What Nonfiction and Fiction Books Go Well Together?
Nonfiction November - Week 3

Do you ever read a novel and think, Did any of this really happen?

Or read a nonfiction book and think, This is such a great story!

Many nonfiction and fiction books work well together. For Week 3 of Nonfiction November (hosted by Liz Dexter), we are pairing up nonfiction and fiction books that complement each other.

Here are my 4 pairs.

Book Pair #1

I Didn't Sign Up for This and The Golden Couple

NONFICTION – I Didn’t Sign Up for This

We all can use a little help with our relationships, right?

Even therapists themselves?

Of course. This book by couples therapist Dr. Tracy Dalgelish enlightens us not only on how she does therapy with her clients, but also how she needs to apply the principles in her own marriage.

Dr. Tracy brilliantly guides us back and forth between the stories of four couples in her therapy practice and her own story of problems with her husband.

She writes,

“I’ve been a human a lot longer than I’ve been a therapist. . . . Even for therapists, knowing better and doing better are two vastly different things.”

If you’d like a true behind-the-scenes look at therapy—plus get advice for your own partnerships—I highly recommend this book.

FICTION – The Golden Couple

On the other hand, if you want to escape real-life for a bit, you can get a similar behind-the-scenes therapy look from this novel by Greer Hendricks.

The plot centers around a wealthy couple, Matthew and Marissa Bishop, who sign up for marriage counseling with a renegade therapist Avery Chambers. The mysterious story takes you through secrets that everyone is holding on to, including the therapist. (I loved alternating between listening to the audiobook and reading the hardback.)

Book Pair #2

The Day the World Came to Town and Anxious People

NONFICTION – The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

We often assume incorrectly that catastrophes bring out the worst in people. To counter this myth, read this true story from Gander, Newfoundland, about the week of 9/11/2001. I highly recommend it.

It’s a true feel-good story of how a small town welcomed thousands of surprised and stranded passengers from all over the world into their community for days after the U.S. closed down airspace due to the September 11 attacks.

I also saw the Broadway musical Come from Away about this story; it too is fabulous.

FICTION – Anxious People

A very different but comparable story of random people coming together in a crisis is this exquisitely written novel by Fredrik Backman.

It’s a quirky story of a bank robbery gone awry. Backman uniquely and intricately weaves together an entire cast of random characters who show up at the same time for an apartment viewing. Along with the bank robber, they are trapped together and forced to interact with each other.

As soon as I finished the book, I had to return to the beginning and reread the first few chapters with my new knowledge of the ending. Masterfully written, Mr. Backman.

Book Pair #3

Good Inside and The School for Good Mothers

NONFICTION – Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be

Even though I’m years removed from my active parenting years, I still benefited greatly by reading Dr. Becky Kennedy’s parenting book Good Inside. It’s applicable to all relationships, regardless of age, not just for parents.

Dr. Becky’s advice is to prioritize connecting more than correcting. And to intervene by looking for the good inside each person instead of reacting from frustration and anger.

“Underneath ‘bad behavior’ is always a good child.”

This advice is helpful to remember for all human beings.

FICTION – The School for Good Mother

The School for Good Mothers holds the exact opposite premise of Good Inside, which makes for an interesting pairing.

In The School of Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan, each mother who has made a mistake with her child is constantly told how horrible she is at her core, whereas in Good Inside each person is reminded they are essentially good at their core.

The School for Good Mothers is a horrific story in the genre of The Handmaid’s Tale. It revolves around Frida Liu, a struggling mom who makes a poor decision one morning to leave her toddler alone for a few hours. For that crime, she undergoes a year-long stay at a parenting school under the worst conditions, mentally and physically.

Book Pair #4

Saving Us and The Ministry for the Future

NONFICTION – Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World

I learned so much from Katherine Hayhoe’s book Saving Us. She writes about the harm we’re causing our planet, but more importantly, also about what we can do about it (other than groan, which used to be my go-to). The book addresses our treatment of Earth from many perspectives—science, psychology, and Hayhoe’s Christian faith.

Saving Us is both easy to understand and hopeful. It was highly recommended to me a few months ago, and it didn’t disappoint.

FICTION – The Ministry for the Future

This novel marks a turning point for me.

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson prompted me to join a climate group, among other things, and (indirectly) to read Katherine Hayhoe’s book and other nonfiction books about climate.

The novel is written from multiple eye-witness accounts (fictitious but plausible) of how climate is affecting the world. It centers around the Ministry for the Future, created in 2025, and moves forward into multiple dismal stories.

Honestly, it was a depressing book to me. And long. And confusing (it helped when I switched to the audiobook and could hear different voices to understand who was narrating).

However, it motivated me. I don’t want to live in a world like that. So I recommend it to you, too.

Which nonfiction and fiction books would you pair? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Read more on Fiction and Nonfiction books:

19 thoughts on “What Nonfiction and Fiction Books Go Well Together?
Nonfiction November - Week 3

  1. Liz Dexter

    What an excellent post and set of pairings (and thank you to adding it to the Linkz party!). I’m in awe, as I only managed two myself, and I love the oppositional one in particular, a very good idea!

  2. Harry Katz

    Some great pairings here, Lisa. The Ministry for the Future was key for my learning about climate change too. And I’ve been meaning to read The Day the World Came to Town for a long time. Thanks!

  3. David

    Er, … what is a “renegade therapist”?

    Anxious People sounds like a good read!

    I’ve probably said this before: One of my favorite novels is Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon. It follows Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon from their first meeting, through drawing their famous line, right through to their old age. It is very funny (and surreal, sad, beautiful, … all the things a good novel should be). I would love to read a straight history of why and how they drew the Mason-Dixon Line, along with all the American history and political context.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      In the book, she was a renegade therapist because had gotten kicked out of practicing traditional therapy, so she went out to practice making up her own rules.

      Thanks for sharing about Mason & Dixon. I really don’t even know the story behind the Mason-Dixon line, and it seems like something I should know. 🙂

  4. Linda Stoll

    oh Lisa, I love this series of book posts you’ve gathered together. i’ve bookmarked them and will return some evening, feet up, hot cocoa in hand to sit with this huge bounty of work you’ve pulled together.

    so outstanding! thank you for continuing to speak into my reading life. i haven’t even begun to analyze this year’s reads. soon though …

  5. Lory @ Entering the Enchanted Castle

    Very interesting pairings. I note that in several of your examples, the power of fiction is that it can help us to use our imaginations to vividly bring alive a suboptimal situation we may resist facing in ordinary life. Meanwhile, the nonfiction equivalent helps us to use our capacities for reason and understanding to conceive of a way through that. I don’t usually like depressing fiction, but I can see a purpose for it this way.

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