David Maraniss didn’t set out to write a ghost story, but Once in a Great City, his glimmering portrait of Detroit, has a lingering, melancholy quality that will leave the reader thoroughly haunted.
It is arguably America’s most famous and favorite poem. But do we really know what Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is about? Not so much, says David Orr.
What motivated Adolf Tolkachev to begin spying for the CIA? Was it for money? Did he require an ego boost? Was it based on his hatred of the Soviet system? It likely was a combination of all three. But what mattered most to the CIA was that Tolkachev was delivering a treasure trove of Soviet military secrets during a critical period of the Cold War. Tolkachev’s daring exploits are described in riveting detail in David E. Hoffman’s The Billion Dollar Spy.
There’s probably no place that’s ideal for a teenage boy to realize he’s gay, but among the truly suboptimal locations consider San Antonio, Texas. The heat melts all the product out of your hair, and there’s a good chance your classmates know your secret before you do and are prepared to start torturing you well in advance of your coming out. So it was for David Crabb.
Nowadays, the title of a nonfiction book is almost invariably followed by a phrase hyping the contents, including words like incredible, survival or secret. No such subtitle is needed for two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough’s latest book, The Wright Brothers, even though it contains all three elements.
While they are often roped together as Western or regional writers (narrow classifications they both loathed), and their prime writing years and geographic terrain overlapped to a degree, there could not have been two more different writers—or men—than Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder has become a joke in our culture. We label ourselves OCD if we prefer our socks folded a certain way or our desktop arranged just so. In The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought, David Adam exposes the insensitivity of these casual mentions by sharing his own struggle with this crippling mental illness. His book puts the OCD diagnosis in historical context, but he combines this broader frame of reference with his personal story, which adds humor, pathos and authority.
In our media-saturated Age of Celebrity, it can be hard to fathom that there was once a time when people were not famous merely for being famous. While today we think of Oscar Wilde as an eminent playwright and novelist, he was one of the first self-made public figures, who crafted his persona and gained widespread renown long before he had done anything of much note. An early impetus behind his fame was a lecture tour he made to the United States in 1882, when he was only 27 years old and the author of one tepidly reviewed, self-published volume of verse.
David R. Dow has spent his life dealing with death. He is an attorney who specializes in death penalty issues as a professor at the University of Houston Law Center. He also founded the Texas Innocence Network, which has represented more than 100 death row inmates. Dow picked a good place to practice: Texas has long been the top state for executions. When you spend your time filing court...
When David MacLean woke up on a train platform in India, he had no idea who he was or why he was there. “It was darkness, darkness, darkness, then snap. Me. Now awake,” he writes. MacLean was hospitalized with severe hallucinations and near total amnesia. Officials assumed he was a foreigner who had taken too many drugs. The truth was that he was suffering from a reaction to an...