A Very ProPublica Holiday Gift Guide

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Holiday gift guide

Looking for some gift ideas? ProPublica’s prolific staff has you covered, with books, movies and even some tunes for those hard-to-shop-for people on your list.

By Celeste LeCompte, ProPublica

Our staff is incredibly dedicated to investigative journalism. But they also write novels, play music and even pen poetry. Whether you’re looking for some good holiday reads, gifts for your friends and family, or something to take your mind off the news for a while, our staff has you covered. And, if you buy something on this list, ProPublica gets a tiny piece of the sale.


For political junkies…

The Chickenshit Club

by Jesse Eisinger

From the publisher:

Jesse Eisigner begins his story in the 1970s, when the government pioneered the notion that top corporate executives, not just seedy crooks, could commit heinous crimes and go to prison. He brings us to trading desks on Wall Street, to corporate boardrooms and the offices of prosecutors and FBI agents. These revealing looks provide context for the evolution of the Justice Department’s approach to pursuing corporate criminals through the early 2000s and into the Justice Department of today, including the prosecutorial fiascos, corporate lobbying, trial losses, and culture shifts that have stripped the government of the will and ability to prosecute top corporate executives.

Get it on Amazon.

Money Well Spent?: The Truth Behind the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus, the Biggest Economic Recovery Plan in History

by Michael Grabell

From the publisher:

The “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” [was] the largest economic recovery plan in American history. […] A nearly entirely partisan piece of legislation — Democrats voted for it, Republicans against — the story of how the bill was passed and, more importantly, how the money was spent and to what effect, is known barely at all. Stepping outside the political fray, ProPublica’s Michael Grabell offers a perceptive, balanced, and dramatic story of what happened to the tax payers’ money, pursuing the big question through behind-the-scenes interviews and on-the-ground reporting in more than a dozen states across the country.

Get it on Amazon.

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

by Peter Elkind

From the publisher:

Peter Elkind presents an in-depth look at the ambitious career and sudden disgrace of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer. The result is a gripping narrative of one man’s noble intentions and fatal flaws and the powerful forces that destroyed him.

Get it on Amazon.

High Wire: The Precarious Financial Lives of American Families

by Peter Gosselin

From the publisher:

Published in 2009, High Wire predicted that the American worker would take on an exceedingly high level of risk in the American economy, and would be ever more exposed to the volatility of the market. Still relevant today, High Wire reveals the quiet corrosion of American living standards and shows how the “ownership society” has turned into the “on-your-own society”—with devastating consequences.

Get it on Amazon.

Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq

by T. Christian Miller

From the publisher:

It was supposed to be quick, easy, and cheap: the Bush administration promised American taxpayers that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for it all. But thousands of lives and billions of dollars later, the Iraqi reconstruction is an undeniable failure, overrun by staggering corruption, waste, and incompetence. In Blood Money, T. Christian Miller reveals how the Bush administration failed to keep its promises and allowed a nation to tumble into chaos. Widely hailed as one of the most important books about the quagmire, Blood Money is essential reading for anyone who cares about the fate of Iraq, and about America’s place in the world.

Get it on Amazon.


For the John Le Carré fan…

Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities

by Daniel Golden

From the publisher:

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Daniel Golden exposes how academia has become a major target of foreign and domestic espionage ? and why that is troubling news for our nation’s security and democratic values.

Get it on Amazon.

China’s Great Train

by Abrahm Lustgarten

From the publisher:

A vivid account of China’s unstoppable quest to build a railway into Tibet, and its obsession to transform its land and its people.

In the summer of 2006, the Chinese government fulfilled a fifty-year plan to build a railway into Tibet. Since Mao Zedong first envisioned it, the line had grown into an imperative, a critical component of China’s breakneck expansion and the final maneuver in strengthening China’s grip over this remote and often mystical frontier, which promised rich resources and geographic supremacy over South Asia. Through the lives of the Chinese and Tibetans swept up in the project, Abrahm Lustgarten explores the “Wild West” atmosphere of the Chinese economy today. Lustgarten’s book is a timely, provocative, and absorbing first-hand account of the Chinese boom and the promise and costs of rapid development on the country’s people.

Get it on Amazon.

Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War

by Judith Miller, Stephen Engleberg and William Broad

From the publisher:

In the wake of the anthrax letters following the attacks on the World Trade Center, Americans have begun to grapple with two difficult truths: that there is no terrorist threat more horrifying —and less understood — than germ warfare, and that it would take very little to mount a devastating attack on American soil. In Germs, three veteran reporters draw on top sources inside and outside the U.S. government to lay bare Washington’s secret strategies for combating this deadly threat.

Get it on Amazon.


For the Facebook junkie in your life…

Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance

by Julia Angwin

From the publisher:

In Dragnet Nation, award-winning investigative journalist Julia Angwin reports from the front lines of America’s surveillance economy, offering a revelatory and unsettling look at how the government, private companies, and even criminals use technology to indiscriminately sweep up vast amounts of our personal data.

Get it on Amazon.


For the sports fan…

The Sports Gene

by David Epstein

From the publisher:

In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success and the so-called 10,000-hour rule, David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving it. Through on-the-ground reporting from below the equator and above the Arctic Circle, revealing conversations with leading scientists and Olympic champions, and interviews with athletes who have rare genetic mutations or physical traits, Epstein forces us to rethink the very nature of athleticism.

Get it on Amazon.

Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime, and Complicity

by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry

From the publisher:

Armstrong and Perry go behind the scenes of the University of Washington’s 2000 football season to reveal a timeless morality tale about the price of obsession, the creep of fanaticism, and the ways in which a community can lose even when its team wins. (Winner of the 2011 Edgar Award, Best Crime Fact category)

Get it on Amazon.

A Legend in the Making: The New York Yankees in 1939

by Dick Tofel

From the publisher:

Here is the story of perhaps the greatest team in baseball history and of one of the game’s most remarkable seasons. With Babe Ruth having retired but Lou Gehrig still in his prime, the Yankees in 1939 won their fourth consecutive World Series?and forever established the Yankee legend. The dramatic story of the 1939 season is one of turning points: Gehrig takes himself out of the lineup and is soon found to be terribly ill; Joe DiMaggio, the rising star and replacement for Ruth, has perhaps his greatest year; baseball opens its Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York; the first major league baseball game is televised, and Yankee games are broadcast over the radio for the first time; night baseball comes to the American League.

Get it on Amazon.


For the friend with the totally legal offshore bank account…

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron

by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

From the publisher:

Alex Gibney examines the rise and fall of an infamous corporate juggernaut.

Get it on Amazon.

Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

by Abrahm Lustgarten

From the publisher:

Two decades ago, British Petroleum, a venerable and storied corporation, was running out of oil reserves. Along came a new CEO of vision and vast ambition, John Browne, who pulled off one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in history. BP bought one company after another and then relentlessly fired employees and cut costs. It skipped safety procedures, pumped toxic chemicals back into the ground, and let equipment languish. For a while the strategy worked — then it all began to unravel in environmental felony convictions and deadly accidents. Having reported on business and the energy industry for nearly a decade, Abrahm Lustgarten uses interviews with key executives, former government investigators, and whistle-blowers along with his exclusive access to BP’s internal documents and emails to weave a spellbinding investigative narrative of hubris and greed well before the gulf oil spill.

Get it on Amazon.

The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates

by Daniel Golden

From the publisher:

In this explosive book, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Daniel Golden argues that America, the so-called land of opportunity, is rapidly becoming an aristocracy in which America’s richest families receive special access to elite higher education — enabling them to give their children even more of a head start. Based on two years of investigative reporting and hundreds of interviews with students, parents, school administrators, and admissions personnel — some of whom risked their jobs to speak to the author — The Price of Admission exposes the corrupt admissions practices that favor the wealthy, the powerful, and the famous.

Get it on Amazon.

For history buffs…

Eight Weeks in Washington, 1861: Abraham Lincoln and the Hazards of Transition

by Dick Tofel

From the publisher:

Lincoln first took the oath of office on March 4, 1861. […] A close look at those weeks, our most hazardous transition, reveals a time when the fate of the nation’s capital, certainly of the Lincoln Administration, and perhaps of the nation itself, seemed very much in doubt. This is a story of a president uncertain and sometimes amateurish, of a man not yet fully recognized as a legitimate leader, of an executive anxious to the point of illness, of a beleaguered figure, occasionally despairing, but also starting to find his footing. Lincoln himself soon remembered it as the most troubled and anxious time of his life, one that might actually have threatened his physical survival. In a sense, it is a story of Abraham Lincoln the human being beginning to become the Abraham Lincoln we now recall.

Get it on Amazon.

Sounding the Trumpet: The Making of John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

by Dick Tofel

From the publisher:

Richard Tofel tells the full story of JFK’s inaugural address. He draws on original research materials in the Kennedy Library and elsewhere around the country, as well as exclusive interviews. Unlike earlier treatments of the subject, these include extensive and candid conversations with Theodore Sorensen, Kennedy’s aide and chief speechwriter, who has never before discussed in detail how the speech came to be written. In the tradition of Lincoln at Gettysburg, Sounding the Trumpet thus reveals many unknown details about this landmark speech. Includes DVD of speech.

Get it on Amazon.

Twilight on the Line: Underworlds and Politics at the Mexican Border

by Sebastian Rotella

From the publisher:

Drugs, smuggling, gangs, corruption, heroes, martyrs, and assassins […] This is the U.S.-Mexico border in the 1990s, in the age of NAFTA-a microcosm of porous borders everywhere between the worlds of wealth and poverty, legal and illegal business, power and corruption, democracy and authoritarianism, hope and despair. Sebastian Rotella’s masterful portrait of the border is one you will not easily forget.

Get it on Amazon.

The Best and the Brightest

by David Halberstam

While it wasn’t written by our staff, a share of the royalties are donated to ProPublica.

Get it on Amazon.


For true crime lovers…

Vanishing Point: The Disappearance of Judge Crater, and the New York He Left Behind

by Dick Tofel

From the publisher:

The sudden disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater nearly 75 years ago led to perhaps the most famous missing persons case of the twentieth century. Crater, a justice of New York’s state Supreme Court, vanished amid political scandal. Within days, questions arose about Judge Crater’s finances and his liaisons with numerous women. A public frenzy about what happened to Crater provided impetus for scrutiny of New York’s Tammany Hall political machine ? and ultimately for the vanishing of Tammany Hall as well. The cast of characters in this book?the first-ever serious look at the Crater case ? includes Franklin D. Roosevelt, the governor who named Crater to the bench; Senator Robert Wagner, Crater’s mentor, but also the leader with the most to lose from having Crater found; Al Smith, Tammany’s ebbing leader and failed presidential candidate; Jimmy Walker, the rogue Mayor of New York City and the darling of Tammany Hall; and Fiorello La Guardia, the crusading reformer who finally came to power on the back of the scandals. Richard J. Tofel’s Vanishing Point is a revealing look at New York as the Jazz Age gave way to the Depression, and at one of the most intriguing stories in the annals of urban America.

Get it on Amazon.

The Death Shift: The True Story of Nurse Genene and the Texas Baby Murders

by Peter Elkind

From the publisher:

Peter Elkind’s in-depth look at the case of a Genene Jones, a pediatric nurse who was killing her young patients and a hospital administration that looked the other way, until a few small-town physicians brought her to justice.

Get it on Amazon.

The Burning Season: The Murder of Chico Mendes and the Fight for the Amazon Rain Forest

by Andy Revkin

From the publisher:

Violent death came to Chico Mendes in the Amazon rain forest on December 22, 1988. A labor and environmental activist, Mendes was gunned down by powerful ranchers for organizing resistance to the wholesale burning of the forest. […] In this environmental classic, Andrew Revkin artfully interweaves the moving story of Mendes’s struggle with the broader natural and human history of the world’s largest tropical rain forest. In his life and untimely death, Mendes forever altered the course of development in the Amazon, and he has since become a model for environmental campaigners everywhere.

Get it on Amazon.

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America (Coming Soon)

by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong

From the publisher:

Two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists tell the riveting true story of Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped, and the detectives who followed a winding path to arrive at the truth.

Get it on Amazon.


For aspiring news moguls…

Restless Genius: Barney Kilgore, The Wall Street Journal, and the Invention of Modern Journalism

by Dick Tofel

From the publisher:

In 1929, Barney Kilgore, fresh from college in small-town Indiana, took a sleepy, near bankrupt New York financial paper — The Wall Street Journal — and turned it into a thriving national newspaper that eventually was worth $5 billion to Rupert Murdoch. Kilgore then invented a national weekly newspaper that was a precursor of many trends we see playing out in journalism now.

Get it on Amazon.

Why American Newspapers Gave Away the Future

by Dick Tofel

From the publisher:

In the last two decades the decline of large city papers in the United States has been precipitous and shocking. The reasons behind this fall are still not clearly understood, particularly by those within the newspaper industry. The newspapers’ response to their problems has also been called into question, especially the dilution of content and the reduction of staffs. And there is growing concern that a democratic republic without a vigorous press augurs poorly for an informed electorate and a healthy society. Richard Tofel’s considerable experience as a newspaper executive gives his assessment of these events an insider’s perspective. His piece is filled with fresh insights and astute conclusions.

Get it on Amazon.


Want to kick back and watch a movie?

We can’t promise any light, heartwarming films for the whole family. But we have had staff involved in vital, powerful stories. Here are a few documentaries inspired by ProPublica’s reporting or books written by our staff.

Finding Oscar

Featuring Sebastian Rotella

In a forgotten massacre during Guatemala’s decades-long civil war, a young boy was spared, only to be raised by one of the very soldiers who killed his family. Nearly 30 years after the tragedy, it will take a dedicated team — from a forensic scientist to a young Guatemalan prosecutor — to uncover the truth and bring justice to those responsible…by finding the missing boy named Oscar.

Stream or buy it. You can also read our story or listen to it as an audiobook.

Discovery: Killing the Colorado

Featuring Abrahm Lustgarten

The American West is in the midst of a serious drought – which only compounds the underlying water crisis that stems from overdevelopment, misuse, corruption, and the vagaries of history. Killing the Colorado examines the causes and consequences of our water disaster-in-the-making and proposes some innovative solutions.

Get it on DVD or stream it.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Based on the book by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

The inside story of one of history’s greatest business scandals, in which top executives of America’s seventh largest company walked away with over one billion dollars, while investors and employees lost everything.

Get it on DVD or stream it.

Client 9

Based on the book by Peter Elkind

This documentary feature takes an in-depth look at the rapid rise and dramatic fall of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. […] With unique access to the escort world as well as friends, colleagues and enemies of the ex-Governor (many of whom have come forward for the first time) the film explores the hidden contours of this tale of hubris, sex, and power.

Get it on DVD or stream it.


Can’t read another news story this holiday season?

Fortunately, ProPublicans have you covered here, too, with some novels, albums, and poetry.

Music

Hierarchy

Featuring Jane Nicholson

From the publisher:

One of Chicago’s brightest new bands, Lightfoils pushes the Shoegaze genre into new territory. Formed in 2010 … Lightfoils mean business. Building on the promise of their EP, Hierarchy does not disappoint. ‘Polar Waves’ welcomes you with guitars that chime and ring, before the track slowly lifts you blissfully into space. Immediately following is ‘Last One’, which seethes with a simmering intensity and propulsive rhythm section, and you’re hooked. Only two tracks in, Lightfoils already own your soul. Hazy soundscapes, ringing guitar, icy synth, feather-light vocals, and actual compelling tunes, Lightfoils use Hierarchy to serve notice: their EP was no fluke, and they will no longer be ignored.

Get it on Amazon.

A Very Fine Line

by Andy Revkin

From the publisher:

On his first CD, veteran journalist, longtime performing songwriter and sometime Pete Seeger sideman Andy Revkin offers a rootsy mix of tunes, from country to celtic, stirring to borderline silly. Guest appearances by Dar Williams and the master fiddler Bruce Molsky and mandolin wizard Mike Marshall. Songs about life’s close calls, a coal miner’s death, a grandfather’s 1959 Cadillac, the traits that interfere with communication between the sexes, and more.

Get it on Amazon.

Novels

Triple Crossing

by Sebastian Rotella

From the publisher:

Valentine Pescatore is a rookie Border Patrol agent on the edge. He gets in trouble and finds himself recruited by U.S. agent Isabel Puente and Leo Méndez, chief of an elite Tijuana police unit. They are targeting a ruthless Mexican crime family and the operation needs a man on the inside. Soon Pescatore is in a drug lord’s crew, drawn into a world of smuggling, corruption, and murder. The outlaw code of the gangsters is seductive-but so is Pescatore’s own code, and his growing love for Isabel Puente. As violence escalates, all three plunge into the deadly no-man’s-land of South America’s Triple Border, where a bloody showdown will test their loyalties and beliefs. Written with rapid-fire intensity, Triple Crossing is an explosive and riveting thriller.

Get it on Amazon.

The Convert’s Song

by Sebastian Rotella

From the publisher:

A global manhunt sweeps up a former federal agent when his childhood friend becomes the chief suspect in a terrorist rampage. His hazardous stint in U.S. law enforcement behind him, Valentine Pescatore has started over as a private investigator in Buenos Aires. Then he runs into a long-lost friend: Raymond Mercer, a charismatic, troubled singer who has converted to Islam. After a terrorist attack kills hundreds, suspicion falls on Raymond—and Pescatore. Angry and bewildered, Pescatore joins forces with Fatima Belhaj, an alluring French agent. They pursue the enigmatic Raymond into a global labyrinth of intrigue. Is he a terrorist, a gangster, a spy? Is his loyalty to Pescatore genuine, or just another lethal scam? From the jungles of South America to the streets of Paris to the battlegrounds of Baghdad, The Convert’s Song leads Pescatore on a race to stop a high-stakes campaign of terror.

Get it on Amazon.

Poetry

Macho Man

by Michael Grabell

From the publisher:

Michael J. Grabell‘s poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry anthology, Best New Poets 2009, Southwest Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Alehouse, Rattle, and the Sow’s Ear Poetry Review. His poetry has won a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prize and was runner-up in the River Styx International Poetry Contest. He has also served as a mentor in the MFA program at Western Connecticut State University. “From its opening lines throughout the entire collection, Macho Man never misses a step or a beat. The voice of the speaker is effortlessly fluent and completely assured, ‘bearing witness’ (as he phrases it in one poem) to a singular individual’s experience of his world that any reader will be able to recognize and relate to. …These are poems that impress, persuade, and delight on a first reading, and then stick in the mind.” –Bruce Bennett, contest judge and Pushcart Prize winner

Get it on Amazon.

Need a stocking stuffer for a kid in your life?

The North Pole Was Here: Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World

by Andy Revkin

From the publisher:

The sun never sets, the air is twenty degrees below zero, and the ice is moving at four hundred yards an hour. Welcome to the North Pole. In 2003, environmental reporter Andrew Revkin joined a scientific expedition to one of the world’s last uncharted frontiers. […] In his quest to understand the pole, Andrew leads readers through the mysterious history of arctic exploration; he follows oceanographers as they drill a hole through nine feet of ice to dive into waters below; peers into the mysteries of climate modeling and global warming; and ultimately shows how the fate of the pole will affect us all.

Get it on Amazon.

Alternative Facts Journal

From the publisher:

On January 22, two days into the Trump presidency, White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway appeared on Meet the Press and claimed that the administration was offering “alternative facts” to assertions about the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration. Conway’s remarks struck a chord, or rather a dissonant note, with viewers, who reacted with scathing commentary and biting memes. After a tumultuous few weeks of politics, this lined journal says “Always remember: the facts are whatever you want them to be.”

All royalties from the sale of this journal are donated to ProPublica.

Get it on Amazon.


And, finally, don’t care about gifts but do want to know how to make your website look as good as ours? Try this reference on designing for the web by our very own Rob Weychert.

ProPublica makes a small amount of money through the Amazon Associate programwhen you purchase a product using the links on this page.

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