2012 Books of the year – The Lifespan of a Fact

On to the best non-fiction books of the year 2012.

Non-fiction finalist:  “The Lifespan of a Fact” by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal.  This is a fascinating look at how an author and a fact-checker have different ideas about the concepts of literary non-fiction, journalism, art, imagination, accuracy and truth.  D’Agata submits an essay about a teenage suicide in Las Vegas to a magazine and Fingal is the researcher assigned to confirm the details in the story.  What follows is a line-by-line examination of the article and the conversation between the two as they argue about what are the “facts.”  In just the first chapter, I recognized many of the same situations that I experienced as a librarian for a publishing company.  Unfortunately, the rest of the book is a bit repetitious until the last chapter, when the duo gets into the meat of their arguments.  Readers will get lots of insights into the editorial process, an especially important area as the news industry evolves in the digital age.

For all my previous “books of the year” lists, see my dedicated page for these titles.


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