Reviews

  • Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist
  • Entertainment Weekly’s Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
  • One of USA Today’s Ten Best Books of 2000
  • New York Times Notable Book
  • Chicago Tribune Critics Choice
  • Library Journal Best Books of 2000

“An amazing book about life in prison. … ‘Newjack’ is about as good as it gets-by turns gripping, funny, frightening and sad. … The stories are spellbinding and the telling is clear and cold. But Conover doesn’t just want to chill us or gross us out. He wants us to think about prisons and to rethink them.” The Washington Post

“George Orwell, you have a godson. Upton Sinclair, you’ve been one-upped. … In this mind-blowing example of journalism at its most authentic, Conover discovers that prison can bring out the animal in any man, and even the zookeeper has to protect his soul.” Entertainment Weekly

“Newjack is an astonishing work by a gifted and dedicated journalist. Ted Conover takes us into the dangerous, sad, amusing and instructive soul of one of America’s best-known prisons.” — Tom Brokaw

“[H]is straightforward sentences have accomplished something formidable; he has made us fully part of his experience. … [C]ompelling and inescapable…. [I]t is hard to imagine any journalist doing his more daringly or effectively. … ‘Newjack’ coheres as a moving indictment of our ways of punishment.” The New York Times Book Review

“Nobody goes to greater lengths to get a story than Ted Conover. Immersing himself in his subject to a degree matched by few journalists working today, he has given us a compelling, compassionate look at a terribly important, poorly understood aspect of American society. My hat is off to him.” — Jon Krakauer

“Compelling…. [F]ascinating…. ‘Newjack’ is an important cautionary tale…. Conover is to be commended for having the chops to venture where few others would dare to go.” The Los Angeles Times

“['Newjack'] is the boldest project that Conover has pulled off, no small claim for a writer who has spent his career penetrating deep into shrouded territory and emerging with spicy yarns.” L.A. Times Living Section

“It is easy to ignore or even resist an outsider who critiques our profession. We like to wash our dirty laundry out of the range of prying eyes. However, Ted Conover … deserves our careful attention. In ‘Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing,’ he unlocks some doors of the prison culture in one of America’s most recognizable and troubled prisons. This is an intensely personal account and, therefore, is subjective. But Conover … has done his homework. ‘Newjack’ … is fair, sympathetic and … very moving.” — Corrections Today (American Correctional Assocation)

“Ted Conover is a first-rate reporter and more daring and imaginative than the rest of us combined. This book is one of his finest.” — Sebastian Junger

“This book takes a reader inside one of the many locked doors of America’s penal system. It is clear-eyed and sympathetic, intelligent and engrossing. It reminded me of some of George Orwell’s admirable journalism.” — Tracy Kidder

“A fascinating and sobering read.” USA Today

“[P]retty damned amazing … entirely gripping and powerful.” — Sherman Alexie

“[A]n endlessly fascinating, often suspenseful book…. ‘Newjack’ might set the standard for years to come.” Christian Science Monitor

“Riveting … hits home.” People

“[A] fascinating look at how prison brutalizes men and women on both sides of the bars.” Entertainment Weekly

“Profoundly eye-opening….[H]e brilliantly demonstrates how life in prison brutalizes both the kept and their keepers.” Chicago Sun Times

“Sharply brings to life the confusion and brutality of this untouchable world.” San Francisco magazine

“[A]n ambitious investigation. … Conover reveals a world of emotional deprivation and physical threat that leaves inmates without resources to face life outside the walls. … ‘Newjack’ is a valuable contribution to the urgent debate about crime and punishment in our time. … Conover brings his considerable journalistic and literary skills to bear…” Boston Globe

“[A] fascinating story, a behind-the-scenes look at a closed world few have been allowed to see. … Those who craft theories and make policy must read this book if they are to understand how those theories and policies affect people … ” San Diego Union Tribune

“[A] devastating chronicle of the toll prison life takes on the prisoners and the keepers of the keys. You can’t get more inside than this … Conover brilliantly conveys the confusion and frustration of trying to use the lessons of the Academy [for training guards] in a real-time situation.” Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A timely, troubling, important book.” Baltimore Sun

“[A]n incisive and indelible look at the life of a corrections officer and the dark life of the penal system.” The Dallas Morning News

“[A] harrowing account of life inside the notorious institution in Ossining, N.Y. … experiential journalism at its best.” The Denver Post

“The title of this book belies all that it contains. ‘Newjack’ . . . offers more than a glimpse into the life of a CO, more than a tour through the exotic territory of a prison.What makes Conover one of the best literary journalists working today is that he employs a broader array of tools than a traditional reporter. Beyond being a detached anthropologist, he makes of himself and others characters in the daily drama of prison life. By employing the fictionist’s tools–scene, dialogue, character–he embeds the otherwise flat facts in a swiftly moving and compelling narrative. In addition, Conover possesses the most essential element of any worthy essayist: an itchy inquisitiveness. ‘I have been fascinated by prisons for a long time,’ he writes. ‘There is little, I think, that engages my imagination like a wall.’ This interrogative drive–which lands him behind prison walls for the better part of a year–yields a richness of material, and earns the trust of the reader.” Fourth Genre

“Riveting….[A]rresting.” Maxim

“[G]ripping … This is a book full of big ideas.” Boulder Daily Camera

“Fascinating.” Denver Rocky Mountain News

“In books like ‘Rolling Nowhere’ (about hoboes) and ‘Coyotes’ (about illegal aliens), Conover distinguished himself with brave, empathetic reporting. This riveting book goes further. … With its nuanced portraits of officers and inmates, the book never preaches, yet it conveys that we ignore our prisons … at our collective peril.” Publisher’s Weekly

“Compelling.” Library Journal

Reviews from overseas:

“A thrilling, moving book.” Stern

“A superb cautionary tale [from] one of America’s best-regarded journalists.” Glasgow Evening Times

“Brilliantly portrays the tensions and fear that pervade this grim prison. Conover is that rare breed of journalist–a man who is prepared to risk everything in pursuit of a story.” Yorkshire Post

“One of the most convincing and bloody autopsies of the American penitentiary system.” — El Periódico (Barcelona)

Review of the audio book:

“Newjack is arresting, unsettling … Conover reads with the natural ease of a professional actor.” Bookpage