Best of Nonfiction 2010 - Author Q&A's

View the Complete List of Best of Nonfiction 2010

2010 Best Books: Bill Bryson

by Don McLeese on December 13, 2010 | Question and Answer

Bill Bryson’s earlier A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) wouldn’t seem to have left much to cover in a companion volume, as this book’s subtitle implies. Yet his sense of wonderment and his wry sensibility imbue even the most mundane subjects with revelation, as his tour through each room of his house (originally a Victorian parsonage) illuminates various dimensions of home, privacy and domesticity. “If you had to summarize it in a sentence, you could say that the history of private life is a history of getting comfortable slowly,” he writes. Always a companionable guide, Bryson ...

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2010 Best Books: Christopher Hitchens

by Clayton Moore on December 13, 2010 | Question and Answer

Call it the autobiography of an intellectual life. During the course of more than 60 years of subversion, radical thought and ceaseless polemicist rabble-rousing, Christopher Hitchens has been one of the most admired, controversial and reviled of his brethren, among them Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis. In its review of Hitch-22, Kirkus called the journalist’s provoking memoir “riveting and revealing,” dubbing it, “an engrossing account of his lives as a British Navy brat, a socialist activist and a leading essayist and intellectual of our time.”           

Unfortunately, the book’s ill-fated publicity tour (detailed in a painfully candid essay in ...

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2010 Best Books: Isabel Wilkerson

by Karen Calabria on December 13, 2010 | Question and Answer

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson takes on one of the most underreported issues of 20th-century America in her debut The Warmth of Other Suns—the Great Migration. Between the advent of World War I and 1970, an estimated 6 million African-Americans left the South, resulting in one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in American history. With lyrical prose and intricate detail, The Warmth of Other Suns is a universal story of courage and possibility—the story of America itself. Recently, Wilkerson spoke with Kirkus about Amy Tan, quilting clubs and her own history as a “daughter of the migration ...

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2010 Best Books: Daniel Lanois

by Geoff Carter on December 13, 2010 | Question and Answer

Daniel Lanois covers a lot of territory, both physically and artistically, in his engrossing autobiography. The multiple Grammy-winning producer of Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball, and nearly every U2 record since 1984 shares the expected stories about the making of those records, his longstanding collaboration with Brian Eno, and even some brief encounters with the likes of Rick James and Raffi, but the more fascinating aspects of the musician’s life take place outside of the music magazines. In relating the facts of his near-impoverished Quebec upbringing, told in pieces around numerous jumps to ...

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2010 Best Books: David Remnick

by Gregory McNamee on December 13, 2010 | Question and Answer

Political reporter and New Yorker editor David Remnick has been a longtime student of world politics, particularly those of Russia, about which he has written two books, Lenin’s Tomb (1993) and Resurrection (1997). A writer of far-ranging curiosity, he became interested along the way in the world of boxing, writing about Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. That led him into the rough-and-tumble of American politics—and that, in turn, led him to the current president and to The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. (Ed. note: This article first appeared in our Nonfiction issue, April 2010.)

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2010 Best Books: Stacy Schiff

by Jessie Grearson on December 13, 2010 | Question and Answer

Stacy Schiff is the award-winning biographer of several books, including A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005) and Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) (1999) for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. Here she discusses her fascination with Cleopatra, the subject of her much-praised biography that reportedly will become a film starring Angelina Jolie and directed by James Cameron.

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2010 Best Books: Charles Bowden

by Gregory McNamee on December 13, 2010 | Question and Answer

Journalist and essayist Charles Bowden has been working the border beat for four decades now, closely observing the dark side of the little towns where Anglos come to stock up on tequila and brightly woven blankets—towns that increasingly are contested land in long-running wars between the governments of the United States and Mexico against powerful drug cartels. In Murder City, Bowden paints a grim portrait of Ciudad Juárez, the teeming city across the line from El Paso, Texas. We caught up with Bowden at home in the Chihuahuan Desert.

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2010 Best Books: Ed Vulliamy

by Eric Liebetrau on December 13, 2010 | Question and Answer

For years, Ed Vulliamy traveled along the U.S./Mexican border, observing the widespread violence among the warring narcotraficantes and filing heartbreaking stories about the thousands of people caught in the crossfire. In 2006, the former Guardian and Observer international correspondent left his job to pursue the story full time. The result is the author’s revelatory second book, Amexica: War Along the Borderline, which Kirkus called an “impressively rendered, nightmare-inducing account.” Vulliamy spoke to us about the many narratives he pursued during his travels.

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2010 Best Books: Patti Smith

by Jeff Inman on December 13, 2010 | Question and Answer

Patti Smith made a promise. Her longtime friend and former lover Robert Mapplethorpe was dying due to complications from AIDS. But he didn’t want to be remembered that way. The complex, controversial photographer could already see that his life and work were being reduced to the spark that launched the culture war. (Shortly after his death in 1989, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., pulled a Mapplethorpe retrospective under pressure from right-wing members of Congress.) He wanted to be remembered for who he truly was. And he made Smith, his longest friend and confidant, promise to ...

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