As we enter the last quarter of 2023, it is time to review the ten best books on writing non-fiction published this year. This article analyses these books in-depth, providing you with the tried and tested expertise on writing non-fiction content.
The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking (2nd edition) by Brooke Borel (May 2023)
Fact-checking is the cornerstone of journalism and non-fiction writing. Moreover, it is a vital tool to counteract the spread of misleading information, false narratives, conspiracy theories and propaganda through the media. ‘If journalism is a cornerstone of democracy, then fact-checking is its building inspector,’ states author Brooke Borel. Borel is a journalist, author and host of a podcast, Methods, which focuses on how facts are discovered and verified by journalists, scientists and writers.
Published by the Chicago University Press, The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking explores the shifting media landscape. It offers insights into verifying audio and video sources, scrutinising polling data and handling sensitive topics like trauma and abuse. Drawing on the insights of over 200 professionals, the second edition comprises fresh exercises and valuable advice on securing fact-checking. Borel also acknowledges the unique challenges posed by today’s world, where the prevalence of social media and artificial intelligence can complicate differentiating false information. Her solution lies in adopting a mindset of scepticism towards information and approaching data as a seasoned fact-checker would. With the Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking, you will:
- Gain the ability to identify information that warrants fact-checking,
- Learn how to assess the quality and credibility of source materials,
- Acquire the skills to fact-check a wide range of media types,
- Understand how to interact with editors, writers, and producers effectively,
- Develop the ability to spot instances of plagiarism and fabrication, ensuring the authenticity of your work.
“The Girl in the Window” and Other True Tales. An Anthology with Tips for Finding, Reporting, and Writing Nonfiction Narratives by Lane DeGregory (April 2023)
In The Girl in the Window” and Other True Tales, Lane DeGregory unveils the intricacies of crafting non-fiction narratives based on her most memorable newspaper features. It is worth mentioning that DeGregory is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and host of the podcast WriteLane.
Published by the Chicago University Press, this book is a dual treasure: part anthology, part guide to the craft. DeGregory offers a breakdown of her storytelling process and practical advice that writers of all levels can readily adopt. This book promises to delight admirers of DeGregory’s prose and those new to her compelling narrative style. It is a doorway into the world of her remarkable works and a guide for writers to craft impactful non-fiction narratives.
Non-Fiction for Newbies: How to Write a Factual Book and Actually Kind of Enjoy It by Lauren Bingham (July 2023)
Nonfiction for Newbies by copywriter and ghostwriter Lauren Bingham serves as a guide and a practice ground for aspiring authors. Bingham offers invaluable insights and considerations and the motivation to dive headfirst into the world of non-fiction writing. For those eager to write but uncertain where to begin, this book ranks among the best books on writing non-fiction. Bingham uses this book to usher her readers from the initial idea to the completion of a well-crafted book, all while reflecting on critical questions such as:
- What is considered a good non-fiction book?
- Which elements and concepts facilitate a writer’s progress?
- How can a book deliver value to its readers?
- What strategies can authors employ to inform, inspire and engage their audience?
Writing for Busy Readers: Communicate More Effectively in the Real World by Todd Rogers and Jessica Lasky-Fink (September 2023)
Rich with real-world examples, checklists, and practical tools, Writing for Busy Readers is a transformative resource. Harvard University scholars Rogers and Lasky-Fink effectively update the time-tested concepts of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White for the digital age’s attention marketplace. Published by Dutton, this book contains insights from the authors’ research in behavioural science. Translating the cognitive nuances of reading, they discuss six transformative principles that will elevate your writing to new heights. These principles include the following:
- Less is more,
- Make reading easy,
- Design for easy navigation,
- Use enough formatting, but no more,
- Tell readers why they should care,
- Make responding easy.
Blueprint for a Memoir: How to Write a Memoir for the Marketplace by Jennie Nash (August 2023)
Blueprint for a Memoir helps to define what you want to say, what to leave out and how to formulate a compelling memoir. There is a big difference between composing a memoir for personal intent — to preserve your legacy, facilitate healing, foster learning or respond to an internal call — and crafting a memoir intended for public consumption. Both are discussed in Blueprint for a Memoir. Jane Nash has taught hundreds of book coaches and thousands of writers to use the Blueprint for a Book system to produce their work most efficiently. She is also the author of the following books:
- Blueprint for a Book,
- Build Your Novel from the Inside Out,
- Read Books All Day and Get Paid for It,
- The Business of Book Coaching.
The Way of the Fearless Writer by Beth Kempton (July 2023)
Breaking away from conventional notions of creative achievement, perseverance, criticism and rivalry, The Way of the Fearless Writer unveils an alternative writing path. Along the way, author Beth Kempton discusses our relationship with fear, unlocking the ability to write anytime, anywhere and with confidence. The essence of being a fearless writer transcends the realm of external validation and accolades. According to Kempton, it is about nurturing rituals and commitment, fostering an acute appreciation for beauty and inspiration. Published by the Essentials, this book guides you to live more authentically, with your heart as the compass and writing as the guiding light. As an essential addition to the shelves of the best books on writing non-fiction, this work is a revelation that exceeds the boundaries of writing, extending into a transformative philosophy.
Blurb Your Enthusiasm: A Cracking Compendium of Book Blurbs, Writing Tips, Literary Folklore, and Publishing Secrets by Louise Willder (October 2023)
Blurb Your Enthusiasm is a must-read book. Drawing from real-life examples across literary fiction, classics and non-fiction, Louise Willder sheds light on the good, the bad, the ugly and the genuinely unconventional blurbs. She argues that a blurb occupies a symbiotic space with the narrative’s cover, title and opening line. It wields its power to persuade, manipulate and sometimes even deceive the reader through mastery of dark literary arts. Willder traces the evolution of the blurb, uncovering its roots and following its development.
Published by Oneworld Publications, Blurb Your Enthusiasm dives into societal norms and expectations that have merged sexism and sexist tropes into the fabric of books and publishing. It exposes critical comments targeting female writers and the often gendered nature of literary themes, where men’s works are deemed universally relevant. In contrast, women’s focus is confined to their gender. The revelations held within may entice you to explore genres you previously shunned and read a pile of other books you had not expected.
The Writer’s Voice: Techniques for Tuning Your Tone and Style by Anne Janzer (August 2023)
Every word we put down forms a voice in the reader’s mind. If you wish to influence your readers through your writing, it is essential to understand the voice that emerges on the page. The Writer’s Voice stands as one of the best books on writing non-fiction, offering a comprehensive and hands-on guide that dives into this aspect of writing.
Laid out in the structure of a twelve-week writing course, Anne Janzer, writer, non-fiction author coach, marketing practitioner and blogger, discusses pivotal elements that every writer must understand. Firstly, she provides coherent explanations and real-life examples demonstrating how seemingly minute details, such as punctuation, significantly influence the reader’s experience. Secondly, Janzer offers a collection of exercises and writing prompts that encourage you to explore and experiment with various facets of your writing style. Lastly, Janzer presents effective strategies to foster a more meaningful connection with your readers. As you navigate through the chapters of this book, published by Cuesta Park Consulting, you will gain insights into:
- Unveiling the methods of uncovering more than one “authentic” voice within your written works.
- Discovering innovative ideas that engage the reader’s inner sense of listening creates an immersive and captivating reading experience.
- Learning techniques to tailor your writing voice to fit diverse contexts and situations.
About Editing: An Essential Guide for Authors by Sallianne Hines (August 2023)
About Editing: An Essential Guide for Authors provides comprehensive information about editing, including proofreading, developmental, line editing or copyediting. Editing enhances your authorial credibility and significantly bolsters your chances of success. Writer and editor Sallianne Hines crafted this book to uplift manuscripts, submission packages, marketing materials, social media posts and websites. These invaluable aspects often get overlooked while they profoundly impact your literary journey. Whether your goal is traditional publishing or venturing into self-publishing, your project will undoubtedly benefit from reading About Editing. There are some essential lessons for authors contained in this book:
- Grasp the significance of evaluating your publishing options through the lens of editing.
- Familiarise yourself with the different types of editing and discern when each becomes necessary.
- Acquire the art of preparing your work to maximise the impact of your editing budget.
- Identify editing tasks that you can capably undertake on your own.
- Navigate to selecting a competent editor, including where to locate one.
- Discover strategies to economise on editing expenses, ensuring your journey remains both professional and budget-friendly.
Published by Grasslands Press, it is a toolkit to elevate your non-fiction manuscript to new heights, enriching your credibility and ensuring your message resonates with your readers.
The Point: How to Win with Clarity-Fueled Communications by Steve Woodruff (August 2023)
Steven Woodruff, aka the King of Clarity, poses the following question, ‘Can I truly capture an audience’s attention?’ Woodruff immediately answers in one word: clarity. In non-fiction writing, where precision reigns supreme, The Point emerges as one of the best books on writing non-fiction. It uncovers the magic of clarity-fuelled communication. This book explores how the human brain, often overloaded with information, craves packaging. Therefore, The Point reveals the art of crafting messages that resonate with the brain, cutting through the discord of noise. Whether emails, sales pitches, workshops or resumes, Steven Woodruff’s Clarity Fuel Formula is the universal recipe for successful communication. Contained within The Point are four straightforward actions and eight compelling shortcuts. This book is both a guide and a manual that enables you to get to the heart of your communication, ensuring your audience is aligned and engaged. In sum, Woodruff’ inspires to:
- Discover how to captivate your audience through the power of clarity.
- Unveil the universal Clarity Fuel Formula for successful communication.
- Learn the art of crafting messages that resonate with the human brain.
- Gain access to four simple actions and eight shortcuts for impactful communication.
Just as the best books on writing non-fiction are born from thorough craftsmanship, enlisting an editor’s expertise can elevate your book’s quality. A seasoned editor does not just correct grammar and punctuation. The guidance offered by a professional editor is your compass, steering you towards a book that stands alongside the very best in non-fiction writing. An editor can help with high-level, big-picture editing, known as developmental editing, which can help diagnose any issues with refining plot arcs, character development and argument. A line editor analyses the text line-by-line to bring out the authorial voice and resonate with the reader. Copyediting can help bring out clarity, consistency and correctness in every sentence. Finally, proofreading is the final step preparing the text for publication, ensuring it is error-free.
We conclude our journey through the ten best books on writing non-fiction published in 2023. These books, bearing the imprint of wisdom and knowledge, invite aspiring and seasoned authors to enhance their skills, embrace their uniqueness and transcend the boundaries of their comfort zones. Authors can equip themselves with the tools necessary to carve their paths in non-fiction writing. Embrace these resources, harness the power of words and thrive on your journey as a non-fiction writer. Also, capitalise on the expertise of a professional editor to elevate your manuscripts to industry standards. Contact me for a free sample edit (and remember to use my early bird discount) to determine if your manuscript may benefit from developmental editing. If you want to hear more from me, including self-editing and writing tips, follow me on Mastodon, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or join my newsletter.