Clay Risen

Author. Editor. Whiskey Geek.

Occasionally people ask me why I became a writer. The easy answer: because I am bad at math. The more honest response is that I didn’t “become” a writer at all. I believe that everyone is a writer, or can be if they try. I feel extremely lucky – blessed, if such a thing exists – to be paid to do it. Whether I succeed is for someone else to judge.

I write about a lot of things: architecture, the American South, European travel; for a while I was a contributing editor at a magazine dedicated to the third-party, less-than-load logistics industry (woot World Trade!). But my primary focuses (foci, for the nerds) these days are whiskey and American history.

In October 2015 Sterling Epicure will publish a greatly expanded and extensively revised edition of my best-selling book American Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye: A Guide to the Nation’s Favorite Spirit. With almost 350 whiskeys under review, it is the most extensive guide to American spirits on the shelf. I am also the drinks columnist for Garden and Gun magazine, where I write about all things inebriating in America’s lower latitudes.

I am also the author of two acclaimed works of American history: The Bill of the Century: The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act, which was long-listed for a PEN Galbraith Award, and A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination.

When I’m not writing, which is most of the time, I am a senior staff editor with the Opinion Page at The New York Times. While I mention this at the bottom of this page, it is my first love, work-wise: The Times is a wonderful place to work, and my colleagues are the best in the business. I’ve had the honor of working with former presidents, sitting congressmen, governors, senators, world business leaders and Nobel Prize winners, but the real joy comes from working with everyday folks with a great story to tell.