Searching for the critical things to look for in a nonfiction book will help you to read deeper.

The 9 Critical Things to Look for in a nonfiction book.

What's not going to waste your time or money when reading a nonfiction book? Both of those are precious resources. Through more than five years experience reading deeply I'll let you in on what I've learned with the 9 critical things to… Click To Tweet

Note that when you’re reading a nonfiction book won’t need all 9 things in order to make it a good book. Some are more necessary than others.

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Critical things to look for in a nonfiction book #1: CLARITY

critical things to look for in a nonfiction book clarity

Clarity is extremely important when reading nonfiction books. Without it you won’t know very well what you are reading. It’s the author’s job to translate their thoughts in an orderly manner so that we, readers, can decipher it.

Three questions:

Is the book clear?

Is the message clear?

What is the author trying to give you?

I personally like books that are to the point. To the point doesn’t mean the book can’t be long. A 500 page book can be to the point, taking for example, The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene. It’s one of the most in-depth books I’ve read about human psychology yet every page sucks you in and doesn’t spit you back out until you’ve finished the book.

Examples and Stories

These are what help us to understand and connect with the book which help it to become clearer. They are also two of the 9 critical things to look for in a nonfiction book.

Critical things to look for in a nonfiction book #2: PURPOSE

I love to see authors with a purpose to the point you can feel it bursting through the pages. Even though you can’t see the author’s expressions you can tell how purposeful they are about the topic. This often shines through with the sense of humor the author has which is another one of the points later on.

The amazing thing about the purpose of an author is sometimes their purpose rubs off on you in slight or major ways. You can absorb part of the author’s drive and make it your own.

And of course having a purpose makes the message of the book clearer. As you can see these 9 things play on each other quite a bit.

Critical things to look for in a nonfiction book #3: FLOW

Flow should be like a river moving from one point to the next, winding down a long journey until reaching your destination. It’s the author’s job as the captain of the boat to help you to understand the ways of the river. They are the guide and you are the students learning everything there is to learn about the river along the way.

The author should be able to piece each part of the journey together to make the ride as easily understandable to its passengers as possible.


People who ask the right questions and continuously seek answers are the ones who succeed.

What’s the point of a nonfiction book if it doesn’t make you think or ask questions?

As an avid reader of nonfiction books the best way to learn and grow is to ask the book questions and if it doesn't answer them then it's your duty to seek the answers elsewhere. Click To Tweet

Asking questions is the best way for you to learn more. If you want to study in deeper detail about this topic then sign up for my online course called The 6 Principles of Lifelong Learning.

The 5th is: PRACTICAL

The book should challenge you just enough. If it’s a topic you have read about many times before it may not be the best choice.

The practicals of the book should play a big factor as well unless you’re reading about history or a topic similar to that. But even then, reading about history can help you to improve the present. The point it to look for any sort of takeaway you can apply in your life.

These takeaways should be challenging enough, not to the point where you get stressed out and burn out.

In this case I always look for 10% gains, meaning challenging myself 10% above my current level. This takeaway can be found in the book called Cadence by Pete Williams.


The great thing about (personal) stories is that they help us to understand the main aspects of the book. Technically stories aren’t required to understand the book but if there were no stories over half of the book would be gone.

Sometimes stories can be the best and most entertaining aspect of the book. Without stories the book would be missing heart. In fact, if I don’t want to read stories all I have to do is read the summary of a book, but that would take all the fun out of it. And let’s face it, even as nonfiction readers, we have to have fun with our books sometimes.

The 7th is: EXAMPLES

Examples, like stories, help you to understand what the author is trying to help you solve. In a sense, examples are even more important than stories, but just like anything in life, too much is never a good thing.

I’ve read some books where the author just kept on writing and writing with no pause for reflection. This goes back to having clarity. With too many examples, no matter how good they are, the message becomes muddled.

The 8th is: EXERCISES

I’ve read some fantastic books with great exercises which help you to apply the practical aspects of a book. In my opinion, the exercises need not be extensive depending on the topic.

The point of an exercise is to help you remember what you read by getting you to take immediate action. This is something you can do even if the book doesn’t offer an exercise.

Realize that if you’re reading nonfiction books the most important thing you can do is to take action on the relevant takeaways that relate to the problem you’re trying to solve.

The 9th is: HUMOR

Humor is not the most important of the factors, however, it does add extra spice to your nonfiction reading. Humor could also be a good sign that the author is purposeful about what he or she is writing about.

Not only that, but humor helps you to remember what you read.

What would you add to this list of 9 critical things to look for in a nonfiction book?

If you’re looking for more strategies about how to read deeper, make a plan, and take action on what you read then sign up for my online course called The 6 Principles of Lifelong Learning.

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