Book Review: The New Kings of Nonfiction

I’m a big fan of essay collections and when I came across this one, cover of kings of nonfictionThe New kings of Nonfiction, edited by Ira Glass of This American Life fame I had high expectations.

The book is good. Three of Five stars. If you’ve never gone out of your way to pick up a book filled with non-fiction essays, this is a decent place to start. I’m a bigger fan of the Best American Essays series, which has never failed me. I enjoy being able to abandon authors or essays I don’t like, and try another in the next chapter. It’s like a writing sample pack: great way to discover new voices and different kinds of writing.

In Glass’s compilation you have Michael Lewis (Moneyball, Liar’s Poker) reporting on a teenage day trader arrested by the SEC, A Malcolm Gladwell essay that appears in The tipping point, and other essays by Dan Savage, Michael Pollan and more.

But by far my two favorite essays were from two writers I’d never heard of before. Losing The War (full essay online), by Lee Sandlin and Toxic Dreams: A California Town Finds Meaning In An Acid Pit, by Jack Hitt. The $10 you’ll pay for this book is worth it for these two superior pieces of funny, clever, tightly written, truly thought provoking works. “Losing the War” explores a truer history of heroes and WWII than most of us know, while “Toxic Dreams” is the story of one of the first toxic waste dumps, and how the imact on the town nearby slowly unraveled over more than a decade.

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