Subscribe to SLJ
Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

They Say This Has Been An Exceptional Year for NF

As the NBA Finalist List Shows

So do you agree? Has the NF this year been particularly good? Which ones? Why? — Why both in the sense of what is it about that book that you thought was exceptional, and if you agree that there has been an unusually run of good books, why do you think that is? Or lets reverse it, has the fiction been weaker this year? Why? (In both NF and fiction I am asking about books for younger readers). 
    I have not read widely enough this year to have a vote — either about the strength of the field in general or as an explanatoin. Now I did hear that people thought last year’s NF crop was weak. So it could just be a normal ebb and flow with now larger significance. But I wonder if hard times have helped us. For nearly a decade YA fiction and mid-grade/YA fantasy has been very popular, and thus publishers have rushed to buy and publish ever more. Perhaps those genres have become overpublished, glutted. In those same years selling a NF proposal to a publisher has gotten more difficult, for the good reason that it has been difficult for publishers to sell the books. But those years in the wildnerness made us work harder to hone our craft — not to coast, to find compelling stories, to illustrate them well, to create not just decent books but exceptional ones. So maybe this year is a kind of coming out party — as fiction clears away the backlog nf gets a moment in the sun.
   That’s a theory, what do you think? (there is surely a design story in here, how publishers recognize they need to make NF stand out, look special.)  


  1. Now that you say it, maybe there is a little bit of plot exhaustion, characterization ennui going around. Last year’s Sibert list was all exceptional and there could have been others there, too. I think, too, that maybe the political/social atmosphere in the country has nudged us to a greater interest in nonfiction this year, especially socially conscious nonfiction. We all want to DO something, no matter where we lie on the political spectrum; it feels right to honor Claudette Colvin this year, to honor science in the form of Charles Darwin, to spend our time with facts instead of fantasy. It’s the opposite reaction to Depression=Shirley Temple movies, maybe. Anyone agree/disagree?

  2. good point — as a nation we are dealing with real challenges, not mythic roles, and so on some level want to know what to do, how it is done.