sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Do You Think Novels Can Be Informative Too?

By Pam Lamp August 26, 2023 Lifestyle

Welcome – almost – to fall in my part of the world! Recently, I chatted with a woman over lunch at a café. Our conversation steered to books.

“I only read non-fiction,” she said to me. “I want a book that’s thought-provoking.”

I raised my eyebrows and politely pointed out that novels can also be intellectually stimulating. Almost every book carries surprises and treasures inside the pages.

From the following five novels I learned fun facts about bees, ecosystems, octopus (or is it octopi?), and underwater rescues reminiscent of this summer’s Titan submersible tragedy.

“Fiction, too, can be thought-provoking,” I said.

She smiled. “That’s what my daughter tells me.”

The Last Beekeeper by Julie Carrick Dalton

What would our world look like if the tiny honey bee ceased to exist? For those fans loyal to non-fiction books, this novel reads a bit like non-fiction. This treasure trove of fascinating bee facts is not forced on the reader but woven into the story in an intriguing manner.

During The Great Collapse, pollinators disappeared from the planet. The power grid failed, agriculture crumbled, and the economy imploded.

What were Sasha and her imprisoned father’s roles in the demise of the last known honey bee colony? Sasha returns to her childhood home and discovers her life could have turned out differently if only…

Filled with interesting factoids, this novel motivates me to do my part to save the honey bee – and beetles and butterflies too – from depletion.

The River Runs South by Audrey Ingram

I enjoyed so many things about this novel from Alabama native and former lawyer Audrey Ingram. The southern setting, the quiet pace, the family drama, the characters, and learning about Alabama’s fragile ecosystem with an approach that wasn’t heavy-handed.

After her husband dies unexpectedly, D.C. attorney Camille and her young daughter pack up and head to her coastal hometown. She needs space to grieve, time with family, and a plan to rebuild her shattered life.

She meets Mack, a local fisherman immersed in an environmental lawsuit against a group of individuals, including her father. As Camille joins her father’s defense team, she struggles with loss, love, and what she wants next.

This novel hits bookstores on September 5.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

“The deal is never anyone’s fault. But you control the way you play.”

This tender, heartwarming story had me from page one. You may think you can’t get into a story where a giant Pacific octopus, living out his final days in a Seattle-area aquarium tank, is a narrator. But, please. Give the novel a chance.  

Seventy-year-old Tova’s husband passed away, and her son died decades ago. She has nothing left in her world except an aquarium job, a shopkeeper acquaintance, and two remaining Knit Wits.

Cameron can’t hold a job, has no idea who his father is, and mourns the deadbeat mom who left him. Following a flimsy lead, he heads to Sowell Bay to uncover his roots.

I fell in love with Marcellus, the witty octopus who spews interesting facts about his species, humans, and life in general.  

Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan

Since I LOVED last year’sNora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan, the author’s next novel was an automatic read for me. Romance is not my typical genre, but sometimes we crave light and happy and fun. This delightful beach read checks all those boxes, and I devoured it on one long-haul flight.

Spending summers at their parents’ Long Island beach houses, Samantha and Wyatt grew up together. And we never forget our first loves… Even when the relationship implodes, and we don’t communicate for a decade.

Now Sam is engaged to Jack, a doctor who is writing – and following – the script for their perfect life together. Sam cannot imagine letting loose of her tightly-wound self and allowing a day to unfurl. It’s so much easier to continue doing what she’s supposed to do.

She and Jack leave Manhattan – and their buttoned-up ways – to visit her parents at the beach. And guess who else is there? Readers might predict where the story leads, and I promise you the path is an enjoyable one.

Drowning by T.J. Newman

Whoa! Hold on to the edge of your seats! Readers anxious about flying may want to pass on this one, but it is an engaging, research-packed, and thrilling ride.

Minutes after taking off from Honolulu, Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean. During the evacuation, twelve passengers remain onboard the plane which sinks 200 feet below the surface. With passengers fighting for their lives, the heroic rescue mission may remind readers of the submarine disaster that dominated the news earlier this summer.

Will and daughter Shannon are among the survivors trapped underwater. Rescue diver wife Chris will do whatever it takes to save them. Their family has been dismantled by tragedy once, and she vows it will not happen again.

The author, a former flight attendant, has sold the rights (in a huge auction) to Warner Brothers. I’m now off to read Falling, Newman’s blockbuster debut and another major motion picture deal.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you a fiction or non-fiction reader? Have you read any of these books? What novel had an informative bent?

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I love reading fiction and I definitely learn from novels. Stories are based on people’s experiences, dreams and emotions, and I learn from the dilemmas characters face and the choices they make, in addition to the factual information that is passed on. Reading novels is relaxing and has been shown to help people develop empathy, theory of mind, and critical thinking.” So when people say that reading fiction is a waste of time I vocally disagree! I’m glad you did too! These sound like some amazing recs, thank you Pam!


Having just completed, Isabel Allende’s “The Wind Knows My Name”, which traces the interlocking lives of immigration to the US over generations, I can not only agree with this statement but encourage others to read this novel.
Having just been published the novel includes real time challenges including covid and the ongoing tragedy that is border policy.

Toni Stritzke

I thank the “English Patient,” a work of fiction, for giving me another perspective to the stories my dad told
me of his time during the battle of Monte Casino in WW11.
I find fiction will prompt an interest in a subject or event which leads me to read a non fiction book in order to find out more.


I agree the “English Patient”is a unique novel of excellence which brings light to the reality of war rather than the “Hollywood”.
Thank you for the reminder, I need to re-read.


I definitely believe novels can be informative, particularly historical fiction which deals with a wide variety of time periods, issues and historical figures. Everything written by Tracy Chevalier is incredibly informative and I learned so much from Amor Towles “A Gentleman in Moscow” and Kim Michele Richardson’s “The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek” just to name a few.


I agree with you 100% Pam I have learnt so much from fiction about things I knew little of or hadn’t been aware of. Take Helen Dunmore ‘The Siege’ about Leningrad and the devastating effect on the people through hunger and war. All of her books have taken me to places and shown me life almost through osmosis never consciously but through the characters and story Yes non fiction great but you are missing so much if you don’t delve into the works of our amazing authors from around the world .
Think Harper Lee, Maya Angelou, Kamila Shamsie, the Brontes – the list is endless. As Azar Nafissi in ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ writes “Don’t go chasing after the grand theme – as if to separate from the story itself . The idea or ideas behind the story must come to you through the experience of the novel itself and not as something tacked on to it.”
Just about to start reading “Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith.


The Author

Pamela Lamp is the author of Do the Next New Thing. At Who I Met Today, a blog and podcast, she interviews people from all walks of life. Through conversations about health, hobbies, books, food, and travel, she invites you to join her, explore uncharted territory, and expand your horizons.

You Might Also Like