Nicholas Dawidoff (born November 30, 1962) is an American writer.
His father’s struggles with mental illness left him without a prominent male figure from an early age – a painful subject he explores in a celebrated article for The New Yorker called My Father’s Troubles, June 12, 2000 (Father’s Day). A full text reprint (by permission of the author) is available here.
He graduated from the Hopkins School and attended Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1985 with a degree in history and literature. He moved back to New York to pursue a career as a writer and began working at Sports Illustrated, where he became a staff writer covering baseball and the environment.
In 1989, he was selected as a Henry Luce Scholar and spent a year in Bangkok, Thailand, writing for the Bangkok Post and teaching American Studies at Chulalongkorn University. In 1991 he resigned from Sports Illustrated and began writing books. He continues to write articles, on a variety of topics, for periodicals like The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic and The New York Times Magazine, where he is now a contributing writer.
Dawidoff has also been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Civitella Ranieri Fellow, as well as a Berlin Prize Fellow of the American Academy. In 2008 he was the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University, where he continues to occasionally teach, as he does at Sarah Lawrence College. He is a member of the board of directors of the MacDowell Colony.
He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Baseball, a lifelong passion of his (Dawidoff played until a knee injury sophomore year at Harvard), is a frequent subject of his writing.
- His first book, the best-selling The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, published in June 1994 ISBN 0-679-76289-2, follows the strange life of third-string major league baseball catcher, lawyer, and OSS spy, Moe Berg.
- In The Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American Music (1998), an effort to examine the culture with the same seriousness with which jazz and blues are studied, explores country music through its history, places, and performers. Dawidoff interviews and travels with great performers and songwriters like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Kitty Wells, as well as relatives, friends and acquaintances of legends like Jimmie Rodgers, Patsy Cline and the original Carter Family. Condé Nast Traveler named it one of the greatest all-time works of travel literature.
- He edited The Library of America's Baseball: A Literary Anthology (March 2002), in which he compiled exceptional baseball writing.
- The Fly Swatter: A Portrait of an Exceptional Character (May 2002), is a memoir of his grandfather, the economist Alexander Gerschenkron. It was nominated for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in biography. A Seattle Times Book of the Year, the Chicago Tribune wrote, “It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say this loving memoir is the most fascinating in its class.”
- The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love, Madness and Baseball (May 2008) is a memoir of his experience growing up in New Haven and New York in the 1970s, his troubled family, and how baseball helps him find his place in the world. It won a Kenneth Johnson Book Award for an outstanding literary contribution to a better understanding of mental illness.