Robert Boynton directs New York University’s magazine journalism program and is the author of The New New Journalism: Conversations With America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft.
Honor Thy Father by Gay Talese (Ivy, $6.99). Written long before the Mob became the stuff of bad fiction and good cable television, this book put Talese’s famous “fly on the wall” reporting technique to the test: During the six years he followed Mafia scion Joseph Bonanno Jr., there were long periods when Bonanno’s father was in hiding and Talese’s protagonist was himself the target of hit men.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Rolling Nowhere by Ted Conover (Vintage, $14). Conover captured the last gasp of American hobo culture with this beautifully written first book. He entered the life so completely that when another tramp tried to enter his boxcar (a violation of hobo etiquette), Conover barely hesitated before stepping on the man’s hand, sending him flying off the train.
Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (Scribner, $14). LeBlanc’s intimate view of life in the drug-ridden South Bronx unnerved readers across the political spectrum. Conservatives wanted her to chastise her subjects’ morality. Liberals thought she was too unsympathetic. But nobody denied the essential truth of what she documented, or how beautifully the portrait was rendered.
The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz (Anchor, $15). Kotlowitz presents the 1991 death of a black Michigan teenager as a screen onto which two adjacent towns—one black and one white—project their resentments and fears. The fact that the murder is never solved might stand as a metaphor for race relations in America.
The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm (Vintage, $13). A classic study of murder, deceit, and journalistic ethics. The book’s first line—“Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible”—should be emblazoned on the wall of every journalism school.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.