Reporting America, By Alistair Cooke

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Radio 4 has tried a wide variety of wiseacres as his replacement, but none has the curiosity, verbal felicity and profound knowledge of a single, hugely significant topic. Cooke worked at being irreplaceable.

With a revealing introduction by his daughter ("he was a scaredy cat"), this is a fascinating selection from his 2,869 Letters from America (knowing the perils of the freelance life, he never missed a week) and Guardian features.

They remind us of his masterly, discursive approach (there are two paragraphs on hurricanes before he reaches the "awful, startling morning" of 9/11) and splendid humour.

In a 1968 piece about Nixon on TV, Cooke includes the first-ever presidential radio speech (from Calvin Coolidge): "Goodbye."

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