Q: What’s the first thing you read in the morning?
The New York Times. In print. I’m boring.
Q: What newspapers and magazines do you subscribe to or read regularly? What do you read in print versus online versus mobile/tablet?
I get The Economist, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, the New Republic, The Atlantic, and Bloomberg Businessweek. I think that might be it. I read these in print—I’m old-fashioned.
Q: What are the best articles and books you’ve read recently?
One book I read that I really like is Jerusalem: The Biography, by Montefiore. I’m also in the midst of a book that’s coming out in a few months, the fantastic My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, by Ari Shavit—a gripping, gripping story. It’s fascinating from a personal, familial, historical perspective. And it’s controversial. I am then going to start a book on the evolution of humans and why they supplanted Neanderthals. In terms of articles, besides Steven Brill’s “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us,” I’ve read a couple great articles in recent New Republic magazines. One on peace in the Middle East and one on Phil Griffin and the rise of MSNBC.
Q: Has your reading of professional journals changed in the past 10 years?
When reading journal articles, I tend to skim for content and then go back to things I need for my own work. That’s been my system for years. I build up three or four weeks of them, take them on a plane ride, and then quickly rip through them. Unlike many people, I’m a hard-copy guy. I like paper in my hands.
Q: How did Brothers Emanuel come about? Do you have another book project in mind for the future?
The book came about in part because Maureen Dowd kept asking me about what my mother put in the cereal when the brothers were growing up. I also had been writing down stories for my daughters, so that they would know about the family. It was the collision of those two interests.
In May I begin writing my next book, on health care and health-care policy. It’s a short primer on the American health-care system and the Affordable Care Act, along with my prognostications and forecasting about the future of the system. It’s very difficult to explain American health-care policy. A lot of people ask me about it, and I just want to say: “Here’s a 250-page book that explains it.” That 250-page book has never been written, perhaps because if you’re a tenured professor, you think it’s beneath you to write that book. Given all the attention of the topic, I think that book is very important.
Q: The book as object: Is it a pleasure, a necessity, an anachronism?
I think it’s a necessity. Absolutely. I just bought four new bookshelves for my house.
Q: Do you read blogs? If so, what blogs do you like best?
No, absolutely not. I think you should label this column “The Luddite Returns.” The most valuable and scarce resource I have is time. I prefer not to waste my time.
Q: What are the guilty pleasures in your media diet?
Rahm, my brother, and I both thoroughly enjoy history books. We trade recommendations back and forth, whether it’s World War II, the Civil War, or biographies. I just bought Sugar in the Blood—a new book about sugar plantations and slavery—for both of us. I’m not sure that’s a guilty pleasure, though I doubt it matters to my career advancement. Still, every so often you learn a piece of history that illuminates something you’re working on.
Illustration for The Chronicle by Monica Hellström