Daniel Handler’s Nonfiction Picks

Courtesy HarperCollins

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


For a special section in our May/June issue, we asked some of our favorite writers about their favorite nonfiction books. Here are Lemony Snicket author Daniel Handler‘s answers:

Mother Jones: Which nonfiction book do you foist upon all of your friends and relatives? Why?

Daniel Handler: Lately I’ve been giving people How To Cure A Fanatic by Amos Oz, a thoughtful, optimistic, and witty treatise on solving problems in the Middle East. It’s an inspirational read not only on the current situation but on any situation that might seem to be without hope. Also, it’s short, and I believe if one is foisting books they ought to be easily foistable.

MJ: Which nonfiction book have you reread the most times? What’s so good about it?

DH: Joan Didion’s book on California, Where I Was From, I find endlessly fascinating. But then again I’m a native Californian and thus grew up under the myth that I have no history, so I’m particularly hungry for books that overturn such illusions.

MJ: Is there a nonfiction book that someone recommended to you when you were a kid that has left a lasting impression? Who recommended it, and why was it so special?

DH: My cousin Ben gave me Witness To Our Time, a collection of documentary photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt, for my bar mitzvah, and it introduced me to a vast European and American history in a way that I never would have encountered it. It’s still a book I page through, and I’ve always been grateful to Ben (hi, Ben!) for the gift.

MJ: Are there any books of music writing of which you are particularly fond? What do you think makes for good nonfiction music writing?

DH: There is hardly any good music writing at all. Alex Ross, the classical music critic for The New Yorker, is an exception, and his book The Rest Is Noise is a wonderful book, although an expensive one as anyone who reads it will go out and purchase loads and loads of classical recordings.  Recently I read John Darnielle‘s book on Black Sabbath, which is also fascinating, although the case for it being nonfiction is a slim one.
 

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.