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Our summer intern at the station, Sarah Harris, is staying
in my home while she works with our news and web departments. Seeing her each
morning—and evening—sitting with a book at the kitchen table reminds me of my
younger self, never without a book to read in those snatches of free time
caught throughout the day. When I was a teenager, nothing could be better than
flopping on my bed with a library book and an apple and reading until my mother
called me for dinner or suggested it might be bedtime. In the summer, stretched
out on a beach or campground, I’d squint my way through book after book,
terrified that I’d run out of books before I could borrow more. The insatiable
lightness of reading. Not sure what that means, but it sounds right.
Here’s our annual summer reading list. Special thanks to
John Ernst and Chris Robinson who co-host the on-air call-in during which
listeners contribute suggested titles. John and Chris are also robust purveyors
of recommended reads.
Scattered throughout this list, you’ll find definitions
contributed by long-time station friend and reading list contributor, Chris
Dunn. Hard to describe, so I’ll quote Chris:
“Then, there are the Phobias…All developed, I insist, in the
closest possible collaboration with Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary,
15th Edition. As Dave Barry used to say, ‘I am not making this
Chris remembered a list of (alleged) phobias we ran in a
reading list about five years ago, and he was off and running (see if you can
figure out meaning before reading his “definition”):
Achtung!phobia: the fear of
being ordered about in German (very prominent once, as you can imagine,
and fairly closely related to achluophobia, the fear of
fear of books edited down to an empty nothing (say, Reader’s Digest
Books). It might even include a touch of taphephobia, which has
nothing to do with candy but is the fear of being buried alive…think of the stories
interred deep within the condensation.
I wonder about the –phile definitions. What kind of “—phile”
am I for being attracted to the minds of, hmm, unusual thinkers?
Send me those recommended book titles, any time of day or
year. Here’s how to reach me:
North Country Public Radio
Canton, NY 13617
Ellen Rocco, North Country Public Radio, station
Brooklyn, Colm Toibin. This is hands down my top pick
from recent fiction. A quietly told story of a young Irish woman who,
unwillingly, emigrates to Brooklyn. As John Ernst paraphrased one reviewer,
this is the story of every immigrant, a foreigner in the adopted country and
never again at home in the old country. Now I want to read Toibin’s short story
collection, Mothers and Sons, and his earlier novels, The Master
and The Blackwater Ship.
- Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann. This won the
2009 National Book Award for fiction. I’m still in the middle of it. I’m not
quite certain where I’ll land. Certainly worth reading. Other titles by McCann
include Zoli, Dancer and This Side of Brightness.
In the “if you missed the first time around” category, I’d
recommend these hits from not so long ago:
- The News from Paraguay, Lily Tuck. This won
the 2004 National Book Award. I stumbled on this when it was published in paper
and loved it. Later found out it had received the Award.
- Master and Commander series, Patrick O’Brian. The
multi-volume series set in the era of the Napoleonic wars, rich with sea-going
detail and memorable characters. I am a land-lubber and loved these books. I’m
thinking about re-reading the whole lot of them.
Acropoliphobia: fear of
finding oneself up on tall Greek monuments. Though, actually, with batophobia,
it should be acrobatophobia—which will serve here pretty well—or for
irrational fear of the Cirque de Soleil. (See batophobia.)
Batophobia: (Real! Though
my interpretation may be extravagant. –CD) Fear of high objects, or being on
them—fear, I assume, of thinkng at just the wrong moment that you’re
Michael Keaton, or Val Kilmer, or Adam West, or…
Christopher Robinson, Readers & Writers
Co-host, Clarkson University
My reading is tied intimately to mourning the recent death
of my mother. What I have been seeking in my reading is the space and
vocabulary for reconstructing a world characterized now by the absence of this
kind, gentle and loving person I miss so much. As painful as mourning is, it is
also an intensely creative process. The fabric of life has been torn; and while
it can be mended it can never be the same. This is an opening for new seeing
and thinking. You come to appreciate the fragility and ephemeral quality of the
life you lead. You look closely at where you have been, how you spend time
now, and thoughts about the future are infused with the acknowledgement that
time is finite. While mortality can be a source of anxiety and fear, for me it
has become something of a gift. I find myself wallowing not only in sorrow, but
also in the knowledge that I was so lucky to have such a wonderful parent for
so long. The relationships I have with my friends (who have been
overwhelmingly kind and supportive) and with my family, particularly my wife,
have all been cast in a light described best as sacred through mourning. The
reading I have been doing has been slow and searching. My list will reflect
this, I think.
- Kathryn Schulz, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.
We place so high a premium on being right that the price for being wrong is the
kind of humiliation that leaves us wanting to forget how important error is for
personal growth, creativity and social progress. Schulz’s study in “wrongology”
is a thoughtful and entertaining antidote to the dogmatism and anxiety that
comes with the joy of being right.
- Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell.
Solnit is one of my very favorite writers. This book is a study of how
communities arise and meet the challenges of natural disaster. She looks at
the aftermath of earthquakes, hurricanes, and human-made disasters and examines
closely that odd sense of euphoria we feel in the wake of ice storms and power
outages as a source of communal engagement and social responsibility.
- Tony Judt, Reappraisals. Judt has long been an
intellectual hero of mine. About a year ago, I learned that he had been
diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. With his life coming to an end, Judt has
been focusing on completing his literary legacy with new (short) books on
social democracy and the future of Europe. To honor Judt, I have been
re-reading a number of his books. His thinking is intense, informed, and
presented in clear and forceful arguments. Judt’s writing is a model of
scholarship and intellectual engagement.
- Adam Phillips, Going Sane: Maps of Happiness. Phillips is
a psychoanalyst and provocative writer. So much has been written about the
experience of madness. You would think we had a fairly clear idea about what
sanity is all about. Phillips addresses the very large hole in the literature
engendered by the lack of a clear definition or idea of sanity.
- Terry Castle, The Professor and Other Writings. So many of
our listeners are teachers and administrators of area schools that a book of
this kind might find a wide audience here. Castle is a well-known literary
scholar. The essays in this book are more autobiographical, however. The title
essay recounts an abusive affair Castle had with a professor in her graduate
department. It is a unique study of obsessive infatuation, the dawning of
sexuality and the distorting effects of the power a professor holds over her or
his student. The essay I enjoyed most was Castle’s memoir of her weird
friendship with the late Susan Sontag.
- Steve Almond, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life. We had a
great interview with Steve Almond last year and he kindly sent me the galleys
of his most recent essay collection. Almond at his best matches the humor and
quirkiness of David Sedaris. As the title indicates, this is a volume devoted
to Almond’s experiences as a fan of popular music and a music critic. It is
great fun, but also smart and thoughtful.
- Thich Nhat Than, Living Buddha, Living Christ. Yes, I know
this book is regarded as a classic by many, and I read it because it had been
recommended by a number of people whose opinions I respect. The central thesis
is that there is consonance between the teachings of the Buddha and Christ.
What struck me about the book, however, is the poetic quality of the language
and how slowly I read it. Works that can alter your experience of time are rare
and come to you as great gifts.
- Robin D.G. Kelley, Theolonius Monk: The Life and Times of an
American Original. This appeared on my winter list, but I was about a
quarter of the way through it. I finished it in an intense 300 page reading
session because I could not put it down. Kelley has written more than the
biography of an individual genius; he captured something deep and important
about jazz as a musical form and as the form American culture has taken in the
- Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir. I’m just
starting this book. I vowed to avoid it when it first came out. Then,
recently, Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and I felt compelled to
pick it up. Look, my relationship with Hitchens is personal. I took him on as
a political mentor when I was young. We parted ways when he supported the Bush
Administration’s war in Iraq. It was hard losing such a powerful voice at that
critical time, and I continue to find his position wrong, immoral, and
unforgiveable. After several pages in this volume, I find myself absorbed and
reminding myself that there was a time when I admired his thinking and writing
because of its power and verve.
- Pete Hamill, Downtown. The focus of this memoir is that
area of Manhattan from Battery Park at the very southern tip to Greenwich
Village. This mass is regarded by Hamill as a palimpsest. Buildings, streets,
green areas, and squares are traced back in time to their construction or, in
some cases to the pre-colonial origins. Hamill loves the city, and he breathes
life into its history and architecture. He makes me miss it all the more.
- Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About when I Talk About Running.
Writing and running require endurance and discipline. Murakami explores these
two activities that have served him so well in life. I do recommend the book,
but I kept thinking it should have been a deeper meditation on creativity and
how it is invited by physical and intellectual labor.
- Barry Lopez, About this Life. This is a volume of
autobiographical essays that I picked up immediately after seeing Lopez on the
very last installment of Bill Moyer’s Journal. Lopez is a truly fine
writer who can convey thoughts on death and mortality with the same elegance as
his descriptions of landscapes.
- Orhan Pamuk, Other Colors. I love Pamuk’s novels, and
this volume of essays on reading and writing enrich the experience of reading
his fiction all the more. Pamuk is to Istanbul what Saul Bellow was to Chicago,
what Raymond Chandler was to Los Angeles, and what William Kennedy is to Albany.
Stories are not set in these cities by these writers. Rather, the cities are
lexical creations that give birth to stories.
- Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion. This is an important
book that opens with the definition of psychosis as the inability to
distinguish reality and illusion. For Hedges, this is an apt description of the
United States today. From academia to the porn industry to corporatism and
foreign policy, America is displaying all the symptoms of a dying empire, and
there is nothing exceptional about that.
Fiction and Poetry
- C.K. Williams, Collected Poems. Williams writes what I
take to be philosophical poetry. The play with ideas is performed with
- Milan Kundera, Ignorance. Back in the 1980s, I went
through a Kundera phase triggered by The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
This is the first novel of his that I’ve read in two decades. As always,
Kundera deals with the interplay of liberation and nostalgia that is so central
to the experience of the political exile.
- Richard Price, Lush Life. John Ernst recommended this a
year ago. I don’t usually read crime novels, but this one is something
special. No writer is as good at street slang-inflected dialogue as Price. Just
read the interrogation scene at the book’s beginning. There’s nothing like it
- Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach. The
reviews of this novella were overly critical in my estimation. Yes, it is the
story of a disastrous honeymoon. But the tragedy developed in this short work
is truly epic. The writing is extraordinarily compact and rich. I was thinking
about these characters for weeks.
- Sylvia Brownrigg, The Metaphysical Touch. This is a fat
philosophical novel in the best sense. A Kant scholar loses her dissertation to
a fire. The damage is so severe that she cannot go back to her old life and so
she plunges into a disorderly existence that defies reason. There is no path to
follow, but there is an interesting guy on the internet who is worthy of time
and words. It takes improvisation, but order begins to take shape.
- W.S. Merwin, The Shadow of Sirius. I’m not so sure
that being the Poet Laureate of the United States is anything more than an
honorific, but I like to use the announcement as an excuse to read the poetry
of the person so named. It has served me well. Merwin’s writings feel like
sermons delivered with quiet eloquence.
Agroergophobia: fear of
finding oneself working on a farm.
Automysozoophobia: not fear
of being dirty so much as its extreme form—fear of turning into Swamp Thing.
John Ernst, Summer Reading Co-host, Elk Lake/New York
- Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World,
Liaquat Ahamed. On the NY Times 10 best of 2009 list; Pulitzer Prize for
history, 2010. The author, a Harvard and Cambridge trained economist, has been
an investment manager for 25 years and has worked at the World Bank and as an
advisor to hedge funds. In this book he traces the period from before the First
World War through the turmoil of the twenties and into the Great Depression of
the 1930s. Ahamed tells the story through the prism of four central bankers who
were primarily responsible for economic policy during this period and whos
errors of orthodoxy had tragic consequences. The story comes alive because
Ahamed concentrates on the personalities and the relationships of the central
characters. This is far from being a dull study of economics, and it has a
striking relevance to the world we are living in today.
- The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Michael
Lewis. The author is a brilliant story teller. He zeroes in on characters—in
this case the people who unraveled the real estate credit doomsday machine that
Wall Street created and that the rating agencies and government regulatory
officials supported. The characters are as improbable as they are fascinating.
One trader in the book asks, “How do you explain the importance of a credit
default swap on a double-A tranche of subprime-backed collateralized debt
obligations?” Well, after reading this book you will not only understand, but
you will have been treated to a tale of heroism, stupidity, greed and
narcissism that is completely enthralling and makes you feel you grasp, perhaps
for the first time, what sent so wrong with our financial institutions, causing
losses estimated at a trillion dollars. Lewis cuts right to the chase. His
explanation of the problem is: “…making loans to people who were one broken
refrigerator away from default.”
- Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and
Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History,
S.C. Gwynne (2010)
- The Comanche Empire, Pekka Hamalainen (2008)
- Empire of the Summer Moon is a big, sweeping,
blood-soaked account of the extraordinary rise of a dark-skinned,
short-statured, Shoshone-speaking people who called themselves Nermernuh (the
people) but whom history has come to know as the Comanche. These people,
unsurpassed horsemen and marksmen, ultimately occupied an empire that extended
from the Arkansas River to the Rio Grande, from present-day Houston to Santa Fe.
The author, a newspaper writer and editor, has framed the story with the brutal
1836 raid on the Parker Family homestead in Texas and the capture of the 9-year
old Cynthia Ann Parker. She lived for 24 years with the Comanches, married a
Camanche chief and gave birth to the great tribal leader Quanah Parker, a man
who made the transition from ruthless raider to reservation days, when he
became friendly with Teddy Roosevelt, among others. The contrasting careers and
destinies of generals Ranald Mackenzie and George Armstrong Custer is only one
of the good stories from this book.
- As a corrective to Gwynne’s book, Hamalainen’s The
Commanche Empire, which won the Bancroft Prize, is a groundbreaking study
by an associate professor at the University of California that credits the
success of the Comanches not exclusively with their savagery and prowess at
war, but with their great skills as diplomats, adeptly playing off colonial
powers and other tribes against each other, their adaptable social structure
and government, and their ability to exploit others, building a unique economy
of horses and trade goods. They were defeated in the 1870s, not by force of
arms but by drought, disease, destruction of the buffalo herds, and the wight
of their own expansion. This is not light reading, but it presents a serious
and interesting thesis.
- The last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle
of the Little Bighorn, Nathaniel Philbrick. I confess to being something of
a Little Bighorn addict. I have spent several days walking the battlefield and
have read a number of books on the subject. The story of Custer and the Seventh
Cavalry still haunts Americans more than 130 years after the event and
continues to raise questions and cause controversies. I am also a fan of
Nathaniel Philbrick, whose Mayflower was the best book I have ever read
on the relationship between Native people and New England settlers in the 17th
century. Here he has done a prodcious amount of research, even discovering some
family papers of a participant that have never before been published. His
voluminous notes are a model of detail and clarity. And he covers the entire
story from Custer’s early sorties into the Black Hills, through the Wounded
Knee massacre and the murder of Sitting Bull in 1890, marking the end of the
era of Indian Wars. But, if you want to read only one book about Custer and the
Little Bighorn battle, I would recommend Evan Connell’s Son of the Morning
Star (1984). For sheer writing skill, nothing else comes close. Also of
interest, The Battle of the Little Bighorn, by Mari Sandoz, author of
the masterpiece, Cheyenne Autumn.
related to venustraphobia, the fear of beautiful women—probably
needs no further comment.
the fear of silly Disney characters—or silly rich people (or
- The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith,
Revolution and the Birth of America, Steven Johnson. This is not a
conventional biography but rather a history of ideas centering on Joseph
Priestly—a minister, teacher, scientist (they were called natural philosophers
in his day) and a radical political thinker of the Enlightenment—a man whose
career spanned the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The sheer range of Priestley’s energy and intelligence is astounding. He was
the first person to isolate oxygen and to understand the role of plants in
processing carbon dioxide. He was co-founder of the Unitarian Church. He was a
friend of Benjamin Franklin and a deep sympathizer with the principles of the
American Revolution. Steven Johnson, a graceful and intelligent writer, uses
what he calls a “long zoom” approach to shift his focus from the carboniferous
era to the lab instruments of the 18th century to trace and limn the
meaning of intersecting events, ideas and theories. This is a heady
performance—a book that is continually surprising.
- The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys, Lillian
Pizzichini. This is an unconventional biography of an unconventional writer.
Jean Rhys (real name: Ella Gwendoline Rees Williams) was born in 2890 and
published a series of short novels and stories in the 1920s and 1930s that
stirred literary interest but were too bleak to attract much of a general
audience. Thirty years later, in 1966, when she was 76, she published Wide
Sargasso Sea and her place was assured as one of the most important British
writers of the century. Rhys was a difficult, self-defeating, half-mad
alcoholic…but she wrote like an angel. Pizzichini does a remarkable job of
telling Jeans’ story from her point of view—you might not like Jean Rhys, but
only in reading her work can one recognize her importance.
- The Anthologist, Nicholson Baker. This novel begins:
“Hello, this is Paul Chowder, and I’m going to tell you everything I know.”
That got to me right off the bat. Paul Chowder is a poet whose career has
stalled. But he is an extremely interesting companion. I took four pages of
notes from this novel in a desperate attempt to convey its quality. It can’t be
done. This is an original voice and a delightful piece of bravura writing.
- The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman. This is a
gangbuster first novel, written by a foreign correspondent and editor of the International
Herald Tribune. Told in short, punchy bursts, the novel is constructed as a
series of narratives, each featuring a different employee or reader of an
English language newspaper published in Rome that is slowly working its
inevitable way into irrelevance and bankruptcy in the era of the internet and
24-hour cable news. Some of the chapters are funny; some are like a kick in
the gut. But Rachman’s mastery of the characters and their relationships is
unerring. In 265 pages you meet 11 people whose lives you enter just at the
moment when they are revealed down to their core. This is, I think, a literary
debut that will leave after-shocks for years. If you read it now you will get
in early on the fun.
chirpyphobia: the fear of perky people (generally at its worst
in the morning, hence the frequent prefix precaffein-).
Christopher Dunn, Reader, Potsdam
- May I recommend something I don’t think I’ve
ever mentioned before, winter or summer? It’s been on my bookshelf, complete,
for many years now, and I have read it through, but I doubt it’s available in
any local library. For one thing, it’s in 6 volumes. For another it’s The
Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt. Yes, that Casanova. And
it’s not what you think.
…Well, all right, it is what you think. But much
more, too: Jacques Casanova, during a long life (1725-1798), traveled through
almost all of Europe, and in every level of society. And he seems to have
remembered all the details, and not only from Bettina to Irene (so far as I can
find out, the first and the last). And if you make the journey with him, you
will come to know it almost as well. It is all entertainingly told (some that
depends on the translator: mine is Arthur Machen in a reprint of the unabridged
London Edition of 1894).
- I know The Torture Memos (2009) has been
mentioned long since, but I happened to get it from a book club right in the
holiday season of 2009. Believe me, it makes sharp Christmas reading. And if I
can recommend the season for reading as well as the book, it would be that
book, in that season. You would think that a political party (I name no
names), marinated in any form of Christianity, would remember—when they’re not
listening to fulminatons against “Happy Holidays” and “Compliments of the
season” instead of “Merry Christmas on radio and TV—that that’s the
season we celebrate the birth of, as Mel Gibson reminded us in ghastly detail
(I say nothing about the other details of The Passion), the best known
victim of torture and murder in the name of State Security. A bit of the
Gospels it would be good to remember.
I don’t know why so much of my reading is all
from the past just now, maybe just because I stumbled onto some classics. For
- War in Val D’Orcia: An Italian War Diary,
1943-1944, Iris Origo. (First published in 1947; republished in 1984 by
Nonpariel, David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc.) Origo was an Englishwoman, married
to an Italian landowner. The book is in diary form, which she edited a bit for
publication (she was a noted writer, and her biography is well worth reading).
One of the British POW escapees she and her husband aided referred to what he
was able to tell them about events as a “worm’s eye view.” Without slighting
her own and her husband’s courage and humanity, that could be called her view
of the events around her—from the invasion of Sicily to the moment when the
British and Americans drove the Germans out of the area where she lived. The
view of the victims of war, occupation and to some degree of the allied
victory. It is all—almost—equally frightening to those helpless in the midst of
events. Even the rhetoric of Churchill, even the proclamations of the Allies
about liberation sound very different when you live on the land being fought
- The Autobiography of Michel De Montaigne,
translated and edited by Marvin Lowenthal. (First published in 1935; this 1999
edition also from Nonpariel, etc.) Of course Montaigne (1533-1592) was and
maybe still is the finest (and almost first) essayist in the western tradition.
He never wrote an autobiography, but the translator/editor apparently has not
only read but mastered his three volumes of essays and pieced together,
seamlessly so far as I can tell, everything the author ever said about himself.
It is Montaigne’s voice speaking. Its hold on the reader is astonishing.
Whether because of the sanity and common sense of the author, or his calm
frankness, both very evident, I can’t say. But the hold on the reader is gentle
as gravity—at ground level—and as persistent.
- Supreme Power, Jeff Shesol. This is the
story of Franklin Roosevelt’s famous (or notorious) 1937 attempt to expand the
Supreme Court. The “court-packing” scheme, as it is known to history and
popular memory. One fascinating thing about this account is not only the events
themselves, but the parallels with 2009 and 2010, which are almost uncanny, and
which I could believe were deliberately sought by the author—though he does not
preach or grow sarcastic with echoes of present time. FDR’s scheme is
remembered now as a huge blunder, but Shesol has all the reasons why it did not
look at all that way at the time, why in fact it looked for a while as if it
would certainly succeed in some form. He is a fine storyteller and, so far as I
can tell, has mastered the data. More than worth reading.
- American Lion, Jon Meacham. Recommended
because it is so readable and perceptive a biography—political biography—of
Andrew Jackson, and because Jackson was such a dramatic figure and president.
And also because there is one sentence in the book that will stop you cold. And
creates a picture that will probably keep you from reading on for a minute or
two—at least if you have misspent some of your life as I have.
- Theodore Roosevelt’s History of the United
States, compiled by Daniel Ruddy. Ruddy seems to have absolutely mastered
TR’s writings. Quite a feat. The excerpts frange from the Revoluton to WWI, and
are arranged chronologically in the order they happened in history. They come
from everywhere in Roosevelt’s writings. What he says is almost always direct.
If you’re ever in danger of forgetting the intellectual capacity and strength
of TR, or the vigor of his writing, this is the book to get. Or, if you just
want him “coming at us like a great roaring steam train from the past,” as
Edmund Morris says in the introduction, this is the book to get—it’ll probably
lead you towards much more. He can give quite a needed jolt, a shove from a
more vigorous age. PS: TR knew what “pithecoid” meant, too. Do you? I had to
look it up.
- The Cuckoo Clock, Mary Stolz; Pamela
Johnson, illustrator. This is in some sense a fairy tale, there is a small
presence of the supernatural, but it is mostly (as the best of them always are)
about people and adversity. There is Ula, an old clock maker somewhere near the
Black Forest; Erich, a foundling who works for him sometimes; Frau Goddhart,
who inflicts kindness on them; and, the perfectly named Baron Balloon. It is
all told quietly, and very well, not least by realistic and soft-shaded pencil
illustrations. Technically it’s a children’s story, and like the best of them
for anyone who likes a good and heartening tale.
- Lonesome Dove, Larry McCmurtry. This is a
grand novel. A kind of epic. It is certainly one of the very best novels of the
old west, and you would think the author had lived through those times himself,
it has such authority. You never doubt for a moment that that was the way it
was. Sudden and sad endings are the way life was, McM seems to be telling us,
and you just go on afterwards.
- I happened to be—mostly out of curiosity to see
how it all came out—reading the last of the Harry Potter books at the same time
(about which, in general, I have no comment except to say that the only word
for her style, which has hardly changed from the first to last, was invented by
Lewis Carroll—gallumphing) which is greatly concerned with the ambitions and
fate of Lord Voldemort. Well, In Lonesome Dove there is a man by the
name of Blue Duck, who is the most fearsome and downright scary bad-man I ever
heard of. You might even be moved to set the story aside for a few days, once
in a while, just to keep him away. I was. And I’d bet, in spite of how evil and
powerful Lord V is said to be by everybody, Blue Duck could have had him for
breakfast and not even belched.
Dismantleaphobia: as age
increases, this one needs no comment.
mutation of ochlophobia, fear of mobs, with demophobia, the fear
of crowds, and a faint touch of sociophobia—fear of how the d—n fools will vote this
Jill Vaughan, NCPR commentator, Malone
- The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost
Finding Ourselves, Andrew Potter. Potter believes that once we tag
something as authentic, it’s been co-opted.
- The Lake Shore Limited, Sue Miller. A
fictional paeon to ambiguity and conflicting desires.
- Imperfect Birds, Anne Lamott. A novel that
should be required reading for parents of adolescents.
- Coop: A Year of Parenting, Poultry, and Pigs,
- Pierce the Skin: Selected Poems, 1982-2007,
- Special Topics in Calamity Physics,
Marisha Pessl. This book is like performance art—not for the faint of heart,
but pay attention and you’ll enjoy.
Linda Cohen, Old Forge
- Adirondack Kids series, Justin VanRiper
and Gary VanRiper. There’s a new one out in this mystery series by father and
- The Earl Covey Story: A Biography,
Frances Alden Covey. Now in print again…Covey was a highly respected Adirondack
- Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet,
Fred Goss, Ogdensburg
I continue to slog through my campaign to read a
biography of each president and have hit the lower rungs. Pierce, Arthur, but I
- Millard Fillmore, Robert Rayback. Gave me
new respect for a forgotten President who basically sacrificed his political
future to his own belief in the necessity of keeping his party together to
“save the country.” Also interesting for New Yorkers to read that our state
politics in the 1830s and 1840s were just as convoluted (and corrupt) as today.
- My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary
Poppins and Fenway Park, Steve Kluger. This is a young
adult book aimed at whatever that is but both my wife and I found it an
absolute, smile out loud hoot from start to end. Give it a chance.
- The Power Broker, Robert Caro. This is my
War and Peace-like summer reading choice. Before the massive LBJ
project, this made Caro famous. I read the endless New Yorker excerpts in 1975
and thought I’d had it. Not true. A truly “massive” work on every scale. Along
with Mr. Moses (and how many of us in the North Country know why the park in
Massena is Robert Moses State Park), wonderful thumbnails of allies and
antagonists during his career: Al Smith, FDR, Harold Ickes, LaGuardia…I’m only
about 550 pages in with 600+ more to go in the paperback edition.
Jackie Pray, Parishville
Raiding the kids’ lockers: fantastic books for
teens, that parents will want to borrow. Great change for parents and teens to
be excited about the same books and characters!
- I teach English to adults who speak other
languages so I’m always on the lookout for great books written at teen reading
levels. Eureka! Big success this year. I discovered the Hunger Games
triology by Suzanne Collins. Real page turners with marvelous characters. I was
hooked in 10 pages; one of my adult readers said she was groggy at
work—twice—because she stayed up half the night reading. The stories, set in a
future dystopia, feature original plotting, wry social commentary (without
preaching, thank you), resourceful gamesmanship, along with romance, a few
lessons in high-end marketing, and wonderfully drawn characters. Wickedly
- Another exceptionally good book written for
young adults is Iqbal, by Francesco D’Adamo, translated by Ann Keonori.
Listed as appropriate for kids in grades 4 through 7, it is a book whose
triumph and pain is best shared between caring adults and kids. In this
docu-novel, D’Adamo fills in the blanks in the life of a real boy, Iqbal Masih,
who, along with other children, was forced to work in a Lahore carpet factory.
He escaped and helped other children escape exploitation. As difficult as the
story is, D’Adamo artfully makes a case for protecting others from exploitation
without further exploiting the victims in the telling.
Parmelee Tolkan, Lake Placid
- The Road Home and The Colour, Rose
Tremain. Anything by her. The first is about a Russian immigrant’s adventures
in London, before finding the road home again. The second is set in the 1880s,
during New Zealand’s gold rush.
- Zeitoun, Dave Eggers. The trials and
tribulations of an Arab-American family during Hurricane Katrina. The NY Times
called it the one book to read about that event.
- Parrot and Olivier in America,
Peter Carey. Historical fiction by the two-time Booker Prize-winning author.
Catapedalophia: the fear of
little cat feet.
fear of really long caterpillars (Shakesperian “caterpillars of the
commonwealth” or just the multiple-legged kind—the former never turn
into butterflies…maybe moths.)
Kathy Curro, Canton
- The Places in Between, Rory Stewart. The
story of a young journalist’s 21-month walk across Afghanistan. It was the
winter of 2002. In the US, we watched NATO troops oust the Taliban from power
in a country that seemed exotic and remote, with a mix of cultures largely
unfathomable to Westerners. Walking 40 kilometers a day, Stewart’s route took
him from the country’s border with Iran, all the way east to Kabul. Staying
inmosques, guard stations, and poor and fin homes along the way, he tried to
piece together an understanding of the people and history of Afghanistan.
Selena Baillargeon, via email
Some of the best young adult books out there
(many also great for adults):
- My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult.
- Carlos is Gonna Get It, Kevin Emerson.
- Sand Dollar Summer, Kimberly K. Jones.
- Petey, Ben Mikaelson.
- Loser, Jerry Spinelli.
- Hatchet, Gary Paulsen.
- Ink Heart, Cornelia Caroline Funke.
Emrys Burl, via email
- The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman. Young
Nancy de Flon, via email
- Sunflowers: A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh,
Sheramy Bundrick. I highrecommend this for summer rading. The author is a young
art history professor at the Univesity of South Florida and this is her first
venture into novel-writing.
Val Moody, via email
I’ve been reading the short stories of Max
Brand—Westerns and others from the ‘20s. He’s funny, he’s cool, he’s funky. Try
“The Girl They Left Behind Them”—very funny. Also, these books:
- The Darling, Russell Banks.
- Last Night in Twisted River, John Irving.
- The Golden Veil and The Autumn
Castle, Kim Wilkens.
- Forever Amber, Kathleen Winsor.
- Columbine, Dave Cullen.
I’ve been re--reading some of the Spenser novels
by Robert B. Parker.
And, for the equine set:
- Beautiful Jim Key, Mim Eichler Rivas.
- Crazy Good, Charles Leerhsen.
Richard Vang, via email
- Cornflower’s Ghost, Thomas Pullyblank. A
great summer read—combines the suspicious death of a SUNY professor and a
200-year old historical murder into a wonderful upstate NY mystery.
John Briant, Old Forge.
- Adirondack Mysteries: And Other
Mountain Tales, Dennis Webster
Andrew McNamara, Indian Lake
- I am reading Stuart M. Kaminsky’s Russian
detective mysteries, featuring Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov. My
favorite may be The Man Who Walked Like a Bear.
Wanda Renick, Canton
- America, America, Ethan
Canin. Lois at the SLU bookstore recommended this one—a good summer read.
- La Marine: The French Colonial Soldier in Canada,
1745-1761, Andrew Gallup and Donald F. Shaffer.
Kathy, Old Forge
- Adirondack Detective series, John Briant.
Mike, Tupper Lake
- Dracula, Bram Stoker.
- Lord of the Flies, William Golding
- Brave New World, Aldous Huxley.
- Anything by Octavia Butler.
- The Book Thief, Markus Zusak.
- The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan.
Dorothy, Indian Lake
- Personal History, Katharine Graham.
Nathalie Thill, Adirondack Center for Writing
Director, Lake Clear
- The Frozen Rabbi and The North of God,
- Short Carries, Elizabeth (Betsy) Folwell.
- Cormac McCarthy’s triology.
Larry, Chases Lake
- Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes.
- The Birds, Daphne DuMaurier
in the Adirondack-area—the fear of rustic artiness (related to
sticker-shock, hence the full name, hickwickerstickerphobia).
popular version of fear of slime—blennophobia, you remember—the fear of
being eaten by alien slime from outer space.
Want to add more titles to this list, or talk about books,
or have me post a book-related entry to our ALL IN blog? Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can always contact me at:
Ellen Rocco, North Country Public Radio, St. Lawrence
University, Canton, NY 13617.
Okay, one final one from Chris Dunn:
Phobophobia: a real live
phobia, page 1288, Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary—“Morbid fear of
acquiring a phobia.” Positive feedback carried to extremes.