Best Nonfiction

City Paper

Wil Hylton has been writing astounding feature stories for years—he started writing for The Evening Sun when he was still a student at Baltimore City College and is now a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine—but “Vanished” is his first book. In fact, he thought he would never write a book—when we wrote about him this year, Hylton told us that he’d always considered the magazine feature the perfect length. But when he found himself on a barge in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a crew of fascinating and skilled individuals trying to recover the remains from U.S. planes that crashed there in World War II, he knew he had to follow the story through. And we’re lucky he did. This story—which is part history, part procedural science story, part biography, and all metaphysical mystery—is the perfect vehicle for thinking about the human cost of war in 2014, a time when the entire nation is war-weary and can hardly stand to look at our own wars directly. It is also a beautiful rumination on absence, loss, and time. Hylton took facts and created literature. 

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