Literary Non-Fiction

Literary Non-Fiction
One semester course
Open to 10, 11, 12
Range of difficulty 1-4

  1. Rationale

Literary Non-Fiction is a course that features true stories about real people and events. These stories welcome us into new worlds and allow access to areas of knowledge that we might never encounter otherwise. Nonfiction is perhaps the most popular genre of writing in our culture today and examples frequently top the New York Times bestseller list. Students explore the wide range of topics available through the genre as well as the similarities and differences between works of fiction and creative non-fiction.  Students are introduced to various sub-genres of literary non-fiction — adventure, historical, biography, literary journalism and contemporary issues.  Students will be be given the opportunity to pick their own work of literary non-fiction which they want to read and present to the class.

2.  Topics and Themes emphasized

  • Real-world knowledge that can be gained through reading non-fiction literature
  • Examining the human spirit and how real people deal with challenge and adversity
  • Comparing the art of storytelling in fiction and non-fiction writing and exploring the various sub-genre of non-fiction
  • The power of storytelling and why it can be important for people to have their stories told

3. Methods and Sample Assignments

The following list represents several methods that may be used:

-discussion of nightly reading assignments, short videos and films

-note taking

-Interviewing classmates and others

-researching and writing up an original narrative (possibly a “family story”)

-reading aloud in class

-reading groups and group projects

-teaching individual and group lessons

Types of Assignments:

Writing will be done both in and out of class.  Types of writing assignments will include personal narrative, research-based reporting, and analytical essays. : short reaction pieces, informal essays, research articles and analytical essays

Reading assignments will vary on a nightly basis, depending primarily on the work being studied.  Approximately 25 pages a night will be assigned.  Some reading will be done in class by the instructor and students

Students will also be asked to do group projects and presentations.  They will be expected to read at least one book outside of the class  structure.

Sample Assignments:

What are differences between creative non-fiction and traditional fiction? Students generate lists discussing the strengths of each genre.

What are the benefits of literature as a means of gaining knowledge about various topics.  Students tabulate all of the information they have learned from reading each story and eventually teach the class what they have learned in a creative presentation.

Examine the power and purpose of storytelling.  Students conduct a mock interview with a character from a book regarding how they feel about their story being told.

Look at the various ways to tell a story.  Students will interview a subject about any chosen topic and write a short article about what they have learned.

4. Expectations for Students

We expect students to enter into the reading enthusiastically and with open minds.  We also expect students to challenge their own assumptions about the non-fiction genre and to be open to learning about new topics through reading.  Reading and writing assignments and other projects will facilitate this process.

5. Reading List and other material

The Perfect Storm – Sebastian Junger
Devil in the White City – Erik Larson
Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson
Seabiscuit – Laura Hillenbrand
Endurance – Alfred Lansing
Shadow Divers – Robert Kurson
Behind the Beautiful Flowers – Katherine Boo
Most Dangerous – Steve Sheinkin
The Boys in the BoatDaniel James Brown
The Innocent Man – John Grisham
In the Heart of the Sea– Nathaniel Philbrick
A Civil Action-Jonathan Harr
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks– Rebecca Skloot
Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser
Deep Down Dark – Hector Tobar
Elephant Company-Vicki Croke
Wait ‘Till Next Year – Doris Kearns-Goodwin
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
Confederates in the Attic– Tony Horwitz
A Civil War:Army vs. Navy– John Feinstein
Dark Tide– Stephen Puleo
The Professor and the Madman– Simon Winchester
Born To Run

Various Magazine Articles and Movies (TBD)

Suggestions to consider:

Isaac’s Storm, by Erik Larson

The Circus Fire: A Story of an American Tragedy, by Stewart O’Nan

Hemingway’s Boat:  Everything He Loved in Life And Lost, 1931-1961, by Paul Hendrickson

Unbroken — Laura Hillenbrand

rev. 10/17

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