David Brooks: What I Read

The New York Times columnist explains his Media Diet

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How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various journalists who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is from a conversation with New York Times columnist David Brooks.The first three papers I get are The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Then I go online and look at the big aggregator sites. I look at Real Clear Politics, even though they hate me, and I look at The Atlantic Wire, which I probably check two or three times a day.

Then I do my writing and that usually lasts until lunch time or just after. I don't spend a lot of time reading blogs. Newspapers are first, long magazine essays are second, books are third and blogs are probably fourth.

I subscribe to the Weekly Standard, The New Republic, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Claremont Review, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, National Affairs--I read this cover to cover--and Commentary.

If I'm commuting downtown I usually listen to a book on tape. Right now I'm listening to D-Day, a new book about how brutal the Normandy campaign was and how many prisoners we killed. It's the reverse of Saving Private Ryan.

My favorite blogs are Marginal Revolution, The Atlantic bloggers and Burke's Corner, as in Edmund Burke. He's an anonymous British blogger. I don't know him but he's basically a modern Burkean and I tend to agree with most of what he says.

At the Atlantic, I start with Andrew Sullivan and I inevitably cycle through almost all of them. I used to agree with Andrew quite a lot but he went on this transition from right to left. I liked him better on the right and especially during the middle of his transition. Now I find I know what he's going to say.

I also read Greg Mankiw a lot and The Frontal Cortex. I always try to balance one liberal blog with one conservative blog. During health care I would read Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn and Jim Capretta and Keith Hennessey.

My blog reading over the years has become much more academic. I read a lot of economics blogs, neuro-philosophy blogs and some of the foreign policy folks. So I guess I read fewer generalist bloggers now.

I should say, when I got this job, Robert Novak gave me good advice: interview three politicians every day. I bet I average about 20 a week. Quite often that gives you an idea of what's not true. For instance, I'll read a blogger and they'll have a very plausible explanation about something but when you actually talk with people, you find out it's not true.

For nighttime reading it's always books. It's a good way to turn semi-obscure ideas into newspaper columns. For instance, my column The Return of History was about new trends in economics so I read a book called Animal Spirits by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, Identity Economics by Ackerlof and The Soulful Science by a woman named Diane Coyle.

Right now I'm writing a book about neuroscience, so I generally read books about that: On Fraternity by Danny Kruger and I'm re-reading a book by Jonah Lehrer called Proust Was a Neuroscientist.

In terms of pleasure reading, I look at ESPN a lot and I read the New York Post on the Mets a lot. Some people have the TV on all day at their desk but I don't. I watch Charlie Rose a bit but it tends to be late at night.

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