Richard R. John, history of communication:

Paul Starr’s Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications (2004) is the best single-volume history of American communications policy. Though Starr only takes the story up to the Second World War, his analysis of the political context in which communications media (including journalism) has evolved provides a welcome corrective to common assumptions about the relationship of the government and the press.

Richard Wald, media and society:

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, an almost-true account of newspaper reporting in Africa that is well-written, funny, and depressingly accurate.

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Hazel Sheffield is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @hazelsheffield.