About Edward Humes
I'm a journalist and author of fourteen books, most recently Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation (April 2016) and Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash. I received a Pulitzer Prize for my reporting on the military for the Orange County Register newspaper, and a PEN Award for my book set in LA's juvenile court, No Matter How Loud I Shout. I live in Seal Beach, California, with my wife, two children and three rescued greyhounds.
When I was six I decided I wanted to be a writer, and I’ve been at it ever since. I started my writing career in newspapers, and I think I probably would have paid them, instead of the other way around, for the thrill of seeing my byline in print. As a newspaper reporter, I gravitated toward stories that allowed me to dig behind the scenes and beneath the surface, looking for questions others hadn't asked or imagined. I loved that work.
When I left newspapers to write nonfiction books, I suddenly had weeks or months, rather than hours or days, to immerse myself in the inner workings of places, characters and events—to embed myself long enough and deeply enough to tell a story from the inside out. I had found the greatest job I can imagine.
My goal is to take readers inside worlds most don’t get to see close on their own. My first stories were true crime narratives — real-life murder mysteries, with a twist. I followed those with character-driven narratives about the nation’s crumbling juvenile justice system, the California high school that went from worst in the state to best, the harrowing but surprisingly humane world of a neonatal intensive care unit, the front lines of a modern-day Scopes Monkey Trial, a Gulf Coast double murder solved by the victims’ own daughter.
Lately I’ve focused on stories about the environment, sustainability, and the critical issue of waste embedded in our daily lives, work and movement. I believe these are the signature stories of our age– for ourselves, and for our children. (Although I still can't resist a great crime story.)
I enjoy talking about my work, and I'm always honored when book clubs, classes, campuses or communities adopt one of my books.
Garbology has been chosen as a freshman or campus-wide read at universities across the nation, including California State University Northridge, the University of Central Florida, Washington State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of New Mexico, Columbus State University (Georgia), Hampshire College, Rowan University, and Marymount California University. I've also enjoyed city-wide reading programs with the residents of Portland, Oregon, and Palos Verdes, California.
I have been invited to address a wide range of groups and organizations: the Commonwealth Club, the National Education Summit, the National Steinbeck Center, the Copenhagen Symposium on Corporate Social Responsibility in the International Shipping Industry, the Solid Waste Association of North America, the Keep America Beautiful National Conference, the National Association of District Attorneys, the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the National Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Dole Center for Politics, the National High School Journalism Conference, the National College Newspaper Convention, the National Association of Teachers of English, the California Department of Corrections, the California Appellate Project, the Investigative Reporters and Editors, and the Poynter Institute. I was called to testify about my reporting on juvenile court before the U.S. Senate and a joint session of the California Senate and Assembly. I've had the pleasure of delivering a commencement address at Hampshire College in Amherst, my alma mater, and have enjoyed speaking at venues throughout California as a contributing writer to My California, an anthology from which all proceeds were donated to the California Arts Council to support arts and writing programs for the state’s school children.
I served as a Regents Lecturer at the University of California, Irvine, taught at Chapman University, and taught writing workshops at the University of Oregon graduate program in literary nonfiction.
I've written for numerous publications, including Los Angeles Magazine, Sierra Magazine, Readers Digest, California Lawyer, the Oxford American, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, NPR (online), The New York Times. .
I received a Pulitzer Prize for my newspaper coverage of the military, a PEN Center USA award for No Matter How Loud I Shout, a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for “The Forgotten,” my LA Magazine account of life inside Los Angeles’s nightmarish home for neglected children, and a Silver Gavel honor for Monkey Girl.
Assorted Bio Stuff
Education: Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass.
Home: Southern California
Previous homes: Austin, Pine Bluff, Tucson
Favorite authors: John Steinbeck, Raymond Chandler, Harper Lee, Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, John McPhee, Tracy Kidder, Joan Didion.
Greyhounds: Simon (former champion), Pirate (retired after just four races), and Romeo (our bonus baby—his rescued mama arrived off the track with a litter on the way).
Reads that wowed me (a sampling)
- Dispatches, by Michael Herr;
- Tapping the Source, by Kem Nunn;
- The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy;
- Watership Down, by Richard Adams;
- Dune, by Frank Herbert;
- Encounters with the Archdruid, by John McPhee;
- Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser;
- Common Wealth, by Jeffrey D. Sachs;
- Factory Girls, by Leslie T. Chang
- This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein
“The Morning Joe,” MSNBC interview with Edward Humes, March 2009.
"Ed Humes Finds Eco Barons Working to Save the Earth," Reuters
"Visionaries on a Mission: Save the Earth," New York Times article on Eco Barons
"The Ranch at the End of the World," NPR column by Edward Humes