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Cannonball Read III: The New Kings of Non-Fiction edited by Ira Glass

By Raych | Books | April 15, 2011 |

By Raych | Books | April 15, 2011 |

This review seemed especially perfect coming on the heels of Dustin’s SRL of the faces of NPR the other day. —TU

The basic thesis of The New Kings of Nonfiction is that non-fiction is an art, not just a tin can in which you store facts. IT CAN BE FUN TO READ, Y’ALLS. I will drink to this thesis, since reviewing books is technically non-fiction and I try to make it, more than anything, fun to read.

This book is a bound copy of Ira Glass’ pile of non-fiction he gives to aspiring nonfictionists as examples of What To Do. Because they are all indicative of one man’s tastes, though written by many different brains, they all have a definite feel to them. They aren’t siblings but they are certainly kissing cousins. At least they are the hot cousins.

Chuck Klosterman’s “interview” with Val Kilmer is excellent, because Chuck Klosterman is very great always and forever and because Kilmer is, to quote The Klost, “an affable fellow with a good sense of humor, and he is totally not fucked up. But he is weird.” David Foster Wallace is his usual David Foster Wallacean self, which is to say observant and thinky and deadpan and heavily (and delightfully, if it’s your thing [irritatingly, if it’s not]) footnoted.

Though non-fic isn’t just about learning, I certainly learned more than I ever knew about Saddam, say, or about World War II, and while I do not give a shit about poker, I was ENTRANCED by James McManus’ account of that time he entered the World Series of Poker so he could write about it for Harper’s and then he accidentally almost won it.

As per usual, I have a single, solitary beef.


I’ve come around in recent years to admitting that women can be gud riters also, and TNKoN is pretty dearthy in Essays by Tha Ladies. There are only two, and one of them is sort of rubbish (to balance it, the other one is fabulous and sweet and clever). To be fair, I can only pull two other excellent lady-nonfictionists out of my head, and I really only liked the one thing Mary Roach wrote so I am in no place to offer suggestions.

On the whole, more great than notgreat.

For more of Raych’s reviews, check out her blog, books i done read.

This review is part of Cannonball Read III. For more information, click here.

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