Thursday, November 18, 2010

Literary Blog Hop: Is There Such a Creature as Literary Nonfiction??

Welcome to
this week's Literary Blog Hop
hosted by The Blue Bookcase!

This week's question is:

Is there such a thing as literary nonfiction?
If so, how do you define it?

Yes. Definitely yes. Absolutely yes.
Yes, I believe in literary nonfiction.

For my definition, I will offer the definition
I gave on the very first Literary Blog Hop
for literary writing:

"...thoughtful writing that surprises me,
that leads me places I'd no idea that I needed to go,
with amazing characters and intriguing plots
and beautifully written passages."

I would simply add for literary nonfiction:
"...that is based on true events."

Some of my favorite literary works are literary nonfiction.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
The Last Shot by Darcy Frey
Working by Studs Terkel
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

What do you think? What are your favorites?

P.S. And, please, 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.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly, particularly with In Cold Blood and Working. What a fantastic book. I worked it into a draft post the other day.

  2. I would add Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler's The Crimes of Paris. Part social history, part thriller.

  3. Of the books you list, I've only read The Glass Castle. I'm seeing In Cold Blood all over though, and put it on my wishlist.

    Also, I'm so glad you mentioned the Indie Lit Awards! Why didn't I think of mentioning it on my post?? I really hope that the nominations start to pile up.

  4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks! I've already nominated it for the Independent Literary Awards.

    You have a great list there. I've only read The Glass Castle, but several others are on my list or my shelves.

  5. Great choices. I've been meaning to read Joan Didion, but am afraid I may cry much too much.
    Here's my Literary view...: Coffee and a Book Chick -- Literary Blog Hop...

  6. I like your list! I loved The Glass Castle and have been meaning to read In Cold Blood for ages now. I fear I'll have to add several of your titles to my ever-growing tbr pile!

  7. Great list! I've read everything except The Last Shot, which I just put on hold at the library upon seeing it on your list. I love your definition, especially that you say "needed to go" instead of wanted. That is so true, isn't it?

  8. Now and Then: From Coney Island to Here by Joseph Heller is one of my favorites.

    I did like In Cold Blood, although it was pretty disturbing.

  9. What a perfectly simple definition... I agree entirely. I loved The Glass Castle.... and I really need to put In Cold Blood on my reading list. Thank you for your comments on Bryson... I really did love A Walk in the Woods, and need to read more of his stuff!!

  10. Your post reminds me I should read some Joan Didion. She's one of those writers who's been taunting me from the shelves.

  11. An interesting question.

    I will have to findout if Balthazar Jones And The Tower Of London Zoo was published this year. If so it certainly has my vote.

  12. I gonna add some of those to my TOO LONG tbr pile!

    Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

  13. Wow, I just spotted Adam Gopnik in your list. He's the guy who provided the new translation of 'Le Grand Meulnes' that I thoroughly enjoyed. I'll be checking him out for sure!

  14. Joan Didion and Truman Capote are great choices!

  15. I loved Paris to the Moon, especially the memorable description of the Bibliotheque Nationale: "It seems to have been designed by a committee made up of Michel Foucault, Jacques Tati and the production designer of 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E'"
    Traveling Mercies is also a favorite.

  16. In cold blood, appears to be very popular and that has got me interested, thanks for your write up.

  17. An inspiring list. I wish I had more hours in a day!

  18. I would agree with your definition and your choices, all wonderful books.

  19. I enjoyed both the first and the last on your list, and am possibly the only person in the world that did not like The Glass Castle. Paris to the Moon is waiting patiently in my tbr pile...

  20. I'm so happy to see so many mentions of In Cold Blood! Love it!

  21. There are so many books that I don't even think of as non-fiction! The Glass Castle is one of them. But now that you mention it, yes, it's non-fiction. And very well-written. :-)
    Leeswammes (Judith)

  22. I like the way you say "it is based on true events". In my opinion, the distinction between fiction and non-fiction is not that clearly delineated. Most fiction is often, even if only loosely, based on reality/true events and non-fiction is always to a certain extent fictionalised...

  23. "...thoughtful writing that surprises me,
    that leads me places I'd no idea that I needed to go,
    with amazing characters and intriguing plots
    and beautifully written passages."
    To which I will add a quote from Steven Millhauser
    “I’m fanatically reluctant to say that fiction ought to do one thing rather than another. I do know what I want from fiction. I want it to exhilarate me, to unbind my eyes, to murder & resurrect me, to harm me in some fruitful way. But that said, yes, the journey into intense feeling & the conquest of unknown emotional territory is something fiction can make possible.”
    and like your original quote that was referring to literary fiction,this quote vfrom Steven Millhauser easily translates to non fiction with the same proviso..."that it is based on true events."

  24. YES! I'm glad someone mentioned The Year of Magical Thinking!! Brilliant writing.

  25. I like your addition of "...that is based on true events" to your literary fiction definition. Thanks for the read suggestions! :-)

  26. I love your definition-with and without the addendum. I've heard so many good things about The Year of Magical Thinking-I'm going to have to see if it's available on Goodreads.

  27. I think your term ‘literary nonfiction’ is what I call ‘creative fiction’. I’m writing a biography of the life of early man (Homo habilis and Homo erectus) which is based on fact, but uses the precepts of fiction (plot, characters, setting, etc) to make it appealing. For a history buff like me, this is an appealing way to write.

  28. ohh both sound great! Rhiannon Ryder!

  29. Of the books you suggest, I've only read In Cold Blood but I'm interested in most of these, especially LaMott and Didion. I enjoyed your post and checked out the Independent Literary Awards site you mentioned. Coming up with a single literary nomination may be too difficult for me but I'll choose something.


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