I had nearly finished reading Jon Krakauer’s INTO THIN AIR on the way to work this morning and I had to resist walking down the street with my nose in the book. This proved to be a wise choice when I was nearly plowed over in a crosswalk by an SUV inattentively making a right hand turn, and was saved by a quick leap backwards and a loud shout. Drivers of San Francisco — please be careful when there are literary agents in the crosswalk! California’s car cell phone ban cannot come soon enough.
But in any event, INTO THIN AIR is an amazing book!! I’m sure many of you have read it, but Krakauer’s step by step chronicle of his team’s ill-fated 1996 Everest expedition is one of the most perfect combinations of subject matter and incredible writing I have ever come across. Not only that, I have it on good authority that Krakauer is an extremely nice person and a pleasure to work with.
Krakauer really proves that it is not enough to have witnessed incredible events, you have to be a tremendous writer. Check and check.
So now I’m wondering: what is your favorite work of nonfiction based on actual events? This rules out general nonfiction, so I guess we’re looking at history, memoir, biography, journalism…. you get the idea.
Suzanne Nam says
i’m so late on these…
common ground, anthony lukas
who killed daniel pearl, bernard henri levy
i guess you can tell i’m a journalist…
The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession
by Mark Obmascik
I loved In Cold Blood *because* it felt like a novel. Eat Pray Love is also one of my favorites, and William Dalrymple’s In Xanadu is excellent. I love travel literature that weaves a good story.
Favorite book I keep having to remind myself is NOT based on a true story? Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. Shudder.
And, of course, Memories Dreams and Reflections by Carl Jung
Although it has a very disturbing theme, I’d have to say Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” It’s an often riveting read because it takes the rider on an unforgettable journey.
It has these passages of darkness, crudeness and inhumanity, and then it explodes with light. At times it’s like a long dark poem. Plus, Capote did something innovative with his narrative, and doing so, he created a whole other genre of storytelling.