There was a good article about nonfiction in the Observer last Sunday (6 December). Long introduction by Geoff Dyer which ends up with John Berger:
But Beautiful [Dyer’s jazz book] … was dedicated to John Berger. Habitually identified as a “Marxist”, “art critic” or “polymath”, Berger has an extraordinary capacity for formal innovation which is easily overlooked. The documentary studies – of a country doctor in A Fortunate Man (1967), of migrant labour in A Seventh Man (1975) – he made with photographer Jean Mohr are unsurpassed in their marriage of image and text.
I suddenly suspect or realise that my wish to do the things I try to do in travel writing (to give equal weight to the words and the pictures – Word and iPhoto each hate that idea) is formed by the time I spent reading A Fortunate Man. I bought it in a second hand bookshop when I was a 21-year old washer-up, read it in a rented house where the toothbrushes had ice on them in the morning, my student friends had gone home for Christmas and I was the only one left.
Then there are different writers commenting on the subject:
[W]hen a writer comes to a story, whether fiction or nonfiction, they employ many of the same techniques, of narrative, plot, pace, mood and dialogue. – Aminatta Forna
I still recall the very first nonfiction book I ever read: The Blue Nile by Alan Moorehead. Since then I’ve loved many histories, menoirs, biographies and travel books. However, when choosing the next book to read (and what a wonderful moment that is) I’m still drawn more towards novels than the worthy tomes that I know will be more instructive. – Alan Johnson
We are feeling creatures, and often it is only our refusal or inability to empathise that allows us to pursue our cruelties. Fiction gets under the guard. It creates empathy, changes fixed opinions and morality, and contributes to reform of law and social practice. – Helen Dunmore
(Swimming in the [White] Nile, Uganda, 2013]