100 books like The Great American Magazine

By Loudon Wainwright,

Here are 100 books that The Great American Magazine fans have personally recommended if you like The Great American Magazine. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism

Robert W. Merry Author Of A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

From my list on the triumphs and struggles of American journalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

From my early teens I aspired to a career in journalism and publishing, manifest in my being editor of my junior high newspaper, my high school paper, and my college paper. After the army and grad school, I pursued my dream, covering Washington, D.C., for the Wall Street Journal for a dozen years and becoming an executive at Congressional Quarterly for 22 years, including 12 years as CEO. The great triumphs and struggles of the news business as it grew and evolved have stirred my consciousness throughout my life, and these five books provide some of the best narrative treatments on the topic that I have encountered throughout a lifetime in the publishing business.

Robert's book list on the triumphs and struggles of American journalism

Robert W. Merry Why did Robert love this book?

Burns brilliantly tells the story of those first potent American journalists, the pamphleteers, who brought to their craft lively, probing, acerbic, and often angry commentary and reporting. Some ripped into George Washington and the Federalists, thus establishing a tradition of journalism that extends to our own time. Others went after Jefferson and the fledgling Democratic-Republicans. And one, James Callender, broke the story of the now-famous Jefferson dalliance with his slave Sally Hemmings. 

By Ric Burns,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Infamous Scribblers is a perceptive and witty exploration of the most volatile period in the history of the American press. News correspondent and renonwned media historian Eric Burns tells of Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Sam Adams,the leading journalists among the Founding Fathers of George Washington and John Adams, the leading disdainers of journalists and Thomas Jefferson, the leading manipulator of journalists. These men and the writers who abused and praised them in print (there was, at the time, no job description of "journalist") included the incendiary James Franklin, Ben's brother and one of the first muckrakers the high minded…


Book cover of The Paper: The Life and Death of the New York Herald Tribune

Robert W. Merry Author Of A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

From my list on the triumphs and struggles of American journalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

From my early teens I aspired to a career in journalism and publishing, manifest in my being editor of my junior high newspaper, my high school paper, and my college paper. After the army and grad school, I pursued my dream, covering Washington, D.C., for the Wall Street Journal for a dozen years and becoming an executive at Congressional Quarterly for 22 years, including 12 years as CEO. The great triumphs and struggles of the news business as it grew and evolved have stirred my consciousness throughout my life, and these five books provide some of the best narrative treatments on the topic that I have encountered throughout a lifetime in the publishing business.

Robert's book list on the triumphs and struggles of American journalism

Robert W. Merry Why did Robert love this book?

This is primarily the story of three newspapers--James Gordon Bennett’s New York Herald, Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, and the merged paper under the ownership of diplomat and politician Whitelaw Reid and his heirs, including his daughter-in-law, Helen Rogers Reid, a firecracker of an executive and woman about town. But it is also a comprehensive story of New York newspapering from the 1830s to the 1960s and about the city and country that served as the focus for news coverage during those decades. It is a poignant tale of soaring triumphs and ultimate decline as new challenges beset the newspaper business and even large cities could no longer support multiple papers.

By Richard Kluger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why did the newspaper with better writing and graphics than any other American daily go to an early grave?

Few American newspapers - and perhapsnone at all in the view of somestudents of the craft - have matched the many excellences of the New York Herald Tribune. In the crispness of its writing and editing, the bite of its criticsand commentators, the range of its coverage, and the clarity ofitstypography, the "Trib" (as media people and many of itsreadersaffectionately called it) raised newspapering to an art form. Ithad aninfluence and importance out of all proportion to itscirculation.Abraham Lincoln valued its…


Book cover of Decline and Fall: The struggle for power at a great American magazine: The Saturday Evening Post

Robert W. Merry Author Of A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

From my list on the triumphs and struggles of American journalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

From my early teens I aspired to a career in journalism and publishing, manifest in my being editor of my junior high newspaper, my high school paper, and my college paper. After the army and grad school, I pursued my dream, covering Washington, D.C., for the Wall Street Journal for a dozen years and becoming an executive at Congressional Quarterly for 22 years, including 12 years as CEO. The great triumphs and struggles of the news business as it grew and evolved have stirred my consciousness throughout my life, and these five books provide some of the best narrative treatments on the topic that I have encountered throughout a lifetime in the publishing business.

Robert's book list on the triumphs and struggles of American journalism

Robert W. Merry Why did Robert love this book?

Before Life there was the Saturday Evening Post, a roaring success capturing the spirit of Middle America at a time when Middle America defined the cultural ethos of the nation. But by the late 1950s the potent reach of television advertising undermined the general-interest magazine business model, and the Post slipped into an inexorable spiral of decline that its top executives could never quite handle or even understand. There’s plenty of pathos and human drama as they struggle with forces beyond their control. 

By Otto Friedrich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Uncorrected Proof Copy


Book cover of Paper Losses: A Modern Epic of Greed and Betrayal at America's Two Largest Newspaper Companies

Robert W. Merry Author Of A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

From my list on the triumphs and struggles of American journalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

From my early teens I aspired to a career in journalism and publishing, manifest in my being editor of my junior high newspaper, my high school paper, and my college paper. After the army and grad school, I pursued my dream, covering Washington, D.C., for the Wall Street Journal for a dozen years and becoming an executive at Congressional Quarterly for 22 years, including 12 years as CEO. The great triumphs and struggles of the news business as it grew and evolved have stirred my consciousness throughout my life, and these five books provide some of the best narrative treatments on the topic that I have encountered throughout a lifetime in the publishing business.

Robert's book list on the triumphs and struggles of American journalism

Robert W. Merry Why did Robert love this book?

The big Detroit newspaper market eventually narrowed down to two newspapers--the News and Free Press--neither of which could knock out the other while neither could turn a profit in a competitive market. This is the story of the struggle of the two greatest newspaper chains--Gannett and Knight-Ridder--to forge a “joint operating agreement” allowing them to merge production and business efforts while retaining separate newsrooms. Few participants cared much about editorial standards as the rush for huge profits drove the process. In the end, it all came a cropper. It’s a sordid tale in many ways but a riveting one.

By Bryan Gruley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gruley writes of the 25-year struggle between the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press--two proud, family-owned newspapers that became pawns in the hands of the largest newspaper chains of our time, Gannett and Knight-Ridder. A tale of greed and power, of Wall Street and the courts.


Book cover of Whiskey

C.B. Bernard Author Of Small Animals Caught in Traps

From my list on how dark things can get for people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote a novel whose characters fight to survive depression, grief, loss, and abuse. Though it’s got a sense of humor, it gets dark. People ask, why read a book like that when real life is dark enough? Because we don’t just read to escape from the world—we read to understand it. Fiction can help explain the awful things we might witness or experience or hear about. It can also help us feel less alone in our own sadness and grief. Without darkness, light is meaningless. Without pain, we have no use for hope. Who wants to live in a world without hope? 

C.B.'s book list on how dark things can get for people

C.B. Bernard Why did C.B. love this book?

Like Holbert’s other novels, Lonesome Animals and The Hour of Lead, this one is populated by unusual characters, teems with senseless violence, and is rendered in a voice as compelling as it is unique. Set near the Grand Coulee Dam, Whiskey is about two part-Native American brothers, Andre and Smoker, who set out to find Smoker’s daughter, Bird, when she’s taken by a religious zealot. But the madcap plot is just one-third of a bigger story about the brothers and their destructive parents, Peg and Pork, and their collective collisions with alcoholism, marriage, the law, and one another. Though Whiskey belongs on the top shelf, expect it to burn going down. I wish I’d written it.

By Bruce Holbert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Whiskey burns pleasantly as it goes down, but has a lasting, powerful effect.

Brothers Andre and Smoker were raised in a cauldron of their parents’ failed marriage and appetite for destruction, and find themselves in the same straits as adults—navigating not only their own marriages, but also their parents’ frequent collision with the law and one another. The family lives in Electric City, Washington, just a few miles south of the Colville Indian Reservation. Fiercely loyal and just plain fierce, they’re bound by a series of darkly comedic and hauntingly violent events: domestic trouble; religious fanaticism; benders punctuated with pauses…


Book cover of Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took On a World at War

Susan Blumberg-Kason Author Of Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong

From my list on rediscovered women's history with badass book covers.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Susan Blumberg-Kason and I write books about strong women who have a strong sense of place. I think we are all partly defined by where we live and I enjoy examining how our environment informs our choices. My first book centers around someone I know very well—me! My memoir, Good Chinese Wife, takes place in my favorite city—Hong Kong—the place where I came of age and married for the first time, as well as China and a few cities in the US. I’m also a sucker for a good cover and I absolutely love my Good Chinese Wife cover!

Susan's book list on rediscovered women's history with badass book covers

Susan Blumberg-Kason Why did Susan love this book?

This cover completely drew me in because the typewriter, cityscape, and WWII airplanes all show an urgency and a story just waiting to be told. Cohen writes about prominent WWII foreign correspondents, including Dorothy Thompson and Frances Fineman, who travel the world in search of the latest war update. It was certainly not as easy to get from country to country back then—especially across vast oceans—so I really appreciated their determination to travel. 

By Deborah Cohen,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Last Call at the Hotel Imperial as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • A prize-winning historian’s “effervescent” (The New Yorker) account of a close-knit band of wildly famous American reporters who, in the run-up to World War II, took on dictators and rewrote the rules of modern journalism

“High-speed, four-lane storytelling . . . Cohen’s all-action narrative bursts with colour and incident.”—Financial Times

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, NPR, BookPage

They were an astonishing group: glamorous, gutsy, and irreverent to the bone. As cub reporters in the 1920s, they roamed across a war-ravaged world, sometimes perched atop mules on wooden saddles,…


Book cover of The Newspaper Axis: Six Press Barons Who Enabled Hitler

Brooke L. Blower Author Of Americans in a World at War: Intimate Histories from the Crash of Pan Am's Yankee Clipper

From my list on surprising histories about Americans abroad during WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a history professor at Boston University, where I teach and write about modern American popular thought, political culture, trade, travel, and war especially in urban and transnational contexts. I enjoy histories that are based on deep and creative bodies of research and that push past timeworn myths and clichés about the American past.

Brooke's book list on surprising histories about Americans abroad during WWII

Brooke L. Blower Why did Brooke love this book?

The efforts of antifascist foreign correspondents to bring the United States into the war on the side of the Allies are well known. 

Olmsted shines a light on the less-recognized but equally consequential collaboration between American and British rightwing journalists who did not want their nations to war against Hitler. Olmsted’s account brims with hilarious passages about the eccentric lifestyles of media moguls such as William Randolph Hearst and Lord Beaverbrook, as well as jaw-dropping quotes from the editorial pages of their newspapers.

By Kathryn S. Olmsted,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How six conservative media moguls hindered America and Britain from entering World War II

"A damning indictment. . . . The parallels with today's right-wing media, on both sides of the Atlantic, are unavoidable."-Matthew Pressman, Washington Post

"A first-rate work of history."-Ben Yagoda, Wall Street Journal

As World War II approached, the six most powerful media moguls in America and Britain tried to pressure their countries to ignore the fascist threat. The media empires of Robert McCormick, Joseph and Eleanor Patterson, and William Randolph Hearst spanned the United States, reaching tens of millions of Americans in print and over the…


Book cover of Light a Penny Candle

Ann O’Loughlin Author Of Escape to the Irish Village

From my list on strong women and female friendship.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am fascinated by the extraordinary things ordinary people do, particularly women. Women show such strength; they juggle so many things every day, and they can draw on huge reserves of power in a crisis. Time and time again, I see how when women pull together, they can conquer anything. A woman on her own can do many things, but when we band together, nothing can stop us. So often, others concentrate on the negative aspects of a group of women together, but I have seen the power of female friendship and how we can reach the stars when we hold each other up. 

Ann's book list on strong women and female friendship

Ann O’Loughlin Why did Ann love this book?

I read this book when I was just out of journalism school and finding my way in the world of journalism and writing. For me, Maeve Binchy was already an icon because she managed to juggle journalism and writing. All these years later, I am doing the same, but the seeds were grown back then with this book.

I love this novel's depiction of a three-decade-long friendship between two women. The strength of the female characters shines through, and I remember thinking when I was reading it that was Maeve Binchy’s secret weapon; she made her characters so human. 

This is a story of endurance, love, and the power of friendship. I loved it when it first came out in the '80s, and it gave me heart that books about strong women and the bonds of friendship didn’t necessarily have to have a bright pink cover.

By Maeve Binchy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Light a Penny Candle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beloved author Maeve Binchy's first published novel, an engrossing coming of age tale about the incredible bond of friendship.

To escape the chaos of London during World War II, young Elizabeth White is sent to live a safer life in the small Irish town of Kilgarret. It is there, in the crowded, chaotic O’Connor household, that she meet Aisling—a girl who soon becomes her very best friend, sharing her pet kitten and secretly teaching her the intricacies of Catholicism.

Aisling’s boldness brings Elizabeth out of her proper shell; later, her support carries Elizabeth through the painful end of her parents’…


Book cover of Pistols, Politics and the Press: Dueling in 19th Century American Journalism

David S. Parker Author Of The Pen, the Sword, and the Law: Dueling and Democracy in Uruguay

From my list on dueling that explain why people fought duels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social and legal historian of late 19th and early 20th Century Latin America, and the majority of my work is about the emergence of the middle class. I first got interested in researching dueling because I had the idea that the duel probably played a role in creating and enforcing a social dividing line between the upper elite and the middle class. But once I got immersed in the historical documents I realized how wrong my initial hypothesis had been, how little dueling had to do with social class, and how much it was about maintaining—or sometimes gaming for advantage—the norms of decorum in politics and the press.

David's book list on dueling that explain why people fought duels

David S. Parker Why did David love this book?

Covers some of the same ground as Joanne Freeman, regarding dueling, reputation, politics, and the press in the antebellum U.S.A. But what I really like about this book is how it makes those historical issues relatable to our contemporary era by drawing parallels and connections between the politicized press of the 19th century and present-day debates about free speech in social media. If modern Twitter warriors had lived in the 1800s, they would have needed to know how to handle a sword. 

By Ryan Chamberlain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pistols, Politics and the Press as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book argues that dueling should be looked at as a fundamental part of the history of journalism. By examining the nineteenth century Code Duello, the accepted standards under which a duel could be conducted, the author examines the causes of combative responses between journalists. Each chapter examines an aspect of this relationship from the nineteenth century until the present, including the connections between the ritualized aggression of the nineteenth century and the feuding among blog journalists today. A comprehensive bibliography as well as an overview of accepted practices under the Code of Honor as faced by nineteenth century journalists…


Book cover of True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa

J.T. Hunter Author Of Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes

From my list on true crime and the dark side of human nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by the dark side of human nature and the socio-psychological aspects of criminal behavior, especially those of serial killers, and my legal training and experience afforded me apt tools for exploring and writing about true crime. I have been interviewed and appeared on a wide range of podcasts, radio, and TV shows about true crime for nearly a decade.

J.T.'s book list on true crime and the dark side of human nature

J.T. Hunter Why did J.T. love this book?

This book explores the relationship between writer and subject and provides a lesson on the lengths one should go in exercising one’s craft. An ironic twist comes in the form of Finkel himself being a victim of a crime, which gives rise to the thrust of this story. As a fan of memoirs and true crime, this book kept my interest all of the way through.

By Michael Finkel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Michael Finkel was a top New York Times Magazine journalist publicly fired and disgraced for making up a composite character for a big investigative news piece about Africa. This book is about how this brilliant, high achieving journalist found himself at that point in his life. But in parallel it's also about Christian Longo, a man accused of the multiple murder of his own wife and three children.

After the deaths, Longo fled to Mexico, where he passed himself off as Michael Finkel, New York Times journalist. These two weird stories come together as Finkel in turn becomes fascinated (perhaps…


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