Carl Hoffman is the author of the critically acclaimed books Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art, (William Morrow), The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World Via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains and Planes and Hunting WarBirds: The Obsessive Quest for the Lost Airplanes of World War II.
Savage Harvest debuted on the New York Times bestseller list and was chosen as a New York Times “Editor’s Pick.” Amazon named it the best non-fiction book of 2014 and the Washington Post one of its 50 “notable” non-fiction books of the year. To untangle what happened to the son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who vanished in 1961, Hoffman learned to speak Indonesian and lived in a remote village amidst 10,000 square miles of road-less swamp with a tribe of former headhunters and cannibals on the southwest coast of New Guinea.
Hoffman, an avid traveler and an acclaimed writer, vividly brings to life the story behind the death of Michael Rockefeller, setting out to solve what he thinks really happens - which is that the Asmats killed and ceremoniously ate Rockefeller after seeing him swimming to shore. He further explains their motivations-from a simple act of revenge coupled with a spiritual worldview which equates the ultimate act of subsumption as creating a form of natural balance.
Hoffman has spoken widely about the risks and rewards of traveling deeply into the furthest corners of the world to audiences through a variety of venues and mediums including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art, the National Geographic Society, The Explorer’s Club, eg Conference, CBS Sunday Morning television news show and all of the major NPR shows, including Diane Rehm, Fresh Air and Weekend Edition.
The Lunatic Express was named one of the ten best books of 2010 by the Wall Street Journal and was a New York Times Summer Reading Pick. To report Lunatic, he traveled 50,000 miles around the world on its most dangerous conveyances, including by bus across Afghanistan and through the Gobi desert on a 20-ton propane truck.
A contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler and a former contributing editor for Wired, Hoffman has traveled to more than 75 countries on assignment for Outside; Smithsonian; National Geographic Adventure; ESPN, the Magazine; Wired; Men's Journal and many other publications.
Hoffman has won five Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation and two North American Travel Journalism Awards. He is a native of Washington, D.C. and the father of three.
Praise for Carl Hoffman:
“Carl Hoffman is that rare author who is also a brilliant, exciting speaker. The work born in solitude on the page becomes an electrifying experience for the hundreds assembled before him at the podium. His work reveals the intellect of a scholar, enriched by the natural storyteller’s ability to make time, place, and event come vividly alive.”
— Nancy Horner, Head of Programming, Eugene Public Libraries, Eugene, Oregon
Praise for Savage Harvest:
“[Hoffman’s] reporting takes hold, drawing a vivid portrait of the world of the Asmat people, hunter-gatherers who lived in isolation until the mid-20th century. Gripping.”
— New York Times Book Review
“In an expertly told tale that is begging for a film adaptation, Hoffman crafts a remarkable, balanced examination of this sensational case. . . . [He] deserves much credit for this riveting, multilayered tale.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“With urgency boarding on obsession, Carl Hoffman retraces Rockefeller’s perilous footsteps. The result is a hypnotic journey into otherness, a wild detective story amid cannibals and headhunters. But it’s also a meditation on the need to connect and belong, an exploration into secrecy and the unknowable yearnings of the heart. A thrilling, one-of-a-kind tale -I couldn’t stop reading.”
— Andrew McCarthy, The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down
“A bare-knuckle, adventure-filled journey in search of the answer to a half-century-old cold case: Whatever happened to Nelson Rockefeller’s son, Michael? . . . A searching, discomfiting journey yields an elegant, memorable report.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A tremendous accomplishment--easily one of the best books I read this year. I was so wrapped up that I invented excuses not to hang out with my kids in order to keep moving forward with the tale. Carl Hoffman’s acute eye for detail is something to envy, as is his ability to stitch together an absorbing narrative about what is essentially an alien realm. And that closing passage, in which his outwardly genial hosts reveal their true fears, will stick with me for a long, long time.”
— Brendan I. Keorner, The Skies Belong To Us: Love and Terror in the Golden age of Hijacking
“Not only has Carl Hoffman helped solve one of the great mysteries of the last 50 years, he has also written a page turner that brings vividly to life the struggles an ancient culture under full-scale assault from the modern world. Hoffman’s power of observation is informed by a depth of empathy that is bound to make Savage Harvest an instant classic.”
— Scott Wallace, The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribe
“Carl Hoffman, a courageous and interestingly untroubled man from Washington, D.C., has done a great service by reminding us, in The Lunatic Express, of this abiding truism: that the world’s ordinary traveler is compelled to endure all too much while undertaking the grim necessities of modern movement…Mr. Hoffman spent a fascinating year going around the world precisely as most of the world’s plainest people do—not on JetBlue or United or American or Trailways, modes of transport that look positively heavenly by comparison, but in the threadbare conveyances of the planet’s billions….He learns along the way a great deal about the habits of the world’s peripatetic poor, and he writes about both the process and the people with verve and charity, making this book both extraordinary and extraordinarily valuable….It is a wise and clever book too, funny, warm and filled with astonishing characters. But it also represents an important exercise, casting an Argus-eye on a largely invisible but un-ignorable world. It is thus a book that deserves to be read widely. Perhaps in some airport in a blinding rainstorm in the Midwest, while waiting for yet another infernally delayed American plane.”
— Simon Winchester
“This book is fabulous. The lean description, the weave of old and new perspective, the personalities, the real-people wisdom, and that the danger is as real as we don’t want to think it is. The Lunatic Express is refreshing, liberating, and a paean to true Travel. Hoffman opened my eyes to the off-the-grid traveler, clearly most of the world, and made me cry. The last pages struck home; the duality of escape and harbor are the blessing and curse of life.”
— Keith Bellows, Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler
“Here are two possibilities: we move through the world, or the world moves through us. Carl Hoffman’s clever, funny, fearsome book does both. It takes us into the frantic fear and pitiless extinctions that punctuate the simple struggle to get from home to anywhere, for so many of the world’s people. But it also takes us into the heart of the writer: and that journey, with its beauty and compassion, its conscience and courage, is so thrilling that we hope the ride never ends.”
— Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
“A gripping whodunit. . . . a powerful book that succeeds in solving a half-century-old mystery.”
— Wall Street Journal
“Terrific . . . What’s surprising about this book is not the revelation of Rockefeller’s fate but rather the author’s portrayal of a unique cultural encounter.”
— Washington Post
“Hoffman is an intelligent writer…. [the]best kind of non-fiction writing.”
— The Globe and Mail
“Compelling. Intoxicating. Sensational. Savage Harvest is a great read, as long as you’re not eating lunch.”
“A gripping read … he’s erected a solid foundation of reporting that goes far beyond what the rest of us did and is likely to make this the definitive account.”
— Tim Sohn, Slate
“Richly detailed …. nail-biting exposé…Savage Harvest fascinates for the mystery it aims to solve as well as its portrait of an isolated but changing way of life.”
— Chicago Tribune