Most of my reading preferences actually depend on my mood. Therefore, I have a rather eclectic preference in terms of non-fiction writing styles. To be honest, I have preferences along two opposite ends of the spectrum. When I have the time and desire something more in-depth, I am a big fan of narrative nonfiction. One of my favorite examples is David Starkey’s “Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne.” Narrative stories are interspersed throughout the information that details the life of Elizabeth I. It keeps the writing moving smoothly and helps me become more invested in absorbing the information by having something to which I can relate in narrative form. Along the same lines of “Elizabeth” with narrative stories strategically places within the straightforward research and information is “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families” by Philip Gourevitch. It is an amazing yet heartbreaking story about the Rwandan genocide.
On the other side of things, I sometimes feel a bit scatterbrained. If I need more straightforward information about a topic that can be easily picked out as needed (“berrypicking”), I prefer those small pocket guides with plenty of bullets, bold phrases, and separate boxes of information. The lists and ability to browse a page for information is great when I cannot make myself buckle down and read straight through something. One of my favorite books in this stream is actually a required text for my undergraduate anthropology classes. It is “Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction” by John Monaghan and Peter Just. The book itself is almost like a kid’s book in size since it is rather thin and rather small. It is actually about the size of my hand.
With these two extremes, I think my own personal writing style for a project would probably try to combine the two. I would involve narrative and storytelling with interspersed lists of specific, need-to-know information.
Monaghan, J. and Just, P. (2000). Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gourevitch, P. (1999). We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. London: Picador.
Starkey, D. (2007). Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne. New York: Harper Perennial.