Types of Nonfiction (for You to Consider Writing)

Nonfiction is a literary genre that presents facts or information on any topic. There are many types of nonfiction: memoirs, biographies, journalism, textbooks and reference books. But all nonfictions share a similar goal: to provide information about something (usually in a factual way).

Nonfiction is a broad genre, but it’s usually defined as any piece of writing that is based in fact rather than fiction. For example, if you write about how to make apple pie or how to change the oil in your car, those are both nonfiction because they’re about real things. But if you were to write about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — where magic actually happens — that would be fiction because wizards and witches aren’t real people (at least not yet).

So what types of nonfiction are there? There are more than 30 nonfiction genres, and thousands of subgenres within those categories! In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common types. Keep in mind that these aren’t hard or fast rules — people often blur genre lines to create something new and interesting.

1. Autobiography: you’re writing about yourself

Autobiography is a nonfiction work that details your own life story. It can be written from any age and from any point-of-view (first person or third person).

Writing an autobiography is a great way for you to reflect on your past and look at it from new perspectives. It’s also a great opportunity for self-discovery, as well as an opportunity to teach others something about yourself and how they can grow through similar experiences they may face in their own lives.

Anyone can write an autobiography, but it’s most effective when the author is famous or has had a particularly noteworthy experience to share with the world. If you don’t fall into either category, then perhaps you should wait until later in life before writing your memoirs—you’ll have more interesting material to draw on then!

2. Biography: you write about someone else’s life, true or not

Biographical writing is a type of nonfiction that tells the life story of an individual.

Biographies can be based on research, interviews, personal experience, or a combination of these things. They are not necessarily true but they should be as accurate as possible.

Biography is the study of a person’s life. It involves more than just the facts of a person’s life. It also studies how a person’s actions and behavior have influenced other people and events throughout history. Biographers often attempt to give an account of the subject’s life that is as complete as possible.

Biographies are usually written by people who are not only familiar with their subjects, but who have intimate knowledge of the details of their lives. Biographers often interview their subjects, collect letters and other personal documents, and review all available records before writing. This research can take years, but it is essential in order to produce a complete biography. The biographer must also be able to present the facts in an interesting way so that readers will want to read it.

3. Memoir: part of your life story

Memoirs are a type of nonfiction that tells the story of your own life, so you have a lot of freedom in what you can write about. Maybe you’re interested in writing about your childhood, or maybe it’s something more recent. There are no rules for memoirs — they can be long or short, they can cover one event or a series of events, and they should be universal enough that readers can relate to them.

Memoir writing is an excellent way to share your personal experiences with others while providing them with inspiration, hope or laughter at the same time!

Memoirs are a literary genre, but they’re also an art form. It’s easy to write about your life. The difficult part is making it interesting and telling it in a way that brings people along with you on your journey.

Memoirs are often written by famous people, but they don’t have to be. Memoirs can be written by anyone who has lived an interesting life, has had unique experiences, or has overcome a significant obstacle.

For many people, writing memoirs is therapeutic. It allows them to relive past events and emotions while working through their feelings about them. It’s also an opportunity to give others insight into what it was like growing up in a particular generation or living under certain circumstances or constraints. It can help others understand what made you who you are today, which can be extremely helpful for those who are trying to overcome similar obstacles in their own lives.

4. Literary Journalism: narrative nonfiction stories (true), but with a literary flair

Literary journalism is a fancy term for true stories that are written in the style of fiction. You can think of it as nonfiction writing with a literary flair. This genre encompasses everything from memoirs to magazine features to investigative reporting — but all will be written in a way that’s accessible and engaging, even if the subject matter itself isn’t necessarily exciting.

This kind of writing allows you to tell your story in your own words, but with the added benefit of being able to use language more creatively than you might be able to do otherwise. As long as you have an interesting story and know how to tell it well, this could be an excellent option for your next piece!

5. Travel Writing: basically the same as literary journalism, but you have to go somewhere new

Travel writing is about the same as literary journalism, but you have to go someplace new. People like reading about your travel experiences because it makes them feel good about their own lives and gives them something to aspire to in terms of adventure and intrigue. It’s also a great way for writers who are just starting out to get their feet wet with some writing practice, so definitely consider adding this kind of nonfiction to your repertoire.

The key thing to keep in mind while traveling is that there should be some sort of story here — not only do readers want details about what happened when you were away from home (e.g., “I was really tired on day three”), but they also want reasons why those things happened (e.g., “because I didn’t get enough sleep”). So don’t just narrate events; think about why each event was important enough for inclusion in your piece (i.e., what did these incidents tell us about yourself as an individual?).

6. The Personal Essay/Narrative Nonfiction: like fiction, but based on truth

Personal essays are a form of narrative nonfiction. You can write about yourself, or you can write about a person or event that has influenced your life in some way.

Why would you want to write a personal essay? Maybe you have something to say that has never been written before and you’ve experienced something special enough for others to read about it. Perhaps there’s an experience from your past that still haunts you today and could be helpful for other people going through similar struggles. Or perhaps there’s an important lesson learned during one event in particular, which may be applicable on a larger scale if shared with others.

You can also choose to write based on specific memories that were significant throughout your life — such as visiting the Grand Canyon as a child — or even just one memorable day at school when everything just seemed right with the world! The possibilities are endless!

7. Analytical/Academic Essay: in-depth analysis on a very particular subject

The academic essay is a type of nonfiction writing that is used in school, college and university for many purposes. The main purpose of writing an academic essay is to show what you have learned or researched about a topic. This type of writing is usually done in the form of an argumentative or persuasive essay where you will try to convince the reader of your point of view.

Academic essays are typically longer and more in-depth than other essay types. They require you to make a complex argument, provide evidence to support that argument, and back up your claims with historical facts and/or scholarly research. The goal of an academic essay is not to entertain but rather to educate the reader on the topic being discussed.

Academic essays should be logical and organized, using an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Introduction summarises the main points of your argument (thesis statement); a body section is where you develop these points; and a conclusion brings the discussion back to your thesis statement.

There are two main ways to write an academic essay:

  • Argumentative Essay – this type of essay argues a case for or against something (a policy, theory etc.)
  • Descriptive Essay – this type of essay describes something in detail

8. Critical Essay/Reviews: commentary on a particular subject or event

A critical essay is a written analysis on a particular topic or event. It can be an original argument, or it can be a review of someone else’s work (book, movie, art, music, etc.).

A critical essay is not merely a summary of a work; it presents an in-depth analysis of the work’s features and evaluates them from various perspectives.

Critical essays typically include an introduction that clearly lays out the author’s thesis (or main point), followed by supporting paragraphs that explain why this thesis is true.

The main purpose of a critical essay is to critique: that is, to analyze and evaluate something from all sides in order to form an opinion about it. In other words, it’s not enough for you just to say “I liked this book” or “I didn’t like this book.” You have to explain exactly what about the book makes you feel one way or another about it. So when writing your own critical essay, set up your argument with some research on the topic at hand; then follow up with arguments from both sides.

Do some research on your subject matter by reading books or articles related to it — or even talking with experts in the field! This will help you understand different perspectives so that when writing your essay/review, you have enough information available for analysis and critique at hand rather than just saying “this happened” without explaining why it was significant (which isn’t very helpful).

9. Self-help and Instruction

Self-help and instructional writing is a broad nonfiction category that includes everything from books on how to build birdhouses, to self-improvement guides like The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Self-help is slightly different than instruction, in that it’s more often written by an expert in a field — think Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra. Self-help books can be helpful to anyone who needs advice on personal growth, money management, relationship issues, or other topics.

Instructional writing, on the other hand, is usually aimed at teaching skills or knowledge that can be applied in real life. Instructional books teach skills such as how to draw or paint, how to play an instrument or how to speak another language. Instructional books also teach technical skills such as how to use software programs or operate machinery safely.

For example: How To Make Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie is considered self-help because it’s written by an expert who has mastered the art of being influential. On the other hand, How To Build A Birdhouse by Hand would be considered instructional because it teaches you how to do something specific (build a birdhouse) rather than how to live your life better.

10. Historical Nonfiction

Historical nonfiction is an opportunity to share your perspective on a particular historical event. You can use a variety of different styles to write this type of nonfiction. For instance, you can write about an event that has occurred in the past and create a narrative around it or you could write an essay on some aspect of history that deals with more than one person or place.

Historical nonfiction is generally based on research and evidence, and is backed by citations, footnotes, and bibliographies. It may be written by a professional historian or by an amateur with no other qualifications than interest in the subject matter. In either case, it involves a lot of research into primary sources, such as letters and diaries.

Examples of historical nonfiction include biographies of famous people from history, military histories of wars, and social histories that focus on important periods in time (such as World War II).

The genre shares elements with other creative non-fiction subgenres such as creative biography, creative memoir, biographical fiction and historical fiction.


Take a look through the list and do some brainstorming — see what types of nonfiction appeal to you. In addition to these nonfiction genres, there is a plethora of others that you could choose from to write your own nonfiction book. Once again, these are not hard and fast rules, so if you’re writing outside of these categories, don’t worry — as long as your book is providing informative content and it’s written with skill and passion (and maybe a bit of luck), it will find readers.

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