If You’ve Never Read Russell Baker’s Books, Here’s Where to Start | Modern Society of USA

If You’ve Never Read Russell Baker’s Books, Here’s Where to Start

If You’ve Never Read Russell Baker’s Books, Here’s Where to Start

Russell Baker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Times columnist, died on Tuesday night at his home in Leesburg, Va. The Times’s obituary, which called Baker “one of the best-known newspaper humorists of his time,” noted that his “whimsical, irreverent ‘Observer’ column appeared in The New York Times and hundreds of other newspapers for 36 years and turned a backwoods-born Virginian into one of America’s most celebrated writers.” If you’ve never read any of his 15 books — or if you’d like to rediscover some old favorites — these six books are a fine way to start.

[Click here to read The Times’s obituary of Russell Baker.]

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Baker’s collection of columns from 1973 to 1980 is simply this: “observations on the foibles and peccadilloes of the human race.” In 1979, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for this “good-humored commentary.”

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CreditCongdon & Weed

Baker’s memoir, published in 1982, would go on to win the 1983 Pulitzer for biography. In the Times’s review, Richard Lingeman called the book “touching and funny, a hopeless muddle of sadness and laughter that bears a suspicious resemblance to real life.” A year later, Edwin McDowell wrote a column about the book’s success.

Read the review

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In the paper’s 1989 review of “The Good Times,” a sequel to “Growing Up,” Ward Just wrote, “This book is a salute to the 40s, 50s and early 60s, the American epoch, the prose now racing with the clamor of a jazz band, now soft as an oboe. There is also a welcome whisper of misanthropy, indispensable equipment for the nonconforming serious humorist.” And in a “Books of the Times” column, Frank Conroy called “The Good Times” splendid, adding that “it would certainly make life easier for book reviewers if Russell Baker could manage to write something bad once in a while.”

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