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The Ira Glass Stamp of Approval

by Staff


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New Kings of NonfictionI am guilty of being one of the countless National Public Radio listeners that praises Ira Glass as an especially hip and talented journalist, so when The New Kings of Nonfiction, edited by Glass and published by Riverhead, arrived at the Utne Reader offices, I snatched it out of the mail bin before it could hit our library’s shelves. 

This compilation of Glass's favorite nonfiction is a shrine to some of the best storytellers of our time—familiar territory for the host and producer of NPR’s This American Life. “As far as I'm concerned, we're living in an age of great nonfiction writing, in the same way that the 1920s and ’30s were a golden age for American popular song,” Glass writes in the introduction. “Giants walk among us. Cole Porters and George Gershwins and Duke Ellingtons of nonfiction storytelling.” 

The New Kings of Nonfiction is a shout-out to 14 of these modern giants, from Chuck Klosterman to Jack Hitt to Coco Henson Scales. I drank most of the stories down like water, but my favorite was Susan Orlean’s “The American Man, Age Ten.” Orlean’s profile of Colin Duffy, a Jersey boy who has a soft spot for recycling and a knack for playing Street Fighter II Champion Edition, has caused me to reconsider every 10-year-old boy I see, wondering how many are graced with Colin's clever, analytical mind.

But with a flip of the page I go from reading about a 10-year-old kid to learning about British soccer fans. The scope of the anthology is wide; the only requirement is solid nonfiction writing, at least according to Glass. But with the Glass stamp of approval, it is inevitable that a slew of others will jump aboard in offering their praise.—Cara Binder