I no longer work for my bookstore (though I’ll still call it mine) and in the weeks before I left I wrote a whole bunch of staff recommendations. I didn’t manage to post them promptly here, but the books are still good so it doesn’t really matter that I am—and am going to continue to be—tardy. Here’s one to start with (consider it proof that I read something other than poetry and fiction). This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year, and as a colleague of mine once wrote in a recommendation of a very different book, “it is worth your money and your time.”
“I want to write about the two things that have frightened me most in life…”
Kristen Iversen’s Full Body Burden expertly and unflinchingly does exactly this, combining her memories of growing up in the shadow of a darkly charismatic, alcoholic father with her decades-long investigation of radioactive waste and contamination from the government’s secret nuclear manufacturing facility at Rocky Flats, minutes from Iversen’s childhood home.
Iversen understands that the stories which begin with “I shouldn’t be telling you this,” are not only the most electrifying, but often the ones most in need of being heard. To that end, this book is an investigation of silence: of its mechanisms and motivations, the choices which support or expose it, and of the consequences of leaving silence to seethe. Full Body Burden is one of the most brilliantly compelling, gutsy works of narrative nonfiction I’ve ever read.