Why Fiction and Nonfiction Books Are More Alike Than You Think
—4 Book Pairings I Recommend


I’m nearing the end of the latest novel I’m reading (That Summer). I can’t wait to see what happens next, to see how it will all turn out.

You don’t always get tidy conclusions when you read nonfiction books. In real life, things don’t always come to a final conclusion like they do in a novel. Life goes on and on.

But in novels the story doesn’t always conclude either (I don’t like those kind of novels, btw!).

So what else do fiction and nonfiction books have in common? They are more alike than you might think.

While we often read nonfiction to learn more about the world and other cultures, we can get the same benefits by reading fiction. Through the stories in fiction, we can learn to increase our empathy levels as we put ourselves in the shoes of the characters, understanding different cultures and different personalities than our own.

Also, as with nonfiction, we can also be encouraged through fiction. The stories can inspire us to be kinder, more courageous, and more loving in our real lives, just like characters in a book.

So whether we’re grabbing a novel or a nonfiction book, with either one we can be entertained, be encouraged, and be educated. You choose.

Week 2’s focus for Nonfiction November is Book Pairing with Katie at Doing Dewey.

See Week 1’s focus here: 7 New Nonfiction Books to Make You a Better Person.

4 Sets of Fiction and Nonfiction Books That Go Together

Here are 8 books I’ve read this year that go well together.



by Stephen King

This suspenseful novel goes back and forth in time surrounding the JFK assassination.


Zero Fail
The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service
by Carol Leonnig

This is fascinating look at how the Secret Service responded to the JFK assassination and every other major Presidential event in the modern era.



American Dirt
by Jeanine Cummins

This is a moving story of a young Mexican mother and her 8-year-old son forced to escape Mexico due to horrific gang violence.


Abuelita Faith
Women on the Margins Teach Us about Wisdom, Persistence, and Strength
by Kat Armas

A second-generation Cuban American shares how faith is shaped through generations of everyday women both in own lives and in women of the Bible.



The Book of Longings
by Sue Monk Kidd

This is the fictitious story of Ana as Jesus’s wife, and her journey from a curious girl in a wealthy family to Jesus’s death and resurrection.


The Making of Biblical Womanhood
How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth
by Beth Allison Barr

Beth teaches us about “biblical womanhood” by taking us on a tour throughout the history of religion.



Black Buck
by Mateo Askaripour

Twenty-two-year-old Darren is a Black salesman on a mission, starting out at Starbucks but rising to the top of a tech startup through a crazy set of events in New York City.


Becoming Kareem
Growing Up On and Off the Court
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Learn about Kareem’s childhood in New York City and his rise to basketball stardom as a young Black man.

* * *

What fiction and nonfiction book would you pair? Share in the comments.

More Reading:

18 thoughts on “Why Fiction and Nonfiction Books Are More Alike Than You Think
—4 Book Pairings I Recommend

  1. Marianne @ Let's Read

    Those are some really interesting pairings you created there.

    I also totally agree with you about reading fiction and non-fiction. I have learned so much from fiction novels about other cultures, other times, other people, teaching me to understand others better.

    My book pairings are about Afghanistan.

  2. Melissa F.

    Great pairings! That Summer is going to be among my favorite books of the year. The cover is deceiving; it’s a much more substantive novel than I expected. Enjoy the rest of Nonfiction November!

  3. Theresa Boedeker

    I enjoy reading about your pairings, Lisa. It reminds me of reading with my son. We would often read about a topic from both a fiction and non-fiction viewpoint. And I still do this sometimes. I learn so much from both fiction and non-fiction.

  4. Lisbeth @ The Content Reader

    I agree with you on learning also from fiction. Sometimes fiction books lead you into an area where you want to know more and reach out for a nonfiction version. I like all of you pairings, but I would probably go for pair 3. I am fascinated by biblical women and their stories.

  5. David

    Definitely agree about the overlap — I can be moved or inspired, convicted, by either.

    Pairings are hard partly because it means deciding what the novel is about. Every time I read Mason & Dixon I think I’d love to read a history of the line (and I would!) but the novel is really about friendship, about growing old, about storytelling, possibly about being religious in the modern world, … it’s not really about the line being drawn, even though that’s where most of the action is.

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