Long Form Journalism for Everyone

Newspapers are dying. Century-old papers are shuttering their doors faster than anyone in the industry would have thought even 10 years ago. There are a variety of factors driving this, and no one can say for sure what they are.

But while daily news gathering takes a hit (worry not, it will return in a new incarnation), long form journalism, the type of story that can take months or years to research, is only gaining more and more ground. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of books that I feel exemplify this format of journalistic endeavor.

Danny’s Picks:

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser. One of the first books I read in this genre, Schlosser’s classic looks at the food industry in America. Focusing on agriculture and the big businesses that thrive in this country, Fast Food Nation is a compelling read. From his ride-alongs with ranchers barely breaking even every year to his anecdote about the meat packer who fell into an industrial vat and died, Schlosser paints a horrifying picture about what we eat, and how it get to us.

****(4 Stars)

The Burning Season, Andrew Revkin. Chico Mendes was an Brazilian intellectual, environmentalist, union leader, and in 1988, martyr for the rubber trade. After Mendes’ death, Andrew Revkin immersed himself in Mendes’ hometown, and researched a thick, but interesting read. With all of the historical background on the rubber trade as well as the cultures of the area, Revkin’s book explains exactly what happened, why, and how it can be prevented in the future.

***(3 Stars)

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain. Classically trained in French Cooking, Bourdain worked his way up to the top of New York’s culinary scene. At the height of food television’s popularity, he published this voyueristic look at the food industry. From the fights to the romances to the vices of kitchen workers, Bourdain lays out exactly what happens behind the closed doors.

****(4 Stars)

Reading Challenges

After taking a look at several reading related blogs, I’ve seen that many blogging readers participate in “reading challenges.” The main prize seems to be the pride of checking a book off your list, and the joy of reading something new or different from your usual selection. But I still might have more to learn about readerly ‘street cred.’ I’ve decided to undertake a few (when the blog goes live, I’ll sign up officially).

One is “TBR Challenge 2008”, in which you assemble a list of twelve books that have been on your “to be read” list and plan on finishing them over the course of the year. Readers also select up to twelve ‘alternates,’ in case they decide that one of their first selections isn’t quite their cup of tea. I’ve included my list, and throughout the year, as I complete books, I’ll be updating you on my progress.

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot

2. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

3. Saturday by Ian McEwan

4. The Dower House by Annabel Davis Goff

5. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro

6. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

7. Still Life by A.S. Byatt

8. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

9. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

10. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

11. The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch

12. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

My Alternates:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World by Haruki Murakami

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

The Ambassadors by Henry James

The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

(Some of these are books that I’ve received as gifts over the years, all are available through NUCat, and if they’re checked out, try reserving through NExpress).

Have any of you ever undertaken either organized or impulsive reading challenges? How did they go? And have you read any of the books? (Not too many spoilers, please!)

The Future of food

The Future of food is a DVD that we have in the library’s collection. It is a documentary about GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops such as Canola, Corn and Soy. This film gives the average viewer a basic understanding of how food crops are genetically modified and how GM crops may effect consumers. The primary focus is on plant agriculture in the United States. I think the film maker would be a great guest speaker at one of your author talks.

Learning Something New

In the April, 2008 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, the cover article is about the lives of paprazzi who follow Britney Spears in order to catalog almost every occurance in her increasingly chaotic life.  One might think that a reputable publication such as The Atlantic having a story about Ms. Spears is a sign of a new low for the news media, I certainly did.  So I read the article, and wouldn’t you know it, it really opened my eyes to something I didn’t even realize I knew nothing about.  Paparazzi work really hard.  I mean it.  These guys are camped out all hours of the day and night hoping to get a shot that will make them a lot (and I mean a lot) of money.  In addition, the paps (as they are called), and the company they work for, sell these pictures to every news outlet in the world.   I’m not really going to get into it in this blog but I recommend that you read the article.  If you do read it please note the language is graphic at times.

For Dog Lovers

If you like dogs or any animal really, you’ll enjoy Street Dogs by Traer Scott.  She’s a photographer who documented stray dogs in Mexico and Puerto Rico.  There are some astonishing photographs and the stories will just break your heart.  You can see some of her shots at her web site.