My Favorite Books


In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote: Probably the best nonfiction book ever written. A classic reconstruction of the murders of a farming family in Kansas.

Oysters of Locmariaquer, by Eleanor Clark: A lovely narrative of how France’s famous Belon oysters are cultivated. The locals call them les plates (“the flat ones”).

My Uncle Oswald, by Roald Dahl: A hilarious tale of an irrepressible philanderer and adventurer who sets out to make a fortune in the Sudan.

From Beirut to Jerusalem, by Thomas L. Friedman: The all-time classic of the Middle East. A great reporter’s look at the Arab-Israeli crisis from both sides of the fence.

City Room, by Arthur Gelb: A fond and nostalgic look at the culture of New York Times by a man who rose from the lowliest position of a copy boy to managing editor in 45 years.

The Human Factor, by Graham Greene: A sad, moody novel of a man who betrays Britain for the Soviets.

The Best and the Brightest, by David Halberstam: A wonderfully written, richly detailed work on how the American military effort in Vietnam got into a quagmire.

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway: Paris in the swinging 1920s, as told by one of the greatest writers of our time.

Freedom at Midnight, by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins: In my view, the best book ever written about India. It tells the story of India’s fight for independence and the crucial partition by the British of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan. Rich history, wonderful anecdotes.

The Little Drummer Girl, by John Le Carre: My favorite of the great master’s novels. A haunting study of men and women engaged in shadowy war in the Middle East.

Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White, by Joseph Lelyveld: A richly detailed and beautifully crafted book about what life was like under apartheid. It won Lelyveld the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.

Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families, by J. Anthony Lukas: A monumental work of how the busing crisis unfolded in Boston.

A Bend in the River, by Manohar Malgaonkar: A beautifully written novel of 19th century India, it tells the story of a local ruler named Nanasahib Peshwa who led a mutiny against the British.

The Summing Up, by W. Somerset Maugham: A great work by a great writer, encapsulating the lessons life taught him.

A Writer’s World: 1950 to 2000, by Jan Morris: An anthology of the Welsh writer’s journalism and travel writings of five decades. Read it for the literary elegance, wit and perceptivity.

The Discovery of India, by Jawaharlal Nehru: India’s history and sociology by one of the country’s founding fathers.

A Stranger in My House: Jews and Arabs in the West Bank, by Walter Reich: The heart-wrenching story of what’s happened in Palestine.

Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker, edited by David Remnick: A marvelous anthology of profiles, a must-read for anyone who wants to be a writer or journalist.

Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Story
, by A. M. Rosenthal: A careful reconstruction of the murder of a New York woman while her neighbors listened to her screams and did nothing.

Short Stories: Five Decades, by Irwin Shaw: Brilliant fiction by the great master.

The Kingdom and the Power, by Gay Talese: Still the definitive work about the New York Times.

The Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux: Without doubt, the best book ever written about railway journeys. Theroux rides on trains from London across Europe, Asia and up to Russia and back again.

Scoop, by Evelyn Waugh: Absolutely THE novel about foreign correspondents and the absurd games they play with their subjects and their bosses.

The Prize, by Daniel Yergin: The best study of the oil and energy industry. Yergin’s clear style makes the book accessible to the layman.

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