12 Eye-Opening Investigative Journalism Books
This just in: These compelling accounts leap off the page.
By Paul Pringle
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Paul Pringle’s Bad City provides a behind-the-scenes look at the author’s investigation into one of Los Angeles’s most powerful private institutions: the University of Southern California. When a sordid tip about a drug overdose involving the dean of USC’s medical school came across Pringle’s desk at the L.A. Times, he figured the story would take a few weeks to follow up on and prepare for print. Little did he know that he and his colleagues had just stumbled onto a tangled web of scandals, crimes, and cover-ups that stretched across the city. Bad City is a compelling investigative narrative about how Pringle and his fellow journalists rooted out institutional rot in L.A. and prevailed against a corrupt institution.
By Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
In their New York Times bestseller She Said, Pulitzer winners Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey chronicle the groundbreaking sexual harassment report that helped spark a movement and fan the #MeToo reckoning. Convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein is behind bars today. Yet when Kantor and Twohey began their investigation into the rumors surrounding the producer, he still held tremendous sway over Hollywood. Through months of confidential interviews with actresses, employees, and other sources, the journalists gathered a cache of credible allegations against Weinstein along with a raft of NDAs and records of hush-money payouts. With their case assembled, Kantor and Twohey convinced their sources to go on record, publishing their bombshell exposé and setting the stage for the Weinstein vs. New York Times showdown. She Said not only tells the story of the investigation and Weinstein’s downfall but also champions the women who spoke up and brought about lasting change in their industry and beyond.
Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church (aka Spotlight)
By The Investigative Staff of The Boston Globe
If you’re reading this list, then you’re likely familiar with the Academy Award–winning film Spotlight starring Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams. The movie chronicles the Boston Globe’s special investigative “Spotlight” team as its reporters investigate the Catholic Church’s history of sexual abuse. The investigative staff of The Boston Globe received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003 for their reporting on the crisis. Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church chronicles their work. The exposé offers an in-depth look at the payouts, cover-ups, and coercion carried out by the church in an attempt to keep its secrets hidden and bury the scandal — and the triumphant efforts of the Globe reporters who brought the scandal to light.
By Beth Macy
National bestseller Dopesick by celebrated journalist Beth Macy offers a thorough account of the American opioid epidemic. From sprawling cities to rural enclaves, doctor’s offices to football locker rooms, Macy traces the trajectory of the opioid crisis as it unfolded over the course of two decades. She starts with one dealer in a small Virginia town, covers the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, and pulls apart Big Pharma and its culture of medical overtreatment with painkillers. Macy interweaves heartbreaking accounts of communities wracked by addiction with stunning reports of corporate greed and malfeasance in this compelling narrative that the Boston Globe calls an “impressive feat of journalism.”
You Don’t Belong Here
By Elizabeth Becker
You Don’t Belong Here, by award-winning journalist Elizabeth Becker, tells the story of three exceptional reporters who shattered gender norms and rewrote the way we cover war. When Kate Webb, Catherine Leroy, and Frances FitzGerald arrived in Vietnam to report on the unfolding conflict, they faced military resistance as well as scorn and condescension from their male peers. Nevertheless, the trio persisted, and in so doing they reshaped the methods of war reportage for generations to come. Becker delivers her narrative from the perspective of a historian as well as a witness; she herself arrived in Vietnam during the final years of the war. The result is a profound and personal portrait of three groundbreaking reporters and a deeply researched account of America’s involvement in Vietnam.
By Jeremy Scahill
On September 16, 2007, 17 Iraqi civilians were gunned down in Baghdad’s Nisour Square and another 20 civilians were injured. Who opened fire on the streets of Baghdad that day? U.S. soldiers? Iraqi insurgents? The fatal incident, now referred to as “Baghdad’s Bloody Sunday,” was actually the work of armed subcontractors of a mercenary security firm. While active, Blackwater Worldwide carried out a slew of covert security operations in the name of the U.S. war machine. Jeremy Scahill, an award-winning journalist, covers the consequences of outsourcing war in his bestselling Blackwater, taking readers from the streets of Baghdad to Katrina-devastated New Orleans and into the chambers of Washington to deliver “a crackling exposé” (New York Times Book Review).
All the President’s Men
By Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
Hailed as “perhaps the most influential piece of journalism in history” (Time), All the President’s Men by Pulitzer-winning journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein dives deep into the Watergate scandal and the unraveling of the Nixon presidency. The classic account documents Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation every step of the way, from the first reports of a break-in at the DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C., to the appearance of “Deep Throat” and the rising wave of outrage that culminated, just months after All the President’s Men was released, in Richard Nixon’s resignation.
By Jane Mayer
In this revelatory work, bestselling author and award-winning journalist Jane Mayer exposes the ultra-wealthy idealogues vying for control of America’s future. Drawing on exclusive interviews and revealing court documents and private papers, Mayer examines the widening economic gap in America and the alarming ascendency of the billionaire class. The agenda they’re pushing is clear: Dismantle corporate regulation and tax laws and consolidate wealth in the top 1 percent. A highly praised account, Dark Money is “more than just a work of political journalism — it’s a vital portrait of a nation” (The San Francisco Chronicle).
By Emily Bazelon
The American criminal justice system is designed to give equal power to the prosecution and the defense, but in reality the balance is skewed. Bestselling author and renowned legal commentator Emily Bazelon shows us why in Charged. She follows the stories of two young people, both charged with serious crimes, from their arrest to sentencing to illustrate how prosecutions can go wrong. A New York Times bestseller driven by in-depth reporting and expert legal analysis, Charged shines a powerful light on the unchecked power of the prosecutor and mass incarceration in America.
By Shane Bauer
In 2014, award-winning journalist Shane Bauer took a job for $9 an hour working as a guard in a private prison. In the four months he spent undercover, Bauer learned enough to write an exposé that would become the most-read feature ever published in Mother Jones magazine. American Prison expands on that piece, detailing the cruelty of our current prison system alongside a thoroughly researched history of for-profit prisons in America and the abhorrent lack of accountability within private prisons. It’s a study that’s both candid and provocative: NPR calls American Prison “an enraging, necessary look at the private prison system.”
By John Carreyrou
In 2014, Elizabeth Holmes was widely regarded as the next Steve Jobs. The brilliant Stanford dropout had launched a new technology company called Theranos that promised to revolutionize the medical industry by performing a range of lab tests with just a single drop of blood. Too bad Theranos’s game-changing technology didn’t really work. Yet rather than halting production and rectifying concerns before things got out of control, Holmes and her partner, Sunny Balwani, doubled down on their subterfuge, silencing doubters and squashing dissent to keep the investment money flowing. John Carreyrou, a two-time Pulitzer winner and veteran journalist, reports this gripping Silicon Valley scandal in his national bestseller Bad Blood.
Catch and Kill
By Ronan Farrow
In his New York Times bestseller, Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter Ronan Farrow blows open the network of cover-ups and conspiracies protecting serial abusers in Hollywood. What began as a routine television network investigation led Farrow to a story only spoken about in hushed whispers. A powerful Hollywood producer was a predator, protected by money and fear, and backed by elite lawyers and fixers. As Farrow’s investigation intensified, he was followed and threatened, meeting resistance every step of the way. This is the story of how wealth, intimidation, and power from coast to coast served to cover up the predators and abusers in Hollywood. Catch and Kill reveals shocking new stories of abuse of power and gives voice to the victims who were silenced for so long.
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The holidays are just around the corner, and we’re here to help you find the ideal gift for every book lover on your list. From award-winning true crime narratives and acclaimed essay collections to uproariously funny memoirs, here are the best nonfiction book gifts to give this holiday season.
Looking for stellar fiction recommendations? Check out our list of the best fiction book gifts to give this holiday season!