Saturday, January 12, 2013

Five top books of narrative nonfiction

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 Chorus of Stones
by Susan Griffin

Let’s move on to your next book, A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War by Susan Griffin.

This book is much more philosophical, meditative, personal. Gary Kinder never really injects himself into the narrative in Ship of Gold and, frankly, I appreciate that. For too many authors it is just the easy way out. But Susan Griffin succeeds here and writes with purpose, humility and conviction, making exceptionally sophisticated links between subjects as diverse as the psychology of war, legacies of abuse, the history of a German education, the development of the atom bomb, the Gulf War, and the rise of military cultures. It makes war intimate. In some ways, it makes war understandable on an almost cellular level. Having covered various wars and spent much time considering the legacies of abuse and abusive structures, I found it absolutely revelatory. To my mind, it is one of the best books I have read in terms of moving between disparate subjects, times and places. In addition, her prose in this work is seamless, and often deeply poetic.

This is a very disturbing book. But, by its close, Griffin pulls the material together in a way that profoundly shifts the reader’s perspective. I’m not sure it ever sold very well but I think her twining of different subjects makes this a masterpiece.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue