James Traub (born 1954) is an American journalist. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, where he has worked since 1998. From 1994 to 1997, he was a staff writer for The New Yorker. He has also written for The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic Monthly, National Review and Foreign Affairs. He is a senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University and teaches at the university.
As a freelance journalist, he has written many book reviews and other articles for the New York Times. His recent writing focuses on politics and international affairs, including profiles of Barack Obama, Al Gore and John McCain. He also wrote a book on Kofi Annan and the United Nations.
New York City is the subject or background of several of his books. His 1990 book Too Good to Be True was about the rise and fall of Wedtech, a small Bronx manufacturing company that used no-bid contracts, fraud and corruption to win defense contracts during the Reagan administration. His 2004 book The Devil’s Playground was about the history of Times Square, including its decline as a center of adult businesses in the 1990s to its redevelopment under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was also the subject of several feature articles he wrote for the New York Times Magazine.
Books in order of publication:
Too Good to Be True: The Outlandish Story of Wedtech, Doubleday, 1990 —
City On A Hill: Testing the American Dream at City College, Addison Wesley Publishing, 1994
The Devil’s Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square, Random House, 2004
The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006
The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008
John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit, Basic Books, 2016
What Was Liberalism?: The Past, Present, and Promise of a Noble Idea, Basic Books, 2019
Judah Benjamin: Counselor to the Confederacy, Yale University Press, 2021