Pairing Nonfiction with Fiction

by Colette Crowther

I frequently see students check out books they have already read because they don’t want to look for anything new. I always try to recommend something different that has a connection with a book they have just finished or mentioned enjoying. I think this is one way we can use fiction/non-fiction pairings as a way to persuade students to reach outside their comfort levels. As part of the Common Core Standards, we strive to provide students with information in different formats.

The practice of pairing titles has become so ingrained in me that when I heard the news stories about the Ebola virus I immediately thought of Hot Zone by Richard Preston. I rarely read one book without another one looming up in my subconscious. It comes easily when the reader is familiar with a collection of books.

For example, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption could be paired with The Life of Pi or The Old Man and the Sea since they all deal with survival on the ocean. The touching story, Sold, by Patricia McCormick could be paired with Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof. The extremely popular book by John Green, The Fault in Our Stars could be followed with This Star Won’t Go Out, the words and story of the young cancer victim to whom Green dedicated his book. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, could be followed by A Long Way Home, a memoir of life as a child soldier by Ishmael Beah.

Keep a list handy to help with spontaneous recommendations or have a page on your website titled “If You Liked … Then You Should Read …” or have the books side by side on display to help patrons visually connect the books. I can only hope that my patrons get the same little thrill I experience when I read one book and connect it to something I read about in another book. I feel it helps to reinforce learning when reading about the same experience/person/event in more than one place.

Colette Crowther

Colette Crowther


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