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Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  2,219 ratings  ·  399 reviews
Nines Lives is a multivoiced biography of a dazzling, surreal, and imperiled city, told through the lives of nine unforgettable characters and bracketed by two epic storms: Hurricane Betsy, which transformed New Orleans in the 1960s, and Hurricane Katrina, which nearly destroyed it. Dan Baum brings this kaleidoscopic portrait to life, showing us what was lost in the storm ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by Spiegel & Grau (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kalen
Stunning. If you read only one book about New Orleans, read this one. Baum has been compared to Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote and I would agree with both of those comparisons. His writing is so lush, so vivid, that you feel like you are right there in New Orleans as the stories unfold.

Nine different narratives are woven together, beginning in 1965 with Hurricane Betsy. Some of the reviews I read before I picked up the book complained that Nine Lives isn't more focused on Katrina--it's only the la
...more
Lynette
New Orleans is a city full of contradictions, a place out of context with the rest of America. It defies understanding, explanation, and most especially, classification. It’s a quality the residents hold onto, this testament of uniqueness, even as the city has teetered time and again on the brink of destruction.

I’ve lived near New Orleans for most of my life. I’m a frequent visitor there, and, like everyone else who comes, I’ve fallen in love with its decadent grandness, its welcoming, leisurel
...more
Lena
Aug 18, 2010 Lena rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lena by: Harper's article by author
Shelves: non-fiction
Nine Lives is a powerful and moving portrait of the city of New Orleans as told through the life histories of nine very different residents. The story begins with the reaction of a 15-year old Ninth Ward resident to the 1965 devastation of Hurricane Betsy and moves through the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina and beyond.

Among the other people profiled in the book are a wealthy uptown man with an active historical presence in Mardi Gras, an ambitious black woman determined to escape her child
...more
Michael
A few years ago I suggested a book group book about cities recovering from disasters. My fellow bookies groaned. "Nooooooo! Katrina fatigue" was the consensus response.

Still I felt obligated to read Nine Lives as the author is a neighbor and slight acquaintance. A couple of things held me back. One was ... Katrina fatigue. Also I had never visited New Orleans and regretted that I missed my chance before it was swept away by a Cat 5 hurricane, broken levees, polluted floodwaters, failed policies
...more
Lili
Aug 06, 2011 Lili rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Katia, Ken
Shelves: from-the-library
In preparation for an upcoming overnight in New Orleans, I wanted to read something contemporary and multi-dimensional that acknowledged the reality of Katrina without being simply a rant about mismanagement, mistreatment, poverty, segregation, etc. Ideally, I was looking for something like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The City of Falling Angels, but set in New Orleans. After an hour or two of reading comments and reviews of various New Orleans books on Goodreads, I decided to see ...more
Susan (the other Susan)
Remarkable. Beyond my capacity to review while I'm still feeling the personal connections this book inspired; I feel as if I know these nine people, and I wish they knew me. I did meet two of the heroes of Nine Lives last December - Ronald Lewis and Pete Alexander - at the backyard museum called House of Dance and Feathers, in New Orleans' slowly rebuilding Lower Ninth Ward. I need to write to those gentlemen now that I know their story more fully, thank them for the generosity of spirit that ma ...more
Sarah
I can't adequately articulate how great this book is. The good and the bad are creatively, unbiasedly interwoven into arresting narratives that illustrate the complexity and diversity of New Orleans. Just read it. Especially if you have any connections to New Orleans.
Lisa
This is the book I've been wanting to read about NOLA. I know a lot of people have complained about the nine story lines all jockeying for your attention, and I usually feel the same way about such narratives. But in the introduction the author tells us not to worry about remembering the names, but to take a laid back approach like they would in New Orleans and focus on the stories in the moment. I found that helped immensely.

By the end of the book I felt like I knew the characters. When Tootie
...more
Nicole Bonia
Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans tracks the stories of nine people living in different parts of New Orleans and experiencing the different lives that the city has to offer between two major hurricanes that swept through the city, each devastating the city but ultimately having results vastly different results. Just a few of the colorful people whom we meet are Frank Minyard a gynecologist who after achieving the heights of riches and a comfortable life wants do do more meaningful work s ...more
Guy Gonzalez
This book has all the rave reviews it needs, so let me not belabor the point. Nine Lives is an important book, a necessary book, a simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming, frustrating and inspiring book. Read it.

Now.

I expected the Katrina section to have the most impact, but Dan Baum does an excellent job of putting it in perspective by focusing on what really makes New Orleans special: its people. By starting with Hurricane Betsy and deliberately following these nine lives over the foll
...more
Jaime
[FEMA sent a letter.]"I called, said I'm a Katrina victim. They wanted to know where was the disaster. Where was the disaster? In fucking New Orleans."

I get asked why I love New Orleans so very much. The author, in the acknowledgements, talks about the city's storytelling culture. And the stories woven here are raw - you can conjure sitting across from the person. Importantly, maybe - this one isn't all about Katrina. But by the time you get to Katrina, you know these people so well that you wan
...more
Jill
It's a testament to the people Dan Baum chose to follow and how well he tells their story that I completely forgot that the book was leading up to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Reading about the horrors of the way that whole thing was handled made me incredibly angry and sad, and I have to wonder why Bush wasn't brought up on charges of manslaughter, or at the very least, reckless endangerment or some such. How we can nearly impeach a president for sleeping with an intern yet turn a blind e ...more
Nae
This is without a doubt one of the very best books I have read so far this year. It follows the lives of 9 different people, from the day Hurricane Betsy hit until after Katrina devastated that city many years later. Dan Baum did an absolutely masterful job at crafting each of their unique stories in their own voices and pretty much their own words. It is no secret that N'Awlins is one of my most favorite places and I have been fortunate to be able to go there several times over the years. I lov ...more
Ian Coutts
An astounding book. This is the story of New Orleans from Hurricane Betsy in 1965 through Katrina -- and beyond. Baum tells the tale by tracing the lives of nine people. Some are rich, some are poor, some black, some white. Male, female and whatever. The total effect is amazing. I could barely read the Katrina material, and I wanted to hunt down the uncaring monsters who left these poor people to suffer. In the end, though, you feel that New Orleans is irrepressible. It may be non-fiction, but B ...more
Peter Lehu
This is like a People's History of Modern New Orleans. I'm going there for vacation and wanted to get a flavor of the city beforehand. After attempting to read a dry history book, I succeeded with this book. The lives of these nine people are extremely real, and I feel like I know how the city feels and what it means to those who call it home. It's also an interesting study of any city and how people with totally different lives, purposes, and struggles live amongst each other. The Katrina chapt ...more
Ron Baird
Author Dan Baum has written a wonderful book that should be considered the Great American Novel for this century. And it's not even fiction; it's true. Let me explain: The book profiles the lives of nine people in New Orleans who lived through both Hurricanes Betsy (1969) and Katrina (2005).

The reason it should be considered fiction is that it has the narrative drive of the best fiction, engrossing readers in the intimate lives of these characters who are fascinating in their own right, all but
...more
Judith
Feb 12, 2009 Judith rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone I know
I was incredibly fortunate to have gotten a galley print of this book. The scheduled release date is 2/17/09.

Nine Lives is a non-fiction book about nine different people in New Orleans, spanning 40+ years. The two major events that bracket this time frame are Hurricane Betsey and Hurricane Katrina. However, although these are important events in the book, they are not the entire focus of the book. The story chronicles these nine individuals from different parts of the city and different strata.
...more
Schuyler
I've been kinda obsessed with New Orleans lately, in particular, Hurricane Katrina and life post storm. I just finished The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley before reading Nine Lives and it was a great primer. While The Great Deluge has plenty of harrowing, courageous stories, it is more fact based, as it should be. Nine Lives is far more character based, with Baum's prose reading almost like fiction. It deals largely with life in New Orleans, pre-Katrina, following the story lines of nine indiv ...more
Haley
I cannot say enough about Nine Lives by Dan Baum. It is a wonderfully layered and complex look at the city of New Orleans through the eyes of 9 of its citizens. All who share a common love for NOLA and desire to see the best in the city and its people. You will meet unforgettable people such as high school band leader, Wilbert Rawlins, Jr, who invests in his students in moving and fierce ways becoming a parent figure to so many from splintered homes. Ronald Lewis, a street car line repairman tur ...more
jillian
This book was part of my "Perspectives on New Orleans" weekend. I read "Calla Lily Ponder" right before this book, and needed something a little more gritty to dispel the too-sweet vision of the Crescent City. "Nine Lives" follows nine individuals, and their loved ones and families, through New Orleans, in the years between Betsy and Katrina. Two life defining hurricanes; nine lives significantly changed by them. The writing of this book is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with the subje ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Since 2005, Hurricane Katrina and its immediate effects on New Orleans have been documented in numerous books, such as Breach of Faith, ***1/2 Nov/Dec 2006, and The Great Deluge, ***1/2 Nov/Dec 2006. What Dan Baum accomplishes in Nine Lives, though, is more than a time line of events. Critics unanimously praised the author's approach and style, and they compared Baum's effort to the documentary work of Studs Terkel and John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, even if, at times, hi

...more
Jessie Sevener
I loved this book. Each personality was a great example of how drastically different life is in New Orleans for different people. It gave you a sense of the eclectic culture in NO, and I loved learning a little more about the history and people of New Orleans. I also liked the short sections, it kept me interested, although at times the bouncing around was confusing. It took awhile in the beginning to get a feel for each personality since you only got a snippet of their lives before switching to ...more
Lacey
At first I didn’t understand why I was struggling so much to read Nine Lives. I now know the problem- I’m not invested in all the characters. I find myself breezing through a few of the sections, just wanting to move on to the next one, whatever that may be. While I truly believe every person has a story, it feels as if Baum is dragging each story out. I felt myself waiting and waiting for the plot to pick up. I also found Baum's descriptive writing a little much for me. He described some things ...more
Deirdre
Loved it- Easy read, especially for non fiction, following the lives of various folks from New Orleans over a few decades. The personal history of these people is so interesting and entertaining, that it make it a little easier to handle the miserable stories of surviving Katrina at the end of the book
Molly
This isn't so much a Katrina story as a New Orleans story. It actually starts with Hurricane Betsy in the 60s and follows nine characters lives in different parts of town, with wholly different backgrounds, as they make their way through life in colorful, crazy, challenging New Orleans. It ends with the next apocalyptic storm, Katrina, as if the storms were bookends to the story. Dan Baum is by no means a native - in fact, he had only come down here to cover the story of Katrina for The New York ...more
Caitlin
This was a great book. Baum does an excellent job of being consistent with the voicing of the various characters in the book and one thing that I think he did especially well, was to use local terms and phrases without explaining each of them, e.g. "neutral ground" (what many of us would refer to as a median--the green space between a divided highway) and "cold drinks" (pop, soda, etc.). This isn't a big deal, but it made me feel more like I was walking around the city with the characters, versu ...more
Stormy Peters
I loved the book.

http://canyoucrossthestreet.com/nine-...

Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans is the remarkable story of what happened to nine people between Hurricane Betsy and Hurricane Katrina. Their stories are true and bring to life both what it means to live in New Orleans as well as the effect of Hurricane Katrina.

I really enjoyed the book. Once I realized that I had not only met the first person introduced in the book, but that I had shook his hand and had lunch in his backyard, I w
...more
Cheryl Mcenaney
I absolutely love this book. Each real-life person's experiences, context, and voice is so beautifully articulated, and from the threads they weave together a living, authentic New Orleans takes brilliant form. I have spent a great deal of time in New Orleans over the last 26 years and this book speaks volumes about the city, its incredible uniqueness and the fine line it walks between functionality and chaos. A marvelous achievement, utterly heartbreaking and redemptive at the same time.
Stacy
I love New Orleans and am fascinated by how different it is from anywhere else in America. Dan Baum did a wonderful job of introducing us to nine very different people, each of whom represents different aspects of the city's rich and varied culture. We see their lives over several decades leading up to Katrina, and then follow them as they deal with the storm's aftermath and how it affects their families, neighborhoods, and careers. This book made me want to get back to New Orleans ASAP.
Jakey Gee
Fine work.

As a lifelong devotee of Joe Mitchell (you need him in your life if you haven't read him), I'm a total sucker for literary social reportage of this kind. And if any city - alongside, say, New York and maybe San Francisco - is going to be a host for it, it's got to be New Orleans. It's an approach I also really liked about 'The Warmth of Other Suns' come to think of it, with its similarly powerful story to tell about race.

It has a strong cross-section of characters (slightly uptight c
...more
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Thank you! 2 31 May 29, 2009 01:53PM  
  • Why New Orleans Matters
  • The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square
  • Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table
  • Letters from New Orleans
  • 1 Dead in Attic: Post-Katrina Stories
  • Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City
  • New Orleans Noir
  • New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City
  • The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld
  • Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast
  • The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
  • The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans
  • The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld
  • Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
  • Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas
  • Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales
  • Bienville's Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans
  • Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans
Dan Baum has been a staff writer for The New Yorker, for which he covered Hurricane Katrina. He's been a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is the author of Citizen Coors: An American Dynasty and Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure. He has written numerous articles for such national magazines as ...more
More about Dan Baum...
Gun Guys: A Road Trip Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure Citizen Coors: A Grand Family Saga of Business, Politics, and Beer Guns Gone Wild (Kindle Single) Please Forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina

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“But this home over here: it needed paint but had flowers neatly planted all the way around it. That one over there had a tire swing out front, tied to a fat magnolia tree. Behind another, a lush vegetable garden. You got to fight not to give into despair, he told himself. You got to see the good that's mixed in with the bad.” 2 likes
“That was the point of Mardi Gras, was it not? To serve and honor all the people, to bring into hard lives a touch of royalty and grandeur....To put on a spectacle such as this, free of charge, was an honor. New Orleans was sick and wounded, but no other city in the world had a celebration quite like this. It was beautiful precisely because it was so frivolous.” 2 likes
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