Brought to you by J-Source: The top 27 books every j-student should read

After you're done checking out all the sites on our primer, take a break from the web, and get back into school-mode with a good book. We asked J-Source readers for their picks then added a few of our own. You'll find some old staples on the list, some new, and, even better, some Canadian. Tell us what we missed and we'll mark it as a new addition and add it to the list.

After you're done checking out all the sites on our primer, take a break from the web, and get back into school-mode with a good book. We asked J-Source readers for their picks then added a few of our own. You'll find some old staples on the list, some new, and, even better, some Canadian. Tell us what we missed and we'll mark it as a new addition and add it to the list.


All the President’s Men
By Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
Simon and Schuster, 1974
How did these two Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters smash the Watergate scandal wide open? Read All the President’s men for a behind-the-scenes look at one of the century’s biggest stories.

By Dave Cullen
Twelve, 2009
This is the first complete account of the April 20, 1999 tragedy, the two boys at the centre of it, a devastated community, police bungles, and an unflinching look at what it means to hate.

Calculated Risk: Greed, Politics and the Westray Tragedy
By Dean Jobb
Nimbus Publishing, 1994
In 1992, Nova Scotia suffered the worst mining disaster in Canadian history when twenty-six men died in the now infamous Westray coal mine explosion. This is the story of what happened.

The Ghosts of Medak Pocket: The Story of Canada's Secret War
By Carol Off
Random House Digital, 2005
In 1993, Canadian peacekeepers in Medak Pocket, Croatia were part of the country’s most significant combat since the Korean War. Carol Off digs up their long-forgotten and covered-up story. And while we’re at it: This wasn’t the only Off book nominated – so check out her other great works, such as Bitter Chocolate and The Lion, The Fox and The Eagle, too.

Personal History
by Katharine Graham
Random House Digital, 1998
Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for biography, this is the story of Kay Graham, but also of the Washington Post, its struggles to survive, her husband, and, most of all, her life.

A Good Life
by Ben Bradlee
Simon & Schuster, 1996
The life of Ben Bradlee, and how he took the helm of the Washington Post in 1965, revitalizing the paper and reinventing investigative journalism.

The Journalist and the Murderer
By Janet Malcolm
Knopf, 1990
In this book, Malcolm examines the psychopathology of  journalism, using the case of Jeffrey MacDonald, a convicted murderer, who sued big-time journalist Joe McGinniss, the man who wrote a book (Fatal Vision) about the crime.

By John Hersey
The New Yorker 1946, Penguin Books, 1946
When it was first published as an article in August 1946, the New Yorker dedicated an entire issue to the article – scrapping its original plan to publish the story in four parts. Months later, it was printed as a book. This  book follows six men and women who survived.

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
by Tom Wolfe
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968
Weren’t alive in the 60s – or don’t remember much? Well, Wolfe was there, notebook in hand, chronicling the birth of the hippy movement, through the life of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, and their LSD-fuelled antics. 

The Armies of the Night
By Norman Mailer
New American Library, 1968
This 1968 Pulitzer Prize winner is aptly subtitled “History as a Novel/The Novel as History”. No wonder. Here, Mailer tries out his own genre for narrative, splitting his accounts of the 1967 march on the Pentagon between historical and novelized accounts. Be sure to check out Mailer’s other work, as well – there is a lot to choose from.

In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences
By Truman Capote
Random House, 1965
Many believe this is the moment true crime became true literature. Read the story of the Clutter family murders to find out for yourself.

Into the Wild
By John Krakauer
Villard, 1996
OK, you’ve probably seen the movie, but have you read the book about Christopher Johnson McCandless? Do it – and then read the rest of Krakauer’s great non-fiction.

The White Album
By Joan Didion
Simon & Schuster, 1970
This collection of essays tells strange tales of the late ’60s and ’70s, including stories about the Manson family, a Black Panther meetings, and a Doors recording session.

Fame and Obscurity
By Gay Talese
Doubleday, 1970
A collection of Talese’s most famous celebrity profiles written for Esquire, including “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”, “Joe Louis: The King as a Middle-aged man”, and “The Silent Season of a Hero”.

The John McPhee Reader
By John McPhee
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976
This collection features selections from McPhee’s first 12 books. In it, you’ll find good journalistic work on everything from oranges to plutonium.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
By Hunter S. Thompson
Straight Arrow Books, 1973
It’s hard to pick one Hunter S. Thompson book – and yes, you better just read them all – but this is ours. On the Campaign Trail is a collection of articles first featured in the Rolling Stone in 1972; the resulting book centres largely on the Democratic Party, it’s campaign, and the media’s coverage.

By David Remnick
Pan Macmillan, 2008
A collection of the New Yorker editor’s best profiles.

The Golden Spruce
By John Vaillant
Random House, 2005
Winner of the Governor General’s Award in 2005, this book is about the Queen Charlotte Islands’ rare golden spruce, the man who destroyed it, the aftermath, and the context in which all this events took place.

Moneyball: the art of winning an unfair game
By Michael Lewis
W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2003
You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate Moneyball. Lewis follows the Oakland Athletics and its general manger Billy Beane, their new approach to an old game – and their climb to the top. It’s now set to be made into a movie starring Brad Pitt. Yupp.


The Elements of Journalism: What newspeople should know and what the public should expect
By Bill Kovach, Tom Rosenstiel
Random House Digital, Inc., 2001 (revised edition 2007)
Back in 1997, twenty-five of America’s top journalists called a conference to figure out what had happened to journalism in the years between Watergate and Whitewater – why were people turning away from the news in droves? Calling themselves the Committee of Concerned Journalists, these 25 undertook years of intensive research, interviews and surveys. This book draws on that research, spelling out, for the first time, the principles and responsibilities of good journalism.

Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism that Changed the World
Edited by John Pilger
Thunder's Mouth Press, 2005
A selection of great and influential investigative journalism that spans the ages.

The New New Journalism: conversations with America's best nonfiction writers on their craft
By Robert S. Boynton
Random House Digital, 2005
Nineteen Q&As with practitioners of – as dubbed by Boynton – the new, new journalism. Interviewees include: Jon Krakauer, Michael Lewis, and Gay Talese.

Digging Deeper: A Canadian Reporter's Research (2nd edition)
By Robert Cribb, Dean Jobb, David McKie, Fred Vallance-Jones
Oxford University Press, 2010
The second, updated edition offers the same great stuff as the first: invaluable advice, tools, and tips for investigative journalists and to-be investigative journalists, alike.

On Writing Well
By William Knowlton Zinsser
Harper Paperbacks, 2006 (30th anniversary edition)
Whatever you want to write about, Zinsser will help you do it better. J-profs and editors have been recommending this book for over 30 years.

The Elements of Style
By William Strunk and E.B. White
Pearson Longman, 2008 (fiftieth anniversary edition; first edition 1918)
Over the years, much ink has been dedicated to either praising or slamming The Elements of Style. Love it or hate it, first you have to read it.

By Evelyn Waugh
Chapman and Hall, 1938
This satire of Fleet Street, sensationalist journalism, and foreign correspondence has had people laughing-out-loud long before lol every graced a page.

By Christopher Wren
Simon & Schuster, 1996
Call it an updated Scoop, if you will. Wren asks whither the intensity of Edward R. Murrow days – and takes us to the fictional city of Porto Paradiso to find out.

What we missed//new recommendations from J-Source readers:

The Canadian Reporter: News Writing and Reporting (3rd Edition)
by Catherine McKercher, Allan Thompson, Carman Cumming
Nelson Education Ltd., 2010
A great reporting text for Canadian journalism students completely revised and updated in 2011.
*New, as suggested by: Mary McGuire

The New Journalist: Roles, Skills and Critical Thinking
Edited by Paul Benedetti, Tim Currie and Kim Kierans
Emond Montgomery Publications Limited, 2010
A great guide to reporting in Canada with contributions from some of the country's top reporters, editors and academics
*New, as suggested by: Mary McGuire

Manufacturing Consent
By Edward S. Herman, Noam Chomsky
Pantheon Books, 2002
Herman and Chomsky argue that the mainstream press is all about defending the economic, social, and political agendas privileged groups – not about truth and justice.
*New, as suggested by: Dave Patterson

Understanding Media
By Marshall McLuhan
McGraw-Hill, 1964
McLuhan’s now trademarked phrase “the medium is the message” has never had more resonance. Now is the perfect time visit, or re-visit, this great book.
*New, as suggested by: Dave Patterson