Why's This So Good?
November 26, 2012 12:06 AM   Subscribe

Conceived as sort of a companion to Longreads, Longform, Pocket, Byliner, etc., Nieman Storyboard's Why's This So Good? series looks at why some great long-form journalism and narrative nonfiction pieces are so great. There are over 60 installments of writers talking shop about writing.

A good place to start is their Reader's Choice post which highlights installments on pieces by Malcolm Gladwell, Buzz Bissinger, David Grann, Gay Talese, and John McPhee.

Other highlights include pieces on pieces by Calvin Trillin, J.R. Moehringer, Jeanne Marie Laskas, Michael Lewis, Katherine Boo, and Joan Didion.
posted by AceRock (7 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
Two articles on two different John McPhee books! I can trust their taste.

This may never happen, but I'd like to see one of them take on a short nonfiction book by Isaac Asimov, like Inside the Atom or Realm of Algebra. It seems to me that nobody is doing his sort of authoritative-but-friendly explication of science anymore, although it was common in the Fifties and Sixties. The books one finds now are either by a distinguished scientist setting out his views for a lay audience, or by a journalist going to interview scientists and reporting on what they tell him. (I enjoyed McPhee's Annals of the Former World but you didn't really come away from that tome having been taught geology.)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:34 AM on November 26, 2012

I'll read anything by or about Calvin Trillin.
posted by dubold at 2:14 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Thanks - gonna be reading a lot of that!
posted by Kit W at 2:14 AM on November 26, 2012

I LOVE longreads. This is a great find, thanks for the post. The site is running a little slow for me right now, so I can't see much, but I will come back to it later tonight. I'm hoping that it gives a little shout-out somewhere to one of my all time favorite longreads - What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:57 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Nieman Foundation also published the excellent Telling True Stories, which collects advice -- including interesting, subtle tricks of the trade -- from leading writers on all the aspects of narrative journalism.

It was reassuring to learn from that book that even brilliant writers have a hard time finding the kernel of their story. Tracy Kidder did complete rewrites of all his books, sometimes up to 12 times.
posted by far flung at 8:34 AM on November 27, 2012

far flung, if it weren't for such tales of heroic revision, I would burn pretty much everything I've ever written.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:15 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

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