Mark Bowden, staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and author of Killing Pablo: The Hunt for The Worlds Greatest Outlaw (Atlantic Monthly Press, $17.50), lists his six favorite works of literary nonfiction.
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (Penguin USA, $11.16). A spiritual journey and meditation on life and death written in prose so spare, original, and beautiful that it mirrors the dazzling high country of Tibet where it takes place.
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Modern Library, $13.56). Vivid and powerful stories that capture the world of colonial Kenya from 1914 until 1931. Dinesen was a gifted storyteller with an eye for people and landscape that is unrivaled.
What it Takes by Richard Ben Cramer (Vintage Books, $15.40). The best book ever written about an American presidential campaign. Full of wit, insight, and observation, and told in a style so immediate and brisk that even at 1,047 pages it seems too short.
The Executioners Song by Norman Mailer (Vintage Books $13.60). Two books in one, really, as Mailer first explores the dark personal story of murderer Gary Gilmore, and then shifts gears, style, and tone completely to observe the media carnival that attended his execution in 1977. A book both hilarious and, at times, hypnotic.
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (Bantam Books, $7.19). An amazing, funny, and deeply insightful account of the origins of the U.S. space program and the unique death-defying culture that produced the original seven astronauts.
The Shadow of the Sun by Ryzard Kapuscinski (Knopf, $17.50). A collection of short pieces about Africa written by the remarkable Polish journalist during his many trips there over the last 40 years. A reporter who avoids breaking stories and headlines in search of the way real people live their lives, Kapuscinski crafts a powerful portrait of the remarkably commonplace nature of that troubled, magnificent continent.
And because any such list is incomplete and might be entirely different ifyou asked me on a different day, dont forget Our Gang by BernardLefkowitz; Hiroshima by John Hersey; Tom Wolfes Electric Kool-aid AcidTest; Mailers Of a Fire on the Moon; Truman Capotes In Cold Blood; A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin; and Philip Gourevitchsdisturbing and moving We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be KilledWith Our Families.