The Journalist's Summer Reading List | Columbia Journalism School

The Journalist's Summer Reading List

The Journalism School's faculty has put together a short list of great reads for recent graduates and aspiring journalism students.

Our faculty has delivered a list offering not just tales from the world of journalism, but the most compelling fiction, nonfiction and poetry you need for a summer that's as brainy as it is beachy.

"Normal People," by Sally Rooney

Recommended by Daniel Alarcón, Assistant Professor of Broadcast Journalism

"I read—no, inhaled!—Rooney's first novel, 'Conversations with Friends,' on a trip earlier this year and found it astonishing and wholly original. I don't think I've read such a harrowing, acid and humane account of complicated relationships, between friends, lovers, family, in quite a long time. Her new one is on my summer list now, and from what I've heard, I won't be disappointed."

Rooney's sophomore novel alternates between leads Marianne and Connell, two friends from opposite sides of the tracks, as they navigate the intracacies of intimacy in a fresh and compelling modern love story.

"The Source of Self-Regard" by Toni Morrison, "Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the Great Divide" by Tony Horwitz and "Educated" by Tara Westover

Recommended by June Cross, Professor of Journalism; Director, Documentary Journalism Program

"A compendium of essays by the Nobel-prize-winning novelist. Also, by the recently departed Tony Horwitz - Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the Great Divide; and, although it was on last year's summer reading list, Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover, about a woman raised by strict survivalists who was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. She taught herself enough to be admitted to Brigham and Young University, and went from there."

"The Flight Portfolio," by Julie Orringer

Recommended by Ari Goldman, Professor of Journalism

"This is a historical novel based on the life of Varian Fry, a journalist who worked to save Jews and others from the Nazi death camps. His mission was somewhat morally suspect: he was interested in saving only the creme of European society. The novel also takes many liberties in recreating Fry's life, including introducing a gay theme. Still, this book is about a profession and an era that I care about deeply. I've begun it and can't wait to finish."

Orringer's gripping, true tale finds an American journalist in the unlikely role of building and running an underground railroad to help refugees escape Nazi-controlled France.

"Chasing Hilary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling," by Amy Chozick

Recommended by Sally Herships, Director of the Audio program

"Read this over spring break but would read it again. It was great to read a book by a woman journalist who covered the first substantial female presidential candidate on her race for the White House. A great peek behind the curtain for anyone who's considering covering politics. Plus, it was fun—a great beach read."

New York Times reporter Amy Chozick offers an engaging tale that marries the personal and political as gives a behind-the-scenes view on the 2016 election and the life of a political journalist.

"The Nickel Boys," by Colson Whitehead

Recommended by Raju Narisetti, Director Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism, Professor of Professional Practice

"I've been waiting to read Whitehead since the stunning 2016 Pulitzer Winner The Underground Railroad. Seems never more relevant to revisit America's racist past than in this Trump era."

Colson Whitehead tells the story of two young black men struggling to survive at Nickel Academy, a fictionalized version of a brutal real-life Florida reform school.

"The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation," by Brenda Winesap, "The Last Shift," by Philip Levine and "Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup," by John Carreyou

Recommended by Bruce Shapiro, Executive Director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma

"Looking forward to: 1) "The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation" by Brenda Winesap: escaping the toxic present with immersion in the toxic past! 2) "The Last Shift by Philip Levine"—the final collection by the most journalistic of American poets, whose chronicles of the minute particulars of work, place, and memory always make me realize how much we miss in the headlong rush to deadline; 3) "Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup" by John Carryou—because it's our all-school reading for the fall..."

"Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval," by Saidiya Hartman, "I Like to Watch," by Emily Nussbaum and "Stalingrad," by Vasily Grossman

Recommended by Alisa Solomon, Professor & Director, Arts Concentration, M.A. Program

"Hartman is a gorgeous writer who unearths forgotten histories. I loved her earlier book, 'Lose Your Mother,' and can't wait to dig into this story of the independent intimate lives of African-American urban women at the beginning of the 20th century. Also looking forward to the collection of Emily Nussbaum's essays about T.V., 'I Like to Watch,' coming out next month; and excited about the new, restorative translation of Vasily Grossman's 'Stalingrad'—the prequel to his materpiece, 'Life and Fate'—also coming out in June."

The forthcoming social history by Columbia professor Saidiya Hartman examines a generation of young, Black women in urban America in the early 1900s who come vibrantly to life, at times through the "critical fabulation" Hartman employs aside deep research to fill in gaps where the archives omit her protagonist or merely amplify the voices of the institutions that oppressed them. In doing so, she allows these women to come forth in a new narrative: as "sexual modernists," pushing against gender, kinship and sexual norms as means of survival for both body and soul.

"Reporter: A Memoir," by Seymour Hersh

Recommended by Ernest Sotomayor, Dean of Student Affairs & Director, Latin American Initiatives

“I recommend that any student of journalism read it to understand what drove Hersh to do what he does, how he strategized and how he pursued this profession with a relentlessness that should be inherent in anyone in our business. He provides sharp criticism of how many national correspondents do their job, and it is worth noting why he takes issue. A must-read for our students or any journalist.”

In his sweeping memoir, Sydney Hersh, the investigative reporter who famously expose the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam and reported some of the most important stories of the last half-century, including Abu Ghraib prison abuse, recounts his rise as a journalist, how he pursued his investigations and his suspicion of institutions of power--as well as the editors who cozy too close to them.

"Outline," by Rachel Cusk, "The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries From a Secret World," by Peter Wohlleben and "The Empire of Cotton: A Global History," by Sven Beckert

Recommended by Alexander Stille, San Paolo Professor of International Journalism

"Just finished 'Outline,' the first of a trilogy of novels by Rachel Cusk, extremely interesting variation on traditional narrative. Just started two others which I find very capitivating: I've just started Wohllenben's fascinating dive into little-understood world of trees and forests, the amazing amount of communication going between trees and other species that a city-slicker like me would not suspect. Sven Beckert is more work-related, but fascinating just the same. Beckert explains how the industrial production of cotton helped shape so many aspects of modern life: slavery, imperialism, factory production, labor relations, the development of what he calls 'War Capitalism.'"

Tag @Columbiajourn on Twitter with #CJSSummerReads to share the books with the J-School community that are keeping you busy this summer.