After Covering Global Disasters for Decades, Nicholas Kristof Is More Hopeful Than Ever

The New York Times reporter’s memoir can refine our perspective on pursuing justice in a fallen world.

I’ve got my top summer reading recommendation ready for you. In fact, I’m recommending you buy two copies of the book, Nicholas Kristof’s Chasing Hope: A Reporter’s Life. There are two reasons why.

I’ll get to the second eventually. But the first is more straightforward: This is a memoir from someone who has led one of the most dramatically interesting lives of the last half-century, as an acclaimed foreign correspondent and columnist for The New York Times.

If you make a list of the world’s most shattering and consequential conflicts, catastrophes, and convulsions over the last 40 years, the odds are very high that Kristof was present to witness them. So too are the odds that someone was threatening to shoot him: warlords smuggling conflict diamonds in the Congo, Sudanese soldiers roaming the deserts amid the Darfur genocide, Egyptian security gangs wielding straight razors in Tahrir Square, Israeli soldiers patrolling the dark streets of Beirut, ragged teenagers marauding with AK-47s in West Africa, or nervous American soldiers trying to contain an Iraqi mob robbing a bank in Basra.

There is an even longer list of terrifying events where the weapons were being directed at people standing next to Kristof. Such scenes involve Tiananmen Square protestors being massacred by the Chinese army, heroin traffickers in Afghanistan, security forces in collapsing Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, or rioting mobs parading heads on pikes in Indonesia.

The book’s narrative would be implausible as a movie script, but it’s irresistible as personal storytelling because there is no hint of bravado, attention seeking, or adrenaline addiction. We simply find ourselves following a very sincere …

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