Richard Rhodes

Reading recommendations from a writer of infinite curiosity.



Journalist and author Richard Rhodes has written on subjects that range from the life of painter and naturalist John James Audobon to the threat of mad cow disease.  His majestic history of the Manhattan Project, 1986's The Making of the Atomic Bomb, garnered  the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle award.  His latest, Hedy's Folly,  traces the life of actress Hedy Lamarr, whose surprising inventions in the field of radio are only now beginning to receive credit.   Here, Richard Rhodes offers three works from his own bookshelf -- as diverse in subject as his own career.


Books by Richard Rhodes




Nanjing Requiem

By Ha Jin


"Chinese writer Ha Jin's latest novel recreates the notorious Rape of Nanjing [sometimes written as 'Nanking' in the Wade-Giles Romanization of Mandarin] of December 1937. It's a grim story, but dramatic and powerful in its evocation of the complex responses people have to trauma. I was born in 1937 and have been curious lately about what happened in my birth year -- which is as good an excuse for reading a novel as any, yes?"



House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox

By William H. Foege


"Dr. Foege led the dedicated battalions of public health doctors who worked in South Asia and Africa in the 1960s and 1970s to eradicate one of humankind's greatest scourges, the first time in all of history that a human disease has been eliminated. As you read his memoir, think about the public health system as a model for controlling not only disease but also human violence."




Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life

By John Adams


"John and I keep crossing paths. His opera Doctor Atomic drew on my The Making of the Atomic Bomb; the overture to that opera alludes to the music of the avant-garde composer George Antheil, about whom I write in my new book on Hedy Lamarr. Which led me to want to know more about this important American composer's life. It turns out he writes as well as he composes."

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.