100 Books for America: The Corner

With 94 days until the election, let us continue looking at the 100 books every American should read. These write-ups will be short and not incredibly comprehensive looks at some books and novels that will help you become a better citizen. Check out all of the books that have been picked.

A journalist’s job is to report with dogged thoroughness and precise accuracy. Every word should mean what it says. And every angle should be observed and analyzed.

One of the greatest examples of accomplishing both in long form is David Simon and Ed Burns’ “The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood.”

The book takes you into struggles, injustices and heartache of a small area of Baltimore.

By focusing on just one corner, they can show in depth how failed public policies, police brutality, and life choices can destroy a community. No one is spared their responsibility in this narrative account of one year there.

“Yes, if we were down there, if we were the damned of the American cities, we would not fail. We would rise above the corner. And when we tell ourselves such things, we unthinkably assume that we would be consigned to places like Fayette Street fully equipped, with all the graces and disciplines, talents and training that we now posses. Our parents would still be our parents, our teachers still our teachers, our broker still our broker. Amid the stench of so much defeat and despair, we would kick fate in the teeth and claim our deserved victory. We would escape to live the life we were supposed to live, the life we are living now. We would be saved, and as it always is in matters of salvation, we know this as a matter of perfect, pristine faith.”

The Corner

It’s trite to compare Burns and Simon’s account as being Dickensesque, but that’s what it is. You can’t help but care deeply about the people who come into the story.

The authors pull no punches, which is a great benefit for the reader. Too often, journalists rely on “The View From Nowhere.” It’s drilled into them in school. To be good, you must be objective. To be objective, a journalist can never say something is bad or good or a failure.

The problem with that is that a journalist has to be accurate, so sometimes they do have to say something is bad because that’s factually correct.

The worth of the journalist is knowing the difference and how to not let a personal bias drive that decision.

Simon and Burns take their readers on a tough, but needed, look at the problems inside an American city in The Corner.


Previously, we looked at a book that examines the rural poor. Up next, a look at American Freedom.

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