All The President’s Men, by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the Washington Post journalists investigating the Watergate scandal which led to the impeachment of President Nixon, shook the world when it came out in 1974. John Hersey’s Hiroshima opened the world’s eyes to the horrors of an atomic attack. Polish reporter Richard Kapuscinski’s The Shadow of the Sun introduced Africa to the rest of the world. There are countless other journalists such as Hunter S. Thompson, Gay Talese, Vasily Grossman, David Halbertstam, and more recently Naomi Klein with her The Shock Doctrine and Mei Fong with One Child: China’s Most Radical Experiment, whose books have been pathbreaking.
In India too, many journalists like Dhiren Bhagat, M.J. Akbar and Mrinal Pande have written memorable books. But the trend has really caught on now. So much so, a journalist without a book to his or her name almost feels insecure. “Across all other democracies journalists have written books for over 40 years now. This, for Indian journalists, changed only in the last 15 years, and has picked up great pace in the last few years,” says Ramachandra Guha, historian, writer and managing trustee of the New India Foundation that offers annual fellowships to inspire book writing. “I wish we could have had journalists like Sham Lal and K.N. Prabhu write books now,” Guha laments.