A Recommendation

Whenever new acquaintances inquire into my life and inevitably my writing genre, there are certain questions that are unavoidable:

  1. What is creative nonfiction?

  2. Creative nonfiction, is that like, memoir?

And as the conversation progresses:

  1. Isn’t it weird writing about your close friends and family?

Once, I was even approached by a friend of a friend who asked, “So, I hear you write fictional nonfiction?”

I don’t have good answers for the first two. My best paraphrase is that creative nonfiction is nonfiction where the prose is written with the same care and attention as good fiction, and is often lyric in quality. I understand the inherent weakness in this definition as it uses the term ‘good fiction,’ which is obviously subjective, but I hope you will not brush me off for simply saying, you get the point.

As for the third question, the type of creative nonfiction I gravitate towards both writing and reading is essayic rather than memoir. I adore creative nonfiction pieces that acknowledge the unavoidable partisanship of the author, yet are about things that go beyond one’s own personal experience. As you may have read, I am an Ander Monson fan, who in my opinion is emblematic of this subgenre of Creative Nonfiction. Monson writes Creative Nonfiction that often falls into the category of ‘experimental,’ but I can only hope that we see more and more of this type of nonfiction in the future.

So, if, like me, you sometimes need a break from the current memoir craze and from the unending stream of personal and professional woes they often contain, here are some creative nonfiction books I most certainly recommend. These works don’t escape the influence of the ‘I,’ but they often become about something else and are certainly something out of the ordinary.

Vanishing Point by Ander Monson

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss

Plainwater by Anne Carson

Caryn Wille is a designer, marketer, and Creative Nonfiction writer. She also interned at Graywolf Press, and is shamelessly in love with their books. You can stalk her a little bit or check out her portfolio at Caryn Wille Designs


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