The 15 best nonfiction books for fans of advice, memoirs and histories
Nathan Brackett is a writer, editor, and founder of The Book Report. He is a regular guest on NPR and other broadcast and web programs and his work has appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others. You can read and hear more from him on his blog.
By Robert S. Norris
Published June 1, 2012
I’ve written a lot of nonfiction, and often it’s been a matter of making up an alternate reality for myself as an editor or publisher. The book you’re about to read has a much more mundane reason for being: I’m not a publisher, or an editor, but I am a writer and journalist and this is the story of how I ended up in the nonfiction game.
It all began in the fall of 1998, when I sat down with my friend David Dettwiller while he was editing the book he was writing about his father and his father’s world, The Biggest Loser. It might seem odd to begin with the largest loser program, but it’s a classic subject. David’s father was a professional bodybuilder who spent his life competing on a worldwide stage for a single, simple purpose: to be the biggest guy in the room. David’s father’s idea of a happy ending would have been a world championship of bodybuilding, but he never achieved the goal he set for himself. Instead, he was a failed businessman who fell into drug addiction and bankruptcy.
I remember David opening the cover and saying, “The biggest loser,” and he began thinking about a story around David’s father and his experience in the bodybuilding community. But when I mentioned talking to my father, David said: “That guy is not a journalist.” And when I said: “I don’t care. We’re putting a book together,” David said, “You’re the editor I’m talking to about my dad.” I decided that