Nonfiction Genre Primer

By Lynn Ann Lobash, Associate Director, Readers Services and Engagement
June 27, 2018

Nonfiction is the broadest category of literature. Essentially, anything that is not fiction, poetry, or drama lives in the nonfiction section. These books range widely from memoir to history to how-to. The following post is a short introduction to the primary categories within nonfiction.  


Books written by executives, entrepreneurs, journalists, and academics about everything related to business. Some categories include: small business, corporations, tech companies, startups, marketing, productivity, efficiency, success, failure, and advice.  

The Innovator's Dilemma
Steve Jobs
Let My People Go Surfing
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Lean In

Food & Travel

Food writing focuses on the topic of food, both widely and narrowly, and includes work by food critics and food historians. Travel literature encompasses outdoor literature, guide books, nature writing, and travel memoirs.  Sometimes the food and travel are combined in one book.

The Omnivore's Dilemma
My Life In France
No Reservations
A Fork In the Road
Grape, Olive, Pig



History writing focuses on historical events, people, and socially significant phenomena in the history of society. Subcategories include: United States, African American, War and Military, and Europe.

A People's History of the United States
Parting the Waters
Band of Brothers
No Simple Victory

Memoirs & Biography

A memoir is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public and private, that take place in a subject’s life.

A biography is detailed description of a life (belonging to someone other than the author.) Popular categories include: historical figures, arts and culture, relationships, sports, business, and politics.

The Liar's Club
A Long Way Gone
just kids
Alexander Hamilton
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Science & Nature

Science and nature writing includes: environmental issues, animal studies, medicine, biology and chemistry, engineering, math, and physics.

The Sixth Extinction
The Gene
Why Time Flies
The Evolution of Beauty
I Contain Multitudes

Society & Culture

Society & Culture writing is concerned with race, class, gender, education, violence and crime, and immigration.

The Color of Law
White Trash
We Should All Be Feminists
The Morning They Came For Us

True Crime

The true crime genre includes: historic crime, cold cases and unsolved mysteries, organized crime and gangs.

In Cold Blood
Blood Will Out
The Devil In the White City
Killers of the Flower Moon

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!