Friday, 22 April 2016

Fancy getting drunk on a new eBook?

If you've been thinking that our eBooks have been a little to "dry" for your liking, why not take a look at this one:

Gin: A Global History, by Lesley Jacobs Solmonson.

Terrible puns aside, this book is an entertaining and informative look at the history of one of the western world's best known alcoholic beverages.

Whether you are a fan of gin, or simply interested in the history of food and it's place in culture, this book will give you a pleasant diversion from the hard-reading academic books you may be wading through for your assignments.

As you may have gathered from the above two paragraphs, this is not a scholarly textbook.  This book belongs in a genre known as creative nonfiction (or literary nonfiction, or narrative nonfiction, or a number of other things - the genre is still young, so the terminology is flexible).

Creative nonfiction is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of writing, with many best sellers over the past couple of decades belonging to this category.  This is the genre in which you find works like Notes from a Small Island and A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson; or The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks; or Me Talk Pretty One Day and Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris.

There is a lot of variety within creative nonfiction.  The author might tell you the story of their bicycle tour from England to Hong Kong, or what happened in a country during a particular year, or how birds see the world, or the history of invented languages...

Or, they might tell you about that bottle of gin your grandmother has in her liquor cabinet.

Do you have a favourite creative nonfiction book?


Anonymous said...

I am uneasy with the term 'creative non-fiction'. Writing non-fiction is a creative pursuit and all the forms listed already have well established categories: travel writing, natural history writing, popular history, popular science. Adding 'creative' to 'non-fiction' ignores the creativity already present in any significant piece of writing and might serve to excuse lapses from accuracy. In my view this book could be categorised as history, or popular history. Using the term 'creative non-fiction' suggests it might be historical fiction, something quite different.

Sharon B said...

You'll have to take that up with a whole raft of academics and publishers, I'm afraid. The terms "Creative Non-fiction" and "Narrative Non-fiction" have been used (interchangeably) as umbrella terms for writing non-fiction of an entertaining (rather than purely academic or informative) nature for a couple of decades now.

You're thinking about it as if it belongs in the same camp as subgrenres such as "science fiction" and "true crime". It's more a term for a Genre at a bigger level.

To put it into perspective, "travel writing" is to creative non-fiction as "historical romance" is to novels.

In creative writing books and courses, you'll sometimes see creative/narrative non-fiction referred to as the "fourth genre", with novels and short stories taking up two of the other three slots, and poetry and plays vying for the other position. It's really just a way to accept that works of writing about actual events can be as entertaining and gripping as a well-written work of fiction, and it covers things like essays, feature articles and memoirs.

We have some good resources about the genre, if anyone is interested in learning more: