Journalists tend to be represented in popular media as cynical, nosy, self-righteous, and insensitive. But, while this may be true for a very small percentage of them, most journalists are just on a quest for the truth. And on that quest toward the truth, a journalist must be ethical, inquisitive, and unrelenting. I mean, how can journalists be all that bad when both Clark Kent/Superman and Peter Parker/Spiderman were both journalists in their “normal” lives?
The journalists who wrote the books below set out to shed light on an issue and bring it to the public eye. Some of the books created huge societal shifts, while others forced us to reevaluate ourselves and learn more about the world. Each book is important, smart, thoroughly investigated and entertaining and needs to be added to your repertoire stat.
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
This book ignited unprecedented environmental movement in the United States in the 1960s. Carson, a nature writer, set about to find out why, among other environmental problems, there were fewer birds chirping in the spring. She uncovered that the problem was synthetic pesticides, which were acting as endocrine disrupters in humans and animals alike. Silent Spring led to a nationwide ban on DDT and led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
The work of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward was arguably one of the most important and famous cases in investigative journalism. Bernstein and Woodward, whose Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporting cracked the Watergate Scandal wide open, tell the behind-the-scenes story of the way it happened in the book. Their reporting and efforts completely changed America and American politics for ever.
Personal History by Katharine Graham
The Washington Post is one of the most respected newspapers around the country, and Katharine Graham helped make it that way. Pulitzer-Prize winning Personal History is her memoir detailing how her parents bought the down-and-out newspaper, how she took it over and ran it through the Watergate Scandal, and her struggles of being one of the first woman publishers in the country.
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Pulitzer-prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn take readers through Africa and Asia to meet the women struggling through oppression, sex slavery, and abuse. Kristof and WuDunn argue that the greatest unexploited economic resource in the developing world are females. Through the inspiring stories of these women, Kristof and WuDunn expose one of “our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.” It’s a powerful read and an important piece of work for all global citizens to read.
Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger
You’ve probably seen the inspiring moving or Emmy-award winning TV show, but the book is where it got started. It follows the Panthers high school football team in Odessa, Texas, a town that has seen the boom and bust of the oil industry. Odessa is singularly devoted to the team, and the citizens live out their hopes and dreams through 14-18 year-olds wearing football jerseys. The town’s economic and racial divide, as well as the intense pressures put on high school football players, are the main focus of this book.
Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins
Coming off the success of her NYT Bestseller Pledged, journalist Alexandra Robbins explores the cutthroat world of college admittance. The book reads like fiction, following around sleep-deprived high school students as they shuffle from activity to activity, class to class, and job to job – all with the end goal of gaining admittance to an elite college. It’s an eye-opening look into the stresses that we put high school students under and our education system.
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Nickel and Dimed was originally published in 2001, but it seems as though its ideas are even more relevant now, more than ten years later. Occupy Wall Street brought attention to the huge income divide in this country. In the book, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich describes the two years she lived off minimum wage jobs in order better understand the struggles of everyday Americans and the economic injustices of this country.
Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Asking the seemingly simple question, “What should I eat for dinner?”, Pollan explores industrial food, organic food and the food we forage ourselves — each from the source to the final meal. It’s a fascinating look at the American food industry and forces the reader to really think about each and every choice we make when it comes to what we eat.
Somebody Told Me by Rick Bragg
If you are a journalism student, you’ll want to read this book. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Rick Bragg puts his focus on the common man in this collection of his best newspaper stories. He’s able to make seemingly “regular” news stories and weave them into fascinating human interest stories. With an impeccable skill for detail and incisive prose, Bragg’s book is a must-read.
Erin Leigh is former journalist and freelance writer for Whitman Publishing, the leading publisher in coin and stamp collecting books and supplies. They also publish Vault Books of sports teams and historical events.