Genres in Nonfiction

11 Apr 2023


“Nonfiction” is a blanket term used to describe literature that is based on factual people, events, and things.

While “nonfiction” may not strike you as being a very broad term, it actually encompasses a huge percentage of literature that is written.  In fact, you may be surprised to find out that there are actually many more genres in nonfiction than fiction. This is due to the fact that each genre has multiple sub-categories.

Listing all of the different nonfiction genres and their sub-categories would be nearly impossible, so we have compiled a list of some of the most common genres you will find in nonfiction.


An autobiography is a book that is a book about a person’s life, written by that person. Autobiographies are most often written chronologically and in first person.  

Examples of Autobiographies:

In Pieces, by Sally Fields and Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela


Like autobiographies, biographies are factual books about a person’s life. However, biographies are written by a person who has done an in-depth study of the subject’s life. Biographies are generally written in third person and can be written with or without the consent of the subject.

Examples of Biographies:

Robin by David Itzkoff  and Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Isaacson


A memoir is a personal narrative of one’s life that generally focuses on a specific window of time or event within their life. Memoirs are generally more emotionally focused than autobiographies and are usually written in first person.

Examples of Memoirs:

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls and Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Academic Books

These are the kinds of books that you were required to read in college. They are the long-form culmination of research in a particular field of study. Academic books can be written on a large array of topics, from science and math to language and psychology.

Examples of Academic Books:

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking and The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Technical Books

This genre encompasses a large variety of books including manuals, guides, textbooks, and handbooks. Technical books are generally books that are used as a point of reference and can include instructions for completing certain tasks and/or comprehensive information about a subject.

Examples of Technical Books:

Reference Books

Like technical books, reference books are generally informational books that are used as a point of reference. However, reference books tend to be more concise, containing information intended to be found quickly. Reference books are not generally read from cover to cover, but instead are used to find particular pieces of information. This genre includes things such as dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, and atlases. 

Examples of Reference Books:

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary by Merriam Webster and National Geographic Atlas of the World by National Geographic


Whether they’re written for budding entrepreneurs or well-established company CEOs, business books are extremely popular reads. This genre covers everything from how to start a business and be successful, to productivity advice and client-relations tips.

Examples of Business Books:

The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham  and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie  

Travel Guides

Travel guides are informational books about travel in a particular country or area. These books generally provide helpful travel tips, recommendations for places to stay and things to do, as well as specific information about the particular area of travel.

Examples of Travel Guides:

Rick Steves Italy 2019 by Rick Steves and Lonely Planet Panama (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet  


Also known as self-improvement books, self-help books are written with the intention of assisting readers in solving their personal problems. These books can encompass any number of topics from addiction and mental health to money matters and parenting.

Examples of Self-help Books:

Best Self: Be You, Only Better by Mike Bayer  and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Food Writing

From cookbooks and fad diets to cultural food guides and food history, food books are one of the most popular nonfiction genres. These books frequently include recipes and step-by-step instructions for preparing food. They can also include health information and guides for following particular diets as well as facts about history and cultural ties to food.

Examples of Food Books:

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child  and 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover’s Life List by Mimi Sheraton

Home Improvement and DIY Books

Another hugely popular genre is home improvement and DIY. These books are instructional guides that cover everything from gardening to installing your own cabinets and remodeling your bathroom.

Examples of Home Improvement/DIY Books:

Gardening Basics for Dummies by Steven A. Frowine and The Martha Manual: How to Do (Almost) Everything by Martha Stewart


Preserve your legacy

Jennifer Rizzo  
Jennifer Rizzo, also known as "Rizzo," is a Denver-based writer with a passion for writing, genealogical research, travel, and languages. She studied Spanish at the University of Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico and also lived and studied in Ancona, Italy. She also holds a certification for International Tour Management through the International Guide Academy. Since joining The Writers for Hire, Jennifer has written on vast array of topics and has done many in-depth genealogical research and family tree projects. She has worked as Project Manager for various client projects, including: family history books, websites, RFPs, blogs, autobiographies, and SOPs. She enjoys working closely with clients, and loves any opportunity that allows her to indulge her creative side.

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