Books

Some touch­ing, some in­spi­ra­tional, and some just plain in­cred­i­ble, Neha Shar­iffi shares her pick of the best books based on true events

Friday - - Contents -

10 fac­tual books that are stranger than fic­tion.

Catch Me if

You Can, Frank Abag­nale and Stan Red­ding “The true story of a real fake” says the cover of this grip­ping 1980 story of Frank Abag­nale, the most no­to­ri­ous con artist of the 20th cen­tury. Played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 Spiel­berg film ver­sion, it’s hard to be­lieve any­one could have the nerve to im­per­son­ate an air­line pilot or pre­tend to be a doc­tor, but the real Abag­nale, as­sisted by writer Stan Red­ding, de­scribes how he was able to do this and more, all while ex­tract­ing mil­lions from peo­ple and be­ing on the run from the au­thor­i­ties. The film’s love-hate re­la­tion­ship be­tween Frank and the FBI agent chas­ing him also has a ba­sis in truth. Af­ter his cap­ture the real Frank spent less than five years in prison be­fore start­ing to work for the govern­ment. He now serves as a con­sul­tant and lec­turer for the FBI. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer This best-sell­ing book – later adapted into a movie by Sean Penn – doc­u­ments the trav­els of a young grad­u­ate, Christopher McCandless, who sud­denly stops com­mu­ni­ca­tion with his fam­ily, do­nates his $25,000 (Dh91,750) col­lege grant to char­ity and leaves all his pos­ses­sions be­hind to go off alone into the wilder­ness. Thought to have been in­spired by the writ­ings of Henry David Thoreau and Jack Lon­don, the real Christopher sur­vived in ex­treme con­di­tions in Alaska for four months, be­fore dy­ing of star­va­tion. While his de­ci­sion to em­bark on this dan­ger­ously as­cetic jour­ney is still un­fath­omable to many, Krakauer, a moun­taineer him­self, writes about the young­ster’s pas­sion with poignant un­der­stand­ing. An in­spir­ing read. The Bling Ring, Nancy Jo Sales Sto­ries about young peo­ple get­ting one up on the es­tab­lish­ment al­ways spark a cult fol­low­ing and The Bling Ring is no dif­fer­ent. Ex­cept that it’s not just a story – far-fetched as it sounds, it’s all based on fact. Hol­ly­wood stars Lind­say Lo­han, Or­lando Bloom and Paris Hil­ton were among the vic­tims of the Bling Ring, a group of seven teens and young adults who car­ried out sev­eral bur­glar­ies, steal­ing around $3 mil­lion (about Dh11 mil­lion) worth of goods. But it wasn’t be­cause they wanted the money (far from it, they were all from wealthy back­grounds). Rather, in an un­nerv­ing il­lus­tra­tion of what celebrity cul­ture has be­come, they sim­ply craved the fame the crimes would bring them. Nancy Jo Sales

de­tails why they did it and how. Now made into a movie by Sofia Cop­pola,

The Bling Ring stars Em­maWat­son. Shan­taram, Gre­gory David

Roberts “The truth is a bully that we all pre­tend to like.” Wise words from Roberts. How­ever, this book, based on true events, isn’t some­thing we just pre­tend to like. Shan­taram is the ac­count of a con­vict named Lind­say (the false alias Roberts adopted), who es­caped from a 19-year prison sen­tence for rob­bery in Aus­tralia and fled to In­dia, even­tu­ally set­tling in Mum­bai. Roberts spent 10 years on the run in the city, be­fore be­ing re­cap­tured and ex­tra­dited back to Aus­tralia. Con­vey­ing a pas­sion­ate love for Mum­bai, Roberts makes an en­thralling sketch of this colour­ful and bustling metropolis and the peo­ple he en­coun­ters, cre­at­ing a 900-plus-page book that – de­spite its length – re­mains un­put­down­able to the end. Amish Grace, Don­ald Kray­bill and Steven Nolt It’s dif­fi­cult to be­lieve that an ac­count of a school shoot­ing could have a pos­i­tive side, but this book – which is con­cerned with the af­ter­math of the 2006 shoot­ing in an Amer­i­can Amish com­mu­nity, where a gun­man killed five girls and in­jured sev­eral oth­ers – is noth­ing short of in­spir­ing. In an al­most in­con­ceiv­able act of com­pas­sion, the Amish rel­a­tives of the dead girls re­acted by for­giv­ing the man who killed their daugh­ters, a fact that was pro­lif­i­cally cov­ered by the me­dia fol­low­ing the tragedy. Shed­ding light on a fas­ci­nat­ing and com­plex com­mu­nity that is so rarely vis­ited, this book chal­lenges read­ers to re­assess their out­look on life. Eat, Pray, Love, El­iz­a­beth Gil­bert Wouldn’t we all want to em­bark on a jour­ney of self-dis­cov­ery? In Eat, Pray, Love El­iz­a­beth Gil­bert writes about her soul-search­ing quest, which be­gins in Italy – where she in­dulges in end­less help­ings of Ital­ian food; leads on to an ashram in In­dia where she learns dis­ci­pline and med­i­ta­tion; and ends in beau­ti­ful Bali, In­done­sia, where she falls in love. Part chick-lit, part self-help book and part con­fes­sional lit­er­a­ture, this emo­tion­ally en­gag­ing and up­lift­ing mem­oir, which is based on Gil­bert’s trav­els fol­low­ing the break­down of her mar­riage, has fa­mously been made into a movie of the same name star­ring Ju­lia Roberts, and has be­come the self-im­prove­ment bi­ble of many an in­spired Gil­bert fan. In Cold Blood, Tru­man Capote For fans of a writer whose most fa­mous work gave birth to the leg­endary, and de­cid­edly friv­o­lous,

cul­tural icon Holly Go­lightly, from the novella Break­fast at Tiffany’s, this se­ri­ous, fact-based book may come as some­thing of a shock. Gripped by the news of the bru­tal quadru­ple mur­ders of Her­bert Clut­ter and his fam­ily in 1959, Capote trav­elled to Kansas for re­search, ac­com­pa­nied by his long­time friend, Nelle Harper Lee of To Kill aMock­ing­bird fame. Six years later, the mas­ter­piece In Cold Blood was re­leased. Capote’s re­con­struc­tion of the crime won him the Edgar Award for the Best Fact Crime Book (1966) and many crit­ics con­sider it the first non-fic­tion novel. How­ever, the story be­hind Capote’s pe­riod of re­search is as com­pelling as the tragedy it­self, and was brought to the sil­ver screen in the Os­car­win­ning 2005 movie Capote star­ring Philip Sey­mour Hoff­man.

The Other Bo­leyn Girl,

Philippa Gre­gory In­clud­ing his­tor­i­cal fic­tion in this list might seem like cheat­ing, but Gre­gory’s habit of tak­ing rel­a­tively un­known his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ters and putting them at the heart of her nov­els makes for some fas­ci­nat­ing nar­ra­tives, which in­ject a whole new lease of life into events that oth­er­wise most of us might only vaguely rec­ol­lect from dis­tant his­tory lessons. The Other Bo­leyn Girl stands out as a novel that has strongly in­flu­enced the pop­ulist view of the Tu­dor pe­riod, tak­ing the lime­light off the usual star of that era, Anne Bo­leyn, and turn­ing it on her sis­ter Mary, the ‘other Bo­leyn girl’ and mother of Henry VIII’s dearly wanted, but il­le­git­i­mate, son. An en­gross­ing his­tor­i­cal romp. Alive: The Story of the An­des Sur­vivors, Piers Paul Read With the pop­u­lar­ity of TV shows like Lost and films like Cast­away, many of us will have imag­ined the pos­si­bil­ity of end­ing up stranded in a de­serted area fol­low­ing a disas­ter. But what’s the re­al­ity like? Piers Paul Read tells the true story of the 16 sur­vivors of the 1972 Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crash into the An­des. The 10 weeks dur­ing which they en­dured se­verely hos­tile con­di­tions in the snowy moun­tains makes for a har­row­ing yet ar­rest­ing read. By the time they were res­cued many of them had changed for ever. An­gela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt This touch­ing mem­oir will make you laugh and cry at the same time, as McCourt writes about the strug­gles of his poverty-stricken child­hood. While the scenes and sit­u­a­tions he de­scribes may be sad or piti­ful, McCourt’s quirky, hu­mor­ous tone makes for an up­lift­ing read none­the­less. A beau­ti­fully writ­ten book, An­gela’s Ashes won the Pulitzer Prize for Bi­og­ra­phy, and a well de­served one at that.

Neha Shar­iffi is an in­tern at Fri­day

Leonardo DiCaprio

played Frank Abag­nale, one of the most no­to­ri­ous con

artists of the 20th cen­tury in Catch Me If

You Can

The Bo­leyn sis­ters played by Natalie Port­man

and Scar­lett Jo­hans­son fight for one man’s

af­fec­tion

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