Fiction or nonfiction? Twitter reading poll results

The results are in on my small Twitter poll. Eighty-seven percent of those who responded on Twitter prefer fiction over nonfiction. And I had six write-ins on my blog. One for fiction, one for nonfiction and four readers who say it’s kind of even.

Despite these results, I feel as if readers are reading more nonfiction than ever. I’ve always preferred fiction over nonfiction, but I’m reading more nonfiction than I ever did in the past.

Here are some recommended nonfiction books I’ve read since I started my blog.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – I wasn’t sure I would enjoy reading this, but I was happily surprised to find Franklin’s memoir a remarkable and amusing record of time in America during the mid- to late 1700s. I also enjoyed refreshing my memory about the colonies before the American Revolution and the steps that led to independence.

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. – Dedman was intrigued by two vacant but fully maintained mansions and two large apartments on Fifth Avenue in New York, owned by reclusive heiress, Huguette Clark. Clark, by choice, spent the last twenty years of her life in a hospital bed and gave away large amounts of money to her caretakers and advisers. When she died at age 104, who was to inherit her $300 million fortune?

Helen Keller – The Story of My Life – If you grew up in the United States, you very likely learned about Helen Keller in school.  She was an American girl from Alabama who lost her sight and hearing as a baby and determinedly overcame these obstacles to become a writer, a social activist and an advocate for the blind and deaf.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Many believe that Truman Capote was the pioneer of the nonfiction novel genre. In a 1966 New York Times interview with George Plimpton, Capote explains his decision to write a book about the brutal 1959 murder of a Kansas family: “The motivating factor in my choice of material—that is, choosing to write a true account of an actual murder case—was altogether literary. The decision was based on a theory I’ve harbored since I first began to write professionally, which is well over 20 years ago. It seemed to me that journalism, reportage, could be forced to yield a serious new art form: the ‘nonfiction novel,’ as I thought of it.”

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – Here’s a book I resisted reading because there was so much hype that I took a step back. I also avoided it because I am not a science person. But then my book club chose Lab Girl and I committed to reading it. So, wow. This book was excellent. Jahren writes beautifully about her lonely childhood in Minnesota, college life and early years trying to make it as a scientist.

Night by Elie Wiesel – I had read other books about the Holocaust, but never Night, Elie Wiesel’s memoir about being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War II. The New York Times calls it “a slim volume of terrifying power” and I couldn’t agree more. In 1944, Wiesel was deported by the Germans from his town of Sighet, Transylvania and sent by cattle train to Auschwitz and later Buchenwald. He was just a teenager. His account of this experience is a horrifying reminder of a terrible period of history.

Notes from a Public Typewriter – edited by Michael Gustafson and Oliver Uberti – Here’s a quick book that is guaranteed to put you in a good mood. It’s about the owners of the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When they set up the store, they put out a typewriter and paper for anyone to use. It wasn’t long before customers began to type random, sometimes whimsical and often heartfelt messages for all to see. Notes is a compilation of these messages.

Have you read any of these?  What are your favorite nonfiction books?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!


36 thoughts on “Fiction or nonfiction? Twitter reading poll results

  1. I don’t read much nonfiction (I should really correct that), but years ago, I read a biography of the Kennedys and it was fascinating. My dad would love that Ben Franklin bio – need to mention that to him.

    1. I am almost always pleasantly surprised by how interesting nonfiction can be. I never thought the Franklin autobiography would be so good, because it was written so long ago. Thanks for reading and commenting, Teri!

  2. An interesting poll and I do agree that more seem to be reading non-fiction – myself included! Sometimes by ‘mistake’ – when I bought ‘Lab Girl’ I didn’t realise it was the author’s story but turned out to be an exemplary book! Funnily enough, my husband only used to read nonfiction and is now reading a lot more fiction!😀 My copy of ‘Notes from a Public Typewriter’ is currently doing the rounds with family and friends – we all love the book!

      1. Yes, I do follow her and she has a lovely blog with fabulous deeply in-depth book reviews! Chatting about Notes makes me want to read it all over again – I’ll have to nab it back from my son!😀

      2. That’s great, Annika. It’s a wonderful blog, as you already know! We only have one copy of Notes in our county-wide library system and it has been making the rounds!

  3. I wish you would read my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” – an account of the other side of WWII, the one nobody talked or wants to talk about, the invasion of the Russians into Germany and the plight of the ordinary people. Ann Victoria Roberts, a bestseller writer, calls it a “Social Document.”
    “Some parts should be read with a stiff drink beside you,” writes Robert Pickles, a history writer, also in the UK. “But it is… a part of history we never heard or learned of and a missing piece of the puzzle of WWII and, if it were not so harrowing, should be required reading in schools and given the same historical, literary importance as The Diary of Anne Frank.”
    Personally, I like historical ‘novels.’ Learning about the past in an entertaining way… I’m into the “Kennedys” right now – after reading about twenty books about both “World Wars” – but in-between ‘heavy’ reading, I like something romantic…

  4. Oh gosh, I’ve got to get my hands on Notes from a Public Typewriter! While in college, I loved real life crime stories…now that I work with it…not so much. 😦

    1. Hi Jill, I bet you would love Notes from a Public Typewriter. My blogging friend, Charley at Books and Bakes recommended it and everyone I’ve told has loved it. Here’s Charley’s blog link, in case you don’t already follow her:
      I know what you mean about real life crime stories – I have to get away from the tough stuff with feel good books like Notes. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jill. It’s Wednesday!

  5. Your results are interesting. I was a diehard fiction reader for many years, but in the last 10 or so, I’ve moved over to non-fiction with biographies being my favourite. I do still read fiction, just not as much (and I work a lot, so pleasure reading only happens when I’m on holidays).

    1. Hi Lynette – thanks for stopping by. Biographies are one of my favorites – I prefer them over memoirs because they are more objective. I don’t know if this is an official genre, but I’ve read some excellent narrative nonfiction history books, a couple by Nathaniel Philbrick.

  6. I think that more and more non-fiction is being written like fiction (less dry – or at least that’s my writing goal!), and with the memoir category being so popular, I would expect the non-fiction readership to be on the rise.

    1. Hi Jennifer. I’m definitely more of a fiction girl, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how interesting nonfiction can be. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  7. Wow, that’s quite a difference in the poll. I prefer fiction, but do read some non-fiction for research but also for entertainment. I LOVE anything by Mary Roach (“Stiff” might be my favorite)…her dark humor is right up my alley. Also, Mike Massimo’s biography “Spaceman” was way better than I expected.

    1. Same here, Robbie. Nonfiction has a lot more appeal to me than it used to. I think that’s partly because I’m older, but also because the genre is much more readable. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. Some great choices here, Barb. Empty Mansions was fascinating and disturbing so so many levels. Night…that’s a tough read. Those opening words have stayed with me for decades, ever since I first read it. “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp….”

    1. Hi George. Yes, very different books and disturbing in different ways. I was really moved by “Night.” I had not read it until a few years ago. And “Empty Mansions” was a fascinating read. How uncomfortable Huguette must have been around many people. Thanks for the visit!

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