Sarfraz Manzoor: my five best books

The journalist, broadcaster and screenwriter picks his favourite books

Sarfraz Manzoor
(Image credit: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Sarfraz Manzoor’s latest book, They: What Muslims and Non-Muslims Get Wrong About Each Other is published by Wildfire at £20.

American Pastoral by Philip Roth (1997)

Roth’s reputation has taken a battering but I am a huge fan, especially of the trilogy of novels, published in the 1990s, which revisit key moments in postwar American history. This novel is about many things – politics, family, class – but above all it is about the dark side of 1960s’ idealism and the souring of the American Dream. It is gorgeously written with passages of breathtaking beauty filled with wisdom and pathos. Vintage £9.99

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One on One by Craig Brown, (2011)

Craig Brown is a stone-cold genius and I am endlessly recommending this book. He writes of 101 unusual celebrity encounters that together form a daisy chain of 20th-century history: Kipling meets Twain, Twain meets Helen Keller, and so on. The result is ridiculously entertaining. Fourth Estate £9.99

American Dreams: Lost and Found by Studs Terkel (1980)

Terkel was an American oral historian whose books feature an extraordinary range of so-called ordinary people. Here he asks them to articulate their version of the American Dream. What emerges is a portrait of the US in all its conflicted and complex glory. Out of print

Footsteps: The New York Times (2017)

This collection of New York Times pieces sees writers taking literary pilgrimages around the world, from Philip Roth’s Newark to Elena Ferrante’s Naples. Reading this book has been my way of travelling while stuck at home. Three Rivers Press £11.99

My Song by Harry Belafonte (2011)

I was lucky enough to interview Belafonte a few years ago. He is an extraordinary individual who has led an astonishing life, from double dating with Marlon Brando to advising Martin Luther King and JFK. He has been a singer, actor and activist, but more than anything he has been an agent of hope and change. Canongate £14.99

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