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The New Kings of Nonfiction Paperback – October 2, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

We're living in an age of great nonfiction writing, says Glass, the host of the radio program This American Life, who picks out 14 of his favorite journalistic features from writers who are entertainers in the best sense of the word, unafraid to insert their personal perspective into the stories they're telling. The collection really is front-loaded with kings—with Susan Orlean and Coco Henson Scales the only female journalists included, despite any number of valid candidates. There's a greater problem with the anthology than its unintentional chauvinism, though. Far from new, many of its components are more than a decade old—Lawrence Weschler's Shapinsky's Karma dates to the mid-1980s—and several have already been published in other books, like the Malcolm Gladwell article that became a chapter in The Tipping Point or an extract from Bill Buford's Among the Thugs. That's not to say that the articles (and their authors) don't deserve the admiration Glass heaps upon them. The way that Michael Lewis teases out the family drama in the story of a teenage day trader who ran afoul of the SEC, for example, is breathtaking reportage and should be read and reread. For all its excellence, though, this anthology is less revelatory than it makes itself out to be. (Oct. 2)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Ira Glass is the producer and host of the award-winning radio and television program "This American Life".

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; First Edition edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594482675
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594482670
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By SORE EYES on February 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
I love This American Life on NPR and was excited to discover this collection of essays assembled by the intelligent and original Ira Glass. I have always loved the viewpoint in Ira's broadcasts and looked forward to discovering the essays and writers he considered worthwhile.

This is an excellent collection of non-fiction. I won't use the term "literary non-fiction" because Ira Glass hates the term. (...I'm a snob when it comes to that phrase. I think it's for losers. It's pretentious, for one thing, and it's a bore. Which is to say, it's exactly the opposite of the writing it's trying to describe.)

I will agree with other reviewers here that complained that they came across some of these essays before and therefore the collection did not seem fresh. Ira writes that "some of the stories are very well known" but were included because the writers were trying to document remarkable experiences and the stories were "built around original reporting of one sort of another." You should view the stories in this book as a whole, even if you might have come across a few of them before. There is merit in assembling these stories in a collection which becomes evident after you finish the book. This story collection works because Ira is able to spot that certain something in a story or style or reporting that is original-but not novel, entertaining-but humane. You're purchasing the vision of Ira Glass in The New Kings of Non-Fiction and it's worth every penny if it were quadruple the price.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a phenomenal collection of short works of nonfiction, compiled by Ira Glass of NPR's THIS AMERICAN LIFE. Every one of these pieces is a treasure, from Michael Lewis's attempt to figure out why the SEC accused a 15 year-old boy of manipulating the stock market, to Jack Hitt's description of the biggest, weirdest lawsuit in history, to Mark Bowden's attempt to answer the question "What's Saddam Hussein really like?" This will introduce some of you to a new genre, others to some new writers, and many of you to at least three books, Bill Buford's AMONG THE THUGS (about rabid English soccer fans), Malcoln Gladwell's THE TIPPING POINT (based on his chapter about Lois Weinberg, the women who knew everybody), and James McManus's POSITIVELY FIFTH STREET (which grew from the article "Fortune's Smile," which concludes this collection). The richness of these stories and the authors' joy in developing them and sharing them, will encourage you to read AND write.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer VINE VOICE on August 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
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.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gary Schroeder on December 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
I bought this book based on the teaser I heard on "This American Life" -- the teaser was for "The American Man, Age Ten." It sounded like just the kind of quirky story that usually draws me into the radio show. I'm happy to report that not only did that turn out to be as good a short as the teaser suggested, but that most of the other stories in the compilation were equally good.

I found the most compelling story to be "Among the Thugs" by Bill Buford in which the author tags along with a band of English soccer hooligans who, despite their initial behavior and contrary protestations, turn out to be some of the most wildly violent "fans" imaginable.

One warning, though. Some of the pieces in this book are not, contrary to the title, recent. One story, "Shapinsky's Karma" was written back in the 1980s.
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