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Peter Hessler's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Peter Hessler recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Peter Hessler's favorite book recommendations of all time.


A Capote Reader

'The only four things that interested me were: reading books, going to the movies, tap-dancing and drawing pictures. Then one day I started writing . . .' Truman Capote began writing at the age of eight, and never looked back. A Capote Reader contains much of the author's published work: his brilliant and prolific oeuvre of fiction, travel sketches, portraits, reportage and essays. It includes all twelve of his celebrated short stories, together with The Grass Harp and Breakfast at Tiffany's. There are vivid sketches of places from Tangiers to Brooklyn, and fascinating insights... more
Recommended by Peter Hessler, and 1 others.

Peter HesslerI like the range of the collection, and I find it a useful thing to keep with me and refer to. I love to read him for his poetic sense. (Source)

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Upon its publication in 1968, Slouching Towards Bethlehem confirmed Joan Didion as one of the most prominent writers on the literary scene. Her unblinking vision and deadpan tone have influenced subsequent generations of reporters and essayists, changing our expectations of style, voice, and the artistic possibilities of nonfiction.
"In her portraits of people," The New York Times Book Review wrote, "Didion is not out to expose but to understand, and she shows us actors and millionaires, doomed brides and naïve acid-trippers, left-wing ideologues and snobs of...
Recommended by Peter Hessler, Liz Lambert, and 2 others.

Peter HesslerI like Didion for her writing style and her control over her material, but also for the way in which she captures a historical moment. (Source)

Liz LambertI love [this book] so much. (Source)

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Among Schoolchildren

Tracy Kidder -- the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Soul of a New Machine and the extraordinary national bestseller House -- spent nine months in Mrs. Zajac's fifth-grade classroom in the depressed "Flats" of Holyoke, Massachusetts. For an entire year he lived among twenty schoolchildren and their indomitable, compassionate teacher -- sharings their joys, their catastrophes, and their small but essential triumphs. As a result, he has written a revealing, remarkably poignant account of education in America . . . and his most memorable, emotionally charged, and important... more
Recommended by Peter Hessler, and 1 others.

Peter HesslerI chose Kidder for this list because of the intensity of his observation, and what this book tells us about research as part of literary nonfiction. (Source)

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Coming Into the Country

This is the story of Alaska and the Alaskans. Written with a vividness and clarity which shifts scenes frequently, and yet manages to tie the work into a rewarding whole, McPhee segues from the wilderness to life in urban Alaska to the remote bush country. less
Recommended by Peter Hessler, and 1 others.

Peter HesslerIn my opinion Coming into the Country, about Alaska, is his best book. It describes the natural history and scenery in incredible detail, but he’s also writing about a very unusual part of America, and how it was becoming what it is now. He was there at an interesting moment in the seventies, when they were trying to find a new capital for the state. There were a lot of decisions to be made about... (Source)

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On a scorching June Sunday in 1876, thousands of Indian warriors - Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho - converged on a grassy ridge above the valley of Montana's Little Bighorn River. On the ridge five companies of United States cavalry - 262 soldiers, comprising officers and troopers - fought desperately but hopelessly. When the guns fell silent, no soldier - including their commanding officer, Lt Col. George Armstrong Custer - had survived.
Custer's Last Stand is among the most enduring events in American history - 130 years after the fact, books continue to be written and people...
Recommended by Joe Rogan, Peter Hessler, and 2 others.

Joe RoganI’m on my second Wild West book in the past month, and this one is awesome. @stevenrinella recommended it to me, and good lord is it intense. “Son Of The Morning Star” by Evan S. Connell. I can’t recommend it enough. (Source)

Peter HesslerThis is a historical book, and I chose it for the way Evan Connell handles historical material. It’s unique, and a masterful book. (Source)

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