Chuck Klosterman's Book Bag

The acclaimed cultural critic and novelist shares some of his favorite reads, including a polemic about why Americans are stupid and an uncensored history of Rolling Stone.

The Thirteen American ArgumentsBy Howard Fineman

“He's a very clear writer who can concisely outline large problems without oversimplifying their consequence.”

This is a collection of the 13 abstract debates Fineman views as most central to the core definition of democracy ("Who Is a Person," "Who Judges the Law," etc.). He's a very clear writer who can concisely outline large problems without oversimplifying their consequence.

The Age of American Unreasonby Susan Jacoby

“An entertaining examination of why Americans are stupid and crazy.”

An entertaining examination of why Americans are stupid and crazy. I disagree with roughly 30 percent of this book, but the writer is a compelling polemicist who manages to be a bombastic and understated at the same time, if that's possible. She's obsessed with her version of rational thinking, although I do get the impression that she read Everything Bad is Good for You simply because she actively wanted the book to make her outraged (which doesn't seem like a terribly rational decision, but oh well). I'm not sure if Jacoby's intention was to produce a book that was "fun to read," but that's what happened.

Rolling Stone Magazineby Robert Draper

“A very salacious history of Rolling Stone magazine.”

I realize this is kind of old, but it's interesting how this book has (for whatever reason) slipped beneath the radar of a lot of people who would love reading it. It's a very salacious history of Rolling Stone magazine (and sort of an unauthorized biography of Jann Wenner). I have heard that the author (allegedly) burned a few of his sources during the reporting process, but that seems to have made the book better.

Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and Americaby Paul Tough

“One of the best books ever written about modern education.”

Well researched and complete. One of the best books ever written about modern education.

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Chuck Klosterman is the author of several books, including Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Killing Yourself to Live, and Downtown Owl, which will be published in paperback in June. He became a guest professor of literature at the University of Leipzig in Germany in 2008.