Tom Zoellner

Tom Zoellner

Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; Department of English
Office Location: Becket Building 124
Lawrence University, Bachelor of Arts
Dartmouth College, Master of Arts


Tom Zoellner is the author of eight nonfiction books, including The Heartless Stone, Uranium, The National Road, and Island on Fire, which won the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the Bancroft Prize.

His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, The American Scholar, The Oxford American, Time, Foreign Policy, Men’s Health, Slate, Scientific American, Audubon, Sierra, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Texas Observer, The American Scholar, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications.

Tom is a former staff writer for The Arizona Republic and the San Francisco Chronicle, and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Lannan Foundation. He serves as an editor-at-large at The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Recent Creative, Scholarly Work and Publications

“Which Stranger Are You?”: On Gregg Mitman’s “Empire of Rubber: Firestone’s Scramble for Land and Power in Liberia," The Los Angeles Review of Books. April 28, 2022
A State of Unwholesome Fermentation: On William J. Bernstein’s “The Delusions of Crowds.” The Los Angeles Review of Books. December 5, 2021.
"The Human Rights Hypocrisy of Rep. Ilhan Omar" (with David Himbara). MinnPost. March 9, 2022
"Cruz silent on Rusesabagina. What Does That Say to Texans?" (with Bill Israel). San Antonio Express-News. January 28, 2022.
“Dancing with autocrats,” Chronicle of Higher Education, March 29, 2022
"The Rwanda Myth," The Los Angeles Review of Books, April 3, 2021
"He loved everyone in Trinidad," The Los Angeles Review of Books, April 15, 2021
"The WPA Guides as a Literary School," The Los Angeles Review of Books, July 4, 2021
"What is Kyrsten Sinema's Deal," New York magazine, August 5, 2021
"Why the Biden Administration should help the hero of 'Hotel Rwanda," The Washington Post, August 18, 2021
"Rwanda’s disturbing arrest of the hero of ‘Hotel Rwanda’," The Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2021
"America's disastrous love affair with Paul Kagame," (with Kier Pearson), CNN, March 23, 2011
"From Hotel Rwanda to the Slaughterhouse," (with Kier Pearson) The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2021
"Like the U.S., Rwanda is in a pitched battle over its history," The Washington Post, July 12, 2021
“America’s mealy-mouth defense of dissidents,” Boston Globe, October 14, 2021
The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America. Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2020
Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire (Harvard University Press, May 2020)
“The Catalina Highway: boosterism, convict labor and the road to Tucson’s backyard mountain,” The Journal of Arizona History, summer 2019, Vol. 60, No. 2
"Jamaica on fire: Haiti and the problem of inspiration," The Age of Revolutions, July 20, 2020 (peer reviewed)
"Kamala Harris’ Jamaican roots should be admired, not distorted by conservatives," The Sacramento Bee, August 30, 2020
“’Riots,’ ‘mobs,’ ‘chaos,’: the establishment always frames change as dangerous,” The Guardian, June 10, 2020 (with Keisha Blain)
“Customer service surveys have taken over the world. Not everyone rates them a 10,” The Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2020
“How a wild conspiracy theory hastened the end of Texas independence, The Washington Post, May 14, 2020
“A long forgotten holiday animates Black Lives Matter,” The Washington Post, July 31, 2020
“75 years after Hiroshima, the nuclear threat still looms large,” The Arizona Republic, August 6, 2020
"16 Nonfiction Books That Tried to Define America," Electric Literature, November 26, 2020
"Unexpected Lessons from the Backroads of the American Midwest," Lit Hub, October 16, 2020
"Arizona Democrats wrote off voters in deep-red rural counties. It was a mistake," Arizona Republic, November 8, 2020.
"Trumpism Ate Martha McSally's Brain," The New Republic, October 12, 2020
“Dread and Disunity in Las Vegas: A Report from the Nevada Caucuses,” The Los Angeles Review of Books, February 24, 2020
“Spatial dynamics in the Jamaican revolt of 1831,” Black Perspectives, May 15, 2020
“The uprising of 60,000 Jamaicans that changed the very nature of revolt,” Zocalo Public Square, May 28, 2020
“How one woman pulled off the first consumer boycott – and helped inspire the British to end slavery,” The Conversation, July 10, 2020
“Sam Sharpe and the revolt that ended British slavery,” Literary Hub, June 2, 2020
“Dreaming up Disneyland,” The New York Times, November 25, 2019
The Utopian Quest to Link the United States and Latin America," The New York Times, January 15, 2019
"Interstate 10: A Personal History," Tucson Weekly, January 10, 2019
"New Hampshire, one handshake at a time," The Montana Free Press, August 19, 2019
"Doomed to Survive, but Not Live: An Interview with Joumana Haddad," The Los Angeles Review of Books, February 11, 2019
"What Is Good in Man Is Love: An Interview with Elias Khoury," The Los Angeles Review of Books, February 18, 2019
"Another Heart of the Matter: An Interview with Nii Ayikwei Parkes," The Los Angeles Review of Books, May 19, 2019
“Connecting Flights,” The Times Literary Supplement (UK), March 2, 2018
"Paul Theroux’s New Book Ranges From Literature to Landscapes, With Surprising Cheer," The New York Times, June 1, 2018
“Drive,” Red Earth Review, July 2018
“Chapman must uphold the tradition of scholarship drive by facts, not billionaires,” The Orange County Register, July 2, 2018
“This Is Why We Fight, Online,” The Arizona Daily Star, March 18, 2018
“Nobody Walks to LAX,” The Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2018
“To Change a Country, Change its Trains,” The New York Times, April 22, 2018
"Dollar General throws a lifeline to hard-pressed communities. Not all welcome it," The Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2018
"No Harmony in the Heartland," The American Scholar, December 3, 2018
“Seeing Orange County,” Boom California, February 13, 2018
“At The End There Will Be Strangers,” Tin House, April 18, 2018
“The Serial Killer as a Marketing Genius,” The Los Angeles Review of Books, May 21, 2018
“Pulling the Fire Alarm: The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board versus The Bully-in-Chief,” The Los Angeles Review of Books, July 18, 2017
“How a Band of Conspirators Saved Timbuktu’s Treasured Manuscripts from Al Qaeda’s Torch,” The New York Times, June 2, 2017
“The Cabin,” Maine Review, summer 2017
“The Cabin,” Maine Review, summer 2017
“Why Arizona is the logical place for slumping Trump to rally support,” The Arizona Republic, August 21, 2017
“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly About Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” The Arizona Daily Star, August 30, 2017
“The Backbone Trail Opens Up the Wilder Side of Los Angeles,” Sierra, October 12, 2017
“Gun industry silences message of suicide prevention” San Francisco Chronicle, November 16, 2017
“Not Your Grandfather’s Orange County,” Orange Coast magazine, March 2017
“Is L.A. on North Korea’s Target List?” The Los Angeles Times, January 20, 2017
“Why Arizona is the Logical Place for Slumping Trump to Rally Support,” The Arizona Republic, August 21, 2017
“10 Iconic Arizona Restaurants Worth Traveling For,” Phoenix New Times (cover story), June 14, 2017
“Why Trump Loves Arizona,” The New York Times, August 24, 2017
“When Appalachia Was Blue” The American Prospect, June 1, 2017
“The Struggle Behind the Trans-Siberian Railway,” Reconnecting Asia, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 5, 2017
“Colin Dickey explores America’s haunted mansions in ‘Ghostland,’” The Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2016
“The Orange Industrial Complex,” The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal, April 2016
“Best presidents not the most likeable,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, August 18, 2016
“Trinidad Prosecutor Dana Seetahal's Gangland Murder Goes Unpunished,” Miami New Times (cover story), March 1, 2016
“Proto-Trump: How Arizona Laid the Foundations for Donald Trump’s America,” Phoenix New Times (cover story), September 16, 2016
“Deforestation in Peacetime,” Sierra magazine, September 8, 2016
“The Calypso Killing,” Deca Stories, Kindle single, March 2, 2016
“China’s High-Speed Rail Diplomacy,” Foreign Affairs magazine, June 15, 2016
“The Art of the Plain Deal: A Report from the RNC in Cleveland,” The Los Angeles Review of Books, July 20, 2016
“Airborne: An ode to the wonder of air travel, from the cockpit of a 747,” a review of Skyfaring, by Mark Vanhoenacker, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, July 5, 2015
“Travel: Dispatches from Pluto, Driving Hungry and More,” The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Nov. 30, 2015
"A boatload of ideas are packed into Simon Winchester's literary cruise across Pacific Rim's recent history," The Los Angeles Times, November 20, 2016
“The Golden Muse,” The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal, Spring 2015
“World's Top Train Routes,” Departures magazine March 2015
“Republicans’ 'Munich' Fallacy,” with Samuel Kleiner, The Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2015
"Why is There No Great Arizona Novel," Phoenix New Times, August 3, 2015
“End of an Error,” Texas Observer magazine, May 2015
“The Showman,” The American Scholar magazine September 2015
“Where Criticism is Counterrevolutionary: Tania Bruguera on Cuba and the Fight for Free Speech,” The Los Angeles Review of Books, July 8, 2015
“Here’s How to End the NRA’s Stranglehold on Gun Policy,” The Washington Post, December 7, 2015
“The Futility of American Political Journalism,” Zocalo Public Square, April 2, 2015
“Why is Amtrak Such a Mess?” The Washington Post, May 13, 2015
“Trash Crash Shows Killing Zone Drivers Face,”, February 4, 2015
“Riding the Commuter Rails: An Act of Faith and Denial,” The Los Angeles Times, February 25, 2015
“Bigotry from Birth,” (book review of Our Lady of the Nile, by Scholastique Mukasonga) The Fortnightly Review (UK), October 31, 2014
"Train: Riding the Rails that Created the Modern World, from the Trans-Siberian to the Southwest Chief." (Penguin-Random House)
“The Mountain that Eats Men: Dark Ecotourism in Potosi, Bolivia,” World Literature Today, May/August 2014
“Tracking Railway Histories,” The Journal of Transport History (UK), Vol. 35, No. 2, December 2014
“Keystone Pipeline Better Option than Rail,” Houston Chronicle, November 14, 2014
“A Look Behind the Potential CSX-Canadian Pacific Merger,” Florida Times-Union, October 31, 2014
“Why Hollywood Loves Trains,” The Orange County Register, November 25, 2014
“The Ludowici Trap,” Oxford American, Summer 2014
“Reforming the nation’s concept of mental health,” The Riverside Press-Enterprise, June 2, 2014
“Making High-Speed Trains Work in the U.S.,” The Wall Street Journal
“Don’t Give Up on the Bullet Train, California” Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2014
“Arizona’s Love-Hate Relationship With Trains,” The Arizona Republic, March 22, 2014
“High Speed Empire,” Foreign Policy (cover story), March/April 2014
“In Train Wrecks, A Push for Safety,”, January 29, 2014
“Tribute to Charles Bowden,” The Los Angeles Times, Sept. 1, 2014
“Come See the Mountain: The New Frontiers of Dark Ecotourism,” Deca Stories, Kindle single, December 4, 2014
“Red Train Rising,” Foreign Policy, December 16, 2014
“A better way to track a bomber,” Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2013
“Iran’s Landmark Nuclear Deal,” The Louisville Courier-Journal, December 19, 2013
“Imagine What Michigan Central Station Could Be With High-Speed Rail,” The Detroit Free Press, December 26, 2013
"A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America" (Viking/Penguin, January 2012)
“Desired Results: Japan,” Open Manifesto, Brisbane, Australia, Vol. 6, spring 2012.
“At Oracle and Ina: The Context of the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting,” Arizona Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Arizona, Vol. 1, Spring 2012
“Extreme Arizona,” cover story, High Country News, Feb. 20, 2012
“The Myth of the Latino Vote” The Atlantic, September 2012
“Gun Laws, Arizona and a Cowardly Mistake,” Dallas Morning News, July 26, 2012
“Giffords Shooting: The Uncertainty Factor,” lead op-ed, The Arizona Republic, Jan. 7, 2012
“Not in a Vacuum,” Tucson Weekly, Jan. 5, 2012
“Even the Shooting of a Representative Can’t Change Politics Much,” The Daily Beast, Jan. 7, 2012
“Arizona and Gabrielle Giffords, Now,” The Los Angeles Times, Jan. 11, 2012