The best books about the news media

9 authors have picked their favorite books about the news media and why they recommend each book.

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You Don't Belong Here

By Elizabeth Becker,

Book cover of You Don't Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War

These three women journalists broke the barrier of women reporting on war. All were different in terms of background and approach, but all were gutsy and told the story from a different perspective than their male colleagues. Given they were reporting in the 1960s, there were overt barriers that each faced to doing what they loved, whether those were rules about women’s presence on the frontlines or norms about what kind of reporting women should do. In each of their own ways, they broke down those barriers and gave us all fresh, important reporting on the conflict in Vietnam.

Who am I?

I grew up in an Italian-American, Catholic household. Early in life, I was told I couldn’t be an altar boy. When I asked my mom why, she told me that girls weren’t altar boys…that seemed ridiculous to me and it started me on a lifelong journey of advocating for the rights of women and girls. I have built a career out of pushing for better laws and policies to provide women the same opportunities and resources as men. I’ve served as Chief of Staff to two U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill, General Counsel in the Executive Branch, and in senior leadership in the non-profit sector.


I wrote...

Take Action: Fighting for Women & Girls

By Stephenie Foster,

Book cover of Take Action: Fighting for Women & Girls

What is my book about?

Take Action: Fighting for Women and Girls is a well-sourced and important toolkit covering advocacy & activism, with specific information about four issues related to girls, women, and gender equality—the power and importance of education, expanding economic opportunities, eliminating gender-based violence and participating in politics and public life. Filled with loads of tangible resources—such as specific questions to ask, ideas for identifying decision makers, influencers, and organizations that can help, books and movies that inspire action…

Would-be activists will start their work, stay focused and goal-oriented and make positive change in the world, while finding themselves referring back to this guide again and again.

Indecent Advances

By James Polchin,

Book cover of Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall

This is a great book for discovering the way that the American Justice System has handled the LGBT community and the crimes perpetrated against them over the years. This is a detailed example of the prejudices and hidden history of violence against the gay community in history. Like it’s title, Victims were quite often accused of having made indecent advances. 


Who am I & why this topic?

When writing about true crime it is important for me to write about the victim’s lives before, during, and even after the crime happened. Unlike the rest of us, after the trial ends, their life continues dealing with the after-effects including parole hearings for the murderer. I've written 12 true crime books and I am the host and producer of the popular true crime history radio show House of Mystery on NBC news talk radio network throughout the U.S. & Canada. I am autistic and I have a master’s degree in Music from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a bachelor of Arts in Criminology from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. 


I wrote...

Murder Times Six: The True Story of the Wells Gray Murders

By Alan R. Warren,

Book cover of Murder Times Six: The True Story of the Wells Gray Murders

What is my book about?

On August 2, 1982, three generations of a family set out on a camping trip – Bob and Jackie Johnson, their two daughters, Janet, 13 and Karen, 11, and Jackie's parents, George, and Edith Bentley. A month later, the Johnson family car was found off a mountainside logging road near Wells Gray Park completely burned out. In the back seat were the incinerated remains of four adults, and in the trunk were the two girls.

Murder Times Six shines a spotlight on the crime that captured the attention of a nation, recounts the narrative of a complex police investigation, and discusses whether a convicted mass murderer should ever be allowed to leave the confines of an institution. Most importantly, it tells the story of one family forever changed.

Lincoln and the Power of the Press

By Harold Holzer,

Book cover of Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion

When newspapers were the only medium before radio and TV and the internet, they were omnipresent in their own way, and highly partisan. They played dirty, and Lincoln did too. He knew that his careful words would have no impact unless he could get them printed in at least some of the papers he favored, bribed with access and rewards, or helped outflank their (and his) rivals.


Who am I?

In high school (the best time for doing this) I read the first two volumes of Carl Sandburg’s six-volume biography of Lincoln. A year or so later I made my first trip on an airplane (Saint Louis to Detroit) and an easily recognizable Sandburg was one of the few passengers on our small commercial prop-plane. I was too shy to approach him, but I did sidle up the aisle to see what he was reading or writing (nothing that I could make out). He had boarded the plane alone, but there was a small party meeting him when we landed. I suppose it was Sandburg’s poetic approach to Lincoln that made me alert to the President’s astonishing feel for the English language.


I wrote...

Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America

By Garry Wills,

Book cover of Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America

What is my book about?

When, later, I fell in love with the ancient Greeks and got a doctorate in that field, I was surprised at the rhetorical and logical rules that Athenians formulated, rules that Lincoln, with little schooling, grasped intuitively. With an almost miraculous appropriateness, Lincoln gave a funeral oration over the graves at Gettysburg that resembles the Athenian addresses in honor of their fallen military men of the preceding year. The religious ceremonies at the Greek cemetery (Kerameikos) were like the Transcendental cult of nature in the new scenic cemeteries (like Gettysburg) that were replacing the old church graveyards.  Lincoln spoke into a charged air that let him make his brief but powerful address call his audience back to the real meaning of the Constitution.

How Climate Change Comes to Matter

By Candis Callison,

Book cover of How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts

Too often, climate change debates reduce to throwing around scientific facts – how much warming, how soon will it happen, how many people will it affect, and so on. Candis Callison recognises that such arguments don’t get us very far when deciding what to do. There are different types of facts. In this book she shows why the facts about climate change that really matter in different human worlds – in corporations, in religious groups, amongst journalists, in village communities – are social facts; these are shared ‘facts’ about what climate change means to different social formations. And it is through these diverse communal facts that climate change comes to matter.


Who am I?

I have been fascinated by the weather since as a schoolboy I avidly followed the cricket scores and the fate of tomorrow’s match. This co-dependence of my passion for cricket with the state of the weather turned into a professional career as, first, a research scientist and then later a professor of geography, I studied the idea of climate and the many ways in which it intersects with our social, ecological and imaginative worlds. As human-caused climate change became a defining public and political issue for the new century, my interests increasingly focused on understanding why people think so differently about the climate, its changes, its future trajectory—and what to do about it. 


I wrote...

Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity

By Mike Hulme,

Book cover of Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity

What is my book about?

Climate change is an environmental, cultural, and political phenomenon which is changing the way we think about ourselves, our societies, and humanity's place on Earth. But changing us not in the same way. In this book, I explain the different ways in which climate change is understood by different people, but even more so why our responses to climate change are so different—why the idea of climate change can inspire technological innovation, the overthrow of capitalism, the emergence of a global government, the unweaving of western civilisation. 

Climate change is more than a singular ‘problem' waiting for a universal ‘solution'. The book uses the standpoints of science, economics, faith, psychology, communication, sociology, politics, and development to explain why we disagree about climate change.  

True Story

By Michael Finkel,

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

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.

Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes

By J.T. Hunter,

Book cover of Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes

What is my book about?

JT Hunter began researching serial killer Israel Keyes in 2014. He spent the next two years interviewing witnesses, reviewing police files, studying videotaped interrogations of Keyes, and visiting the sites where Keyes committed his crimes. He also obtained the transcript of an interrogation of Keyes that federal authorities tried to keep secret.

Although not as well known to the public as past killers such as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer chronicled in these pages was just as calculating, cruel, and cunning. This is the first detailed account of Israel Keyes and his terrible crimes, a monster who was arguably the most methodical killer in the modern age.

Getting Out Alive

By Roger Mosey,

Book cover of Getting Out Alive: News, Sport and Politics at the BBC

Life as a BBC Executive is like being a frog on a pond of lilies. You start off on a small lily leaf then you hop onto another get bigger ad infinitum until you either drown or become a prince. Mark Thompson is the latter. His last job was President of the New York Times, Roger Mosey is the former. He eventually ran out of BBC lilies to grace and is now head of a Cambridge College; firmly outside the tent ‘looking ‘in. His progress before had been large hops IRN Pennine Radio to BBC local radio to Network editing the World at One and Today. Then to the glamour bit TV-Editor of TV news then Head of Sport and the cherry on the cake-supremo of the 2012 London Olympics. That fortnight was the BBC at its’ supreme best. Roger was the pinnacle. From there the whole pond should…


Who am I?

John Mair is a former BBC Current Affairs Producer. He is the editor of 42 ‘hackademic’ books (mixing hacks and academics). Six of them are on the BBC. He frequently broadcasts on the topic. He is currently working on an updated collection on the privatisation of Channel Four, a tourist guide to The Inspector Morse Franchise and Oxford. My book titles are apocalyptic by design but that reflects the true state of possible existential crisis I perceive the BBC to be about to experience. I am gloomy but do not think I am wrong. Good reads if I say so myself. All are brimful of informed comments.


I wrote...

The BBC at 100: Will It Survive?

By John Mair (editor),

Book cover of The BBC at 100: Will It Survive?

What is my book about?

The storm clouds gathering over the new Broadcasting House have got darker. The attacks on the Corporation grow from all sides day by day. One of our great British cultural inventions may be in existential danger. It needs an ‘NHS moment; the Johnson government bears it ill. The question is will the BBC survive? Will the new Director-General, Tim Davie, be able to save the Corporation?

This book attempts to answer these and other questions about the BBC at 100 from a wide range of perspectives.It doesn’t duck the serious scandals that have engulfed the BBC, not least the Dianagate affair and the treatment of Cliff Richard, but it also looks at the strengths and other weaknesses of the BBC today.

Betrayal

By Jonathan Karl,

Book cover of Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show

There are numerous books out about Donald Trump’s final year as president. This one by veteran ABC News Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl provides the most detailed insider account of what led up to the Capitol attack and what exactly occurred that day. Karl gets key administration officials and even Trump himself to talk on the record about what happened from their perspective. There aren’t many interviews from unnamed sources, which leads to a more accountable and authoritative work.


Who am I?

I was born in Washington, D.C., in a hospital not far from the U.S. Capitol. I remember being awestruck walking through its halls on tours as a kid. As a journalist, I covered some hearings and interviewed Congress representatives and staff there. The attack on January 6, 2021, was more than a breach of a landmark, historic building representing the top legislative body in the country; it was an assault on the fabric of democracy itself. A tragic crime occurred there that left several people dead and many injured, both physically and emotionally. We must hold everyone involved, especially those at the top who planned this invasion, accountable for what occurred that day.


I wrote...

Operation Chaos: The Capitol Attack and the Campaign to Erode Democracy

By Kevin James Shay,

Book cover of Operation Chaos: The Capitol Attack and the Campaign to Erode Democracy

What is my book about?

In early 2020, Team Trump executed Operation Chaos, a little-known dirty trick ploy to disrupt Democratic Party primaries.

After the election was called for Joe Biden, Trump and allies put pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to overturn election results through Operation Pence Card, where Pence would send results back to states when he oversaw the ratification in Congress on January 6, 2021. Operation Occupy the Capitol, where Proud Boys, militias, party activists, top Trump advisers, and even Trump himself conspired to stop the legal process in Congress by taking over the building while Trump lawyers attempted to force state legislators to change election results. Trump and his operatives liked to use military-style, code names for their dirty campaigns. But no matter what they called it, the result was chaos.

Tiananmen Moon

By Philip J. Cunningham,

Book cover of Tiananmen Moon: Inside the Chinese Student Uprising of 1989

Philip J. Cunningham joined his Chinese friends from May 3 to June 4 in 1989, as a supporter, journalist, and witness in the Tiananmen Square protests. Tiananmen Moon chronicles the protests, hunger strike, students’ leadership, their internal friction, and Cunningham’s meeting with Chai Ling before the massacre. From an American bystander’s perspective, Cunningham voices his concerns about the peer pressure among students, and a few self-claimed radical leaders using the same rhetoric and tactic as the regime to seize power and escalate conflicts. To this day, the Tiananmen Square protests are obliterated by the propaganda machine in mainland China. Tiananmen Moon is a remarkable testament capturing the plaintive and lyrical beauty of a dream that continues to haunt China today.


Who am I?

I grew up in China during the years of the one-child policy. In 1989 I joined millions of people in the pro-democracy protests. Our hope and joy were crushed by the Tiananmen Square Massacre. A year later, I left China and came to the States. I wanted to write a story about the students’ fight but create a more meaningful arc. It took me twenty years of soul searching to find my story. At the heart of my novel Living Treasures is a metaphor for the Tiananmen Square Massacre. My heroine continues the fight by doing grassroots work and helping rural women, who are victimized by the one-child policy.


I wrote...

Living Treasures

By Yang Huang,

Book cover of Living Treasures

What is my book about?

Eighteen-year-old Gu Bao is a first-year law student facing major crises during the tumultuous Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. One of her friends is killed in the June Fourth Massacre. Bao finds herself pregnant and faces the end of her academic career. Her grieving parents arrange for a secret abortion and ship her off to her grandparents’ house in the countryside. There, Bao befriends a village woman named Orchid who, in defiance of the one-child policy, is hiding in the woods until she can give birth to her second baby. After Orchid is captured, Bao devises a daring plan to protect her unborn child.

Living Treasures heightens Bao’s journey from a timid student to a defiant adversary against the canvas of China’s struggle toward modernity.

Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship

By Noam Chomsky,

Book cover of Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship

This is a now-classic essay that explores the ways mainstream news media (and subsequent academic studies) downplayed and/or misrepresented the revolutionary nature of the Spanish Civil War. Although the war began as a result of a failed military coup d’etat against a legally-elected republican government, it came to be seen simply as a battle between communists (identified with the government) and supporters of order (who were actually the fascist rebels!). Drawing parallels with the ways U.S. media represented the revolutionary forces in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, Chomsky makes clear just how significant that misrepresentation became—not just at the time, but in the continuing historiography of the Spanish Civil War.


Who am I?

I have been studying and writing about, anarchism, gender, and the Spanish Civil War for almost 4 decades. I first explored what it would mean to organize a society without formal institutions of authority; and, as part of that research, I looked at how anarcho-syndicalist organizations related to governmental institutions and the struggle against fascism in Spain. I then engaged in a multi-year investigation of the social revolution that occurred in the midst of the ensuing Civil War and, in particular, the activities of the anarchist women’s organization, Mujeres Libres. Through the research for my book, Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women, I was captivated by the extraordinary strength and enthusiasm of those women, and committed myself to telling their stories in ways that would be relevant to contemporary readers.


I wrote...

Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women

By Martha A. Ackelsberg,

Book cover of Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women

What is my book about?

Cowards don’t make history, and the women of Mujeres Libres were no cowards. In the midst of the Spanish Revolution, they fought for women’s empowerment within the anarcho-syndicalist organizations of their time, while also struggling against fascism, and working towards liberation for all. Concentrating their activities on education, literacy, health care, and better working conditions, they mobilized over 20,000 women within the organization Mujeres Libres (free women). This book contains stories of the heady possibilities of revolution and is filled with lessons that will resonate with anyone involved in the social movements of today. It is a call for community, especially among women; and it is a call for full equality and participation—not after the revolution, but now.

Drunk Before Noon

By Kendall K. Hoyt, Frances Spatz Leighton,

Book cover of Drunk Before Noon: The Behind-The-Scenes Story of the Washington Press Corps

From the country’s capital, the city’s journalists translated political power and social news – as well as a thriving social scene. They covered stories that were shared across the country. A mix of men and women, big names and freelancers, these journalists reveals behind-the-scenes reporting and relationships. The stories reveal how and why news is made. These watchdogs of government were often intertwined with politicians professionally and sometimes personally. This book offers a helpful understanding of Washington, D.C. journalism – and is highly entertaining.


Who am I?

I am driven to tell the stories of important but often forgotten women journalists from the 1940s through the 1970s. They were pioneers who also created deep connections in their communities. Over the past few years, I have published several books about women in mass media. My 2014 book documented the history of newspaper food editors– an often powerful and political position held almost exclusively by women. My third book, Women Politicking Politely looked at the experiences of pioneering women’s editors and women in politics which allows for a better perspective of women in journalism today and adds to women’s history scholarship.


I wrote...

Women Politicking Politely: Advancing Feminism in the 1960s and 1970s

By Kimberly Voss,

Book cover of Women Politicking Politely: Advancing Feminism in the 1960s and 1970s

What is my book about?

This book includes the relatively unknown stories of six important women who laid the foundation for improving women's equality in the U.S. While they largely worked behind the scenes, they made a significant impact. In the group are two female political operatives who worked behind the scenes along with four female journalists who also occasionally worked within government to advance women's rights during the 1950s through the 1970s. Much of it centers on Washington, D.C., as well as the more unlikely cities of Madison, Wisconsin and Miami, Florida. It includes the story of a women’s page journalist who published an official government report in her newspaper section when the White House refused to release it.

This book documents the stories of women who organized to help gain employment for other women and also worked to raise the stature of homemakers. 

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