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Novels Aren't All There Is

Novels Aren’t All There Is

I’m not putting the knock on novels. I’ve written a few myself. But why do so many people—authors and readers alike—treat nonfiction and its writers like the ugly stepsister?

For too many readers, nonfiction is what you buy when you need information on a particular topic. Novels are what you buy when you want to enjoy yourself. and relax.


My leisure reading is almost entirely nonfiction. Yes, some of it is informative or instructive on a particular useful topic, but most of it is just entertaining. Nonfiction covers a wide swath of territory. There are biographies, books about cooking (you can’t call them “cookbooks” if they contain few or no recipes, only information) or about food, slice-of-life books and books of true-life vignettes, books on such subjects as death and sex (have you read anything by Mary Roach? She has an unfortunate last name but is a wonderful author), books of humor, books about family life, books about animals, books about history and politics…whew!…I still haven’t begun to cover the gamut.

But so many people think only novels are entertaining…and they are so wrong!

And so many other people, on hearing that someone is an author, will automatically assume that writer is a novelist.

Even some authors I’ve met operate on the assumption that novels and novel-writers are superior, and nonfiction and those of us who write it are way back in second place.

ThumbTack, a service that connects professionals in many fields and industries with individuals looking for their services, seems to refer to all books as “novels.” All too often I see potential clients say they need editing of a “nonfiction novel”! I finally corrected one of these people—if it’s a novel, it’s not nonfic, and if it’s nonfic, it’s not a novel—but this person told me it was on the ThumbTack template, not the person’s own choice of words.

It seems to me that, overall, nonfiction and we writers who author it are getting the short end of the stick. Stop dissing nonfiction!

It is not the ugly stepsister!

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