Eloquent Arguments Against Mass Incarceration, Capital and Excessive Punishment, and Mercy Above All

Book review: Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I avoided reading Just Mercy, to some extent, because I knew it was going to be a painful book to read. And now I’ve avoided writing about it because I knew how hard … Continue reading Eloquent Arguments Against Mass Incarceration, Capital and Excessive Punishment, and Mercy Above All

Catfishing ISIS

Book review: In the Skin of a Jihadist, by Anna Erelle When one worked on “societal” issues, it was out of passion. If only I could write about this topic in a new way, one that avoided treating individuals as part of a succession of similar cases. I wanted to investigate the roots of “digital jihadism” and get to the bottom of an evil phenomenon … Continue reading Catfishing ISIS

The Fall of a Too-Good-to-Be-True Medical Startup

Book review: Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou Her emergence tapped into the public’s hunger to see a female entrepreneur break through in a technology world dominated by men. Women like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg had achieved a measure of renown in Silicon Valley, but they hadn’t created their own companies from scratch. In Elizabeth Holmes, the Valley had its first female billionaire … Continue reading The Fall of a Too-Good-to-Be-True Medical Startup

Impressionistic Vignettes of a Year Still Reverberating Today

Review: 1947: Where Now Begins, by Elisabeth Asbrink I try to assemble the year 1947 into a splintered whole. This is lunacy, but time does not leave me alone. Within the first few pages of 1947, I made myself slow down because I realized I was reading something special and I didn’t want it to be over too quickly. There’s a reason why librarian Nancy Pearl called this … Continue reading Impressionistic Vignettes of a Year Still Reverberating Today

Favorites of the Year So Far

2018 has seen so much great nonfiction and we’re only halfway there. It’s been quite the year for big nonfiction news stories too, kicking off in January with Fire and Fury frenzy, then the memoir debut of a daughter of Mormon survivalists taking the literary world by storm, James Comey’s much-anticipated tell-all, and a triumphant moment for criminal justice with a serial rapist and killer apprehended more than four decades … Continue reading Favorites of the Year So Far

Inside the North Korean Gulag

Image of Workers’ Party of Korea Monument in Pyongyang by Mannen av börd, edited by Entheta (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons Book review: The Aquariums of Pyongyang, by Kang Chol-Hwan, and Pierre Rigoulot During the first days of my detention, I met a kid who wore black socks. At least that’s what I thought until I realized his socks in … Continue reading Inside the North Korean Gulag

A Journalist on Clinton’s Campaigns and Her Own Role in Covering Them

Book review: Chasing Hillary, by Amy Chozick I just wanted to tell good stories that helped explain the world to people. Every time I read another campaign trail or White House memoir, I tell myself that’s enough. Then a new one comes out and I can’t seem to resist. Longtime traveling journalist on the Hillary Clinton beat Amy Chozick’s Chasing Hillary is the latest, and it’s quite … Continue reading A Journalist on Clinton’s Campaigns and Her Own Role in Covering Them

The New Wild (Mid)West

Book review: Great American Outpost, by Maya Rao One could travel there by taking the interstate all the way across North Dakota, then going up Highway 85, which formed the backbone of the oilfield and ran 1,479 miles from El Paso to the Canadian border. But to really understand the place, a traveler ought to make a series of northern and westerly turns from Jamestown … Continue reading The New Wild (Mid)West

Sharp Essays on America’s Social, Political, and Economic Bruises

Book review: The View from Flyover Country, by Sarah Kendzior An old adage says to write what you know. As a journalist living in a decayed Midwestern city waiting – and waiting and waiting – for the Great Recession to end, that was what I knew. Political writer, analyst and academic researcher of authoritarian states Sarah Kendzior rose to prominence a few years ago after … Continue reading Sharp Essays on America’s Social, Political, and Economic Bruises

How the Message Got Made in Obama’s White House

Book review: West Winging It, by Pat Cunnane This year and last have seen a wave of newly published memoirs from former Obama staffers. I read speechwriter David Litt’s wonderful, charming Thanks, Obama last year, so after that I was on board with the genre. West Winging It begins with a similar premise – young college grad Pat Cunnane stumbles into his first “real” job and it happens to … Continue reading How the Message Got Made in Obama’s White House

Almost 20 Years On, The Story of Columbine is Haunting and Still Too Relevant

Book review: Columbine, by Dave Cullen Anyone reading here knows I’m a huge fan of narrative (or creative) nonfiction, a genre that can encompass a lot, but the key element is nonfiction that uses narrative literary structures, styles and concepts similar to those used in fiction. Books like Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s masterful and revealing Random Family is a standout example in this genre and one of my … Continue reading Almost 20 Years On, The Story of Columbine is Haunting and Still Too Relevant

Literary Journalism Explores the Why of Young Women’s Radicalization

Book review: Two Sisters, by Asne Seierstad One October day in 2013, Somali-born Norwegian sisters Ayan and Leila (pseudonyms) left a note explaining their intentions, then boarded a flight from Oslo, beginning a journey that led them to a border town in southern Turkey. From there, they crossed into Syria, choosing to live in terrorist-controlled Raqqa, marry IS fighters and have babies, and embrace a … Continue reading Literary Journalism Explores the Why of Young Women’s Radicalization