Extra, Extra, Read All About It: Books That Make Us Want to Be Reporters

Extra, Extra, Read All About It: Books That Make Us Want to Be Reporters

Don’t get us wrong: We love writing for the Internet. The speed with which news breaks and is shaped—and being part of that process—is exhilarating. But we both hold a special fondness for the ever-diminishing world of print journalism: fast-talking newsrooms, glossy magazines, the rush of putting out a new issue. For various reasons, our paths deviated from these worlds, so we live vicariously through books set at newspapers, magazines, and other publications. Here are our favorites.

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    1. Bright Lights, Big City

    Maybe enjoying Bright Lights, Big City is bad karma, but we did anyway. Over the course of Jay McInerney‘s novel, the unnamed protagonist’s professional life more or less implodes. He’s the fact-checker at a magazine that appears to be modeled on after The New Yorker, but between his substance abuse problems and distress over his wife’s departure, he just can’t keep it together. There’s something riveting about these cocaine binges and late nights in the office checking arcane miscellany under the scrutiny of larger-than-life editors. While we wouldn’t necessarily want it for ourselves, it’s fascinating in its own self-destructive way.

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    2. The Shipping News

    When everything falls apart for Quoyle, journalism helps him put the pieces back together. This Pulitzer- and National Book Award-winning novel by Annie Proulx opens with a string of tragedies: Both of Quoyle’s parents kill themselves, and his abusive wife is killed in a car crash along with her lover. He then moves to a small town in Newfoundland, where he begins to work as a reporter for a local paper, the Gammy Bird. Quoyle steadily builds a life for himself, and finds fulfillment in his column on the shipping news.

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    3. Attachments

    Rainbow Rowell‘s first novel came out in 2011, but this newsroom romance hearkens back over a decade to the Y2K era. Email is new enough that one of the engineers monitors his coworkers’ inter-office correspondences—through which he falls in love with the resident movie reviewer, of course. The characters’ charming discomfort with technology, paired with the newsroom hierarchy and that familiar rush of getting an issue to print, reminds us of that heady time when email and social media didn’t rule our lives.

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    4. The Imperfectionists

    How does an English-language newspaper in Rome stay relevant when print journalism starts to struggle? Through its staff. The Imperfectionists‘ cast of reporters and editors will endear themselves to anyone who has spent time in a newsroom. Each chapter revolves around one character; the cumulative effect is a portrait of a staff that is fallible, human, and trying hard to keep up in a field that is changing more quickly than they can adapt to.

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    5. One Hundred Names

    While the premise of Cecelia Ahern‘s new book is in the same vein as her bestselling novel PS, I Love You—magazine writer and failed TV journalist Kitty follows up on a list of 100 names left behind by her late mentor—at its heart, the book is about the thrill and agony of tracking down a good story. Even though Kitty’s assignment is for a magazine, the dilemma it reveals is universal to print and online writers alike: Go for the flashy, titillating scandal, or tease out a quieter, more resonant human interest story?

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    6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    In journalism, you’re only as good as your reputation: One slip-up or allegedly fabricated detail can throw your entire body of work into question. Mikael Blomkvist learns this the hard way. After publishing a damning story on a well-known industrialist in his magazine Millennium, he’s sued for libel and even serves jail time. Blomkvist only meets Lisbeth Salander when he takes on an assignment to clear his name and restore his reputation as a journalist with integrity. Larsson depicts journalism as an exhilarating, fast-paced occupation where the stakes are high but the payoff is well worth it.

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    7. The Most of Nora Ephron

    Often, the truth is much more entertaining than fiction. One of the treats ofThe Most of Nora Ephron, the definitive collection of Ephron‘s essays, is a section all about her journalism career—which started with her working atNewsweek in the ’60s. In spite of the institutionalized sexism, Ephron worked her way up from mail girl to clipper to researcher—then got a job at the New York Post. She doesn’t romanticize that world, but she makes you experience the same thrills that marked her path as a newspaper and magazine writer.

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