Feature

Best books...chosen by Emily Brady

Emily Brady names books that served as inspiration for her portrait of Humboldt, a California region getting rich on marijuana farming.

Reporter Emily Brady embedded in an insular community for a year to produce Humboldt, her book-length portrait of a California region getting rich on marijuana farming. Below, she names some favorite books that served as inspiration.

The View From the Ground by Martha Gellhorn (Grove/Atlantic, $14). Gellhorn was a pioneering female journalist who taught me about fearlessness and how to write with unflinching honesty. This collection spans six decades of reporting, from a 1930s lynching in Mississippi to torture in El Salvador during the country’s 1980s civil war.

The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski (Vintage, $16). I first discovered Kapuscinski when I was a student in France and was instantly riveted by his African adventures. Kapuscinski was a king of literary journalism, and for more than 30 years he moved to where the stories were, witnessing 27 revolutions and taking up residence in places like the slums of Nairobi to better understand the people and continent he was writing about.

Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (Scribner, $17). LeBlanc spent a decade following a South Bronx, N.Y., family in order to create this beautiful book, a riveting tale that captures the human drama of poverty’s challenges.

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea (Back Bay, $14). In haunting, lyrical language, Urrea digs deep into a tragedy: In 2001, 26 men attempted to cross illegally from Mexico into the U.S., and only 12 survived. Urrea’s book explores what drove those men to walk across a desert in search of a better life, as well as the codependent relationship that binds two neighboring nations.

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (Random House, $16). Kidder is a master of narrative nonfiction. His 2009 book about a young medical student who decided to give back after surviving ethnic violence in Burundi, genocide in Rwanda, and homelessness in New York City contains lessons for us all about the power of both resilience and forgiveness.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (Random House, $18). How are ordinary Indians navigating this era of globalization? Boo spent years in a Mumbai slum searching for the answers and wove her reporting into this spellbinding National Book Award winner, a work of nonfiction that reads like a novel.

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