The Real Story

A Guide to Nonfiction Reading Interests

by Sarah Statz Cords, Robert Burgin


More than 500 popular nonfiction titles—from true adventure, true crime, and travel narratives to investigative nonfiction, environmental writing, and life stories—are classified, described, and linked to fiction and nonfiction read-alikes.

Print Flyer

March 2006

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 496
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Reference and Information Services and Tools/Readers' Advisory and Leisure Reading
  Reference and Information Services and Tools/Arts and Humanities Literature Reference Tools

Nine of the best-selling books of all time are nonfiction, and countless readers turn to nonfiction when reading for pleasure today. Yet little has been done to classify nonfiction titles according to reading tastes. This is especially true in the library, where subject arrangements geared to information-seeking and scholarly research ignore the important characteristics and appeal features that readers seek out when reading for pleasure. It's no surprise, then, that in recent years, nonfiction readers' advisory has become one of the hottest topics with readers' advisors. This groundbreaking guide offers readers and professionals who work with them a much-needed road map to the vast and previously uncharted (in terms of RA) terrain of recreational nonfiction. After defining the genre (often also referred to as creative nonfiction, verite, or true stories), and discussing its unique characteristics and appeals, the author classifies and describes more than 500 titles popular with nonfiction readers—everything from true adventure, true crime, and travel narratives to investigative nonfiction, environmental writing, and life stories. Focus is on the best titles published within the last decade, with key classics and benchmark titles also cited. Chapters are subdivided into subgenres and popular themes. For each title you'll find a short list of nonfiction read-alikes.


  • Fiction read-alikes are listed for each genre, as well. Appendixes list top political and spiritual writers. Tips and guidelines for nonfiction RA, and information about awards and NF publishers are included. This is an essential resource for all professionals who work with adult readers. It can be used as a reference and readers' advisory guide, collection development tool, or even as a source for book lists and displays. Readers who enjoy nonfiction will also enjoy perusing this book, and browsing through the lively annotations.
Series Description

Genreflecting Advisory Series

Significantly expanded and updated, the titles in this highly acclaimed series are designed to help you quickly locate the kind of fiction your library patrons are looking for. Each title includes the latest reads and reading trends within a genre and identifies subgenres, similar titles, read-alikes, and relevant online resources. Annotations describe and evaluate the best, the most popular, and the most representative books in a genre, noting special features of the works and referencing or comparing them to related publications. Brief historical overviews, award information, section tabs for quick reference, and practical guidelines for advising readers are just some of the features you will find in these useful guides. Designed for easy access, these books are compact enough to be carried into the stacks and simple enough to be used by general readers. Essential for readers' advisory and ready-reference, they are also excellent tools for acquisitions and collection development.
Topic Centers

Foreword by Robert Burgin
Nonfiction Genres
True Adventure
Definition, Appeal, Organization
Survival and Disaster Stories
Sports Adventures
Cons and Card Games
War Stories
Intrigue and Espionage
Historical and Exploration Adventure
Consider Starting With...
Fiction Read-alikes; Further Reading; References List
Definition, Appeal, Organization
Armchair Travel
Foreign Places and Exotic Locales
Journey Narratives
The Expatriate Life
Travel Humor
Literary Travel
Consider Starting With...
Fiction Read-alikes; Further Reading; References List
True Crime
Definition, Appeal, Organization
Committing Crimes
True Horror: Violent Crimes and Criminals
Murder Where You Live: Family and Lover Crimes
Wise Guys: Mafia Crime
Murder's Not the Only Crime
Horrific Historical Crimes
Street and Prison Life
Investigating Crimes
Police Procedurals
Unsolved Mysteries
Courtroom Dramas
Consider Starting With...
Fiction Read-alikes; Further Reading; References List
Environmental Writing
Definition Appeal, Organization
Natural Places
Reflective Environmental Stories
Back to the Land
Animal Stories
Consider Starting With...
Fiction Read-alikes; Further Readings: References List
Nonfiction Subject Interests
Science and Math
Definition, Apeal, Organization
Deep Science (Story and Subject Matter)
Investigative Science
Adventures in Science
History of Science
History of Medicine
Scintists and Science Enthusiasts
Literary Science
Consider Starting With...
Fiction Read-alikes; Further Readings; References List
Definition, Appeal, Organization
Defining Times
History's Darkest Hours
Human Cruelties
Natural Disasters and Disease Epidemics
The Settings of History
Ideal of History
New Perspectives
Secret Histories
Immersion History
Epic History
Historical Biography: Caught in History's Web
Individual Stories
Group Stories
Consider Starting With...
Fiction Read-alikes; Further Readings; References List
Definition, Appeal, Organization
American Presidents and Other Political Leaders
Problem Solvers and Experimenters: Science Biography
The Creative Life; Artists, Entertainers, and Writers
Sports Biographies
Outstanding In Their Fields: Professional Biographies
Change-makers and Activists
Historical Biography
Better Together;"Buddy" and Group Bios
Guilty Pleasures: Celebrities and Superstars
Consider Starting with...
Fiction Read-alikes: Further Readings References List
Memoirs and Autobiography
Definition,s Appeal, Oganization
Coming of Age
Self Discovery:Explrations in Identity
Overcoming Adversity
The Immigrant Experience
Multicultural Experiences
Working Life Memoirs
Foodie Memoir
Humorous Memoir
Fiction Read-alikes; Further Readings; References List
Definition, Appeal, Organization
All in the Family
Challenging Family Stories
Gentle Family Reads
All You Need is Love
With a Little Help from my Friends
Community Life
Consider Starting With...
Fiction Read-alikes; Further Reading
Investigative Writing
Definition, Appeal, Organization
in-depth Reporting
Immersion Journalism
Character Profiles: The People Are the Story
Political Reporting
Business Reporting
Consider Starting With...
Fiction Read-alikes; Further Readings; References List
Making Sense
Definition, Appeal, Organization
of Ourselves and Each Other
Of Our Culture and Society
Of Our Surroundings
Of Our Histories
Consider Starting With...
Fiction Read-alikes; References List
Nonfiction Book Awards
Internet Resources
Political Pundits Overview
Spirituality Writers Overview



"Despite the current popularity of nonfiction with patrons and reading groups, it's all too easy to draw a blank when a borrower asks, What do I read next? Cords, a Madison PL librarian who teaches Reading Interests of Adults at the SLIS, University of Wisconsin, Madison, provides a lifeline to those looking to go beyond fiction in providing readers' advisory services. By dividing her book into a broad spectrum of nonfiction classifications, from travel, crime, and history to life stories, investigative writing, and science and math, Cords effectively breaks down the whole genre into manageable chunks. Her elaboration of each niche goes a long way to explaining nonfiction's appeal and how it differs as well as parallels fiction appeal `actors....Cords's tone is friendly and engaging, offering exactly the kind of help you would hope for from a colleague. Her excellent introduction to nonfiction reader interests will be valued for answering reader queries as well as professional development. Recommended for all public libraries."—Library Journal

"The real story about the book, The Real Story, is that there is not another guide like it available. At a time when there is so much competition for customers, libraries must provide value-added services, like readers' advisory, to remain relevant in their communities....It is a must have guide for all library collections."—Collection Management

"The Real Story is a unique handbook that helps readers' advisors recommend nonfiction titles to library patrons based on their preferred genre, subject, or writing style....While nonfiction's increased popularity is part of a larger media trend toward films based on true stories, documentaries, and reality shows, Cords encourages mixing fiction and nonfiction advisory because readers may enjoy both nonfiction and fiction on the same topic....The Real Story distinguishes itself by being the only non-fiction readers' advisory (RA) book that includes annotated recommended titles, explains each genre's development and appeal, and suggests related fiction titles....Reading The Real Story is an enjoyable learning experience. Knowing the appeal of nonfiction genres, subjects, and styles will help reference librarians immensely and will help their readers discover how exciting well-written nonfiction can be."—Reference & User Services Quarterly

"[T]his is an outstanding work that has taken on the monumental task of bringing some order and understanding to the area of popular nonfiction titles. It has raised the bar to an extremely high level for any other author planning on writing about nonfiction readers' advisory. A must read for any librarian who recommends popular reading titles, it belongs at the reference and readers' advisory desks of most libraries."—Booklist, Starred Review

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