You don’t need to be a genius to know what a nonfiction book is – it’s a how-to book or guide about a topic. And I’m guessing, it’s not going to be a big surprise that readers want to read nonfiction books because they want to learn something new, or improve upon a skill or life situation – quickly and easily.
What’s not so blindingly obvious is that there are 4 types of nonfiction book you can choose from
Have a look at which style will be easiest for you to use for your book.
Expository is the type of nonfiction book you’ll be most familiar with. It’s primary purpose is to educate, in a concise and engaging way.
It is a purely factual, often process-based writing style, also known as technical writing.
These books are written to transfer knowledge quickly and effectively from the author (the expert), to the reader (the student). Examples would be encyclopaedias, field guides, how to books and training manuals.
Narrative nonfiction is written to entertain and educate. The author still shares valuable information but uses literary storytelling techniques like plot, setting, characterisation, metaphor and dialogue to aid understanding.
If you’re as keen as a trapeze artist to do a balancing act, getting the balance right between entertainment and education will be a good test for you.
Examples of books where this style is used 100% throughout tend to be histories and autobiographies.
You can include story based case studies and examples to blend in some narrative elements, without going the whole hog. Take a look at “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It”, where the author uses dialogue between the business coach and the business owner to teach his material.
John Warrillow’s “Built to sell” is another example, where he uses a story throughout to explain how to make a business attractive to buyers.
Persuasive nonfiction presents reasons and evidence to convince the reader to act or think in a certain way. These books put forward an argument to support a viewpoint. Unbiased persuasive writing will typically explain a “for” and “against” argument or position and include a conclusion where the author sums up their evidence that explains their own position.
Examples include philosophy and politics. It is also common in self-help and personal development books that encourage the reader to take on beneficial perspectives and behaviours that will improve their quality of life.
A good example of this would be Robin Sharma’s “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.” where the narrator uses story and metaphor to show the reader a different path they could take through life.
Descriptive nonfiction works by sharing precise details, using all five senses, to help the reader form a picture in their own mind. Descriptive writing is also used to paint pictures of the feelings the author feels about a specific person, place, object or principle. Examples of this sort of writing are often found in travelogues and biographies.