You should be reading Tracy Kidder

As the capstone course for my journalism major at Miami, I took what turned out to be one of my favorite classes there: Narrative Nonfiction.  Besides having an awesome professor (who, being from Detroit, has helped me so much with my move), I learned so much about the genre in which I would love to find myself working someday.  As an experienced journalist with a love of literary fiction, there’s nothing I want to do more than combine my passions in my writing.

As part of the class, we read two books.  First was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, which I had already read and LOVED (seriously, it remains one of my favorite books).  We then read House by Tracy Kidder, an account of the construction of a…well, house.  To write the book, Kidder found a couple looking to build their dream house, then followed them, their architect, the carpenters and everyone else involved as the house moved from dream, to blueprints, to reality.

I think it was because of the subject matter, but House wasn’t my favorite book I read that year.  I did, however, grow to admire Tracy Kidder’s expert writing, as well as his ability to turn ordinary life into something worthy of literature.  I’ve been eyeing his other books this past year, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Soul of a New Machine, Mountains Upon Mountains, and his newest, Strength in What Remains.

Then, Tuesday, I found this story on Twitter:  Every Book Asks for Something Different: An Interview with Tracy Kidder from The Bygone Bureau.  In this interview, Kidder talks about how long it takes to write his kind of book, getting inspired, and whether it’s a good idea to get that MFA.  This was pretty…um, disconcerting as I’m considering whether to go back to school for an MFA of my own.  But I guess if I was going to trust anyone, it would be Tracy Kidder.

If you’re at all interested in quality nonfiction, definitely check out anything Kidder has written (except for, I guess, his first book).  I’d love to read his oeuvre someday, so we’ll see how that project goes.

In the meanwhile, here’s a list of the authors and books recently long listed for the Man Booker Prize.  I know this is a few days old, but I’m not trying to be newsworthy here.  You see, as a devoted fan of book lists—especially those involving major prizes—I couldn’t not post this here. Enjoy.

  • Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore
  • In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut
  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy
  • C by Tom McCarthy
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
  • February by Lisa Moore
  • Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
  • Trespass by Rose Tremain
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
  • The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner

The short list will be announced September 7, with the winner announced October 12.


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