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30 review for The New Kings of Non-Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I once followed Ira Glass into a Starbucks and let me tell you, he talks like his radio voice all the time. Swoon.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    A collection of essays hand selected by Ira Glass. Anyone who knows me wishes I would just shut up about Ira Glass already. ---- Not surprisingly, this collection of non-fiction essays is amazing. In the introduction, Ira Glass explains his selection process in putting the collection together. It's basically all about journalists who don't shy away from putting themselves in the story. Ira says "I don't see anything wrong with a piece of reporting turning into a fable. In fact, when I'm researchin A collection of essays hand selected by Ira Glass. Anyone who knows me wishes I would just shut up about Ira Glass already. ---- Not surprisingly, this collection of non-fiction essays is amazing. In the introduction, Ira Glass explains his selection process in putting the collection together. It's basically all about journalists who don't shy away from putting themselves in the story. Ira says "I don't see anything wrong with a piece of reporting turning into a fable. In fact, when I'm researching a story and the real-life situation starts to turn into allegory...I feel incredibly lucky..." I would guess this method explains how so many This American Life stories, though about one person's narrow experience, actually speak to broad, universal themes. Anyway, I feel like I learned so much from these stories! They've provided me with a wealth of information with which I'm better able to annoy my friends and family. And, of course, my spouse. My four favorites: - David Foster Wallace's story about right-wing talk radio (and a particular host on KFI, an obnoxious LA station that boasts more "stimulating" talk radio). Of course, it's easy to hate this entire genre of radio, but (as Ira points out), DFW writes with some empathy toward the host guy, and that actually allows him to get away with saying unflattering things about him. - In the story "Tales of the Tyrant," the author tackles the topic of what Saddam Hussein was really like. There aren't really any surprises, but I realized I'd always regarded him as a two-dimensional character. Wait, I take that back about the surprises. I was surprised to learn that Saddam Hussein commissioned a special volume of the Koran written in his own blood. It took three years for him to provide sufficient blood to the team of calligraphers who produced it. Also, I was surprised by the description of Saddam's son Uday's wardrobe. - "Losing the War" is a story about WWII. It's really well done. And it provides knowledge. - In the story "Power Steer," the author assesses the modern American beef industry by purchasing a calf (No. 534) and tracing its life from its birth through to its death 14 months later. If loving animals isn't enough to make you want to never eat beef again, this should do it: After explaining the variety of problems caused by making cows eat corn (instead of grass, the diet they're evolutionarily designed to eat), the author highlights another problem: "...you can go father still, and follow the fertilizer needed to grow that corn all the way to the oil fields of the Persian Gulf. No. 534 started life as part of a food chain that derived all its energy from the sun; now that corn constitutes such an important link in his food chain, he is the product of an industrial system powered by fossil fuel. (And, in turn, defended by the military--another uncounted cost of 'cheap' food.) I asked David Pimentel, a Cornell ecologist who specializes in agriculture and energy, if it might be possible to calculate precisely how much oil it will take to grow my steer to slaughter weight. Assuming No. 534 continues to eat 24 pounds of corn a day and reaches a weight of 1,250 pounds, he will have consumed in his lifetime roughly 284 gallons of oil. We have succeeded in industrializing the beef calf, transforming what was once a solar-powered ruminant into the very last thing we need: another fossil-fuel machine." Or that should at least make you want to eat only grass-fed beef, which is, according to the author, a viable option. Now if only Ira would come to my apartment, sift through the mountains of neglected New Yorkers, Harpers, Believers, and whatever else (maybe there are some Us Weeklys), and select another collection of stories for me, I'd be set. One might encourage me to hide the Us Weeklys before he got here, but I would not. I believe he would understand.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Weichhand

    I suppose its fair to say that Ira Glass is kind of my hero. Not necessarily because he's brought down empires with pacifism or because he lobbied auto manufacturers for seat belts, but because he really inspires me to read and write. This entire collection is something he had sitting in a pile on his desk, saved for an appropriate time as he considered them to be great works of nonfiction. I want to be like that, finding something brilliant and xeroxing it and stapling it together with other ar I suppose its fair to say that Ira Glass is kind of my hero. Not necessarily because he's brought down empires with pacifism or because he lobbied auto manufacturers for seat belts, but because he really inspires me to read and write. This entire collection is something he had sitting in a pile on his desk, saved for an appropriate time as he considered them to be great works of nonfiction. I want to be like that, finding something brilliant and xeroxing it and stapling it together with other articles that can be given to someone for a fit of inspiration. I also like him because he wore thick-framed glasses before it was cool. It goes without saying that the entire collection was filled with talented journalists/writers. But a few standouts were David Foster Wallace who perhaps is the only person to do a truly unbiased portrayal of a right-wing talk radio host, Susan Orlean and her profile of the American 10-year old, and Chuck Klosterman, who up until this point I only considered an extension of tabloids that hipsters bought at Urban Outfitters to prove they owned a book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

    It's deja lu all over again. This is not the superb collection I would expect from Ira Glass. In fact, it's an odd collection all round - the puzzling question is why it exists at all. Don't get me wrong. The quality of most of the contributions to this anthology is very high. But most of the pieces are not new. Glass describes his selection criterion: "most of the stories in this book come from a stack of favorite writing that I've kept behind my desk for years". What does this yield? Michael Le It's deja lu all over again. This is not the superb collection I would expect from Ira Glass. In fact, it's an odd collection all round - the puzzling question is why it exists at all. Don't get me wrong. The quality of most of the contributions to this anthology is very high. But most of the pieces are not new. Glass describes his selection criterion: "most of the stories in this book come from a stack of favorite writing that I've kept behind my desk for years". What does this yield? Michael Lewis on Jonathan Lebed (the 15-year old who was sued for white-collar crime by the SEC). Malcolm Gladwell: Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg. Chuck Klosterman interviewing Val Kilmer. David Foster Wallace on right-wing talk radio. Michael Pollan on buying a cow. Susan Orlean: The American Man, Age Ten. James McManus on playing in the World Series of Poker. Mark Bowden on Saddam Hussein. and stories by Jack Hitt, Dan Savage, Lawrence Weschler, Lee Sandler and Bill Buford. The problem is that most of the pieces in the book have appeared in print before, not once, but twice. For instance, Gladwell's piece - which is indeed a delight to read - first appeared in The New Yorker, then again in his book "The Tipping Point". Similarly, the pieces by Orlean and Weschler first appeared in The New Yorker and were subsequently republished in books by their authors. David Foster Wallace's story was first published in The Atlantic, and subsequently appeared again in the collection "Consider the Lobster". Pollan's work first appeared in The New York Times, and then again in his book "The Omnivore's Dilemma". And so on. I haven't checked, but given the general proliferation of anthologies these days (each year there are the 'best essays', 'best business writing', 'best nonrequired reading', 'best science and nature writing', and The new Yorker has taken to publishing its own anthologies as well), it wouldn't surprise me if some of these pieces have been further anthologized. Thus, operationally, Ira's selection criterion seems to amount to choosing pieces that have been published at least twice before. Which makes one wonder why Glass felt the need to pull this book together - was he stuck for funds? my favorite pieces: the article on Jonathan Lebed, Gladwell's piece, and Klosterman's interview of Val Kilmer. At the other end of the spectrum, the article about poker was a tedious, self-indulgent bore and Foster Wallace's abuse of footnotes is unusually rampant. Finally, and this says more about me than about the quality of the essays, but I couldn't manage to make myself finish Lee Sandlin's article about World War II, nor could I bring myself to care about Bill Buford's exploits with British soccer hooligans. Don't buy this book. If you must read it, check your local library.

  5. 5 out of 5

    neeraja

    Starts off with wonderful pieces, then trails off to the end. While all of the pieces were insightful in their own ways (though I still think the one about poker was a boring waste of space), my favorites were: - Host, David Foster Wallace's fantastic, hilarious look at conservative talk radio - Among the Thugs, Bill Buford's disturbing, drunken, participatory account of British soccor hooligans - Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg, Malcolm Gladwell's take on how we know the people that we know and why i Starts off with wonderful pieces, then trails off to the end. While all of the pieces were insightful in their own ways (though I still think the one about poker was a boring waste of space), my favorites were: - Host, David Foster Wallace's fantastic, hilarious look at conservative talk radio - Among the Thugs, Bill Buford's disturbing, drunken, participatory account of British soccor hooligans - Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg, Malcolm Gladwell's take on how we know the people that we know and why it matters. I know he often over-simplifies, but I still like it - and Jonathan Lebed's Extracurricular Activities, where Michael Lewis voices my thoughts on the silliness of the stock market practically verbatim while telling the story of this crazy, day-trading teenager. Of all of them, David Foster Wallace's is the one you shouldn't miss.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    This collection was pretty good, but I had a few big problems with it, starting with the title. Why make it something that deliberately excludes one gender? Oh, probably because the collection inside does, too. Out of 14 pieces, there were two by women. Those two pieces turned out to be among my favorites, so while I'm not one for including women in an anthology simply to "be fair," I'm also sure there were plenty of others who were worthy of inclusion in this book. My other issue was that the s This collection was pretty good, but I had a few big problems with it, starting with the title. Why make it something that deliberately excludes one gender? Oh, probably because the collection inside does, too. Out of 14 pieces, there were two by women. Those two pieces turned out to be among my favorites, so while I'm not one for including women in an anthology simply to "be fair," I'm also sure there were plenty of others who were worthy of inclusion in this book. My other issue was that the selection felt rather uneven. I'd read a story I couldn't take breaks from, then start another that I wouldn't even want to finish. This is probably more about personal tastes and interests than anything else. But yes, there is certainly some standout writing in here, including Ira Glass's inspiring introduction. My favorite pieces, which I will certainly be re-reading in the future, came from the usual suspects -- Malcolm Gladwell, Chuck Klosterman, Dan Savage, Susan Orlean -- and a few new-to-me names -- Michael Lewis, Bill Buford and Coco Henson Scales.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Gresham

    I'd heard a lot of these names, but other than Gladwell, had never actually read their work. I assumed the "kings of nonfiction" (new or otherwise) wrote more dry, boring stuff--the kind of factual material you had to be an expert or specialist to appreciate. Boy was I wrong. Not only did I learn a lot about good nonfiction writing, I found myself engrossed reading topics that I never thought could hold my interest: English football fan's naughty behavior, the impact of WWII, the thoughts of 10 y I'd heard a lot of these names, but other than Gladwell, had never actually read their work. I assumed the "kings of nonfiction" (new or otherwise) wrote more dry, boring stuff--the kind of factual material you had to be an expert or specialist to appreciate. Boy was I wrong. Not only did I learn a lot about good nonfiction writing, I found myself engrossed reading topics that I never thought could hold my interest: English football fan's naughty behavior, the impact of WWII, the thoughts of 10 year old boys, and a profile of a dictator. This is not only a book I enjoyed reading, I plan to REREAD it to dissect the finer points of writing. This is a must have for writers, imo.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    For fans of Ira Glass, This American Life, nonfiction, journalism, etc. Published in 2007, with articles and essays ranging from 1985-2005, nothing is new however this book may introduce you to a new writer, or shed light on a subject. Two pieces really stood out to me, and inspired me to do more research on the subjects. The others were just merely interesting to downright dreadful. My rating wavers between 2 and 3 stars for the collection as a whole. Loved: • Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg - Malc For fans of Ira Glass, This American Life, nonfiction, journalism, etc. Published in 2007, with articles and essays ranging from 1985-2005, nothing is new however this book may introduce you to a new writer, or shed light on a subject. Two pieces really stood out to me, and inspired me to do more research on the subjects. The others were just merely interesting to downright dreadful. My rating wavers between 2 and 3 stars for the collection as a whole. Loved: • Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg - Malcom Gladwell New Yorker 1999 Love Gladwell or hate him, this piece was fantastic. Living in Chicago, this struck a chord with me. I only wish that my path would have intersected Lois Weisberg. • Losing The War - Lee Sandlin Chicago Reader 1997 Very strong piece. I strongly recommend reading the piece in its entirety on Mr. Sandlin's website. http://leesandlin.com/articles/Losing... Liked: • The American Man, Age Ten - Susan Orlean Esquire 1992 Short, whimsical piece. Nothing deep, but puts a smile on your face. Especially effective for me since I grew up in the same era. • Tales of the Tyrant - Mark Bowden The Atlantic 2002 Neutral: • Jonathan Ledbed's Extracurricular Activities - Michael Lewis NY Times 2001 • A California Mining Town Finds Meaning in an Acid Pit - Jack Hitt Harper's 1995 • Among The Thugs - Bill Buford 1993 • My Republican Journey - Dan Savage 2009 • Power Steer - Michael Pollan Ny Times 2002 Nothing I haven't read elsewhere. To be fair, this was written over a decade ago. • Fortune's Smile: World Series of Poker - James McManus Harper's 2000 The subject matter did not interest me, but boy does James McManus paint a picture with words, his excitement absolutely shined. Disliked: • Crazy Things Seem Normal, Normal Things Seem Crazy - Chuck Klosterman Esquire 2005 Not very crazy. Ringing in at just 14 pages, it is worth a read, but I didn't feel like I gained anything from it. It was neither enjoyable nor dreadful, just neutral. Loathed: • Shapinksy's Karma - Lawrence Weschler NY Times 1985 Being an art major, I should have liked this. It was much too long and began to bore me to tears. At 58 pages, this was the longest submission and my least favorite. • My Year at a Hot Spot - Coco Hensen Scales NY Times 2004 Shallow. Left me scratching my head as to why Ira Glass chose this. Thankfully it was only 12 pages. Could Not Read: • Host - David Foster Wallace The Atlantic 2005 Unreadable. Period. I felt really bad abandoning this piece, but also a relief.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    To all of my friends who, in the course of busy, business-y lives, have forgotten how to read novels: If you want to remember the joy of story, start here. Go get this book and read it. NOW. I widely broadcast my love of Ira Glass and go so far as to assign TAL in class; I love it that much. I always enjoy Ira's creative editorial prowess, and this collection does not disappoint. Every story has its narrative joy: gorgeous, poetic writing; clever character development; suspense; comedy. But becau To all of my friends who, in the course of busy, business-y lives, have forgotten how to read novels: If you want to remember the joy of story, start here. Go get this book and read it. NOW. I widely broadcast my love of Ira Glass and go so far as to assign TAL in class; I love it that much. I always enjoy Ira's creative editorial prowess, and this collection does not disappoint. Every story has its narrative joy: gorgeous, poetic writing; clever character development; suspense; comedy. But because they're creative non-fiction, each essay also has a social function; these authors are grappling with major social issues; they're struggling to understand American culture and our place within it. Though the essays are a bit dated ("pre 9/11" as one of my friends so aptly noted), they remain fascinating--a character study of Saddam Hussein, a reporter's week with a conservative radio talk-show host, an outing to Italy with a group of "not-hooligan" ManUnited fans that ends in a violent brawl. And that's just to name a few. After this set of essays, I'll never assume 10-year olds aren't aware of social issues; I'll probably start eating grass-fed organic beef; I'll think more carefully about how to get my more reticent college kids to open up; I'll remember that the best networking, the broadest expansion of my rolodex may come just by loving people. I cannot recommend this book too highly. Whether you read the whole thing or not, you're sure to find an enjoyable essay ... an amusing and informative way to reengage story for 30-40 minutes per day.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    I bought this book 8 years ago and if I’d actually read it then, I probably would have enjoyed it. But reading it now, after 8 years of Ira Glass curdling from the voice of twee public radio liberalism into a man that says "I think we're ready for capitalism which made this country so great. Public radio is ready for capitalism,” not so much. Some of the essays in this book are by the villainous buffoons that you’d expect (Malcom Gladwell, Chuck Closterman, Michael Lewis). Some are by the sorts o I bought this book 8 years ago and if I’d actually read it then, I probably would have enjoyed it. But reading it now, after 8 years of Ira Glass curdling from the voice of twee public radio liberalism into a man that says "I think we're ready for capitalism which made this country so great. Public radio is ready for capitalism,” not so much. Some of the essays in this book are by the villainous buffoons that you’d expect (Malcom Gladwell, Chuck Closterman, Michael Lewis). Some are by the sorts of people your dad goes to see do readings at independent bookstores or corporate funded art centers (Dan Savage, Michael Pollan). One is by David Foster Wallace. And, sadly and unsurprisingly, only two are by women. Despite being collected by human $6 artisan donut Ira Glass, there is some good writing contained in this collection. But also a lot of dreck. I only read a subset of the essays. Some I started but didn’t like enough to finish. Some were by writers you’d have to pay me a kingly sum to read. Jack Hitt - Toxic Dreams. It's a well written piece, but it’s also part of the larger mid-90s ideological project to reduce the ability of private citizens to use the courts to hold corporations and the state accountable for malfeasance by trying to discredit the entire idea of class action lawsuits. Hooda thunk. Susan Orlean - The American Man, Age Ten. This is a nice impressionistic portrait of a specific ten year old boy, who (shock of shocks) just happens to be white, middle class, suburban and heteronormative. I’m the same age as the kid, so a lot of the pop culture particulars reflect my own experience. But not the larger context of the kid’s life. David Foster Wallace - Host. I’d read this before, so I didn’t re-read it, but it’s a classic for a reason. Lee Sandlin - Losing the War. This is easily the highlight of the book. It’s an analysis of the subjective experience of war wrapped inside a brief overview of the events of WWII that blends storytelling, analysis and reporting seamlessly. It’s as good as it gets. And then I got to the last page and found out it’s only an excerpt of a longer article. So now I have to go re-read the damn thing! Coco Henson Scales - The Hostess Diaries: My Year at a Hot Spot. It’s a slight, but entertaining, piece of proto-Gawkerism. Dan Savage - My Republican Journey. Another slight piece that cracks the case and shockingly reveals that mid-90s Republican activists are super homophobic and just terribly mean spirited people.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shelah

    I have a crush on Ira Glass. For years, it was small crush, a radio crush. I just really liked listening to the This American Life podcasts each week and decided Ira was cool. Then Eddie bought me both the This American Life DVDs and New Kings of Nonfiction (which I'd tried unsuccessfully to reserve at the library in Texas) for Mother's Day (because there's nothing better than a husband who appreciates and even encourages his wife's harmless crushes). I watched the DVDs first and they are AMAZIN I have a crush on Ira Glass. For years, it was small crush, a radio crush. I just really liked listening to the This American Life podcasts each week and decided Ira was cool. Then Eddie bought me both the This American Life DVDs and New Kings of Nonfiction (which I'd tried unsuccessfully to reserve at the library in Texas) for Mother's Day (because there's nothing better than a husband who appreciates and even encourages his wife's harmless crushes). I watched the DVDs first and they are AMAZING! If you haven't seen them, they are worth a Showtime subscription. Barring that, they're definitely worth the $27 you'd pay for them at amazon (which is just enough to get free shipping! score!). Glass comes across as slightly nerdier than I'd pictured him from his radio voice, but after ten hours of watching him, my crush was reaching dangerous proportions. I was even considering email love notes to Chicago Public Radio (ok, not really, but I was still swooning). Then I read The New Kings of Nonfiction. You see, for the last year I've been writing and editing for Segullah, so nonfiction is right up my alley. I was looking forward to some new and groundbreaking nonfiction. I'd already read a few of the essays. And the other essays were just so, well, male. I guess it's no coincidence that the book is called The New KINGS of Nonfiction, because 12 of the 14 essays were written by men. And they were about very male topics: poker, trading stocks, being a lunatic soccer fan, bulls, wars, etc... Even the articles written by women were about things guys would like: one was about what an American ten-year-old male looks like and the other was about working as a hostess at an ultracool NYC bar. So I'd built up in my mind over the last few years this image of Glass as a sensitive metrosexual kind of guy, and the macho themes of the book totally blew that image out of the water. And now I'm not sure what I think about him. I'll say this though, Malcolm Gladwell's essay "Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg" is golden. The book is worth picking up even if you only read that.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I would actually like to give it a 3.5 but rounded up for Ira Glass. Most of the stories are great, uncovering inconsistent laws related to day trading by a high schooler, an ordinary socialite in extraordinary circles, and a great artist who fell through the large cracks of the establishment of art appreciators. I loved reading about how Monica Lewinsky had to be ushered out of a trendy bar when Chelsea Clinton showed up with her boyfriend, and how Dan Savage fairly successfully infiltrated his I would actually like to give it a 3.5 but rounded up for Ira Glass. Most of the stories are great, uncovering inconsistent laws related to day trading by a high schooler, an ordinary socialite in extraordinary circles, and a great artist who fell through the large cracks of the establishment of art appreciators. I loved reading about how Monica Lewinsky had to be ushered out of a trendy bar when Chelsea Clinton showed up with her boyfriend, and how Dan Savage fairly successfully infiltrated his Seattle-area Republican caucus to prod the party towards the center while supporting their most conservative candidates, who ultimately help elect Democratic candidates. The day-to-day life, habits, and mentalities of Saddam Hussein were fascinating, and Michael Pollan's piece, also contained within The Omnivore's Dilemma, is one of the most convincing passages to convert one to vegetarianism or small-farm-grass-fed-ism that I've encountered. Some stories left me bored, though, like the English soccer fans who never seemed known by the author, and real life during WWII. The shock-jock story by David Foster Wallace would have been more interesting had the "asides", which squeeze the story off many pages, not been so ridiculous and unnecessary. Overall, it affirmed my love of nonfiction and a belief that the most entertaining and outrageous stories are just as likely found out there as in someone's head.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    While this collection is flawed, I enjoyed it immensely. (Obviously enough to give it a five star rating, even though more accurately it would be a 4.8 or so.) Ira Glass' superb introduction is an apt treatise on the nature of nonfiction writing. The stories themselves, however, are naturally what makes the book. Since every story (with a few exceptions) in this collection is outstanding, I'll just gloss over the few issues I had with this New Kings. One: Coco Hensen Scales' story has no business While this collection is flawed, I enjoyed it immensely. (Obviously enough to give it a five star rating, even though more accurately it would be a 4.8 or so.) Ira Glass' superb introduction is an apt treatise on the nature of nonfiction writing. The stories themselves, however, are naturally what makes the book. Since every story (with a few exceptions) in this collection is outstanding, I'll just gloss over the few issues I had with this New Kings. One: Coco Hensen Scales' story has no business in this book. It's interesting and entertaining, but absolutely pales in comparison to the quality and insight the other stories in New Kings offer. Two: James McManus has a weird habit of ending otherwise great paragraphs with sad, poorly constructed sentences for what I assume to be (misguided) stylistic reasons (eg, "Him scared."). Otherwise, his story deftly captures the cerebral tension intrinsic to and intricate head game that is high stakes poker. And that's literally it. Those are the only faults in this book. The stories as a whole are insightful, entertaining and thought-provoking: Just what you'd expect from a collection curated by the force behind This American Life.

  14. 5 out of 5

    JJ

    first of all, ira glass picked these all out so i am inclined to decide to like them whether i actually do or not. but the fact is that these are awesome nonfiction writers. so far they have delivered what mr. glass promises: journalism with a personality. these are highly skilled writers stating facts while managing to entertain wildly. my favorite so far is an extensive analysis of saddam hussein, based on impressions by his (previously) close advisors, friends, victims, and everyone in betwee first of all, ira glass picked these all out so i am inclined to decide to like them whether i actually do or not. but the fact is that these are awesome nonfiction writers. so far they have delivered what mr. glass promises: journalism with a personality. these are highly skilled writers stating facts while managing to entertain wildly. my favorite so far is an extensive analysis of saddam hussein, based on impressions by his (previously) close advisors, friends, victims, and everyone in between. the anecdotes first humanize him, only to dehumanize him once the wrong-headedness of his sociopathic behavior sinks in. i also loved the val kilmer interview by chuck klosterman, which is taken from VI, which is another awesome book of essays/interviews. yay nonfiction! you can be funny and also make me seem smart!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    It took me WEEKS to get through this -- not because it's dull, but because this is a collection of dense, in-depth, thought-provoking journalism that demands your patience and attention. I highly recommend reading the introduction, in which Ira Glass reveals that he regularly hands these essays out to aspiring journalists as examples of truly fine writing. And he's right; even when you don't think you're interested in a particular subject, the writing is so good that you get sucked in anyway. I It took me WEEKS to get through this -- not because it's dull, but because this is a collection of dense, in-depth, thought-provoking journalism that demands your patience and attention. I highly recommend reading the introduction, in which Ira Glass reveals that he regularly hands these essays out to aspiring journalists as examples of truly fine writing. And he's right; even when you don't think you're interested in a particular subject, the writing is so good that you get sucked in anyway. I will admit to finding the modern art and poker chapters somewhat dry, but otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. Definitely don't miss the David Foster Wallace chapter, or Lee Sandlin's fascinating essay on World War II.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marybeth

    What a great book! I wanted to give it five stars - but I did find a couple of the stories a tad bit boring. The rest of them were five star worthy! My favorite was My Republican Journey by Dan Savage. My favorite tidbit: "When I was beginning to drift away from the Catholic Church, out of disgust with our holy mother's hypocrisy, sexism and homophobia, my biological mother implored me to keep the faith. "If everyone who isn't an asshole leaves the church," my momma told me, "the church will be What a great book! I wanted to give it five stars - but I did find a couple of the stories a tad bit boring. The rest of them were five star worthy! My favorite was My Republican Journey by Dan Savage. My favorite tidbit: "When I was beginning to drift away from the Catholic Church, out of disgust with our holy mother's hypocrisy, sexism and homophobia, my biological mother implored me to keep the faith. "If everyone who isn't an asshole leaves the church," my momma told me, "the church will be just a bunch of assholes." I also particularly loved the story The Ameican Man, Age Ten (as Kirsten said I would - this is why she loaned me the book - thanks Kirsten!). I found the story of Saddam Hussein fascinating as well.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ynna

    If "This American Life" had a greatest hits collection, it would be this book. Appropriately named, this anthology truly features the greatest nonfiction writers of our time. I loved the variety of topics ranging from the American cattle industry, Saddam Hussein, hostessing at a nightclub and talk radio. My favorite pieces were Lee Sandlin's account of World War II veterans the effects of the war in the United States, Malcolm Gladwell's piece on the concept of "six degrees of separation" and Mar If "This American Life" had a greatest hits collection, it would be this book. Appropriately named, this anthology truly features the greatest nonfiction writers of our time. I loved the variety of topics ranging from the American cattle industry, Saddam Hussein, hostessing at a nightclub and talk radio. My favorite pieces were Lee Sandlin's account of World War II veterans the effects of the war in the United States, Malcolm Gladwell's piece on the concept of "six degrees of separation" and Mark Bowden's fascinating article on the life of Saddam Hussein and his rise to power. I learned so much from this book and felt it was a worthwhile use of my time, which I don't always feel after many books, even if I do enjoy them. Read this and learn a thing or two about the world.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I'm reading this book these days, and then stories are spectacular, just as you would expect them, being selected by ira glass. The discounted star is for one simple reason: the stories are not dated. Sure, I can Google them by title, to find out more about when they were published, but without extra research, lacking the dates cuts away some of the broader context in which the journalistic work was carried and published. Reading the book almost 10 years after the publishing, I tend to treat it I'm reading this book these days, and then stories are spectacular, just as you would expect them, being selected by ira glass. The discounted star is for one simple reason: the stories are not dated. Sure, I can Google them by title, to find out more about when they were published, but without extra research, lacking the dates cuts away some of the broader context in which the journalistic work was carried and published. Reading the book almost 10 years after the publishing, I tend to treat it also from historical perspective, and it seems awfully ironic for the genre of narrative non-fiction, that the reader of the future can't directly locate the time of the story, from the headline. I know, this is a Super nerdy concern, but I stand by it :)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This is a really excellent collection of articles, though some of them are not new at all. One dates back to the 1980s. Lee Sandlin's "Losing the War" was especially amazing, providing a whole different conception of WWII in about 45 pages. The collection also contains Malcolm Gladwell's "Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg," which I'd read before and loved, and David Foster Wallace's story about a conservative talk radio host. I wasn't crazy about the Dan Savage piece, but I don't really care for his This is a really excellent collection of articles, though some of them are not new at all. One dates back to the 1980s. Lee Sandlin's "Losing the War" was especially amazing, providing a whole different conception of WWII in about 45 pages. The collection also contains Malcolm Gladwell's "Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg," which I'd read before and loved, and David Foster Wallace's story about a conservative talk radio host. I wasn't crazy about the Dan Savage piece, but I don't really care for his writing. And the one about the restaurant hostess didn't move me. But overall, this is some seriously amazing writing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Peter Knox

    Like Ira Glass hand picked his favorite non-fiction participatory first person journalism (my favorite genre to read) and put it all together in one handy book that you'll tear through and want to share. And the man clearly has good taste because This American Life is amazing. This is a wide ranging collection full of my favorite writers and essays I perhaps hadn't read before now (although some I had - again, great minds and all). Do it. Like Ira Glass hand picked his favorite non-fiction participatory first person journalism (my favorite genre to read) and put it all together in one handy book that you'll tear through and want to share. And the man clearly has good taste because This American Life is amazing. This is a wide ranging collection full of my favorite writers and essays I perhaps hadn't read before now (although some I had - again, great minds and all). Do it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    I've been flipping around this book for a bit now. It's a great collection. My favorite article is the Dan Savage bit on becoming a delegate for the local Republican party, but there are several really great essays in this book. I've been flipping around this book for a bit now. It's a great collection. My favorite article is the Dan Savage bit on becoming a delegate for the local Republican party, but there are several really great essays in this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Liana

    Unlike any nonfiction work I've ever read. Every single.. work, shall I say, is written in a conversational tone. The best thing is the author seems to understand that nonfiction can be a boring pain in the ass.. Unlike any nonfiction work I've ever read. Every single.. work, shall I say, is written in a conversational tone. The best thing is the author seems to understand that nonfiction can be a boring pain in the ass..

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jessie

    Ira did good. It's an excellent collection of thought provoking and well written pieces of non-fiction. The one about the cattle industry made me wish I could become a double vegetarian. Ira did good. It's an excellent collection of thought provoking and well written pieces of non-fiction. The one about the cattle industry made me wish I could become a double vegetarian.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    These are fascinating,real-life stories told by fearless, meticulous journalists. Makes me ponder how many more of these stories are being played out right at this moment. . .

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I want to read more nonfiction, but I have a hard time picking what to read. So this was a great sampling of some good writers - took note of some to look more into.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    Incredibly good reporting and interesting stories about mostly people/things I knew nothing about (but probably should have). So worth reading every one of them.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    In my review of Sloane Crosley's latest book, How Did You Get This Number, I confessed my love for essays, particularly personal essays with a humorous bent. But I like harder hitting essays too, and this collection of non-fiction writing chosen and introduced by This American Life's Ira Glass was a real treat for an essay fan like myself. In my mind, it is also a good introduction to non-fiction writing—a genre that so many readers shy away from (for reasons that elude me). What makes this book In my review of Sloane Crosley's latest book, How Did You Get This Number, I confessed my love for essays, particularly personal essays with a humorous bent. But I like harder hitting essays too, and this collection of non-fiction writing chosen and introduced by This American Life's Ira Glass was a real treat for an essay fan like myself. In my mind, it is also a good introduction to non-fiction writing—a genre that so many readers shy away from (for reasons that elude me). What makes this book so wonderful is that Glass has cherry-picked some of his favorite non-fiction writing and put them all together so you get good writing on a wide range of topics—from profiles of Saddam Hussein to Val Kilmer, from soccer hooligans to a "typical" 10-year-old boy, from where a steak comes from to what is feels like to make the final table at the World Series of Poker. As you know if you're familiar with Ira Glass's work, he has diverse interests and a innate curiosity about the world around us—and this sensibility is reflected in his choices for this book. Perhaps the best way to get a sense of the diversity of the stories in the book is to provide a brief description of the various pieces (with a little bit of commentary on what I liked and didn't like). * Michael Lewis kicks off the book with a piece called "Jonathan Lebed's Extracurricular Activities,"which was a fascinating look at a 15-year-old high-school boy who gets in trouble with the SEC after he makes a lot of money (like a half a million dollars!!) via day-trading and promoting various stocks on the Internet. In the SEC's mind, Jonathan has done something illegal, but his offense is one that even the head of the SEC is unable to clearly articulate. In the end, it seems that the "offense" was simply figuring out how to make money on the stock market at a young age. * Jack Hitt's contribution, "Toxic Dreams: A California Town Finds Meaning In An Acid Pit," reads like a satire of the legal system—except that the case he writes about (Stringfellow) is an actual case that is ongoing to this day. I suspect that a writer couldn't come up with a mockery of what legal proceedings can turn into—or how they can take on a life of their own—that sounds more ridiculous than what the Stringfellow proceedings involve. * Malcolm Gladwell makes an appearance with a story called "Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg," which is about how some people are people who seem to know everybody—a kind of living embodiment of the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game. (In fact, Gladwell alludes to this game and makes a pretty good case that it might be easier played with Burgess Meredith.) By the end, I guarantee that you'll be looking for the Lois Weisberg in your life! * "Shapinsky's Karma" by Lawrence Weschler is one of the longer pieces in the book—chronicling the unlikely rise to fame by an obscure painter named Harold Shapinsky due to the tireless and almost maniacal efforts of an Indian fellow named Akumal Ramachander, which turns into a story as much about Akumal as it is about Shapinsky. A fascinating look at the art world and what one persistent person who believes in another can accomplish. * Susan Orlean's contribution, "The American Man, Age Ten," was probably my favorite in the book. After her editor at Esquire asked her to write a profile of Macauley Culkin for a piece he planned on giving the same title to, Orlean asked if she could instead write about a "typical" American ten-year-old instead, which is how she ended up shadowing a New Jersey boy named Colin Duffy. The result is a fascinating, humorous and engrossing look into Colin's world—and what a wondrous place it is. * "Among the Thugs" by Bill Buford was particularly timely as I read it while the World Cup was going on. The piece in the book (which was an early chapter from Buford's book of the same name) is a first-hand account of shadowing British soccer hooligans as they travel to Turin to watch their team (Manchester United) play. It was a glimpse into a scary world that I don't think I would want to get near. * Chuck Klosterman writes about his interview with Val Kilmer in a piece called "Crazy Things Seem Normal, Normal Things Seem Crazy," which includes writing like: "The worst thing I could say about him is that he's kind of a name-dropper; beyond that, he seems like an affable fellow with a good sense of humor, and he is totally not f**ked up. But he is weird." As you can see, this isn't your ordinary, run-of-the-mill celebrity profile. * David Foster Wallace's piece, "Host," was my least favorite piece in the book—probably due to the excessive use of footnotes (printed in the most unusual way) that kept distracting me from the main story, which is a profile of a radio talk show host named John Ziegler. I almost skipped this piece entirely but ended up powering through just so I could write this review and honestly say I read the entire book. * "Tales of the Tyrant" by Mark Bowden is an extensive piece on Saddam Hussein, which I wish I'd read way back when the U.S. first started getting involved with Iraq. It was quite eye-opening and enlightening and shed a little more light on the country of Iraq and its long-time dictator and what kind of person he was. * "Losing the War" by Lee Sandlin is an interesting piece in which the author asks various people what they know about war, specifically World War II. And what does he find? "Nobody could tell me the first thing about it. Once they got past who won they almost drew a blank. All they knew were the big totemic names—Pearl Harbor, D-day, Auschwitz, Hiroshima—whose unfathomable reaches of experience has been boiled down to an abstract atrocity. The rest was gone." * One of the few pieces I felt didn't fit in was "The Hostess Diaries: My Year At A Hot Spot" by Coco Henson Scales. Although an amusing enough look at what really goes on behind-the-scenes at an exclusive nightclub, the piece felt too slight in comparison to the other pieces in the book. * I really loved "My Republican Journey" by Dan Savage because it reminded me how much I enjoy Dan Savage's writing. (I used to read his sex column in The Onion and just loved his books The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant and Skipping Towards Gomorrah.) In fact, it reminded me that I really should get the rest of Savage's books that he's been writing while I was doing other things. Shame on me!! This particular story chronicles Savage's attempt to infiltrate the Republican Party during the 1996 presidential elections in an effort to change the Republican's view of homosexuality from the "inside." If you've never read Savage's biting, hysterical point of view, this essay is a wonderful introduction. (But not if you're a hard-core, conservative Republican ... cuz' my guess is that you won't really care for Savage's worldview. I love him though.) * "Power Steer" by Michael Pollan is almost guaranteed to put you off red meat for awhile. The story follows the short life of steer No. 534, which Pollan buys in an effort to "find out how a modern, industrial steak is produced in America these days, from insemination to slaughter." What he finds was eye-opening and probably more than I wanted to know. But if you eat meat, you should probably understand where it comes from the effects of the modern meat industry on the environment. After reading this essay, it made me want to read Pollan's longer books, like The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals or In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. * I particularly enjoyed James McManus's story, "Fortune's Smile: World Series of Poker," as Mr. Jenners and I went through a Texas Hold 'Em craze a few years back (along with much of America). Chronicling the author's unlikely journey to the final table at the World Series of Poker (back before it was a well-known and a regular fixture on TV), the piece has a "you are there" quality to it that I really enjoyed. If Mr. Jenners hadn't already consumed almost every anecdotal book on gambling and casinos, I might have even had a shot at getting him to read this one. My Final Recommendation If you're looking for a diverse collection of non-fiction writing that differs wildly in topics and style but that all share a foundation of good writing that involves the reader, look no further. This collection had everything you could want—and will probably lead you to seek additional works by the authors represented in the collection.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Ira Glass, creator and host of the podcast This American Life, curated a set of 14 of his favorite nonfiction, long-form essays from, roughly, the 80s - 00s (the book was published in 2007). I strongly recommend this to anyone that loves any kind of long-form nonfiction. Every single essay within is strong. I picked the book up becuase (a) I love Ira Glass and (b) I knew and loved several of the authors in the book: Micahel Lewis, Mark Bowden, Michael Pollen, David Foster Wallace, Malcolm Gladwel Ira Glass, creator and host of the podcast This American Life, curated a set of 14 of his favorite nonfiction, long-form essays from, roughly, the 80s - 00s (the book was published in 2007). I strongly recommend this to anyone that loves any kind of long-form nonfiction. Every single essay within is strong. I picked the book up becuase (a) I love Ira Glass and (b) I knew and loved several of the authors in the book: Micahel Lewis, Mark Bowden, Michael Pollen, David Foster Wallace, Malcolm Gladwell. The collection was, overall, excellent. I hesitate to list my favorites since it would be most of the 14 essays! But I will say the most delightfully surprising to me were from the authors I hadn't yet experienced. Shapinsky's Karma by Lawrence Weschler I've recommended several times already since reading it, and will almost certainly reread many times in the years to come. It's a simply outstanding, heartwarming story of discovery. Among the Thugs by Bill Buford had me laughing and in suspense with my adrenaline running the whole time. The absolute mastery of the English language in writing I know from Buford's Heat was there, but the subject matter and feel were completely different. James McManus's Fortune's Smile kept me up past my bedtime reading for the first time in over a year (I take my bed time very seriously). I bought this book over a decade before reading it, carrying it around, intending to always "get around to it", and I'm so, so, so glad that I did.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Melvin Brown

    This book is a collection of nonfiction texts that detail events ranging from a struggling artist to the effects of war on the civilian world. These individual texts, when bunched up in a collection like this, serve to tell a message about society. “...These stories are a kind of beacon. By making stories full of empathy and amusement and the sheer pleasure of discovering the world, these writers reassert the fact that we live in a world where joy and empathy and pleasure are all around us, there This book is a collection of nonfiction texts that detail events ranging from a struggling artist to the effects of war on the civilian world. These individual texts, when bunched up in a collection like this, serve to tell a message about society. “...These stories are a kind of beacon. By making stories full of empathy and amusement and the sheer pleasure of discovering the world, these writers reassert the fact that we live in a world where joy and empathy and pleasure are all around us, there for the noticing.” Readers should check this book out, but only if they're interested in reading about analyses of different aspects of society in a collection of nonfiction texts. Its messages are not satirical or discreetly written into the story of a novel, which is why I wouldn't recommend it for entertainment value. The characters mentioned here are real life people and not made up, which adds more realism to the book. The New Kings of Nonfiction has a collection of texts with deep meanings with an analytical outlook on the ongoing events in modern society. The characters and their endeavors/struggles highlight these messages clearly.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Disappointing that the collection seems overwhelmingly male (I know it's called "Kings," but the two female authors feel like token inclusions, which is not to say they are bad pieces. Still...) and white. That said, if you love the long narrative nonfiction of NPR or the New Yorker/The Atlantic, this is great potpourri. I struggled with one or two pieces that felt less focused, or were too obviously excerpts from larger works; these included "Among the Thugs" and Klosterman's Val Kilmer profile Disappointing that the collection seems overwhelmingly male (I know it's called "Kings," but the two female authors feel like token inclusions, which is not to say they are bad pieces. Still...) and white. That said, if you love the long narrative nonfiction of NPR or the New Yorker/The Atlantic, this is great potpourri. I struggled with one or two pieces that felt less focused, or were too obviously excerpts from larger works; these included "Among the Thugs" and Klosterman's Val Kilmer profile. But largely I found these engaging, fascinating, clever, and invigorating. The trauma of war in Lee Sandlin's "Losing the War" is vivid and poetic. Michael Pollan's "Power Steer" got into specifics of factory farming in detail that I was not fully aware of, but without imposing a moral order. I could go on. This is a wonderful collection and made me miss the days when I had time for reading longform.com at work.

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