This summer there's a good chance the entire genre of beach books will be read by people unable to make it to the beach, and there's an equally high probability that travel writing will begin to feel like science fiction. But take heart in this homebound time: A new crop of nonfiction combines desperately needed escapism with a journalistic rigor tied tightly to the here and now—or at least to the there and then. These books chronicle the art of reporting through very different methods and with very different results. And yet they're all bound together by a belief that true stories and great stories can be one and the same.
Final Draft: The Collected Work of David Carr
Edited by Jill Rooney Carr
By the time Carr died from lung cancer in 2015, he was at the pinnacle of mainstream cultural journalism. His unapologetic bluntness and warm, easy writing style were magnetic, and he used those skills to have a meaningful real-world effect. He championed Lena Dunham and helped get Girls greenlit; he mentored the superstar writer Ta-Nehisi Coates; and he created, seemingly out of thin air, "The Carpetbagger," an outsiders-get-to-feel-like-insiders Hollywood column for the New York Times. This 400-page compilation of his writing, edited by his wife, showcases a master in the making, with about 100 articles, from early dispatches as he recovered at a Minnesota drug rehabilitation center to his award-winning later work.
Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-Up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World
By Lesley M.M. Blume
Before John Hersey published his report on the aftermath of the atomic bomb's explosion in the heart of Hiroshima, the American public was almost completely in the dark about the devastating effects of radiation. To tell the story, the New Yorker writer had to evade a furious effort by the US military to cover up the bomb's impact. Blume's tight, fast-moving book, pegged to the 75th anniversary of the bombing, tells Hersey's story as he raced to gather sources, wrote in absolute secrecy, and then published a deeply empathetic, almost unbelievably distressing article. Adapted in 1946 as a best-selling book, his reporting helped ensure those first wartime detonations would also be the last (so far).
Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park
By Conor Knighton
Nursing a wounded heart from a broken engagement, Knighton, a 39-year-old Emmy-winning correspondent for CBS News Sunday Morning, had the good sense to turn an Eat Pray Love moment of self-reflection into a marketable cross-country journey. He spent a year chronicling America's 59 national parks, occasionally with a CBS camera crew, indulging a lifelong affection for these vast natural preserves. The result is a sweeping, lovely meditation on climate change, the environment, and his own life with some near-disasters thrown in—beware Wyoming snowstorms.
Diary of a Foreigner in Paris
By Curzio Malaparte
Italian aesthete, bon vivant, socialite, journalist—Malaparte filled his rich life with a series of dazzlingly questionable decisions. He marched with Mussolini and flitted across Nazi Germany while lending his sympathy to a group he considered the true victims of fascism: Germany's aristocracy. Malaparte had the good fortune to fall out of political favor well before the end of the war, and in 1943 he became a liaison officer for the Allied High Command in Italy. This gossipy, free-flowing diary is a chronicle of Paris in 1947, when, still shadowed by his fascist history, Malaparte rejoined the bohemian elite with renewed vigor. The startling, often comic results reveal an acid pen (and personality) that provoked the likes of Albert Camus and Jean Cocteau.
Gatecrasher: How I Helped the Rich Become Famous and Ruin the World
By Ben Widdicombe
With daily death counts and updates from Dr. Fauci and Co. overshadowing even the most aggressive Kardashian histrionics, fame has never seemed more irrelevant. But Widdicombe has spent two decades not only covering celebrity culture but also creating it—first as a blogger, then at TMZ, and eventually as the editor-in-chief of the luxury lifestyle magazine Avenue—taking what could be mindless material and injecting it with a hilarious urgency. Celebrity culture, his book argues, is the bridgehead of American culture more broadly. As proof, there's an entire chapter devoted to Trump Tower.
James Tarmy is the Arts Columnist for Bloomberg News and Businessweek Magazine. A graduate of the University of Chicago and UCL in London.
Disclaimer: This article first appeared on Bloomberg.com, and is published by special syndication arrangement."