What is the Nonfiction Novel?

In litchat the other day, someone posted a link to the Times list of best nonfiction One of the categories is the nonfiction novel.

That strikes me as very very odd. I mean, by definition, a novel is fiction. How can it be nonfiction? I don’t get it.

But wiki has an article about it and so does the New York Times. Britannica defines it as: “story of actual people and actual events told with the dramatic techniques of a novel.”

I know you can tell a nonfiction story like you would tell a fiction story, but I thought that was narrative nonfiction. If that’s not it, what is narrative nonfiction? Or maybe creative nonfiction – I think narrative nonfiction and creative nonfiction are the same thing.

This is so confusing! Also, contradictory, because I never imagined anything could be described as both nonfiction and a novel. That’s just weird.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is supposed to have invented the genre and in the New York Times interview he says he wrote it because he a literary theory about the nonfiction novel. Something about “. . . a narrative form that employed all the techniques of fictional art but was nevertheless immaculately factual . . .“.

I am not entirely sure I understand his theory, but it sounds a lot like narrative nonfiction. Is it the same thing? I am still not sure.