us airways

BOOK REVIEW: Andrew Carroll’s “Here Is Where” is haunting, enlightening, and beautiful

I never would have guessed that an in-flight magazine would lead to one of the most thought-provoking reading experiences in my life.

But here I am, thoroughly moved by the new book, Here Is Where, by Andrew Carroll — and I owe it all to US Airways Magazine.

I mentioned three weeks ago how I picked up the in-flight mag out of boredom and wound up reading — and being engrossed by — the abridged introduction to Carroll’s latest book. Here Is Where, he offered, would detail the forgotten stories that make up the fabric of America; Carroll traveled to the sites and cities where each of these stories took place.

I got home that night, purchased Here Is Where, and started reading it while on vacation last week. I finished it last night, having wolfed down chapters like Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

And, unlike after eating a dozen Krispy Kremes, I feel energized, hungry, and genuinely moved.

I originally purchased Carroll’s book for two reasons. The first? His ability to craft an absorbing story. Carroll lured me in with his introduction, teasing me with details and rewarding me with a solid pay-off; I knew I would be in for a treat, no matter the topic.

And I was right. Carroll is a phenomenal storyteller, and he elevates certain anecdotes simply on the strength of his writing. I especially found this in his chapter about a not-so-famous airplane hijacking in the mid-1970s, which played a large part in the creation of many of the air travel security measures in place today. Carroll keeps peppering the tale with surprises, turning an already interesting story into one of the book’s most memorable. Even some of his throwaway bits work, like when he gets a speeding ticket and wonders who came up with the idea for cruise control — only to find the answer later in the chapter, thanks to his research.


3 GREAT STORIES OF THE WEEK: Starring Bill Gates, finding meaning, and giving back

Every week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

I’ll be honest: I found the coolest story I read this week in an in-flight magazine.

Perhaps I have just been traveling too much.

I have taken two trips, involving six flights, for work in the last two weeks. Eventually I found myself with nothing to read, so I picked up the US Airways in-flight magazine … and I found a gem.

The famed author Andrew Carroll gave the magazine an abridged introduction to his just-released book, Here is There. I found it engrossing. In the article, Carroll recounts a few true but hard-to-believe stories from U.S. history, such as:

  • the time the brother of John Wilkes Booth saved the life of the son of Abraham Lincoln
  • how a group of Confederate rebels tried unsuccessfully to set Manhattan on fire

Carroll is a terrific storyteller, and I have since purchased Here is There and am awaiting its arrival in the mail. I decided to include his abridged introduction as an honorary great story this week, and — believe it or not — the in-flight magazine version can only be found in virtual magazine format online.

So you too can now experience the joys of getting inspired by an in-flight magazine, completing with the ads for two-karat tanzanite rings and indoor kart racing.


And now, the 3 Great Stories of the week:

Bill Gates: ‘Death is something we really understand extremely well’ (5/17/13, Washington Post Wonkblog): This is a classic example of where a story is best served by a straightforward Q&A format.

Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein goes in-depth with Bill Gates, still the world’s richest person according to Bloomberg News, about his latest ambitious endeavor: the literal eradication of polio across the globe.

But the interview really gets fascinating when Gates discusses the ways in which different countries treat the reality of death. Some of his assertions are simply haunting, such as the following:

When you’re running a poor country health-care system, you can’t treat a year of life as being worth more than, say, $200, $300 or else you’ll bankrupt your health system immediately. So, with very few exceptions, you do nothing for cancer. If you get cancer, you’re going to die.