Sunday Spotlight On: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Published by Vintage Books, an imprint of Random House

Although he now lives in California, Dave Eggers is a Chicago native and, really, a Chicago institution. As such, it pains me to admit that I have never read any of his work. “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” was, at one point, what every single person from my high school class was raving about on their Facebook page so I did pick it up. Unfortunately, in my first year of teaching for Teach for America in West Englewood, Chicago I did not have the emotional energy to read a new-to-me book about a 22 year-old becoming the guardian of his 8 year-old brother on the death of their parents. That was the year of comfort re-reads, people. I abandoned the book and ended up losing it somewhere I suppose, since it is not on my shelves now. Fast forward a couple of years and I am on LibraryThing and have started blogging, and Eggers makes his way onto my radar again, with “What is the What,” Eggers’ fictionalized memoir of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. “What is the What” is still on my shelves somewhere, but I have not yet managed to read it.

Egger’s newest book, “Zeitoun” is, I believe, not fated to join its brothers in the realm of books I don’t get to. Like its fictionalized counterpart “City of Refuge” by Tom Piazza, which was one of my favorite books last year, “Zeitoun” tells the story of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. I love – if that is the right word – thoughtful books about the travesty and tragedy of Katrina and the indomitable spirit of the people of New Orleans. “Zeitoun,” however, goes one step further and tells a story that sounds even more fascinating: that of a Syrian-American man named Abdulrahman Zeitoun and what happened to him when Hurricane Katrina joined forces with the War on Terror to become the ultimate destructive force. I mean, really, how am I even finishing this sentence without picking up this book? It is Calling. My. Name.

And on that note, I’m going to end this post to go and place “Zeitoun” as close to the top of my TBR pile as I can, in hopes of reading it as soon as humanly possible

Source: Personal copy

11 comments to Sunday Spotlight On: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

  • You sound so passionate about this book it has to be good. I was wondering at the New Orleans connection because Zeitoun is a popular name amongst Muslim girls and on reading your post got the connection!

  • Amy

    Do read it. It’s an amazing book. It started out kind of slow for me, kind of “yeah, I know, I know, I’ve read this all before” and then suddenly goes into an incredible roller coaster. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.

  • I actually listened to Zeitoun as an audiobook, and it was really good. I learned a ton and enjoyed myself at the same time. I definitely recommend it! And I’m with Amy — it starts a little slow, but keep going because it takes off at a certain point!

  • I have been meaning to read this book. New Orleans is my favorite city in the US and my sister was living there during Katrina, so I think the book will have a lot of meaning for me.

  • I have to admit I was surprised to see him here, because living in SF they bring him out here as a local SF author and he funds lots of stuff for young authors here. Looks like we’ve got an author bragging rights on our hands here, wink wink!

  • When I was up in Chicago and visited Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, the owner strongly discouraged me from having Zeitoun being the first Eggers read (I had it in my hand). Instead she insisted I read What is the What first. Which I thought was interesting, since Zeitoun was EW’s top Nonfiction book of last year…

  • At the risk of sounding like an obsessed fan girl, I have loved every single thing Dave Eggers has ever written, but I especially loved What is the What. And his latest – The Wild Things – was amazing too. We are definitely claiming this Lake Forest/University of Illinois boy as one of our own. He is doing great things with one of his not-for-profit tutoring and writing centers on N. Milwaukee in downtown Chicago. You can support them at

  • Amy

    This is on my tbr list as well, and I’m looking forward to reading it… at some point! I hope you enjoy it.

  • Sounds like an amazing book. The cover is such an interesting style, too.

  • I’ve read almost all of Eggers work (Heartbreaking, What is the What, You Shall Know Our Velocity, Wild Things) and Zeitoun is one of my favorites. I think Eggers has grown as an author and is at his best when he’s telling someone else’s story. I hope you get a chance to read it soon!