Vivid Nonfiction
January 16, 2011 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I just finished reading The Starship and the Canoe, and I'm craving more long-form nonfiction pieces like it. Any suggestions?

Specifically, the author having an active role in the story, if only for being a professional writer following characters around. Probably because of this closeness to the story, he provides extremely detailed descriptions and narratives of concepts. The author has a clear, deep understanding of his subject. I really fell in love with that... I hope someone know what I'm getting at.
posted by Taft to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
It sounds like you're describing New Journalism, unless I'm misunderstanding. Does that sound close?
posted by arco at 9:54 AM on January 16, 2011


The Pine Barrens by John McPhee (or almost anything by him)

Also Into Thin Air or anything by Jon Krakauer
posted by Kronur at 10:02 AM on January 16, 2011


Well there you go. Thanks arco, this really helps.

From the wiki:
- Telling the story using scenes rather than historical narrative as much as possible
- Dialogue in full (Conversational speech rather than quotations and statements)
- Point-of-view (present every scene through the eyes of a particular character)
- Recording everyday details such as behavior, possessions, friends and family (which indicate the "status life" of the character)


Sounds about right.
posted by Taft at 10:05 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Orchid Thief, by Susan Orlean
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
posted by hot soup girl at 10:23 AM on January 16, 2011


My favourite writer for this sort of thing is Mary Roach; Stiff and Six Feet Over were excellent, Bonk is in my to-read pile and all the rest on my wish list!

Jon Ronson seems to be in the vein of Louis Theroux, which I suspect is something you either strongly like or dislike. The Men Who Stare At Goats is a great book (haven't seen the film, reviews seem to suggest it isn't good). Come to think of it, if you like Louis Theroux he's written at least one book based on his documentaries.
posted by Coobeastie at 12:57 PM on January 16, 2011


A lot of good travel books pretty much by design involve this style of writing. Ones that immediately come to mind are:

David Lida's First Stop in the New World

At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig (I'm told that other books by David Gimlette are also great, but this is the only one of his so far)

Stories I stole by Wendell Steavenson (it sounds like her second book might be even more intense)

On the non-travel front, I cannot highly enough recommend highly enough, Stuart, a life backwards

I could go on and on, but I will stop now.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 2:11 PM on January 16, 2011


Rebecca Skloot tried very hard to keep herself OUT of her book, but ultimately felt it served the story. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an AMAZING book about a woman to whom each of us owes an incalculable debt. Rebecca is a friend, but it's won tons of awards and I'd be gushing about it regardless of the connection.
posted by cyndigo at 1:49 PM on January 17, 2011


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