Trying to think beyond categories

Going to Literati and looking through the essays/memoirs/nonfiction section was an interesting experiment in getting more used to thinking beyond the genres/categories/labels that I’ve grown up learning about.  It was even worth the weird looks I got as I knelt in front of the bookshelf with an index card and a pen, writing down what I saw.  The technique I used was to look at the staff recommendation cards, check out the description at the back of the book, look through the book reviews quoted on the book’s cover, and to quickly scan the pages myself.  I was looking for labels.  Here is what I found:

Essays/collections of essays.

Case studies.  I found one book called The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison.  The author used medical case studies within her prose.  She also used transcripts from tape recordings.  Interesting elements outside what one would normally think of as the essay genre.

Imaginings.  Not really sure what this means, but saw one book described as a series of imaginings.

A history.  For example, On Immunity by Eula Biss was described as a history of immunization.  On the back of the book, the LA Times was quoted as saying that it “occupies a space between research and reflection.”  So I guess reflections makes up another label.  The NY Times said it draws on science, mythology and literature.

MemoirLiterary biography.


DiariesThe Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits was described on the back cover as a series of confessions.

Portrait of a…



Quite the list I compiled after only a half hour of skimming through books.  My next challenge is to figure out how to break and fuse together labels like these to make a more interesting capstone project…

Brie Winnega

Hey, I'm Brie. I'm an English major who's addicted to reading, writing, and ponytails.

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