Pick of the Day (Year?): "The Good Soldiers"
The most memorable story I read this year didn't appear in a newspaper or a magazine or on the interwebs.
It unfolded over 273 hardbound pages (more if you count the appendix, sourcing notes and such) published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, edited by Sarah Crichton and authored by David Finkel.
Finkel's book about the Iraq War, "The Good Soldiers," is staggeringly good -- a powerful, riveting narrative about "the surge" and the deployment of a single Army battalion, the 2-16.
The immersion reporting from the front lines in Iraq and at hospitals and homes here is sensational, and Finkel's prose is breathtaking. So much novelistic detail, so many beautiful sentences. He's a master craftsman at the peak of his considerable powers.
Not for nothing did the New York Times Book Review name "The Good Soldiers" one of the 10 best books of 2009. In fact, "The Good Soldiers" earned raves just about everywhere, though one of the least enthusiastic "Good Soldiers" reviews that I've seen appeared in The Washington Post. So much for home-court advantage.
Finkel is the national enterprise editor at The Post. But he was a player before he became a coach, and what a player he was: He won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting and was a Pulitzer finalist several times before that -- and you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody on staff at the paper who isn't in awe of Finkel.
In a blog post a while back, Hank Stuever, one of my very favorite Post writers, recounted a brief exchange he'd had with Joel Achenbach about Finkel and concluded: "Joel and I both know the hard truth, deep down: We’re not nearly what Finkel is."
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