A Journalist’s Reading List

In addition to our weekly reading list, we asked journalist and reporter M. Rajshekhar who reports on rural India and environment for Scroll.in to send us a list of books that every reporter must read. The list was born out of a conversation about Ludo De Witte’s The Assassination of Lumumba.  The book according to Rajashekar was written with anger and urgency and “the best, strongest piece of journalism I read that was not by a journalist.” When we asked him for his list, in his immense generosity, he enlisted Prem Panicker,  Manoj Mitta and other writers and journalists to send their lists.

Table of Contents

We hope to keep this list updated.

(Note: We have kept notes, marginalia and the commentary intact, including the format in which it was sent)


1. Once upon a distant war, Jon Prochnau.
2. The Assassination of Lumumba, Ludo De Witte.
3. The Bully Pulpit, Doris Goodwin.
4. A bright shining lie, Neil Sheehan.
5. The best and the brightest, David Halberstam.
6. When a tree shook Delhi, Manoj Mitta.
7. The fiction of fact-finding, Manoj Mitta.
8. Fools Rule. William Marsden. (Just as good is his second book. On shale oil and Alberta. )
10. Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner. (On water management in the American West. )
11. A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout, Carl Safina
12. Blood On My Hands, Kishalay Bhattacharya. (On encounter killings by the Indian army.)
13.Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India, Akshaya Mukul
14. Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
15. The great war for civilisation, Robert Fisk.
16. Private Empire: Exxon Mobil and American power.
17. The New Kings of Crude, Luke Patey.
18. Street without Joy, Bernard Fall.
19. King Leopold’s Ghost, Adam Hochschild.
20. Gas Wars, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
21.Will the Boat Sink the Water?: The Life of China’s Peasants, Chen Guidi and  Wu Chuntao. (On China and its farmers.)
22. Putin’s Russia, Karen Dawisha.
23. The Dragon’s Gift: China in Africa.

Prem Panicker

  1. The Kingdom and the Power by Gay Talese

  2. Backstory by Ken Auletta

  3. Post-truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World by James Ball

  4. Deciding what’s true: the rise of political fact-checking in America by Lucas Graves

  5. The Smear, by Sharyl Atkisson

  6. Propaganda, by Edward Bernays

  7. The Image by Daniel Boorstin

  8. The Republic of Spin by David Greenberg

  9. The News About the News by Leonard Downie and Robert G Kaiser

  10. What Liberal Media by Eric Alterman

  11. Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy by Eric Alterman

  12. The Powers That Be by David Halberstam (History of the big media houses, but very essential to know the origins of the contemporary ecosystem)

  13. Poisoning the Press by Mark Feldstein

  14. Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

  15. Slanting the Story by Trudy Lieberman

  16. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

  17. Lies Incorporated by Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters

  18. The Fox Effect by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt

  19. White House Ghosts, by Bud Schlesinger (A slightly off the wall choice, but: It is a book on speechwriters dating back to JFK and even before — but the way it is written, the interplay of what the powerful people say, how they come to say it, and how it impacts the media and through that, society is fascinating.)

  20. The essays of Orwell and Mencken remain timeless. Also Walter Lippmann

Manoj Mitta
1. B G Varghese: First Draft: Witness to Making of Modern India
2. B G Varghese: Warrior of of the Fourth Estate (A biography of Ramnath Goenka)
3. Frank Moraes: Witness to an Era
4. Kuldip Nayar: Judgment: Inside Story of the Emergency
5. Debashis Basu and Sucheta Dalal: The Scam
6. P Sainath: Everybody Loves a Good Drought

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