15 books for the journalist in your life

by IJNet
Dec 15, 2023 in Miscellaneous

What better way to check out at the end of the year – or spend all those vacation days you’re scrambling to use up – than with a deeply reported investigation, or a novel featuring a prominent journalism storyline?

There are just a few days remaining in 2023, and we have you covered: we sourced our readers and colleagues for their top journalism-related book suggestions. 

Here they are, with a bonus two in Spanish and Portuguese as well:


(1) Among the Braves: Hope, Struggle, and Exile in the Battle for Hong Kong and the Future of Global Democracy, by Shibani Mahtani and Timothy McLaughlin

This frontline account of Hong Kong's 2019 pro-democracy protests, and China's subsequent crackdown on free press and civil society, looks at the lives of four activists and the risks they took to stand for a different future for Hong Kong.

(2) Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, by Patrick Radden Keefe

Deeply researched and reported, Empire of Pain documents three generations of the Sackler family, responsible for the drug, OxyContin, which spurred the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the U.S. 

If you’re a fan of this one, also check out Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.

(3) Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann

Set in 1920s Oklahoma, Killers of the Flower Moon chronicles the mysterious deaths of members of the Osage Nation, the world’s richest people per capita at the time following the discovery of oil beneath their land. As more and more Osage were killed, a nascent FBI took up the case. You may have heard of this one – there’s a three and a half hour Martin Scorsese-directed film adaptation out now.

(4) Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution, by Helen Zia

Journalist Helen Zia tells the stories of four young residents of Shanghai who fled China for Hong Kong, Taiwan and the U.S. in the wake of the 1949 Communist revolution. These stories are informed by hundreds of interviews of exiled Chinese hailing from the last generation to fully remember the mass flight from the country.

(5) On the Front Line: The Collected Journalism of Marie Colvin, by Marie Colvin

An award-winning foreign correspondent at The Sunday Times, Marie Colvin was killed in Syria in 2012 while covering the country’s civil war. This book is a collection of Colvin’s best reporting throughout her career. A portion of the book sales is directed to the Marie Colvin Memorial Fund.

(6) Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America, by Maria Hinojosa

In this memoir, award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa shines a light on the history and nature of immigration policy in the U.S. through her personal story of growing up as Mexican-American in Chicago. 

(7) Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World, by Zahra Hankir (Editor), Christiane Amanpour (Foreword)

This collection of 19 essays features firsthand accounts from women journalists across the Arab world. They describe how they’ve covered the conflicts on their doorsteps, navigating the challenges and leveraging the advantages that working as a woman journalist in the region present. One of these journalists is 2020 ICFJ Knight award winner, Lina Attalah, of Egypt’s Mada Masr.

(8) Sarajevo’s Holiday Inn on the Frontlines of Politics and War, by Kenneth Morrison

This book takes a look at the Sarajevo Holiday Inn, used by foreign correspondents during the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s. It starts with the hotel’s creation ahead of the 1984 Winter Olympics, and takes the reader through its role during the Bosnian war. 

(9) Second-Hand Time, by Svetlana Alexievich 

A series of interviews that chronicle the fall of the Soviet Union and the years after, Alexievich, a Belarusian writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2015, captures the end of the Cold War era for people in the Soviet Union and the turbulent 90s that followed through first-hand accounts. 

(10) Some People Need Killing: A Memoir of Murder in My Country, by Patricia Evangelista

An immersive chronicle of the Duterte-led Philippines' "war on drugs" and the high toll of extrajudicial killings that marked his administration. The book is also a testament to the spirit of frontline reporters in the country, and those who dared to say no amid the darkest hours.


(11) The Compromise, by Sergei Dovlatov

Drawing on his experiences as a reporter in Soviet-era Estonia, Dovlatov paints what the New York Times in 1983 described as a “sadly funny” portrait of journalism under Communist rule.

(12) I Have Some Questions for You, by Rebecca Makkai

The newest book on our list, this 2023 release follows film professor and podcaster, Bodie Kane, as she returns to her alma mater boarding school in New Hampshire – where her former roommate had been murdered – to teach a two-week workshop. She is drawn back to the case and what might have gone wrong in the investigation into it at the time.

(13) The Rum Diary, by Hunter S. Thompson

Taking place in the late 1950s, journalist Paul Kemp – the book’s narrator – moves from New York to work for a major newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While there, he is drawn to a mysterious woman, and pulled into tangled love scenarios and a world of corruption.

Bonus book in Spanish:

(14) El loco: La vida desconocida de Javier Milei y su irrupción en la política argentina ("The madman: The unknown life of Javier Milei and his eruption in Argentine politics"), by Juan Luis González

This book explores the private and public life of Argentina's eccentric new president, whose “anarcho-capitalist” ideas and extreme plans to dismantle the state come at a time when the country is going through a deep economic crisis, drawing the world's attention to his proposed experiments.

Bonus book in Portuguese:

(15) Baviera tropical ("Tropical Bavaria"), by Betina Anton

Betina Anton's book tells the story of "the most wanted Nazi doctor in the world, who lived for almost 20 years in Brazil without ever being caught": Josef Mengele. The narrative has the feel of a thriller and includes memories from the author herself, guided by the question: how could this figure go unnoticed?

Here are 10 book recommendations from our Portuguese site.

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash.