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April 26, 2016

Frank Bures’s Top Two (plus one more)


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To mark the launch of The Geography of Madness, we asked the author, Frank Bures, to tell us about the top two books that influenced and inspired him as he was planning and writing the book.

Journey to Nowhere: A New World Tragedy, by Shiva Naipaul

The younger Naipaul is one of my favorite writers, and Journey to Nowhere, about the Jonestown massacre, is one of his finest books. The way it blends narrative, analysis and argument into a kind of hybrid form is truly brilliant and some of his points remain more salient now that ever. For example, he writes how in the 1960s, when people who wanted to change the world found that the world was too hard to change, or didn’t want to change, they turned to altering their consciousness instead. “The sixties substituted the self for the world,” he writes.


Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 11.31.23 AMOracle Bones, A Journey Through Time in China, by Peter Hessler

As much as as I loved River Town and Peter Hessler’s other books, Oracle Bones is one of my favorite books partly because it’s about a young writer abroad, but mostly because it winds so many narrative stands together so well that you barely even notice the difficulty of the task. And ultimately it’s about something very close to home for me: How the past is organized into stories that tell us who we are and how we got here.


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The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

Recently I found a fine first edition of this of this book in a bookstore in Minneapolis, which I have always lived. I’ve read it many times and always come away with something new. Recently it was this line: “In parts, at least, it was a funny story, and yet to hear Rat Kiley tell it, you think it was intended as straight tragedy. He never smiled. Not even at the crazy stuff.  There was always a dark, far off look in his eyes, a kind of sadness, as if he were troubled by something sliding beneath the story’s surface.” In The Geography of Madness I tried to show the power of the things that slide beneath the surface of our stories.




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The Geography of Madness is on sale now. You can buy your copy here, at your local independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon





Frank Bures has been published in Harper’s, Esquire, Outside, Bicycling, Wired and have been included in a number of Best American Travel Writing anthologies. They’ve also been selected as “Notable” picks for Best American Sports Writing 2012 and the Best American Essays 2013. He speaks several languages, has lived in countries around the world, and currently lives in Minneapolis.