What Are the Different Types of Nonfiction?

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  • Written By: Lauren Romano
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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There are dozens of types of nonfiction that range from a single page document to a film. Several characteristics categorize these works as nonfiction rather than fiction. While some categories nonfiction are widely known, such as a textbook, an encyclopedia and a dictionary, there are others that some may not realize fit under the nonfiction category. Each are categorized under four main forms and are used almost everywhere from learning institutions to medical offices.

The four main forms of nonfiction are expository, descriptive, persuasive and narrative. An example of expository nonfiction is a research report; it provides specific details to the reader. As its name suggests, descriptive nonfiction describes something to the reader in a way that paints a picture with words. A work of narrative nonfiction is what many are likely familiar with — a memoir, for example — as it explains details of true events. Persuasive nonfiction has the job of persuading others about a particular idea.

Some documents considered as nonfiction include a letter, a blueprint and a list. Although many think of nonfiction as a form of literature, it's not just the written word that falls under this category. A photograph is also considered a work of nonfiction. Considering a documentary film reports the true circumstances and facts of a particular person, place, event or thing, it's also considered nonfiction.


The various types of nonfiction are based on reality, truth and facts. Unlike fiction, the work portrays real ideas and true experiences. The reason is obvious for the piece, for example, a speech that is written with the intention of conveying the speaker's thoughts and particular ideas.

Some of the most familiar types of nonfiction include autobiography and biography. Items often found in educational facilities, such as dictionaries, book reports, encyclopedias and textbooks, are other popular varieties of nonfiction. There are some who are authors of nonfiction on a daily basis without realizing it — journals and diaries fall under this category.

Nonfiction is found almost everywhere from doctor's offices to travel agencies and libraries to research institutes. It helps educate people on world events, items, individuals, places and cultures. The various types of nonfiction are useful for anyone of any age, especially when it pertains to learning new information. When someone makes a decision based on facts, it's typically due to some form of nonfiction material.


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Post 3

@Fa5t3r - I think it was the travel memoir that really got the ball rolling on popular nonfiction titles. Between Bill Bryson, Elizabeth Gilbert and Frances Mays they got the attention of the majority of book readers (and movie goers).

Although, to be honest, I'm not sure that travel memoirs should even be considered to be nonfiction books, as they always seem to be constructions of real events and fiction encounters (that might have happened, but in reality didn't occur).

Which is not to say that I don't like travel memoirs. I actually prefer them to reading guidebooks, because they almost always have more detail, even if it isn't always the most useful details.

Post 2

@MrsPramm - I'm just glad that creative nonfiction is becoming so popular these days, to the point where it can really give best-selling fiction titles a run for their money.

It used to be that you would have to write about a scandal or reveal something controversial in order to really sell large numbers of nonfiction but these days people read them for pleasure rather than just for information and I think that's great.

Not that I have anything against fiction, but there are so many interesting stories in the world that have yet to be told and I'm glad that popular nonfiction isn't limited to books on sports and recipes the way it used to be.

Post 1

It's kind of interesting that nonfiction is classified by what it isn't (namely, fiction) rather than by a term that stands alone. You would think it would be the other way around, with fiction being called non-truth or some variation like that.

I guess there are so many individual types of nonfiction that it's just a banner word to put them all under. You wouldn't usually want to lump a book on rock music in the same category as a dictionary or a bible after all.

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