BOOKS . . . NIGHTLINE: HISTORY IN THE MAKING AND THE MAKING OF TELEVISION: Begun as a late-night news show that was only supposed to last for the duration of the Iran hostage crisis, Nightline has become, 16 years later, the most important news broadcast on American television. Ted Koppel, the show's masterly anchorman, is certainly entitled to toot his own horn, and 'Nightline: History in the Making and the Making of Television,' which he has co-authored with former Nightline producer Kyle Gibson (Times Books; 477 pages; $25), has its self-indulgent excesses. It is essentially a scrapbook of the show's milestones, major interviews, bookers' war stories and amusing anecdotes, which can dribble on like one of those endless Nightline "town meetings." Still, says TIME's Richard Zoglin, for anyone who cares about TV news, the book is fascinating. "The growth of Nightline paralleled the development of satellite broadcasting; by linking newsmakers worldwide, the show could not only report on, but often become a participant in, major news events. Controversial figures, from Ferdinand Marcos to Lani Guinier, used the show as a platform to defend themselves; others, like former baseball executive Al Campanis, were undone by it." If the book lacks larger consideration of Nightline's place in the TV news universe, it does offer a fine appreciation of Koppel's interviewing technique. A highlight: his elegant response to an evasive Iraqi diplomat: "Ambassador Hamdoon, I know that you have had another career before you became a diplomat, so perhaps you will take some pity on me. I'm not a diplomat. I don't understand what those phrases mean. Does that mean yes or no?" Reporters might like to post that one on the refrigerator.
BOOKS . . . RED CHINA BLUES: In the summer of 1972, as she recounts in a wry, wondering memoir, 'Red China Blues' (Anchor Books; 405 pages; $23.95), 19-year-old Jan Wong left home in the U.S. and flew to Beijing to join the workers' paradise. A valued propaganda asset, she was enrolled at Beijing University along with minders assigned to ensure her political purity. To the horror of her fellow students, she clamored to experience the nobility of manual labor, and eventually was allowed to serve at a Beijing tool factory, pretending to make lathes. Her language skill, anonymous Chinese face and bumptious adventuring helped her catch on in Beijing as a reporter for the New York Times; years later, after working for papers in North America, she returned to China as a correspondent for the Toronto Globe and Mail. She was still in love with China, but not with the gangsters who ran it, and her account of the Tiananmen Square rebellion and massacre is not just good reporting; it is eloquent, hard-earned history, says TIME's John Skow. "High levels of both foolishness and good sense, in that order, are necessary for a really fine youthful memoir; on both counts Jan Wong's is a classic."