Daniel Yergin is a Washington, D.C.-based author and economist.
The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power; The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World; Shattered Peace
1992 Pulitzer Prize (The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power); 1992 Eccles Prize
Which one or two American books or theatre plays would you recommend to the foreign leaders?
This is a daunting task but for two views of America: Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, to understand much about the world that is emerging. And Steven Weisman’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan: Portrait of an American Visionary in Letters for a sweeping view of American political history.
Who in your childhood—for example, parent or teacher—encouraged you to read books, and which one or two books do you remember most fondly?
My father had the biggest influence. He had been a newspaper reporter in his younger days, and he raised me on stories of Chicago “front page” journalism in the 1920s and 1930s. I learned from him about storytelling, and he passed to me the importance of being a writer. I’m sure in some way I was following through on what he had always wanted to do. I vividly remember we had four tall dark-wood bookcases in our living room, filled with books, and I still remember a family friend standing in front of one of the bookcases, saying, “Your father is a big reader.”
I read a great deal of science fiction and the adventures of Captain Horatio Hornblower. As to specific titles, I remember John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage and books by Ray Bradbury (I got to interview him for the high school literary magazine). And I totally loved short stories by John O’Hara. I was fascinated that critics would say that he had “a great ear for dialogue” and would reflect upon that. Later I was very influenced by David Halberstam and Gay Talese for narrative nonfiction. And the conclusion to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby echoed in the way I concluded my first book.
Which foreign books from writers of the other G8 countries have impressed or influenced you in your writing?
I think I learned a lot from studying Dickens, Thackeray and Evelyn Waugh. I was very taken with the Canadian writer Morley Callaghan’s That Summer in Paris, about Hemingway and Fitzgerald.