Hiroshima by John Hersey (Penguin, 1946)
‘Babbling Books’ leaves the northern hemisphere this morning after a six month journey travelling through 16 countries. Tamsien and Dimitri stayed here at Addyman Books for two nights and I felt like I had gained two adopted children. Tamsien guest hosted two of my Bookseller’s Breakfasts – but being the darling that she is left me with a few more to use when I was tired or rushing somewhere.
She found this gorgeous grey copy of John Hersey’s Hiroshima. Tamsien speaks Japanese (another of her talents) and has visited the country frequently. This was a life-changing book for her and allowed her to question the received wisdom of who the good guys really are.
In these times when top US politicians are making snap decisions that will lead to lives being destroyed and even cut short it is good to remember the power of true investigative journalism and the books these brave people produce. We need this to happen again. We need Bernsteins and Woodwards, we need Herseys, we need Orwells and we need publishers to back them. Apart from anything these books will sell in thousands.
Hersey’s book was a beautiful piece of writing. He simply told the stories of six survivors from before the time the bomb was dropped to a year afterwards. It was written in a lyrical fictional style and like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood bridged the divide between literary fiction and journalism.
This book sold in its millions and is still in print. It must have played a part in stopping the two powers ever using weapons like this again. I am feeling that the age of the book, that well-researched, well-edited and proofed package of knowledge is making a come back.
It has its own built in fact checkers – nobody wants to be sued. It appeals across the spectrum – all people notice a best-seller, whether they agree with it or not. It has a gravitas that a partisan political website has not. Look at the recent output of politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Barak Obama – they have both produced many best selling titles on serious subjects. Look at Trump and his books on the art of the deal and how to get rich. Make your choice…