The best books about National Public Radio and how it all works

Lisa Napoli Author Of Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR
By Lisa Napoli

Who am I?

As a career journalist who has worked in print, online, on the radio and on television, I’ve long been intrigued by the influence of mass media and the vast technological changes in how information is transmitted that have occurred over the course of my career. Burnt out from the daily deadlines and transformed by a chance to work in the Kingdom of Bhutan, I began writing books and gravitate toward the “origin stories” of influential US entities.


I wrote...

Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR

By Lisa Napoli,

Book cover of Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR

What is my book about?

A group biography of four beloved women who fought sexism, covered decades of American news, and whose voices defined NPR. In the years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, women in the workplace still found themselves relegated to secretarial positions or locked out of jobs entirely. This was especially true in the news business, a backwater of male chauvinism where a woman might be lucky to get a foothold on the "women's pages." But when a pioneering nonprofit called National Public Radio came along in the 1970s, and the door to serious journalism opened a crack, four remarkable women came along and blew it off the hinges.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

NPR: The Trials and Triumphs of National Public Radio

By Michael McCauley,

Book cover of NPR: The Trials and Triumphs of National Public Radio

Why this book?

Millions of people love and tune in to public radio every day. But how many people understand how public radio works, or how it got to where it is today? When it was first chartered in 1970, it wasn't clear NPR would work-or exactly how. For years, it struggled to find an audience—in part because of the technological limitations of the network and the emerging FM medium. McCauley interviewed early luminaries in public radio to construct this terrific look at its early years.

NPR: The Trials and Triumphs of National Public Radio

By Michael McCauley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked NPR as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The people who shaped America's public broadcasting system thought it should be "a civilized voice in a civilized community"-a clear alternative to commercial broadcasting. This book tells the story of how NPR has tried to embody this idea. Michael P. McCauley describes NPR's evolution from virtual obscurity in the early 1970s, when it was riddled with difficulties-political battles, unseasoned leadership, funding problems-to a first-rate broadcast organization. The book draws on a wealth of primary evidence, including fifty-seven interviews with people who have been central to the NPR story, and it places the network within the historical context of the wider…


Made Possible By...: The Death of Public Broadcasting in the United States

By James Ledbetter,

Book cover of Made Possible By...: The Death of Public Broadcasting in the United States

Why this book?

For a critical look at the financial structure of public broadcasting and its intricacies as and after it became a powerhouse, Ledbetter's book can't be beat. I just wish he'd update it! Few people understand how public radio in particular is financed. Having written a book about the great philanthropist Joan Kroc and her landmark gift to NPR when she died, I found this book particularly illuminating. Anyone who gives to the pledge drives should read this.

Made Possible By...: The Death of Public Broadcasting in the United States

By James Ledbetter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Made Possible By... as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Made Possible By...is an engrossing history of public broadcasting, from its initial idealist attempt to reshape the vast wasteland of television, to its current lamentable state - safe, consistently mediocre, and as dependent on corporate financing as its commercial counterparts.


Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio

By Jack W. Mitchell,

Book cover of Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio

Why this book?

Mitchell was the first person hired by NPR when it was first charted in 1970. He was appointed its first producer after the first initial, scattered year of production of its first news program, All Things Considered, which debuted in May, 1971. This is an excellent survey of the early years from the perch of a behind-the-scenes insider and offers to clues about how the network developed.

Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio

By Jack W. Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Listener Supported as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Public radio stands as a valued national institution, one whose fans and listeners actively support it with their time and their money. In this new history of this important aspect of American culture, author Jack W. Mitchell looks at the dreams that inspired those who created it, the all-too- human realities that grew out of those dreams, and the criticism they incurred from both sides of the political spectrum. As National Public Radio's very first employee, and the first producer of its legendary All Things Considered, Mitchell tells the story of public radio from the point of view of an…


Talk: NPR's Susan Stamberg Considers All Things

By Susan Stamberg,

Book cover of Talk: NPR's Susan Stamberg Considers All Things

Why this book?

Stamberg is a pioneer broadcaster, whom Mitchell appointed to host a nightly newscast and as someone who worked in public radio back when it was called "educational broadcasting." Read this book of annotated transcripts of some of her best interviews and see why she got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for putting public radio on the proverbial map. Bonus: Linda Wertheimer's Listening to America, derived from her years as host of ATC, and long-time Morning Edition host Bob Edwards’ memoir, A Life in the Box.

Talk: NPR's Susan Stamberg Considers All Things

By Susan Stamberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Talk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


This Is NPR: The First Forty Years

By Noah Adams, John Ydstie, Renee Montagne, Ari Shapiro, David Folkenflik, Susan Stamberg, Cokie Roberts

Book cover of This Is NPR: The First Forty Years

Why this book?

NPR turns fifty this year, but this book offers a survey of its first forty years. Though it was produced by the network itself, it's relatively devoid of unbridled boosterism, and offers a fair and fun look behind the scenes of what has become a beloved and respected network heard each day by millions.

This Is NPR: The First Forty Years

By Noah Adams, John Ydstie, Renee Montagne, Ari Shapiro, David Folkenflik, Susan Stamberg, Cokie Roberts

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Is NPR as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Funny, moving, and comprehensive, this beautiful volume is the ultimate gift for the NPR fan, packed with transcripts, photos, and contributions from the most famous and beloved contributors from throughout the organization's 40-year history. The chapters, organized by decade, are wirtten by some of the most beloved NPR hosts: Foreword - Cokie Roberts Introduction - Susan Stamberg 1970's - Noah Adams 1980's - John Ydstie 1990's - Renee Montagne 2000's - Ari Shapiro Epilogue: David Folkenflik Sidebar material appreas throughout the book froma who's who of NPR corespondants and guest contributors: Steve Inskeep, Peter Sagal, Ira Glass, David Sedaris, Neal…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in politics, international relations, and political culture?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about politics, international relations, and political culture.

Politics Explore 481 books about politics
International Relations Explore 175 books about international relations
Political Culture Explore 31 books about political culture

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like War Without Mercy, Between the World and Me, and How To Be Right if you like this list.