Saturday, January 12, 2013

Five top books of narrative non-fiction

Catherine S. Manegold was a reporter for the New York Times, Newsweek and the Philadelphia Inquirer before turning her attention to longer works. Her books are Ten Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North and In Glory’s Shadow: The Citadel, Shannon Faulkner and a Changing America.

She discussed five top books of narrative non-fiction with Daisy Banks at The Browser, including:
A Civil Action
by Jonathan Harr

Tell me about ... A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr.

This book incorporates less history. Instead, it is just a whiz-bang narrative about a lawyer who takes up the cause of a small New England town that is host to a mysterious rash of cancer deaths. The narrative revolves around Jan Schlichtmann, a Boston lawyer who uncovers an environmental crisis and traces culpability up the chain to several multinational corporations responsible for the mess. As the reader follows Schlichtmann in his crusade, Harr uses the case and Schlichtmann’s obsession with it, to educate us about chemistry, cancer clusters, illegal dumping, environmental degradation and the law. Here again, a seductive narrative yanks the reader in, then great research and reporting leave the reader wholly changed. No one reading this book could ever think about ground pollutants and illegal dumping the same way again. That’s the beauty of it: Who would ever go to a bookstore and say to the clerk: ‘Gee, today I’d really like to sink into a 500-page book on cancer clusters, dead children and irresponsible industry executives.’ In the hands of a writer like Jonathan Harr, however, the education is a treat.
Read about the other books on the list.

A Civil Action is one of trial lawyer John Quinn's five best list of books about trial lawyers at work.

--Marshal Zeringue