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2002 Summer Reading List
reading is dead? Baloney. Oh, sure, some people have their laptops
open on planes and trains, but just as many dig into dog-eared paperbacks
and hard-covered classics. And, honestly, when was the last time you
saw someone stretched out on a beach blanket dozing off over an electronic
device? As far as I’m concerned, the best summer vacations include
lots of reading time—guilt-free reading time. Any vacation worth its
salt must afford me at least a few occasions when I can say, “I didn’t
do anything today…except read.” Yeah. Get down with that book, brothers
and sisters. Get down. Sit down. Lie down. Relax. It’s summer.
to Jill Breit, of Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, and Lenny
Golay, owner of The Corner Bookstore, NYC, for joining me as guest
hosts for this year’s summer reading call in. The titles listed
below were suggested by station staff, listeners and other friends.
to suggest a title for the next list or just talk about books? Reach
me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write:
Ellen Rocco, North Country Public Radio, Canton, NY 13617.
Okay, I’ll admit it, email has helped increase communication between
parents and children; enhanced research (and shopping) opportunities
for residents of remote regions like the North Country; and, provided
a network for the instantaneous sharing of jokes. Scattered throughout
this list, you’ll find bits from another list that made its way
around the world wide web in recent years:
WHY THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS HARD TO LEARN
The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full it had to refuse more refuse.
Rocco, NCPR station manager
titles I’m reading or have recently finished:
History of the Kelly Gang: A Novel, Peter Carey. This Booker
Prize-winner tells the story of the infamous Irish-Australian—an
White Men, Michael Moore. We all need a dose of Michael Moore
to remind us that the more people in power lie, the more important
it becomes for each of us to tell the truth…fearlessly.
No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith. Precious
Ramotsive sets up the only detective agency for ladies in Gaborone,
Botswana. The first in a series—get them all if you like this
one. BBC based a television program on these books.
on Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald. This was an Oprah pick—but
don’t turn up your nose: remember, Oprah chose Jane Hamilton,
Alice Walker and lots of other exceptional authors.
a Stitch: The Best of Contemporary Women’s Humor, Anne Safran
Dalin, editor. It turns out the editor, Anne Dalin, is married
to Jimmy Dalin, which is very funny to me in and of itself. Who’s
Jimmy Dalin, you ask? Ha! The kid I played doctor with when I
was five years old. No kidding. What a collection this is: Erma
Bombeck, Cathy Guisewite, Molly Ivins, Christine Lavin, Gloria
Steinem, Anna Quindlen and dozens more. A great book to read out
loud on your summer road trip.
classics have stayed by my bedside for months now and I keep revisiting
Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
(Ralph E. Matlaw, editor; Constance Garnett, translator). I hadn’t
read Chekhov in years, then re-read his short fiction a few months
ago and remembered how very good he is. No short story writer
before or since has a more nuanced touch. Amazing writing. Many
of his collections are out of print, sadly. This one is no better
than any others, but it is still available.
Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition,
Ernest Hemingway. We take so much for granted in contemporary
literature without recognizing where the 20th century’s
stylistic revolution began: Hemingway. Re-reading these stories
it was astonishing to be reminded how much Hemingway doesn’t
say when he tells a story.
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
Breit, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (and call-in co-host)
Burning Marguerite, Elizabeth Inness Brown. The author
grew up in the North Country.
Petty, Chris Angus. This is on the top of my reading pile.
Pike, Will Ryan. Not just for people who fish.
Summer, Barbara Kingsolver. A perfect summer read.
Wonders, Barbara Kingsolver. Her latest.
Alistair Macleod. Not a prolific writer, but well worth the wait.
Action in the Carribbean: Stories, Barry Lopez.
the Rain, Alix Kates Shulman.
asked her colleagues at TAUNY to contribute titles…
Chittenden, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York
Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,
Robert Putnam. Putnam is a political scientist who discusses significant
social changes in America in recent decades, and how those changes
have made us increasingly disconnected from one another and old
A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, Stephen Bloom. A
fascinating account of ultra-orthodox Hassidic Jews from Brooklyn
settling on the outskirts of Postville, Iowa.
Good to be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends, Jan Harold
Brunvand. A fun collection that can alternately scare the daylights
out of you or leave you laughing out loud. Easy reading between
summer naps—great fun to test on friends to see if they really
believe these modern myths.
North Country, Natalia Rachel Singer, Neal Burdick, editors.
Terrific compilation of perspectives on life in our region.
Grid and the Village, Stephen Doheny-Farina. Personal account
of living through the Ice Storm of 1998, including lots of details
about the struggles and the re-discovery of the importance of
Muia, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York
Mules and Men, Zora Neale Hurston. Written in 1935, this
is a classic in the field of folklore, relating Hurston’s experiences
as a field researcher in the Florida Folklife Project.
A History and Celebration of an American Tradition, Kathy
Neustadt. Another folklore classic.
the Invisible Landscape: Folklore, Writing and the Sense of Place,
from two of Jill’s friends:
E=mc2: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation,
of Janet Evanovich’s mysteries—definitely chick books.
Wealth and Democracy, Kenneth Phillips.
The solider decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time
to present the present.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
did not object to the object.
Golay, The Corner Bookstore, NYC (and call-in co-host)
list is drawn from the Bookstore’s Summer Review, written in collaboration
with Dan Lettieri.)
and Dan’s beach reading suggestions:
Unless, Carol Shields. Written last summer in what Shields
called an adrenaline rush of clarity as she coped with Stage 4
breast cancer, this short novel is eminently thoughtful and ultimately
optimistic, and should be read and digested as slowly as possible.
Harbor, John Lanchester. A handful of colorful characters
control the dynamics of this marvelous novel which illuminates
Hong Kong’s bizarre history. Lanchester’s close personal history
with Hong Kong informs and enriches his narrative with the kind
of telling details only native son could give us.
Genius Within, Discovering the Intelligence of Every Living Thing,
Frank T. Vertosick, Jr. The popular author of Why We Hurt
once again translates the mysteries of science into language as
engaging and spell-binding as the most riveting of thrillers.
Guaranteed—you’ll never think about viruses or germs the same
of England, Alice Elliott Dark. The author’s first full-length
novel is about a thoughtful, gentle girl who blames herself for
an accident that occurred when she was only nine years old. You
couldn’t ask for a better read on a rainy afternoon.
A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, Atul Gawande. No
one writes about medicine as well as Gawande. His essays, which
have appeared frequently in the New Yorker, are as entertaining
as they are frightening. This one will keep you burning the midnight
Thieves, Michael Cummey. The small community of European settlers
in Newfoundland during the early part of the 19th century
is the focus of Crummey’s beautifully crafted debut novel.
City of Your Final Destination, Peter Cameron. A spirited
and witty novel.
with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs. In this intimate memoir,
both horrific and hilarious, Burroughs relates the story of his
incredible childhood. The author has a divine sense of humor—this
is a laugh out loud memoir.
No One, Harlan Coben. For the mystery fans.
Death of Vishnu, Manil Suri. A comic novel combining Hindu
mythology with an intimate view into the lives of the residents
of a Bombay apartment building.
Canto, Ann Patchett. A seductive, elegantly written and riveting
An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand. Far more than the fascinating
story of the legendary race horse—a slice of depression era America.
Falls, Richard Russo. Pulitzer Prize winner—an old-fashioned
novel in the best sense of the word.
Alistair MacLeod. Exquisitely written short stories. (Also one
of Jill Brite’s top picks.)
Gardens of Kyoto, Kate Walbert. A hypnotic story of war and
lost love set in mid-20th century America.
Me with Apples, Ruth Reichl. Picks up where Tender at the
Bone left off.
Piano Shop on the Left Bank, Thad Carhart. Engaging reflection
on pianos, their history and how friendships can be formed in
the most unlikely circumstances.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
Meng, NCPR theatre reviewer and announcer
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Laurie B. King. A young woman
apprentices herself to a retired Sherlock Holmes. For the mystery
Tosti, NCPR news reporter and announcer
The Letters of Frida Kahlo, compiled by Martha Zamora.
A very intimate look at the artist’s life.
from Jody’s friend (and one-time North Country resident):
Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinates of Human Behavior,
Dr. David Hawkins. This is an unusual book, acclaimed by Nobelists
and world leaders, described as “breathtaking,” and as offering
a major paradigm jump in human knowledge.
Sweeny Smith, NCPR director of strategic partnerships
Never Change, Elizabeth Berg. I love the way she illustrates
human relationships and she “writes” women so well. Wonderful
example of loving through loss.
of Autumn, Diana Gabaldon. Part of the author’s series of
Jacoby, NCPR development assistant
I is for Innocent, Sue Grafton. Yes, I’ve read A through
H and have J through P waiting to be read!
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells. Much
better than the movie.
to Heaven: A Medium’s Message of Life After Death, James Van
Garrell Berger, Plattsburgh (and occasional commentator on NCPR)
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal,
Eric Schlosser. The NY Times blurb reads, “An avalanche
of facts and observations…A fine piece of muckraking, alarming
without being alarmist…Schlosser makes it hard to go on eating
fast food in blissful ignorance.” It reads like a novel, even
though it’s stuffed full of facts. Well-documented.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of injections my jaw got number.
Upon seeing tear in the painting I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Robinson, Clarkson University (and occasional NCPR guest host)
summer I am focusing on the novels of James Joyce. I will be reading
The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegan’s
Wake. Growing up in a very Irish neighborhood, I heard all the
voices in Joyce’s novels. Reading them is like a tiptoe through
started the summer with two books on environmental toxins and human
health by the ecological biologist Sandra Steingraber: Living
Downstream and Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood.
The material is disturbing, but both works are beautifully written.
Steingraber is a published poet in addition to her scientific works.
Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American
Meal. Read this and you may never enter a fast food place again.
“Supersizing” will be completely out of the question.
had a couple of quiet days that I spent with my friend Joe Duemer’s
new collection of poems, Magical Thinking. Joe can offer
more intellectual pyrotechnics in a few lines of verse than most
authors can in hundreds of pages of prose. During this time, I also
read Mary Zimmerman’s play Metamorphoses. This contemporary
take on Ovid is playing to great acclaim on Broadway. It is essential
post 9/11 reading or viewing.
of the stuff I have to read in my fields of political theory and
philosophy would not be of the slightest interest to most readers.
But occasionally I read things that deserve a wider audience. Here
are a few such recent works by subject area:
and Political Thought: Rodney Brooks, Flesh and Machines:
How Robots Will Change Us; David Edmonds and John Eidenow, Wittgenstein’s
Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers;
William Irwin, ed., Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book About Everything
and Nothing; William Irwin, Mark T. Conard, and Aeon Skoble,
eds., The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh! of Homer; Christopher
Phillips, Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy; and
(on the heavy side, but brilliant) Sheldon Wolin, Tocqueville
Between Two Worlds.
Daniel Lazare, The Velvet Coup: The Constitution, The Supreme
Court, and the Decline of American Democracy; Robert Whitaker,
Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment
of the Mentally Ill.
and Energy: Janine Benyus, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired
by Nature; William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle
to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things; and, Edward O. Wilson,
The Future of Life.
Let’s face it—English is a screwed up language. There is no
egg in eggplant or ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries
titles called in or referenced during the summer reading show…
Of Rice and Salt, David Brin. Sci fi.
Last Hero, Terry Pratchett. Sci fi.
A Story of Hope, Laura Blumenfeld. Non-fiction.
these next two non-fiction picks together:
Stupid White Men, Michael Moore.
Best Democracy Money Can Buy: An Investigative Reporter Exposes
the Truth about Globilization, Corporate Cons, and High Finance
Frauds. Greg Palast.
Songcatcher, Sharon McCrumb. Or any of her other mysteries.
to Die: A Mystery Introducing Cliff Janeway, John Dunning.
The Wilderness Family, Kobie Kruger. Non-fiction.
Joe Kane. Impact of oil drilling on native people in Central America.
Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet,
And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing,
grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham?
Unorthodox Practices, Marissa Piesman. Mystery.
The Ten Sleep Murders, Billy Hall. Featuring forensic geologist
Baseball: A Literary Anthology, Nicholas Dawidoff.
Flyswatter, Bob Porter. Memoir about the author’s grandfather.
Fish’s Eye, Ian (Sandy) Frasier.
Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival, Carl Safina.
The Brigade, Howard Blum.
The Best American Sportswriting 2001, Glenn Stout and Bud
Tate, Star Lake
The Mitford Years, Jan Karon. This is a four-volume series:
At Home in Mitford; A light in the Window; These High, Green
Louise Tate, Star Lake
Clifton Community Library has a book club which meets monthly, inspired
by Readers and Writers on the Air. We compiled a book list
last month. Here it is.
The Red Tent, Anita Diamante. Based on Genesis 34:1-31.
The story of Dinah, daughter of Leah.
Looks Could Kill, Kay White.
Hour Before Dawn, Jimmy Carter. (By the former President.)
Potter, JK Rowling.
Mitford Series, Jan Karon. (See above for list of four titles.)
of Stone, Jean Auel. Another in the Earth’s Children
series which began with Clan of the Cave Bear.
Diana Gabaldon. A fantasy tale about a woman who goes back in
time to Scotland during the Jacobite rebellion.
Power of One, Bryce Courtenay. A coming of age story set during
the Boer War.
Camden Summer, LaVyrle Spencer. Light summer reading.
Adams, David McCullough. A fine biography.
Measures, Kate Wilhelm. Mystery and court drama.
Remembered, Hangman’s Root, Thyme of Death and other titles,
Susan Wittig Albert. This series of mysteries features herbalist
China Bayles. Each mystery revolves around an herb or other plants.
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth,
beeth? One goose, two geese. So, one moose, two meese?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one
amend, that you comb through annals of history but not a single
annal? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but
one of them, what do you call it?
from the mail bag (virtual and hard copy):
Folwell, Blue Mountain Lake (and Adirondack Life editor)
reading these days is books on tape, and the reader is nearly as
important as the story itself. An annoying voice can kill a good
The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood. Read by Margot Dionne.
by Bird, Anne la Motte. Read by the author. A book about the
art, craft and pitfalls of writing—it’s like having your own writing
coach. Great advice delivered in an engaging, jive-free way.
Stupid White Men, Michael Moore.
Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut, Emily White.
Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, Rachel
Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, Ronald
Sexual Abuse of Children, Michelle Elliott, editor.
Harder, Lake Clear
Dreaming Water, Gail Tsukiyama. Fiction.
Awake, Mark Salzman. Fiction.
Firehouse, David Halberstam. Non-fiction.
If, Robert Cowley, editor.
two old classics:
The Awakening, Kate Chopin.
Finn, Mark Twain.
Lou Cole, North Creek
Hard Eight, Janet Evanovich.
Spree, Diane Mott Davidson.
Signs, Stephen White.
Fail, Lee Child.
Walk, Robert Parker.
Runner, Jack Higgins.
Prey, John Stanford.
Looks Could Kill, Kate White. A Glens Falls author.
to Please, Linda Howard.
Firehouse, David Halberstam.
Man Down, Richard Picciotto.
Wings and A Prayer, Sue Halpern. An every summer read.
are two of my favorite authors, not well known:
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. A recent find for me, she is from
India and now lives in California. One of her books, Mistress
of Spices, is my favorite of all the novels I have read in
the “magical realism” genre. Another, Sister of My Heart,
is set primarily in Calcutta, and provides grat insight into Bengali
culture, families, and the human condition.
Larsen. Larsen has written three novels, Silk Road, Bronze
Mirror, and Manchu Palaces. All are set in medieval
China and explore the roles of women in that society while telling
engrossing adventure tales.
Kissam, St. Lawrence University
was recently in Santa Fe, and I was encouraged to read Death
Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. I thoroughly enjoyed
it. The descriptions of the countryside depict the timelessness
of the region, even with the influx of people. Santa Fe is an area
of mixed cultures, remarkable history, and an undeniable spirituality.
I think each of those characteristics play a role in the book so
it transcends basic storytelling. Readers who have visited that
area of our country will especially appreciate reading the book.
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian
eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do
people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send
cargo by ship?
couple of non-fiction selections:
Ghosts From the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence,
Robin Karr-Morse et al. Infant neurobiological development and
the origins of violent and impulsive behavior.
Alexa Albert. The author, as a Harvard med student, petitioned
to study the women of one of Nevada’s most famous brothels. Fascinating
Bell via email
A Recipe for Bees, Gail Anderson-Dargatz. Full of bee lore,
which is intriguing in itself, but the book also touches on family,
friendships, aging and descriptive imagery of rural living.
The Analyst, John Katzenbach. A page-turner.
Klein, Westview Farm Bed and Breakfast, Boonville
summer reading almost always include some that take me back out
Padre Ignacio and The Virginian, Owen Wister.
Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper. I love to re-read
this, especially since I now live in the upstate area and see
the landscapes of the book’s setting.
also turn back to Zane Grey because his books portray a time that
I am sorry I missed—even if romanticized, the basic image of the
1870s out West haunts me.
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand … and
and Kings, Taylor Caldwell. Both are fantastically engrossing
long reads, perfect for hot summer days when you can’t escape
the heat any other way!
usually don’t read fiction anymore, but summer is when I seem to
naturally gravitate toward fiction…and love it!
Sweeney, Saranac Lake
The City of Our Final Destination, Peter Cameron. The only
book I’ve ever read that takes place in Uruguay.
Map of Love, Ahdaf Soueif. This takes place largely in Egypt.
also keep reading novels by Anita Shreve—perfect for summer.
Lemieux via email
The Lost Tribe, Edward Mariott. About a Stone Age New Guinea
tribe discovered in 1995 and the author’s adventures in reaching
them, plus the tribe’s interaction with the modern world. Heard
about this on a BBC book club interview.
Soldiers, Hampton Sides. A true account of the WWII rescue
of Batan death march survivors behind Japanese lines.
Across the River, Donald Graves. Non-fiction. An account of
the 1837 raid by Americans on Prescott, Ontario. Interesting for
those living on the border.
Simmons, Upper Saranac Lake
Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand.
Dawson, Burlington (artist and philosophy student)
The Trial of Socrates, I.F. Stone. Stone looks at the premise
that there must have been more to the story if Athens was a democratic
society. The story we are usually given is from Plato and Xenophon,
who were both disciples of Socrates.
and Necessity, Saul Kripke. Looks at the relationship between
properties and language. Sort of a “must read” in modal logic.
It comes from a series of lectures Kripke gave at Princeton, so
it is relatively readable.
Latin, Frederick M. Wheelock. Intro to Latin.
Annals of the Former World, John McPhee. A fabulous conglomeration
of observation and theory of the geologic history of the United
States. This guy is a great writer!
and Elizabeth Sarfaty, Malone
A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is
Dying and How a New Faith is Being Born, Bishop John Shelby
Spong (ret. Episcopal). Bishop Sprong, who has spent his writing
career, among other things, putting down The Indulgent White Bearded
Grandfather God sitting on a cloud, and outmoded views of sex
in the current churches, has his newest book coming out this fall.
He suggests what modern people can really believe and discusses
the faith that is emerging amongst those who have rejected the
limitations of more ancient world views. Written for the average
In what language do we have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man
and a wise guy are opposite?
How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a lot
and quite a few are alike? Have you noticed that we talk about certain
things only when they are absent? Have you ever seen a horseful
carriage or strapful gown?
maybe met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever
run into someone who was combobulateed, gruntled, ruly or peccable?
And where are all those people who ARE spring chickens or who would
ACTUALLY hurt a fly?
Morris, Biblioworks Used Books, Lake Placid
summer’s reading list includes The Salmon of Doubt. It’s
a compilation of previously unpublished writings by the late Douglas
Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
reading list for last summer included all five books in that series:
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of
the Universe; Life, The Universe and Everything; So Long, And Thanks
for All the Fish; Mostly Harmless.
doesn’t need to be a sci fi fan to enjoy this series. In fact, it
probably helps to not be. I’d recommend the entire series for the
summer trips to the beach. And, as the Guide says, “Don’t forget
Woods, somewhere on the St. Lawrence River
have a book group on the islands in summer and we met this morning
to talk about the second book below. We wanted to read Canadian
authors writing about Canada (since we look at Canada—or live in
it--all summer and don’t know as much about it as we should). So,
we devised this list by taking the 1999 short list from the Giller
Prize and adding and subtracting a few.
A Student of Weather, Elizabeth Hay.
Gone, David MacFarlane.
Love of a Good Woman, Stories, Alice Munro.
and After, Matt Cohen.
Good House, Bonnie Burnard.
Recipe for Bees, Gail Anderson-Dargatz.
Wright via email
The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People, Amy and Irving
Wallace, David Wallechinsky, Sylvia Wallace.
Prize, Daniel Yergin. The rise of the oil age.
Holland via email
Politics in Healing, Dan Haley. The former NYS Assemblyman
from Waddington explores the controversy surrounding alternative
medicine and therapies.
Morris, Saranac Lake
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon.
Simply the best book I have read in the last ten years. Extremely
well-written. (A Pulitzer Prize winner.)
been concentrating this year on a particular hobby of mine: presidential
biographies. Here are several I’ve been reading.
FDR: The War President, 1940-43, Kenneth Davis. This is
volume four of what was planned as a five-volume work, but Mr.
Davis has died…
Adams, David McCullough. A wonderfully, graceful writer.
Rex, Edmund Morris. I waited over 20 years since Vol. 1 for
this one. (Dutch intervened.) It was worth the wait.
Master of the Senate, Robert Caro. This is it, the Wayne Gretzky
of Presidential biographies. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Geoffrey Peret. This is the Britney Spears of Presidential biogs.
Light, frothy, fun.
the Best of My Ability, James McPherson, editor. A collection
of articles on every president. Very well done. The photos are
You Want to Be President, Judith St. George and David Small
(illustrations). An award-winning kids’ book—but I promise adults
will enjoy it as much as the 7-10 age group it was designed for.
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which
your house can burn up as it burns down; in which you fill in a form
by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on.
Bradley, Indian Lake
Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry.
Red Tent, Anita Diamant.
Plastino, somewhere in St. Lawrence County
Blindness, Jose Saramago.
Sailing Home, Gary Geddes. About a fellow who sails the
Vine of Desire, Chitra Divakaruni. Two cousins from India
living near San Jose.
Chief Elizabeth, Giles Milton. About first English colonies
Book Borrower, Alice Mathison.
Gardens of Kyoto, Kate Walberg.
Carol Shields. A novel about a mother coming to terms with a daughter
who has opted out of society.
Stone Carver, Jane Urquhart. Fiction.
Heartsong of Charging Elk, James Welch. Story of Sioux Indian
stranded in late 19th century Marseilles.
Smoke, Mohsin Hamid. Novel set in contemporary Pakistan.
Dust, Gillian Slovo. Novel set in modern South Africa.
Peter Hessler. Story of a young American living in a town on the
Diary, Alice Hoffman. Novel about a woman whose marriage falls
Recall, Sara Paretsky. New V.I. Warshawski novel with references
Row, Minette Walters. Gripping story about life in lower class
to the Moon, Adam Gopnick. Memoir about life in contemporary
Paris, very funny.
Elaine Dewar. Anthropology—North America.
Birds of Heaven, Peter Mathiesson. A worldwide search for
Death of Vishnu, Manil Suri. Set in contemporary India.
Ash Garden, Dennis Bock. A scientist looks back on his role
in making the atom bombs used on Japan.
the Fall, Jeffrey Lent. Multi-generational novel about the
Civil War and its aftermath.
Cohen, summering in the Adirondacks
Ashes of Aries, Martha Laurence. For mystery lovers, this
newest book of a series, with a twist. The protagonist is a psychic
who ends up getting involved in murder investigations.
Boogies With Elvis, Anne George. Two middle-aged Southern
sisters are involved in the hunt for the murderer of an Elvis
Girls in the Van, Beth J. Harper. Non-fiction. A reporter
tells the story of covering Hillary Clinton’s senatorial campaign.
Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress, Sijie Dai.
Blue Diary and The River King, Alice Hoffman.
The Songcatcher, Sharyn McCrumb. This is a marvelous story
of family history brought up to date.
Redwood Casket, Sharyn McCrumb. A very good mystery.
A Sportsman’s Notebook, Ivan Turgenev. A good example of
a book I had to read during the “educational” process and put
aside as a bore. But now, decades later, I feel lucky to have
happened on it.
Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Wayne Johnston. Should be read
by any one interested in what makes political animals click. It'’
about the rise of a genuine Canadian provincial premier—I learned
a lot about Washington from it. It’s a good example of my belief
that fine fiction is truer than any non-fiction you’ll
ever come across. Readers who feel as I do, will want to get into
inter-library loan for Richard Gwyn’s Joey Smallwood: The Unlikely
in Hyacinth Blue, Susan Vreeland. The book is a pendant to
The Girl with the Pearl Pendant.
now in an Alice Munro collection—very fine.
I Hated, Hated, HATED This Movie, Roger Ebert. The collection
is not only entertaining, but instructional, too. Ebert is of
course half of the TV-reviewing team that was Siskel and Ebert,
now Roeper and Ebert. He is a fine writer. I also recommend his
The Great Movies.
also made one of those discoveries every really good reader already
knew: Orwell. Specifically, Homage to Catalonia and Down
and Out in Paris and London. Plain writing, inspired by careful
observation, which is apparently the secret of gripping description.
Get into either and you’ll finish it.
more, just discovered: The Ascent of Rum Doodle, by W.
E. Bowman. According to the introduction by Bill Bryson, after
its publication in 1956, inspired by the first successful climb
of Everest, it dropped out of print. Which is a great pity. Rum
Doodle, it might but probably won’t help to know, is a Himalayan
peak of 40,000 feet, near Rankling La and rising from the land
of the Yogistani. For grave, straight-faced humor, you might have
to go back to Stephen Leacock, or even Jerome K. Jerome to find
an equal. Bowman also wrote The Cruise of the Talking Fish,
inspired by Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki.
Wells via email
as important as the reading material one selects is the venue one
chooses in which to read. Much is made of the beach as a proper
and fitting arena for summertime reading but it’s precisely that
arena-like quality that moves me to seek out another spot. Unless
one is fortunate enough to have access to a private beach, the distractions
inherent in public ones, however delightful, can detract from the
summertime reading experience. And then there’s the sand.
for this reader it is that classic feature of middle American architecture,
seemingly forgotten in new home construction but still a prominent
appurtenance of the older neighborhood home, that I seek out, the
front porch. No place so tranquil exists in the modern world than
the neighborhood front porch…This porch is, at once, a refuge form
the outside world, and at the same time, gently and steadfastly
connected to its immediate surroundings, making the perfect haven
for the summertime reader.
Wine, Ray Bradbury. A small treasurre and, I should think,
meant to be read in summer.
Sky at Morning, Richard Bradford. A very sweet and funny coming
of age story set in a remote village in New Mexico during World
War II where an Alabama shipyard owner has deposited his wife
and teenage son to out the War while he goes off to fight it.
Herrington, Indian Lake--via email
Seven Daughters of Eve, by Bryan Sykes, Professor of Genetics
at the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford University and
a leading authority on DNA and human evolution.
Fates, by Nora Roberts. A good summer read, with romance,
passion, intrigue, and Greek mythology!
- AND one I am just starting: The Emperor of Ocean Park,
by Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter. A superbly written book,
with suspense, social observation, family secrets, ambition, and
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the
creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all).
That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible. However, when
the lights are out (or you’re unconscious), they are invisible. Why,
when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay,
I end it
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