Favorite Books: One I Read as a Boy Made Me Want to Be a Journalist

By Wesley G. Pippert

My reading habits since I was a boy in a one-room country school in Iowa have always been eclectic and this reading list probably illustrates that. I volunteer usher in several Washington theaters and whenever there is a Shakespeare play I always read it first—to get a better grasp of the plot and especially  to capture some of Shakespeare’s vocabulary as his words go speeding by. Here are other books I’ve liked:

Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. Was Hamilton the greatest of the Founding Fathers and maybe America’s greatest political mind?

Sermons from World War II, by Emil  Brunner, Swiss theologian and colleague of Karl Barth. Brunner brought great truth down to an understandable and enjoyable level, such as when he pointed out that in the Passion Story Jesus spent the most time talking to, not one of the religious poobahs of the time, but “a bureaucrat—Pilate.”

Far From the Tree, by Andrew Solomon.  Solomon has chosen about 10 groups—including the blind, the deaf, the disabled, the “bad seed,” the children of divorce, the gay, the children of same-sex marriages—and  writes about how we ought to relate to them and how we actually do. Each chapter is almost a dissertation in itself.

ISIS: The State of Terror, by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger. This is one of the few definitive books on one of the most brutal groups of this era by two experts who know what they are writing about.

Sycamore Row, by John Grisham. He once was a state legislator; what if he had stayed in the legislative process and was in the Senate today fighting on behalf of the less well-off, as he does in Sycamore Row.

Between You & Me, by Mary Norris, long-time copy editor at the New Yorker. Any editor should read this. Abundant fun as well.

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough.

Love That Boy, by Ron Fournier, who has covered the Clintons probably longer than any other reporter. This is the poignant story of a father (Fournier) and how he came to appreciate his challenged son based on a remark (the title of the book) that President George W. Bush made to him.

News On the Air, by Paul White. I read this book as a boy and couldn’t put it down and it made me want to be a journalist. It was to me like a comparable series of books, John Tunis and his sports stories (The Kid from Tompkinsville) or Stephen W. Meader and his books for youth, like T-Model Tommy. Tunis and Meader wrote 65 books between them and I read most of them.
Wes Pippert covered state capitals, Congress, and the White House. He spent nearly 30 years with United Press International, serving first in the Bismarck and Pierre capital bureaus in the Dakotas and then in Chicago before coming to Washington, D.C. in 1966. He covered three presidential campaigns and the Carter White House, and he was UPI’s principal on the Watergate story. His final assignment with UPI was as senior Middle East correspondent, headquartered in Jerusalem. He was a Congressional Fellow and held year-long fellowships at the University of Michigan and Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. He directed the Missouri School of Journalism’s Washington Program from 1989 to 2012.
If you’re a writer or editor and want to write about the books that have made a difference in your life, send me a note at [email protected]

Speak Your Mind