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Nonfiction November 2021: Week 4

Week 4: (November 22-26) – Stranger Than Fiction with Christopher at Plucked from the Stacks: This week we’re focusing on all the great nonfiction books that *almost* don’t seem real. A sports biography involving overcoming massive obstacles, a profile on a bizarre scam, a look into the natural wonders in our world—basically, if it makes your jaw drop, you can highlight it for this week’s topic.

The book that immediately came to mind when I read this prompt is American Kingpin: the Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton. The summary will show you what I mean. It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster, not a true story. I rated the book 4.5 out of 5 at the time and stand by that rating. I was riveted.

In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the Silk Road, a web site where anyone could trade anything--drugs, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons--without begin traced. The federal government began an epic manhunt for the site's elusive kingpin, with no leads or witnesses. All they knew was that he called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts.

The Silk Road quickly took off, and Ross embraced his new role. He enlisted a crew of loyal allies and took increasingly drastic steps to protect himself--including ordering a hit on a former employee. As he made plans to disappear forever, the Feds raced against the clock to catch a man they weren't sure even existed.

Drawing on extensive access to key players and the two billion words and images that Ross left behind, Nick Bilton offers a tale filled with twists and turns, lucky breaks and unbelievable close calls. It might be dismissed as too outrageous for fiction--but it's all too real.

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