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Six Resources for Finding Great Nonfiction

nonfiction resources

It’s no secret that I love to make book lists… sometimes even more than I love reading books on those book lists. Today I wanted to share some of the places I go to get ideas for my book lists as as well as where I look for recommendations for new, excellent nonfiction. None of these are foolproof, but they definitely can provide some ideas for books to look into further.

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalists

Book awards lists can be pretty hit and miss, but over the years I’ve discovered a couple of award categories that reliably select books that are in my wheelhouse. One is the Pulitzer Prize General Nonfiction list, which tends to award books with excellent reporting and strong writing. The National Book Award also, generally, has an interesting shortlist for nonfiction. I’m sure there are others, but these are the two I tend to gravitate towards most.

New Nonfiction from Citizen Reader

In February, Sarah at Citizen Reader started a weekly series called New Nonfiction where she lists upcoming titles with brief commentary on each one. Since I’m not always up on what is coming out right now, this list is often a good reminder of books I had on my radar or books I want to look into further.

Real Stories series from ABC-CLIO

Another resource that Sarah helped turn me on to is the Real Stories series. This is a series of reference books designed primarily for librarian’s doing reader’s advisory that offer a wealth of nonfiction suggestions based on reading tastes. There are offerings in Women’s Nonfiction, Investigative Writing, Biographies, Memoirs, Travel, and Food Lit. I’ve used Going Places, the book in the series on travel writing, quite a bit in my nonfiction research. These are a little more difficult to find (and probably too expensive for a personal collection), but might be available at your local library if you don’t mind quizzing a librarian.

New Books! from Book Riot

New Books! is a weekly newsletter of book recommendations curated by Liberty Hardy. Liberty reads a ton — reading truly is her super power — so there are always a variety of books to check out (both fiction and nonfiction). Liberty and Rebecca Joines Schinsky also host a weekly podcast on new books — All the Books! — but I haven’t listened to it much yet.

Specific Publishing Houses and Imprints

There are also some publishing houses and imprints — departments with a specific mission of focus — that I look at for great nonfiction. Some of my favorites that do almost exclusively nonfiction are part of the Perseus Books GroupBasic BooksPublicAffairs and Nation Books. Graywolf Press, a Minnesota publisher, does an annual Nonfiction Prize — I’ve loved many of the past winners. Other publishers that I’ve seen great, readable nonfiction from include Harper, Picador, Riverhead and Spiegel and Grau. But those are huge houses. If you find a book that really speaks to you, check the publisher and then visit their backlist — you’ll likely find similar books worth checking out.

Books About Books

I’m a sucker for books about books. I love reading them, and I love gathering potential new books to read from their recommendations. A couple that I’ve been getting ideas from recently are Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores and (more specifically for nonfiction) The Mother of All Book Lists by William Patrick Martin. My local librarian pointed this one out to me because she knows I love nonfiction — I love that it includes recommendations for all ages.

What are some of your favorite resources for finding new books, specifically new nonfiction?

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest via Flickr Creative Commons.

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  • Michelle August 18, 2015, 8:33 am

    Oddly enough, I tend to get my nonfiction picks from NPR of all places. They seem to do a great job of selecting books about topics that pique my interest and then sell it to me as something I must read. In fact, nonfiction picks are the one genre I get mostly from media outlets – NPR, CBS Sunday Morning, and the like. I don’t even watch that much TV, so now I am wondering how this happened and why this is. Oh well! It works for me!

    • Shaina August 18, 2015, 9:43 am

      I always find out about great new things on Fresh Air!

    • Kim August 23, 2015, 4:47 pm

      I like NPR too — when I hear an interview with an interesting author, I tend to go look for their book (if I end up hearing the title, sometimes I miss it!). I like NYT editorials for finding interesting books too.

  • Shaina August 18, 2015, 9:34 am

    This is a great list of resources! I love Liberty’s Tuesday morning email. 🙂

    As for me, I actually tend to find new nonfiction in the endnotes/bibliographies of nonfiction I’m already reading! I read (and loved) Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari this year, and now I really want to grab In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté, one of the doctors Hari interviewed/followed. Good reporting in my nonfic is a must, and if I really enjoy the book, I almost always walk away from it with another pick from its index.

    • jenn aka the picky girl August 18, 2015, 9:53 am

      This is me too. It’s so helpful when you’re interested in a specific subject.

    • Shaina August 18, 2015, 10:40 am

      Oh, and I forgot to say that I think I like making lists of books more than reading them, too! It’s a problem.

      • Kim August 23, 2015, 4:48 pm

        That’s a great way of digging down into a topic. And yes, making lists is almost more fun than reading 🙂 Almost.

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes August 18, 2015, 9:41 am

    I mainly get my non-fiction recommendations from social media, but that’s not a very good way to actually LOOK for recommendations. I also like to look at the catalogs of the publishers who put out my favorite non-fiction reads. Great recommendations!

  • TJ @ MyBookStrings August 18, 2015, 9:48 am

    I like the sound of The Mother of All Book Lists. I have to check my library catalog for that one. I like to read through the non-fiction recommendations from The Kirkus Review; there are usually a few that catch my eye.

  • Lindsey August 18, 2015, 2:11 pm

    What a great list! I get some titles from Book Riot too, but I think I get most of my book choices from other bloggers.

  • susan August 18, 2015, 9:23 pm

    I guess I search Amazon for what’s coming out & Publisher’s Weekly and then I figure out which ones I think I’ll like or will be good based on pre-reviews.

  • Sarah Cords August 19, 2015, 9:43 am

    Hey Kim!
    Thanks for the very nice shout-out! As well as the very handy list (I’ve been enjoying the comments, too) for finding nonfiction titles.
    I feel I have to mention the Reader’s Advisor Online site as well–each Monday morning we post a run-down of the week’s reading news and title trends: http://www.readersadvisoronline.com/
    Full disclaimer, I write for them too, and it’s published by the same company that publishes the series of reference books (the Real Stories series) that you wrote about.

    • Kim August 23, 2015, 4:49 pm

      Thanks for the extra mention Sarah! I’ve checked there a few times but it’s not part of my regular rotation just yet.

  • Jenny @ Reading the End August 19, 2015, 7:34 pm

    Lots of good resources! I never feel that I have a reliable source of recommendations for good nonfiction apart from, of course, you! But I do get plenty of recommendations from publishers’ catalogs, for sure. Beacon Press is another one that I frequently return to, as they do a lot of publishing in areas of social justice, which is always interesting to me.

  • Beth F August 20, 2015, 6:33 am

    I like the Jewish Book Council as a resource. And of course all the usually print and online sources (newspapers, industry magazines, etc.)

  • Sheila Book Journey August 21, 2015, 1:30 pm

    I love books about books too! Thanks for ideas for finding non fiction! I usually just count on you to do that for me! 😉

  • Jackie August 23, 2015, 6:08 pm

    Ah! This is such an awesome resource! I love reading non-fiction, but I do have a tendency to stick to authors I love (Bill Bryson!) and subject matter that is familiar with me– travel and history mostly. I’m excited to browse through these to see if I can discover something I never would have thought to pick up. Thanks!

  • Valerie August 24, 2015, 9:44 pm

    I often have a hard time picking out nonfiction books, because I’m afraid that I won’t understand some of the terminology if it isn’t well written. But this list helps a lot! I didn’t even think to look at books that won prizes!

  • Jennine G. August 25, 2015, 5:29 pm

    hmmm, I already have a source for nonfiction…you and Doing Dewey! Hahaha! My nonfiction list has more TBRs than ever before thanks to you ladies.