New volume collects favorite works by writers, editors who taught on campus
Carol Rigolot and John McPhee ’53 edited “The Princeton Reader,” a collection of nonfiction pieces.
Carol Rigolot and John McPhee ’53 edited “The Princeton Reader,” a collection of nonfiction pieces.
Frank Wojciechowski

Each year some of the nation’s most talented writers converge on Princeton’s campus to teach students in 10 journalism courses.  

Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news at The New York Times ; Alex Ross, the classical-music critic for The New Yorker ; and Joel Achenbach ’82, a columnist and writer for The Washington Post, are just a few of the journalists who have taught courses at Princeton in recent years.  

These visiting professors represent a “dazzling array of who’s who in journalism,” said Carol Rigolot, the executive director of Princeton’s Council of the Humanities. Rigolot and John McPhee ’53, the Ferris Professor of Journalism, have collected works by these individuals in The Princeton Reader: Contemporary Essays by Writers and Journalists at Princeton University. The volume, published by Princeton University Press in January, includes stories by 75 writers who have taught at the University since 2000.

The inaugural volume (The Princeton Anthology of Writing, 2001) included stories by the 58 instructors who had taught from the beginning of the journalism program, in 1964, through 1999. Because of the program’s growth over the past 10 years, Rigolot said, it was time for a second volume. Starting with the Ferris Professorship in Journalism and growing to include the McGraw Seminars and the Robbins Professorship, the number of courses devoted to the craft of creative nonfiction has increased from two a year to about nine to 10 courses a year today. Some 150 students are enrolled in the courses each year, said Rigolot.  

Rigolot and McPhee asked the visiting professors for their favorite, short pieces that would have some “shelf life.” The collection offers “pieces you can dip into and read in a few minutes,” said Rigolot.

The stories in The Princeton Reader, like the courses taught by the contributors, reflect a wide range of interests. The book includes war reportage, memoir, and stories on education, the environment, and absent fathers, among other topics. There is a mix of daily journalism pieces — The New York Times writer Jim Dwyer describes the US Airways flight that landed in the Hudson River in January 2009, while Dan Grech ’99 profiles a high school principal for The Miami Herald — and pieces with more extended deadlines, including Christopher S. Wren’s meditative excerpt from his book, Walking to Vermont, and Juliet Eilperin ’92’s Washington Post Magazine story on an ice hotel in Sweden.

In addition to showcasing the writers, said Rigolot, the volumes also serve as teaching tools in freshman writing seminars she’s taught.

JOEL ACHENBACH ’82
A. SCOTT BERG ’71

THANASSIS CAMBANIS *00

JULIET EILPERIN ’92

MARC FISHER ’80

BARTON GELLMAN ’82

DAN GRECH ’99

KATHY KIELY ’77

MELVIN McCRAY ’74

JOHN McPHEE ’53

T.R. REID ’66

JOHN SEABROOK ’81

THOMAS E. WEBER ’89

ALEXANDER WOLFF ’79