Non-Fiction Reads: Ten Best Books: A Selection of Memorable Book Condensations from The Reader’s Digest

My not-yet-battered secondhand copy 

The Reader’s Digest monthly magazine editions from the early 1970’s to the mid-1990’s are a treasure trove of superlative, crisply edited, extremely engaging, relevant content. 

I have never been a fan of their condensed books editions though, especially the abridged novels, but this 1992 edition is classic RD for the amazing non-fiction collective of investigative, humourous, thrilling, biographical writing at its sincere, pristine best. Multiple, varied life shades make up this sharply selective anthology.

A revelatory tragic account of how it really is to be a spy, and that it is no James Bond seduction-happy romp, is made alarmingly evident in Henry Hurt’s Shadrin: The Spy Who Never Came Back

Though reeking of making the Russians look bad again (perpetual villains in American movies, fiction, comic books, media), the sinking feeling of despair and remorse is hard-hitting as glaring truths begin to tumble out into view.

Similarly thrilling and constantly fascinating are To Catch a Killer by Nathan M. Adams, The Breaking of the Hungarian Circle by David Moller and Inside the Cocaine Wars by Nathan Adams. 

But my absolute favourite of the groovy investigative genre is Moonwebs: Journey into the Mind of a Cult by Josh Freed, rigorous investigative journalism that got me deep into the murky psyche of brainwashing and deception.

Gerald Durrell’s uproariously funny My Family and Other Animals is editing at its edgy best. I possess the unabridged version, can only marvel at how the text has been condensed into 20-odd pages. 

The Lincoln Who Lives in Anecdote is a lovely reverse of the classic biography format in brief yet unforgettable text. Every anecdote has been carefully chosen for this edition, an example of why sometimes, ‘less is more’ makes for superlative, entertaining prose. 

But the most remarkable of the lot is the aura and constant fog-like mystery that Death and the Magician: The Mystery of Houdini by Richard Fitzsimons is shrouded in – riveting, baffling puzzles surrounding the life, death and alleged afterlife (boo, yes) of the revolutionary, pathbreaking early 20th century magician, Houdini.

My only grouch – why isn’t there more of it, say, like a second volume? 

If you are a regular at second hand book sales, consider yourself lucky to find a copy of Ten Best Books: A Selection of Memorable Book Condensations from The Reader’s Digest. 

They just don’t tell stories like that, anymore.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

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