Getting the Most from Nonfiction Readers

Here’s a scenario I’ve seen in two book groups in which I’ve participated: Most of the members are dedicated fiction readers, but a few nonfiction fanatics have slipped into the mix, perhaps starting to attend with a spouse or joining the group because they couldn’t find the kind of group that they really wanted. In my experience, these readers will often go quietly along with the majority’s fiction selections for a few months, then begin agitating for nonfiction choices.

Sound familiar? If your group is fine with selecting the occasional nonfiction choice, there’s no problem, but some groups are not happy with the mix. The fiction/nonfiction fracture can expand into a battle, with negative feelings and snarky comments that undermine the group choices before books are given an honest chance.

Here’s a better solution: put your nonfiction reader to work  as a researcher for your fiction choices. If they would prefer to read nonfiction, then ask them to look for biographies of the author, history or geography books that provide insight on the setting of the novel or time and conditions in which it was written, or other works on which they can report at the meeting to add depth to discussion of the fiction. It’s a clever way to turn what can become a long term problem into a better book group.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

1 Comment on "Getting the Most from Nonfiction Readers"

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  1. grantwriter119@gmail.com' Katie Rickert says:

    We had the same issue with fiction vs non fiction readers. For a non fiction book that reads like fiction and is so powerful it takes your breath away, I’d recommend: http://www.amazon.com/My-Mother-Killed-Christ-Anyway/dp/0615438091/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309798624&sr=8-1. Our group loved it. This book has the best writing I’ve read in twenty years. I think this will please all members of your group.

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