Is it worth analysing and reviewing non-fiction?

You know how sometimes real life and the blogosphere collide? Well recently someone told me that they didn’t think I should review non-fiction books. Now my first reaction was something like this…

shocked face.png

But then when I cooled down a bit, I actually came up with an argument as to why it’s just as important to review non-fiction as fiction…

To answer the question I posed- the short answer is YES! I mean, I started my blog to tell the truth- to be honest about my feelings regarding books in a way I often couldn’t be in real life. Part of that might be to recommend books and part of that is to discuss the way a book touched me- and for so many books what can really strike me is the ideas it holds inside. So what would be the point if we could not talk about the ideas in non-fiction? Why limit myself?

Well, for a lot of people, it is the fear of being called arrogant if we happen to disagree with greater thinkers than ourselves. BUT- and I shouldn’t really have to point this out- just because someone disagrees with another person doesn’t mean they think they’re better than them- just that, in the words of John Mill, “mankind are not infallible”. Moreover- how limiting would it be to the progress of human thought if you could never disagree? Disagreement is the very essence of finding truth and having a healthy debate (Also “how dare you disagree with my favourite philosopher you arrogant prick” is not an argument or a refutation, just sayin’ 😉 ).

Non-fiction creates a discussion and encourages the spread of ideas. So much of it is crying out to be shared, discussed and argued with. A lot of these thinkers did not want people blindly listening to them or obeying them like lemmings running off a cliff…

lemmings running off a cliff.gif

Of course, there are different ways of looking at and writing about non-fiction. I’ve personally found the more philosophical a book, the more room for thought there is in my post about it. And that is so exciting to me! It keeps me on my toes and makes for more diverse types of reviews.

For me, and for many of you, book blogging is a part of our journey as readers. We evolve with the things we read with the things we read and if we can’t or don’t feel comfortable arguing back or discussing ideas then we may as well pack the whole thing in.

Quite simply, when I talk about ideas I learn about them. As fun as it is to be a passive reader, it is very rewarding to actually have to think while I read from time to time. And knowing that I have to write about it afterwards really helps me stay focused. I learn so much when I decide to read and review something non-fiction. I won’t be stopping any time soon.

So what do *you* think? Should we discuss and review non-fiction just as much as fiction? Let me know in the comments!

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83 thoughts on “Is it worth analysing and reviewing non-fiction?

  1. reactionarytales says:

    I absolutely think non-fiction should be discussed and reviewed. I generally don’t read a lot of non-fiction because I like the imagination factor fiction brings but lately, based off of reviews, I’ve been looking at reading Trevor Noah’s book “Born a Crime” because of all the many reviews I’ve read. Book reviews are a deciding factor in whether I’m going to use my time to read a story or not.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Aidin says:

    Hear, hear!
    Just yesterday, I was wondering whether critiquing certain types of non-fiction book would be considered insensitive.

    I read “A Mother’s Reckoning” and “A Long Way Gone”. Both books deal with delicate material so I feel awful critiquing it, but it also seems counter-intuitive not to critique it.

    What are your thoughts on reviewing these types of books?

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yeah for sure- I definitely agree that’s worthwhile to critique something, no matter what the subject is! (unless of course you’re a non-physicist trying to make sense of Stephen Hawking’s work 😉 Then maybe leave it upto the experts)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Briana says:

    Uh, why shouldn’t anyone review non-fiction? That’s so weird to me. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a statement of “This guy is right/wrong” if you’re not an expert on the topic and don’t actually know. However, it’s totally possible you’ve read a lot about the topic and DO know things about it, such as whether other major writers agree with the author or not. You can also talk about how clear the writing is, whether the points made need more evidence that was given to be convincing, whether the book was engaging, etc. Many non-fiction books are distinctly written for a non-expert audience, so there’s no reason any reader shouldn’t be able to have an opinion on them.

    Liked by 4 people

      • Briana says:

        I had to write more of an academic book review for a grad seminar once, on a monograph that was about a topic (animals) in a field I do not specialize in (early modern English literature). THAT I felt somewhat uncomfortable about, even though it was just a practice exercise for when I might write book review on books that are in my field. I mentioned it to the professor when she asked how people felt about the assignment and even then she was like “Sure, you might not know about animals in early modern literature and it’s scary to comment on the work of someone who IS an expert on it, but you still have things to say about the organization, whether it’s convincing, etc.” So that was quite nice and very helpful.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Krysta says:

    I’m so confused. Why shouldn’t we review non-fiction? You can definitely talk about how the facts are presented, if the facts are credible or being selected to promote a certain view or agenda, whether the text is readable, what sort of audience the book seems to be addressing, etc. There is TONS to talk about.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. sophiethestark says:

    Absolutely! As long as there are ideas to be shared and discussed, a review is more than welcome. If we just ate up what other people said based on their popularity and/or knowledge, we would never be thinking for ourselves. Sure, we might be wrong in our assessment sometimes, but it’s not always about finding the absolute truth or proving something wrong or right. It’s about expressing our thoughts 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    While I do not read as much non-fiction as I certainly should, I find the idea that it should not be reviewed ridiculous. I am not even able to comprehend why someone would suggest this? I don’t participate in non-fiction discussions and reviews very often because I have usually not read the title and am unable to contribute. But I love reading the reviews because they encourage me to branch out and find those titles I might have neglected.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Bookstooge says:

    I am going to have to take the contrarian position here. In fact, I am going to go a BIG step further than that spineless cretin who said you can’t review Non-fiction. You can’t review books at all. None, nope, not any kind.

    The fact that the author put some words together socially obliges you to give up all your rights of critical thinking. That author might have to go do some “real work” if you don’t buy, promote and generally make everybody else buy their book. What kind of monster are you?!? The whole Literary Establishment will crumble under such an assault as you suggest. Reviewing books. Pshawww! Next thing you know, you’ll be saying we need “Safety Standards” for automobiles. And we ALL know that’s just crazy talk.

    So lets have none of this kind of talk anymore, ok? Otherwise, I may have to send Frankie and Guido over to help persuade you to my view of things.

    Liked by 3 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      hahahaha you are so right- what on earth was I doing starting a book blog… WHAT WOULD SOCIETY COME TO IF WE ENCOURAGED PEOPLE TO READ AND THINK CRITICALLY?!? There might be disagreement (and everyone knows disagreement is akin to hate and hate equals assault). In fact, why are any of us wasting our time reading? It’s disgusting that we encourage the written word at all, especially when there all these toxic things called opinions knocking about- who knows what could happen in the world if people get *ideas*… Scary! No- I’ll just go back to watching CNN or the BBC- that way I’ll never have to think for myself again 😉 Phew- crisis averted!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. rivermoosebooks says:

    nonfiction should definitely be reviewed. Like any other book, people read nonfiction because they are interested in a particular subject – why shouldn’t they share their thoughts just like any other book. Not every nonfiction book is worth reading – reviews help people pick the ones they think they’d enjoy. The premise isn’t any different from any other book genre. People just like to be snobs about things – don’t listen to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Rachael says:

    Heck yes you should be reviewing the non-fiction you read! I have to admit that I have a hard time figuring out how to review it myself. I usually rate it on Goodreads but that is a bit arbitrary… Could you do a post about how You review nonfiction? (If you haven’t already?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I don’t read a lot of nonfiction either, but I thought I’d like to chime in with my thoughts. I like to include some of the fun/interesting things I learned from the book. I guess that part is not a review/evaluation in the technical sense, but I like to think it might give readers a sense of whether the book would be interesting to them, and perhaps (since there seems to be some consensus that nonfiction reviews don’t get page views) it will help people be interested in reading the review, too.

      Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you!! I think I have a tough time with it too. I’ve seen it done in lots of different ways- some people like to talk about how the book affected them, some like to talk about how the book is structured, but I mostly like to talk about the ideas it tackled. Mostly I just try to highlight with non-fiction why it might be worth reading (I haven’t yet written a negative review of non-fiction cos I don’t tend to finish if it’s nonsense) I hope that helps a little!

      Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      haha yeah, well I’m hoping they were just trolling me… otherwise…?!? hehe yes absolutely- I’m the same about non-fiction so I’m really interested when there’s something on a subject I know nothing about that comes highly recommended. hehe my thoughts exactly!

      Liked by 1 person

    • daleydowning says:

      This was exactly my thoughts. Last year I only read 2 non-fiction books, but both were on a subject I’m devoted to (dance), and one was just a joy, and the other was so poorly written, it was a joke, and totally turned me off from learning more about the person. This is not to say that Person B is a bad dancer – I’ve never even seen her dance, she could be wonderful, but unfortunately her lame memoirs didn’t encourage me to look her up on YouTube. I really think that states a lot.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. daleydowning says:

    Yes, yes, yes to all this! Reviewing non-fiction books can sometimes be hard, because the criteria is different from fiction – as it should be – but I don’t see anything “wrong” with it, and the idea of that being the case… Well, just picture me sitting here laughing my head off.

    Recently I was thinking about starting a feature (once a month or something) where I chose to review a biography or historical book or something other than the hottest new fiction release. I was also thinking of starting a feature regarding picture books – and the non-fiction component is important in those, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. lostartofreadingblog says:

    Of course review non-fiction, if you have something to say about it, review it, simple as that. I don’t see why you can’t have opinions or a conversation about non-fiction book just like a piece of fiction. Plus you can the most interesting person on the planet and your writing could suck, not all memoirs are equal. I don’t believe telling someone their experience is wrong, but you can like or dislike the way they told their story.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Emily | Rose Read says:

    PREACH! I’m so surprised someone said you shouldn’t review nf. It’s so important that we do. Like you said, it gives us a TON to talk about. And not all nonfiction is created equal! We should be critical of it. Not to mention there aren’t enough bloggers reviewing nf, so we need to spread it, too! Excellent post!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. MyBookJacket says:

    Of course we should! I don’t believe in this concept of greater thinkers! There may be thinkers that are just as great or even greater amongst those unpublished and they may have just chosen to go a different route with their lives! being published isn’t getting the last work in, is it! Non fiction MUST be discusses as much as fiction, if not more! Moreover, since I tend to agree with you a lot I just like hearing what you have to say about some Nonfic books. Haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The Scottish Librarian says:

    I have absolutely no reservations with non-fiction being reviewed, whatsoever. I personally don’t read much non-fiction as I use reading as a tool of escapism from the ‘real world’, but I see no reason why you and other non-fiction readers shouldn’t review the books and discuss with other like-minded individuals? How are fiction books the only ones able to be reviewed? Because you may be arguing against opinions on real life fact rather than whether or not Joe Blogs should have got off with this or that girl in a fictional world?

    You do you! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Anna @MyBookishDream says:

    I definitely think that non-fiction should be reviewed and discussed. As you said, it gives us a ton to talk about and I think it’s very important. Personally I don’t read much non-fiction, though I hope to change that some time in the future. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. readandseeksa says:

    Of course non-fiction books need to be reviewed and discussed! That’s the point of the book being put out there – so that it can be analysed and dissected in the hopes that we take something away from it. At least that’s my opinion.

    I recently reviewed A Hope More Powerful than the Sea and it was the hardest book I ever reviewed but I realized how important it was for me to write about. I needed to express my opinion but I also wanted my blog readers to hear about this book.

    And also, you should feel free to review and discuss anything that you feel you need to. Whether it’s for your own peace of mind or for community awareness 🙂

    Lovely post!

    Nihaad | Read & Seek

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thoughts on Fantasy says:

    How strange that people would think non fiction should not be reviewed. Your non-fiction reviews are really interesting and often draw my attention to books or topics I hadn’t heard of before… so definitely don’t stop doing them!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Marie Abanga says:

    I wish I could bring myself to rather read or review fiction hahaha. As for reviews, that’s a new concept to many in Africa and many new even though good authors may simply not get reviews cause they don’t know or aren’t celebs, and well the few who read their books are not into review writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Donna says:

    Non-fiction explores ideas as much as fiction, only in a different way, and all ideas should be debated for the world to progress. I don’t see any reason why we should censor ourselves instead of making our brain think and torn and twist ideas, notions, and life itself to better understand where and what we are living.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Lashaan and Trang (Bookidote) says:

    Got to admit whoever it was that said it was a dumb idea to not review non-fiction is a very fascinating individual. And I do hope it is just ONE individual. I also hope such an individual doesn’t some day decide to share THEIR thoughts on the non-fiction they read. Can’t imagine the insane things they might have to say about that too!!! No, but on a serious tone, ANY and EVERY book should be “reviewable” and “be reviewed” if someone wants to. You’ve said it perfectly. There won’t ever be progress without critical thinking on anything we absorb… Mindlessly listening and reading won’t get us anywhere, except.. manipulation.. fascism… end of the world… What can I say? Review anything and everything you want to read yooo! 😀

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

  21. A Bookkeeper's Notes says:

    That’s always been my biggest concern when reviewing non fiction. I always feel like because I don’t know enough on the subject, I wouldn’t be able to give a fair analysis of the subject matter. But with that regard, it would mean that unless we’re an expert on everything, we really shouldn’t have an opinion.

    So I try to make the effort to review non fiction anyway because I want to develop my writing skills with more challenging projects and I believe that we have the right to share our views (provided that are grounded and we ourselves are open to feedback).

    I try to review the non fiction by looking at how the ideas are presented and, if they are trying to push a new idea or concept, how it compares against my own moral code, but I am always in awe of those who can critique non fiction in an almost professional manner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ah I can understand that for sure- and that makes me hesitant to sometimes try things.
      Yes I completely agree with you there!! I definitely find non fiction more of a challenge- both to read and review.
      Yes, I try to look at similar things- particularly the ideas and viewpoints presented. And I really respect other people who can do a thorough critique.
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. YES! I completely agree with you. I don’t read a ton of non-fiction with the exception of memoir/biography. I think we really do need to explore non-fiction more in our blogging. As reviewers, we are doing a disservice to the industry by ignoring large swaths of the genre.

    But also, like you said, “Disagreement is the very essence of finding truth and having a healthy debate”. I personally learn through discussion and debate. If a topic never comes up, well, I might never understand my own thoughts on it!

    I encourage you to review non-fiction. But, don’t go out of your way if you don’t read it normally. This isn’t a quest. But it would be fun. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      THANK YOU!! Yes for sure- I’ve only recently started with it myself- so I completely think I need to try more of it.
      Thank you- I’m so glad you agree. I feel like it’s really helpful for me to learn that way too. YES!! Thank you! I’m definitely trying to read more of it 🙂 I’m definitely thinking of it as a quest.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Fictionophile says:

    I DO think non-fiction should be reviewed, but I don’t think non-fiction requires the analysis that fiction does. For that reason I found it more challenging to catalog fiction than I did non-fiction back when I was working as a library cataloger.
    Non-fiction by its very nature should be factual. It requires subject headings for access in a library catalog. Some non-fiction can be considered to be ‘creative’ or ‘literary’ non-fiction – they are a whole different thing. They employ many of the literary devices that fiction does.
    Fiction on the other hand requires analysis to even come up with relevant subject headings. It also often needs series tracings etc.
    The same should prove true when reviewing. Non-fiction reviews should say how well the subject was covered and opinions on the quality of the research, etc.
    Fiction reviews should be more analytic, providing personal opinion and character analysis etc.
    BOTH fiction and non-fiction reviews should stimulate discussion. Why read otherwise?

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ah I completely understand that and agree. It’s certainly harder to categorise and, in my opinion, harder to review. Absolutely agree with this- it’s a very fair and balanced comment!
      One hundred percent agree!! Thanks so much for commenting!!

      Like

  24. Zezee says:

    Lol love your argument there. Well said. Fav line: “Disagreement is the very essence of finding truth and having a healthy debate.” I mos def agree.
    I’ve seen soom book reviewerson YouTube say that they won’t review nonfiction books, especially if it’s a biography/autobio/memoir and I understand their reason for saying so: they don’t want to judge a person’s life. But I disagree with that. Depending on how one structures their review, the blogger can instead judge the components of the book (writing, organization, etc.) without passing judgement on the person’s life, however I think it’s perfectly fine to disagree with the person’s ideas (which some reviewers refuse to do in their reviews). Some also refuse to rate such books, but bios/autobios/memoirs are more than just about the person’s life, I think, and can be rated on how it’s composed.
    As for other nonfiction books, I think they are written to share and start a conversation and get people thinking. They should be analyzed and reviewed and even better disagreed with just to spark something 🙂 😉 :p

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Aww thank you very much!!! So glad you liked it!!
      Yeah I do understand tha- it’s completely upto the individual what they review- regardless of their reason- so I would never judge them for choosing not to review something. But I agree with you- there’s other components that are worth analysing. I will say that I wouldn’t choose to criticise a person’s life when it comes to reviewing a biography, unless they did something, say, illegal (that for some reason they chose to confess to in a book). Plus I wouldn’t like to read or write a review that passed judgement on someone’s life (discounting praise). But ideas? They’re free game as far as I’m concerned. Yes absolutely.
      Absolutely!! That’s precisely how I feel. 🙂 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  25. headc1 says:

    I mainly love fiction, historical fiction and SyFy. Recently I’ve become intrigued by some serious subjects as I am thinking of persueing a career along these lines. So I ordered some books and thought, Well if I have to read them why not blog about them. But I am wondering if I might scare the hell out of people!? The subject is Criminal Analysis. The first read I had is called Renting Lacy: a story of America’s Prostituted Children. What I am reading now is Whoever Fights Monsters by Ressler & Shachtman. I am seriously new to blogging, but this is where the road has led me; thoughts, comments, suggestions? Please.

    Liked by 1 person

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