Good Minds Suggest—Colson Whitehead's Favorite Works of Extreme Journalism

May, 2014
Colson Whitehead If a writer must suffer for art, then Colson Whitehead admits that heading to Las Vegas to "research" his latest book, The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death, wasn't his toughest gig. A longtime poker enthusiast and amateur player, he trained for six weeks and entered the 2011 World Series of Poker, thanks to a $10,000 stake from Grantland magazine, and joined professional players on the road as they traveled the poker circuit. Best known for his fiction, including Sag Harbor and Zone One, the writer aims his signature deadpan humor at casinos, the "Leisure-Industrial Complex," and his own ill-fated stint at professional gambling in The Noble Hustle. But immersion journalism isn't always such a high-rolling lark. Whitehead shares a list of "some of our most dedicated nonfiction writers, going deep, with their respective TOI (Time of Immersion)."

Heat by Bill Buford
"TOI: Grease-spattered months. New Yorker editor Buford dons an apron and does time in Mario Batali's kitchen. [He covers] Batali's rise to fame, Orange Soda foie gras, and what it's like to work the line in a top-notch restaurant. Also see Buford's Among the Thugs."


Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
"TOI: 11 years. LeBlanc shadowed her subjects for a crazy span of time, trekking up to Tremont Avenue in the Bronx to chronicle one family's all-too-human travails. A relentless and empathetic masterpiece."


Zona by Geoff Dyer
"TOI: Decades. A chronicle of the author's lifelong love affair with Tarkofsky's film Stalker. How do you translate your private enthusiasm into a public affair? Like this."


Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
"TOI: Three years. Boo draws us into the world of the Annawadi slum, which lies in the shadow of Mumbai opulence. Thoroughly mesmerizing, with an indelible cast."


Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
"TOI: Eventful weeks! Krakauer is a master stylist, and this book is his unforgettable firsthand account of the 1996 Everest disaster. He could have died, man. Everything Krakauer does is great—also check out Under the Banner of Heaven."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Books by Journalists



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message 1: by Madeline (new)

Madeline I too, love Jon Krakauer's writing. I am currently reading Eiger Dreams, a series of essays and adventures. What a life this man has led. And how well he tells his stories!

A very different book is called, Shaman, a wonderful realistic novel about a man and his friends in the Paleoithic era, written by a man who usually writes science fiction and is a mountain climber to boot!


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