What is “Pop Culture Narrative Nonfiction”?

July 15th, 2010 • Kate

roundirelandRight then. Today we’re talking about that third thing I list on my Submissions page — Pop Culture Narrative Nonfiction. So what is that? Let’s break it down, first, and just talk about the narrative nonfiction aspect. Narrative nonfiction is also known as creative or literary nonfiction, and to quote from Wikipedia, which quotes from Lee Gutkind’s The Best Creative Nonfiction:

Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter, but to shape it in a way that reads like fiction

Continuing from Wikipedia:

Forms within this genre include personal essays, memoir, travel writing, food writing, biography, literary journalism, and other hybridized essays.


When book-length works of creative nonfiction follow a story-like arc, they are sometimes called narrative nonfiction.

So we’re basically talking about something true, but told in a way that feels like story telling. A couple of examples include A Perfect Red by Amy Bulter Greenfield, Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, and It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong. Each takes a subject that could be dry, and invests them with a narrative arc.

Now, moving on to the pop culture aspect of things, I’m thinking of books that may be personal essays, memoirs, travel writing, or such, but that deal with the cornerstones of pop culture — TV, Movies, Music, Video Games, Theatre, and Books. Basically, if you could read about a subject in Entertainment Weekly, there’s a chance I might be interested.

So, no, I’m probably not interested in your memoir of pulling through your drug addiction — unless you got over it while on tour with your rock band, or while you grew up on the set of a TV sitcom. You want to talk about your geek creds? I want to hear about them — particularly so if you can tie them in to your around-the-world trip or 365 days of live theatre. Awesome examples of pop culture narrative nonfiction include Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and Ethan Gilsdorf’s Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. I also loved Around the World in 80 Dates by Jennifer Cox and Round Ireland With a Fridge by Tony Hawks.

So, is that a little clearer? I hope so! I’m happy to answer more questions in the comments!

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One Response to “What is “Pop Culture Narrative Nonfiction”?”

  1. Rissa Watkins Says:

    So if someone wrote about their journey through surgeries etc because of a genetic medical condition they were diagnosed with- but included medical & insurance info as well- would that fall into the Narrative nonfiction category rather than memoirs?