Types of Nonfiction Books

Nonfiction books take many forms. Before you can write one, you should know where it fits on the bookstore shelf.

Each form has its own set of rules within the larger framework of writing rules that apply. Don't be intimidated, though. Once you know what kind of book you want to write, you can learn the rules and follow them all the way to the bank.

Here is a partial list:


These books are geared toward helping people improve their lives. Whether it be weight loss or self-esteem, self-help spans a broad range of topics that can make life easier and more fulfilling for the reader.


Want to know how to rebuild a car engine? You can find many manuals that will tell you, step-by-step, how to do everything from rebuild the heads to changing the exhaust manifold. That's what how-to books do. They take you one step at a time through a process to an end result.


Maybe you had an interesting life that can serve up lessons and insights for readers. A memoir is a popular form of autobiography. It is written in story form like a novel and uses many of the techniques common to fiction.


great booksPerhaps you find another person's life compelling and want to share it with the world. Biographies do not have to be dry recounting of dates and events. You can make a person long dead come to life on the page.


Similar to how-to books, they cover topics of specific interest. But, they are not reference books because they are more informal.


Reference books are meant to be kept and used again and again. Before the internet, the encyclopedia was king of the reference shelf. Now, reference books refer to books like the "For Dummies™" series, though these could also fit the how-to category of nonfiction books.


Textbooks are written specifically to be used in classes. These books will usually provide information followed by questions or exercises to help students learn the information. Depending on the age and level of the target students, these books can vary from short and simple (for second graders) to large and dense (graduate classes).


Often overlooked, the cookbook is one of the most popular forms of nonfiction book. It is also one of the most difficult to get published. However, if you can weave narrative flavor with the mouth-watering recipes, you have a shot.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. It is meant to give you some idea of the vast landscape that is nonfiction. If you have knowledge and want to share it, whether it is Grandma's secret recipes or how to run a car on kitty litter, you can write a nonfiction book.

Return to Writing Nonfiction Books Main Page

Return Home from Types of Nonfiction Books