Adam Hochschild was born in New York City in 1942. His first book, Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son, was published in 1986. It was followed by The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey (1990) and The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin (1994). Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels won the 1998 PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the Art of the Essay.
Hochschild's books have been translated into five languages and have won prizes from the Overseas Press Club of America, the World Affairs Council, the Eugene V. Debs Foundation, and the Society of American Travel Writers. Three of his books -- includingKing Leopold's Ghost -- have been named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review and Library Journal. King Leopold's Ghost was also awarded the 1998 California Book Awards gold medal for nonfiction.
Hochschild has also written for The New Yorker, Harper's magazine, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones (which he co-founded), The Nation, and many other magazines and newspapers. A former commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," he teaches writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1997-98 he was a Fulbright Lecturer in India.
He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Arlie, the sociologist and author. They have two sons.
Author biography courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.
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In the fall of 2005, Adam Hochschild took some time out to answer some of our questions:
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
No single book -- all those below should share the honors.
What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?
I'm very fond of novels that situate their characters in a piece of history, and show the interaction between historical forces and individual lives.
Although these books have much more to recommend them as well, I think that's the thread that links my favorite novels: Tolstoy's War and Peace, above all; Paul Scott's wonderful Raj Quartet, Doris Lessing's Martha Quest novels, particularly the third and fourth of the series, and E. L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel.
My favorite writers of short stories are Anton Chekhov, above all, and, among modern writers, probably Nadine Gordimer and John Updike. Favorite nonfiction books would be Jan Yoors's The Gypsies, and two two-volume memoirs of those who survived Stalin's Soviet Union: Eugenia Ginzburg's Journey into the Whirlwind, and Within the Whirlwind, and Nadezhda Mandelstam's Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
Fellini's 8½, above all, for its marvelous mix of memory, dream, fantasy, and reality; also Truffaut's Jules and Jim for its sweetness, and Bergman's Wild Strawberries for its depth and its mixture of past and present. All films made within a few years of each other, more than 40 years ago!
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
Mozart, but not while I'm writing.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
The great novels, because they are part of what makes life worth living.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I give the books I've read and liked; I like to receive the ones I want to read.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
Any special rituals disappeared when my children were born. I learned then to write whenever the necessary time appeared!
What are you working on now?
A book about the era of World War I.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
Plenty of rejection slips! When I got my first piece published in a national magazine, I had a collection of rejection slips, rejection letters, and even a rejection telegram, framed. The proposal for the book of mine which has sold the most copies, King Leopold's Ghost, was rejected by nine of the ten publishers it was submitted to.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Write. Let other people do the discovering.
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