Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The New Kings of Nonfiction

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This collection of nonfiction journalism has a little something for everybody. I call it journalism because the collection's curator, This American Life podcast host Ira Glass, gives it that name. And it is, but that barely contains all that it is. It is reporting, but it's also essays, sort of. Or maybe you'd call it true short stories? Well, it's all of that, and more. 

The contributors here tell fascinating true stories, and they do it well. They zhuzh 'em up a little with descriptive writing, they captivate. As Glass writes in the intro, ". . . these writers are all entertainers, in the best sense of the word. I know that’s not how we usually talk about great reporting, but it’s a huge part of all these stories. Great scenes, great characters, great moments. Often they’re funny. There’s a cheerful embracing of life in this kind of journalism, and a curiosity about the world."

This is a great book if you want to dip in for a night or two, then set it aside to read something else. A chapter isn't grabbing you? Fine, skip it. Allow yourself the grace to read what pleases you and skip the rest.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces from this collection:

Jonathan Lebed's Extracurricular Activities by Michael Lewis

Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg by Malcolm Gladwell

Shapinsky's Karma by Lawrence Weschler

Losing the War by Lee Sandlin (You can read the longer version of this outstanding piece for free on Sandlin's website.)

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