Press Gazette's list of the Top 30 journalism books - Press Gazette

Press Gazette's list of the Top 30 journalism books

In December we asked our 34,000-plus Twitter followers which books they would like to have in their Christmas stocking this year, using the #journobooks hashtag.

Hundreds of Press Gazette readers responded. The result is the most comprehensive list we have produced of the best books about journalism.

The top ten are listed in order of popularity among our Twitter followers while the remaining 30 titles we pick out are the best of the rest.

1.    Towards the End of the Morning – Michael Frayn (The Harvill Press, 1967)

Frayn’s satirical novel was the most popular journalism book among our voters.

Written and set in the late 60s, Frayan paints a vivid picture of the life as a journalist during the heyday of Fleet Street.

Set in a monolithic and nameless Fleet Street title, journalists feel trapped in the daily monotony of their job, as they dream of bigger, better things: the glamour of television.

Frayn’s novel is a humorous take on the decline of old-fashioned print journalism in the face of the rising glamour of television broadcasting.

To many, the Fleet Street conjured by Frayan is a thing of the past.

But not so, according one voter, Ann Trenman, who said the book is “HILARIOUS (and still in so many ways true)”.

2.    Stick it Up Your Punter! The Uncut Story of the Sun Newspaper – Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie (William Heinemann Ltd, 1990)

Written about a newspaper which “has unashamedly dragged journalistic standards into the gutter”, according to the blurb, this book goes behind the scenes into the lewd, crude and brilliant world of The Sun.

Stick it Up Your Punter details how the paper evolved from cashing in on the permissive society of the sixties, to helping Maggie win the election in 1979, and up to Kelvin MacKenzie’s notorious time at the helm.

The authors explain the truth behind stories like “Freddie Star Ate My Hamster” and the infamous “Gotcha!” headline.

Sarah Chapman said it makes for “a fascinating read”.

3.    Flat Earth News – Nick Davies (Chatto & Windus, 2008)

Nick Davies breaks Fleet Street’s unwritten rule by investigating his own colleagues.

He uncovers the prestigious “Sunday” newspaper which allowed the CIA and MI6 to plant fiction in its columns; the newsroom that routinely rejects stories about black people; the respected paper that hired a professional fraudster to set up a front company to entrap senior political figures; and the newspapers which support law and order while paying cash bribes to bent detectives.

Davies exposes the national stories which are in fact pseudo events manufactured by the PR industry, and the global news stories which he says are fiction, generated by a new machinery of international propaganda.

4.    Scoop – Evelyn Waugh (Methuen Publishing Company, 1948)

It would be impossible to have a list of the best journalism books without Evelyn Waugh’s classic. Waugh’s lively narrative is based partly on his own experience working for the Daily Mail, when he was sent to cover Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia.

Waugh’s chaotic tale begins with Lord Copper, newspaper magnate and proprietor of The Daily Beast, being persuaded to appoint the fashionable novelist John Boot as a foreign correspondent.

But an unfortunate case of mistaken identity leads to the naïve nature notes contributor William Boot being sent to cover the civil war in the African republic of Ishmaelia.

Despite heroic ineptitude, William manages to stumble upon the “scoop” of the title.

When he returns to England, credit is diverted to the other Boot, so he is left to return to his bucolic pursuits.

5.    The Zanzibar Chest: A Memoir of Love and War – Aidan J Hartley (Harper Collins, 2003)

Hartley’s autobiographical book explores his childhood memories in Africa and the continent’s violent wars, which Hartley covered as a journalist in the 1990s.

Hartley travels to the remote mountains and deserts of southern Arabia and Yemen after father’s death.

While there, he stumbles upon the trail of the tragic story of an old friend of his father’s, who fell in love and was murdered in southern Arabia fifty years ago.

Mike Sunderland voted for this book, tweeting: “Zanzibar Chest inspired me to study journalism.”

6.    The Universal Journalist – David Randall (Pluto Press, 2011)

An invaluable handbook for the universals of good journalistic practice for professional and trainee journalists, Randall’s book has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Randall challenges old attitudes, procedures and techniques, and emphasises that good journalism demands a range of skills in order to successfully operate in an industry where ownership, technology and information are constantly changing.

Alice Mat Purkiss said the book “is a must read for wannabe journalists”.

7. My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism – Andrew Marr (Macmillan, 2004)

Seasoned journalist Andrew Marr’s insider account tells the story of modern British journalism through his own experiences – the glamour, the disappointments and the embarrassments.

The book is a great guide for those who are avid news readers but want to know more about what goes into making the news: how journalists decide what is a story, how hacks get their scoops, and what it is that editors actually do all day.

8.    Waterhouse on Newspaper Style – Keith Waterhouse (Revel Barker, 2010)

Waterhouse infuses wit and wisdom into his guide to spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Luckily for him, good grammar does not go out of date, and so his book is regarded as a regarded as a classic textbook for modern journalism.

William Bevan commented: “Every rookie journalist should get Waterhouse on Newspaper Style – particularly if I’m going to be subbing them.”

9. My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times – Harold Evans (Little, Brown & Company, 2009)

The memoirs of Fleet Street legend Harold Evans show how his extraordinary career took off; how a working class Lancashire boy, who failed the eleven-plus, rose to edit  The Sunday Times when the paper was at the height of its pomp.

Ian Fraser tweeted: “One of most inspiring books I’ve read about journalism.”

10. The New Journalism – Tom Wolfe (Harper and Row, 1973)

Wolfe’s book is considered the definitive anthology of Vietnam-era journalism.

Tales of burnt draft cards, pop art, free love and drug runs to Mexico fill the pages, which feature the likes of Norman Mailer, Truman Capote and Hunter S Thompson.

The book could be more aptly titled “The Old Journalism”, as the writing style is the antithesis of the news reporting methodology taught in modern textbooks.

The best of the rest

Anyone Here Been Raped And Speaks English? – Edward Behr (Penguin Books, 1992)

Blood and Sand – Frank Gardner (Bantam, 2007)

War Reporting For Cowards – Chris Ayres (John Murray, 2006)

Essential English for journalists, editors and writers – Harold Evans (Pimlico, 2000)

Obama and Me – Steve Zacharanda (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012)

Frontline: The True Story of the British Mavericks Who Changed the Face of War Reporting – David Loyn (Michael Joseph Ltd, 2006)

Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs – John Pilger (Vintage, 2005)

Banana Sunday: Datelines from Africa – Christopher Munnion (Waterman publications, 2003)

Fear & Loathing:  On the Campaign Trail – Hunter Thompson (Harper Perennial, 2005)

The Shadow of The Sun: My African Life – Ryszard Kapuscinski (Penguin, 2002)

The Elements of journalism: What Newspeople Should Known and the Public Should Expect – Bill Kovach and Tom Rosential (Three Rivers Press, 2007)

Watching the Door – Kevin Mers(Atlantic Books, 2008)

McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists – Mark Hanna and Mike Dodd (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Troublesome Words – Bill Bryson (Penguin, 2009)

Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman. (Menthuen Publishing, 1987)

Good Times Bad Times – Harold Evans(Bedford Square Books, 2011)

Keep Taking the Tabloids: What the Papers Say and How They Say It – Fritz Spiegal (Macmillan, 1983)

Supermedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World – Charlie Beckett (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008)

War Junkie – Jon Steele (Corgi, 2003)

A Hack’s Progress – Phillip Knightley (Vintage, 1997)

Exposed! Sensational True Story of a Fleet Street Reporter – Gerry Brown (Virgin Books, 1995)

Given My Turn to Make Tea – Monica Dickens (Penguin Books, 1969)

24 Hours in Journalism – John Dale (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012)

According to Bella – Sally Murrer (Book Guild Publishing, 2010)

The Journalist and the Murderer – Janet Malcolm (Granta Books, 2012)

Country Reporter – David Foot (Flamingo, 1993)

Colonel Gaddafi’s Hat – Alex Crawford (Collins, 2012)

Pratt Of The Argus – David Nobbs (Methuen Publishing Ltd, 1988)  

Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong – David Walsh (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

Private Eye the first 50 Years: An A-Z – Adam Macqueen (Private Eye Productions Ltd, 2012)

This week we are looking for the best journalism films – tweet your suggestions to or use the hashtag.

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