Why Are They Called Non-Fiction Books?

I find it strange that books about real things are defined by books about fake things. What is the reason for this? Also, the term "non-fiction" only really came into use in the 1900s, what were they called before?

  • I find this nomenclature of ‘Non-Fiction’ disarming as well; I have to stop and think about the meaning real or not real? It just doesn’t flow well. Perhaps, research could be combined with the topic someone else posted regarding defining Creative Non- Fiction; which I understand the meaning however, it adds to the already confusing state of Fiction, Non-Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction. – Venus Echos 8 years ago
  • I'm not sure about the term "nonfiction" and what it was called before the term was invented, but I do know a little something about fiction and the term "novel." I took a class on early British fiction (18th century), and there really was no term for books that deal with non-real things. "Novel" was not a thing. In fact, authors billed their stories as reality. Exampes: "Oroonoko: or, the Royal Slave, a True History" by Aphra Behn; "Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe; "Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded" by Samuel Richardson, maaaaybe "Fantomina: or, Love in a Maze" by Eliza Haywood; and "The Vicar of Wakefield: A Tale, Supposed to be written by Himself" by Oliver Goldsmith. The firsthand accounts these novels/novellas gave made readers believe they were truthful. Samuel Richardson especially went to great lengths to make people think Pamela's letters were real. Anywho, this may have something to do with how the terms "fiction," "novel," and "nonfiction" came about. – Erica Beimesche 8 years ago
  • Anyone hoping to nab this one in the bag, if you haven't done so already, check out Reality Hunger by David Shields. Might be of some use. – Luke Stephenson 8 years ago
  • What do you mean by books about "fake things" or "real things"? – T. Palomino 1 year ago

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