago. People? Yes. It could cross over into being a biography, but you'll find quite a few books that cross into different genres. They can be found in either one at the library or bookstore. If you can't find the one you are searching for, you can ask where they decided to categorize it.

These books can be on events, cultures, or anything that is not happening today. I have seen books on the history of technology or improvements in society. There is the history of food, people, places, and animals. Everything has a history.

Literary Criticism

This is a unique category who few know about or would even enjoy. This is a category of going beyond enjoying the written word. It is a detailed examination of the written word.Literary criticism basically takes a piece of literature and looks through various lens to see how it is displayed to the reader. One piece of literature can be looked at through a feminist lens or a postmodern lens. Each lens looks for certain characteristics within the story. Literary criticism is the genre that dissects each work and looks at the different perspectives.

This genre can be fun is you like to analysis literature. If you just like to read for enjoyment, it might not be the first genre you turn to.

Memoir

Technically, a memoir is an autobiography, but it has unique characteristics. It is not a person's whole life. It focuses on part of it. If John Smith was President of the United States for four years, his book talking about just that part of his life would be a memoir. If the book started with his childhood and continued through his life and past that of his time in office, that would be an autobiography.

Self-Help

This is another popular non-fiction genre. These are books that help people through various struggles in life. It is where you go to seek help on the physical level, mental, emotional, and just to improve your over all life. If you want to find help regarding depression, coping with a disease, dealing with rebellious teenagers, or to find meaning in life, you would go to this genre.

Other

There are many other types of non-fiction books. There are travel books, textbooks, and even scientific journals. If it is based on fact, it is a non-fiction book. What kind do you like to read?

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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 7 days ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for the explanations. With this type of knowledge, we speak and write more accurately.