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Readers & Writers 2011 Summer Reading List

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As always, thanks to Chris Robinson and John Ernst for co-hosting our reading list call-in program and contributing so many great titles to the list. And, special thanks to Sarah Harris for joining us at the table to bring her twenty-something perspective to the conversation. She's a natural. Listen for her on future shows.

Here then, suggestions from staff and listeners. If you can't find anything here to appeal to your summer reading appetites, visit the library!

--Ellen Rocco (always accepting your book suggestions at

Ellen Rocco, NCPR station manager and co-host Readers & Writers

  • The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman. Recommended by John Ernst when it first came out a few years ago, now in paperback. Oh, Rachman nails it: the people who work at or publish an English-language newspaper based in Rome. A novel comprised of chapters told from each character's perspective, and each voice is spot on.

  • A Drop of Ink, Dale Hobson. Dale is NCPR's web manager. That's his day job. But Dale is a natural poet—he observes, he sees and he turns it all into gems even those who eschew poetry can read and re-read. This is worth your time. Find out more about Dale at his website:

  • Savage City: Race, Murder and a Generation on the Edge, T. J. English. A history of New York City in the 1960s-70s that focuses on the turmoil and upheaval of that time through the lens of three key people of the era: a black man falsely arrested and tried for the murder of two prominent, young white women, a Black Muslim leader, and a corrupt homicide detective. If you're unfamiliar with NYC during that time, this is an interesting portal into an extraordinary decade; if you knew the city at that time, this will evoke memories and fill in pieces of the story you may never have known.

  • Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth, Curt Stager. Curt, of course, is co-host of "Natural Selections" on NCPR. He is also a professor at Paul Smiths College and he brings a scientist's eye to the issue of climate change and global warming. This is truly the long view. He puts the human impact on planet Earth in perspective.

Chris Robinson, Clarkson University and co-host Readers & Writers

This summer has been a harried one.  I'm about to embark on a yearlong break from my teaching duties at Clarkson and my hosting gig here at Readers and Writers on the Air.  Beginning in August, I will be teaching and researching environmental politics at Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea.  Then I have research positions in both Burlington and Portland (Oregon) in the Spring.

The reading I have been doing is largely in preparation for this ambitious year of travel and work.  But I have been going to books that provide me an escape from all the logistics and pressures that come with transition.  I have been working to become better acquainted with literature that responds to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer) sexuality and issues.  This focus will be reflected in my list.

The timing seems good given the recent passage of the same sex marriage law in New York.  While this gives people we love the same right to form a marital bond that heterosexual couples have enjoyed (three or four times over on occasion), many writing in and about LGBTQ sexuality are less than sanguine about marriage as an institution and how it might function to domesticate sexual relations and normalize marriage as the only acceptable relationship between two people.  And so the struggle to expand the boundaries and smash the old categories of gender and sexuality will continue in politics and in literature.  Keep reading!

Literature, Poetry and Belles Lettres

  • Christopher Isherwood, Diaries, 1960-1969.  Most people know Isherwood through his stories of Berlin that became the basis for the musical play (and film) Caberet.  If you've read those stories, then you know the beauty, pain and clarity of Isherwood's literary works.   In these Diaries, the main focus is Isherwood's relationship with Don Bachardy, a man thirty years his junior. The relationship is strained and challenged from many directions, but through the decade it emerged as strong, loving and committed as any I have ever seen.  The emotional depths of the entries on this relationship are plumbed throughout the diaries, but you can glimpse it in Isherwood's novelistic masterpiece, A Single Man.  I read this novel in one sitting, and now I will bar myself from seeing the recent film version (starring Colin Firth) because no movie could possibly capture the complex intimacy of this book.

  • Saul Bellow, Letters. I have not read a Saul Bellow novel since Ravelstein first came out in 2000.  For a while, I was a bit fanatical about Bellow's novels, and then the ardor cooled.  This collection of Bellow's letters reignited the flame, however.  I don't know what I was expecting. I had heard that Bellow was a difficult man – you can ask his four wives – and the letters display his deep love for writing, the strength of his literary convictions, and his willingness to sacrifice friendships for his particular version of the truth. At the same time, Bellow comes across as loving, warm, and capable of being a good companion. 

  • The Letters of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.  I had been looking forward to reading this collection for months.  But I wanted to wait for the summer to pick it up.  Here are Kerouac and Ginsberg in their early twenties (Kerouac) and teens (Ginsberg) striking up a conversation that would last for decades. They both knew their correspondence would be important to the history of American literature, and so they kept it all despite the messiness of their lives, the travels, and the occasional fallings out. As you read, you witness the rise of the so-called "Beat Generation" and the growing stardom of both writers through the critical success of On the Road and the trial of "Howl."  Both Kerouac and Ginsberg are guilty of self-absorption and hubris, but their letters surprise occasionally with great warmth, a willingness to sacrifice everything for art, and even self-effacement.

  • Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Slaughterhouse Five, and Breakfast of Champions.  Last summer I planned to read a lot of Vonnegut, but I never got around to it.  This year, thanks to the good people at Library of America, the impetus to read Vonnegut received a kick in the form of a beautiful first volume of his collected writings.  These are the novels of the sixties and early seventies.  Future volumes will go back to the start of his novel and story writing career, and into latter works too. It should probably be four volumes in all.

  • Philip K. Dick, Collected Works.  While I'm talking about Library of America projects, this collection of novels by Phillip K. Dick is edited and introduced by Jonathan Lethem.  It makes a great gift for the science fiction nut in your family.  The early novels – those written before the onset of alcoholism and insanity – are the best.

  • Cormac McCarthy, The Border Trilogy.  McCarthy will be, and you heard it here first, the next American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.  All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain are keys to understanding his greatness as a writer.  These books all take place on the U.S./Mexico border in the forties and fifties when this land was frontier and the boundaries separating the two countries was, well, porous.  Land, horses, wolves, religion, language, and weather all occupy central places in these books. They form the human characters of the novels, forge virtues and challenge them, and leave us with memorable images of courage, honor, independence, and love.  Borders of the flesh, soul and geography abound.

  • James Hynes, Kings of Infinite Space and Next.  A few years ago I named Hynes' A Lecturer's Tale my top pick for the summer reading show.  I also liked his Publish and Perish.  I came to regard him as the novelist of the college campus.  But these two books are departures from academic themes.  The book I really want to talk about is Next.  This is a day in the life of man who is traveling to Texas for a job interview.  We follow him through the day, and the subject matter is both mundane and funny.  But there is real danger lurking in the background.  I will leave it at this: Nothing prepares you for what happens.  It is a shock that left me near tears and in utter awe of Hynes' talent as a writer.

  • Jose Saramago, Blindness.  I have a thing for communist novelists, what can I say?  I loved this novel, which opens with a man finding himself suddenly blind while sitting in his car at a traffic light. The cause of the blindness is something communicable and soon large portions of the population are cast into darkness.  This darkness is physical, but bleeds into the moral and political spheres as well.  Dependence and fear vie with one another in the halls of a hastily constructed isolation camp and eventually in the streets of the city.  How strong is your morality and sense of identity?  This is the question at the heart of the book.

  • David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives and The Waterfront Journals. Wojnarowicz is known primarily as a visual artist.  His NEA-funded works angered a number of conservatives in Congress who had their own attenuated view of what counts as art.  Jesse Helms for one liked "nice pictures."  Wojnarowicz had a tough adolescence and youth.  He spent much of his youth hustling and hitchhiking.  These memoirs explore the violence he endured as a consequence of his sexuality and his poverty. They flesh out some of the artistic ambitions on display in his short films, drawings and paintings.

  • Eileen Myles, Inferno.  This is a memoir and work of poetry all in one.  I picked it up after reading Patti Smith's Just Kids because I was not ready to leave NYC in the early seventies just yet.  Myles' life was tougher and far less romantic than Smith's, however.  She recounts her growing into her lesbianism and her poetry in the starkest of terms.  You get to watch as the life lived close to poverty's and (hetero)sexism's edges are shaped into verse.  Life and work are connected beautifully in this most unorthodox memoir. Did I mention how funny Myles can be?

  • Edmund White, My Lives and The Burning Library.  White is a profound chronicler of gay culture and activism from pre-Stonewall days where homosexuality was regarded as a mental disorder amenable to psychiatric treatment through the age of AIDs.  The title of his essay collection, The Burning Library refers to the knowledge and stories lost with each person who dies of AIDs.  His autobiographical writings are designed to counter these losses. 

  • Philip Larkin, Collected Poems.  It is amazing to me how many writers regard Larkin as their favorite poet.  One of the nice effects of a good collection of a poet's work is that you can see for yourself what all the fuss is about.  No one writes about the sexual revolution and the disappointments of middle age like Philip Larkin.

  • The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara.  One of David Wojnarowicz's best known paintings is a frontal nude of Frank O'Hara.  At his best, O'Hara can get beneath the skin and bare something deep and important about what it is to be human. 

  • Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars.  I first heard Smith reading from this collection on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.  Smith's father worked on the Hubble, and the poems are inspired by images from the telescope.  She was also pregnant while writing many of the poems. The result is a series of cyclical verses reflecting on connections between the life within and the wideness of the space without.  Lovely.

Politics, Philosophy, and Culture

  • Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class.  Hedges is becoming prolific.  It is hard to keep up. But he is our answer to the prophets of the Old Testament railing poignantly about what is wrong with the United States and what we can do to reverse the course we are on.  In this book, Hedges decries the belief that cost benefit analysis is what really counts as thinking at the expense of moral and political reflection. He locates the origin of this impoverishment of thought in the demise of the liberal class. In doing this, he brings great thinkers from the past – Randolph Bourne, Reinhold Niebuhr, C. Wright Mills, among others -- back from dead to stand as exemplars about what thinking and culture can and should be.

  • Francois Dosse, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives.  I'm treading on dangerous ground here. Normally, I don't include books that I read for my work in political theory in these lists. But this one is special.  There is a lot of esoterica regarding French culture, politics, psychiatry, and philosophy in this thick, richly documented volume.   But it is also about an amazing collaboration between two thinkers that resulted in works that represented significant and creative departures in the writings of both men.  You may never care to read Anti-Oedipus or A Thousand Plateaus, but you glimpse how friendship and political turmoil fuel the creative process in this wonderful cultural history of late twentieth century France.

  • Judith Armatta, Twilight of Impunity: The War Crimes Trial of Slobodan Milosevic.  The creation of the International Criminal Court is a relatively recent event and a precarious tool for the punishment of those involved in crimes against humanity.  To prove itself capable of something more than symbolic gestures in the name of international justice, the ICC needed to prosecute Milosevic for war crimes and genocide. Armatta  is an able and knowledgeable chronicler of the politics and civil wars leading to the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, Milosevic's rise to power, and his demise in a cell in The Hague.

  • Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter, The Slave Next Door. There are more slaves today than there were in 1860. It is a problem so pervasive that it may be occurring in the neighborhoods of Potsdam, Canton, and the other communities of the North Country. Documenting slavery as it exists in the United States – the number one stop for sex traffickers in the world – is the mission of this book.  Bales and Soodalter work hard to distinguish debt slavery from plain bad working conditions, assess local and non-governmental attempts to eradicate slavery, and examine the success of federal and state legislation designed to criminalize contemporary forms of slavery.  Finally, they offer a useful guide for how to detect slavery and what citizens can do to thwart this affront to all that is good and humane.

  • Greil Marcus, Bob Dylan: Writing, 1968-2010.  I read every book Greil Marcus puts out.   I am especially interested in his essays on Bob Dylan, which includes two book length works published prior to this collection.  I am such a fan of Dylan that when I hear something from him that I don't like, I figure it is my fault and not his. Marcus is a much better critic of Dylan's work than I, but he is probably no less a fan.  This is a volume that should be on the shelf of any person who has at least one Dylan record in their collection, and has read volume one of Chronicles.

  • Selected Essays of John Berger.  Reading Berger is a result of my plunge into the works of Geoff Dyer last year. Dyer's first book was on Berger, which Dyer considers one of the dullest books ever written. He redeems himself with the edited collection he put together of Berger's essays. What Dyer achieves is nothing less than a comprehensive answer to the question: How much more does John Berger know than any other human being alive?  From art, to perception, to literature, Berger seems to have read everything, observed connections between even the most discordant of ideas and movements, and attained a high degree of mastery over it all.

  • Elaine Scarry, Rule of Law, Misrule of Man.  Scarry is known best for her brilliant study, The Body in Pain.  This is a book composed of essays she wrote for the Boston Review.  Should members of the Bush Administration be tried for violations of international law and the rules of engagement in the wake of the preemptive war in Iran, the passage of the Patriot Act,  and the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and GITMO.  This short book presents a compelling case that the war on Terror has become an excuse to nullify the rule of law, international and domestic.

  • Craig Seligman, Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me.  This small study of Susan Sontag and Pauline's Kael's respective approaches to culture won a National book Award a couple of years ago.  It is an immensely interesting examination of these two important thinkers and critics.  Where Sontag drew a strict division between serious art and "kitsch," Kael had a wide and interesting list of works, sacred and profane, that she loved.  There is no real reason for comparing these two critics. The tie that binds is Seligman himself.  Reading can be an act of self-construction, and Seligman shows this.

  • I read a number of defenses of the University in general and the Humanities in particular. Two of the better ones were Louis Menand's  Marketplace of Ideas, and Martha Nussbaum's  Not For Profit.  Why must works of art and literature, and education that emphasizes reading and critical thinking be threatened in the University of all places?  The character of what counts as knowledge and education has been transformed by market forces that have proven themselves   failures as self-regulating entities repeatedly.

John Ernst, Elk Lake and NYC, co-host Summer Reading Call-in Show

  • A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan. This won the 2010 Pulitzer Award for Fiction. Egan is also the author of The Keep, Look at Me and the Invisible Circus. In Egan's daring and sometimes exhilarating novel, time is "the goon squad." Egan's story flips and spins and back-dives over a forty-year span, following an assortment of rogues who come out of the world of rock 'n' roll but who veer off in many directions over the course of the novel. Their stories intersect at odd angles and illuminate each other with a crazy glow.

  • Just Kids, Patti Smith. Winner, National Book Award for Non-Fiction 2010. Even though Chris had this book as a top choice for the winter list, I can't resist chiming in for the benefit of anyone who hasn't yet read it. This is a book so beautiful and genuine it can make you cry. Patti Smith's story begins with her chance meeting of Robert Mapplethorpe when they were both penniless kids in Brooklyn looking for a way to express their impulses to make art. It traces their ultimate success, each in a unique way, and their friendship until Mapplethorpe's untimely death at the age of 43. Joan Didion writes: "This book is so honest and pure as to count as a true rapture." That is it. Patti Smith has burned out all the dross and ended up with a pure diamond. There is no excess here. There is also no jealousy or self pity or whining. There is just honesty and openness and sharp observation.

  • Room, Emma Donoghue. Also by Donoghue: Slammerkin and The Sealed Letter. This is a story narrated by an intelligent five-year-old boy about experiences most adults would have difficulty talking about, let alone living through. Once it catches you in its spell, it is hard to stop. And the atmosphere of the room stays with you long afterward.

  • Lord of Misrule, Jaimy Gordon. Winner, National Book Award for Fiction 2010. This is the story of the people who make their living working cheap claiming races at Indian Downs, in her words, "a pokeweed and poison ivy racecourse" near Wheeling, West Virginia. This is a novel that is funny, magical and terrifying by turn. The language is sharp, idiosyncratic and beautiful. It is a strong, rich brew—a book that gives you a taste of a world that is as distant as Oz. I recommend it without reservation.

  • The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara. Pulitzer Prize, 1974. The brilliance of this book is that it looks at the four days of Gettysburg, perhaps the pivotal battle of the Civil War, through the eyes of the men who were most directly involved. At the end of the book, through the heart-breaking portrait of George Pickett's doomed charge, you know the men involved on both sides and the complex ties between them, many coming from the same West Point class. To my mind an utterly compelling piece of fiction that nails the history of Gettysburg for all time.

  • The New Yorker Stories, Ann Beattie. This collection brings together stories written over four decades, from 1974-2006. In these stories the signposts of the times, such as the drug culture, are very evident and the stories bristle with references to Balducci's and Aristotle Onassis, hydroponic tomatoes and Shake "n" Bake chicken, Serpico and Cyndi Lauper. The flow of the collection is roughly like a life cycle, following the youth culture through early marriage, children, divorce, and later the grace period where people have an opportunity to examine their own lives. What is unique is Beattie's ability to weave a spell. A story starts out in one direction, adds odd characters and incidents, and ends up in a place you never expected but experience with a small shock of recognition—an "oh, of course…that's what it was about."

  • Selected Stories, William Trevor. This is a collection of 48 of Trevor's short stories. Trevor, the author of fourteen novels and many collections of stories, has won multiple prizes and nominations over the years. His work is not easy to describe. It is not flashy. It is not stylized. It seems to lack all artifice. It is as clear and crystalline as a mountain stream. And yet his characters, often people living lives of quiet resignation, are vivid, and the stories resonate after you put them down. Trevor's stories at their best give you a complete life in four or five pages. It's an amazing performance.

Sarah Harris, NCPR news/digital reporter

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
  • North River, Pete Hamill
  • Woodswoman, Anne LaBastille
  • The Adirondack Reader, Paul Jamieson, and Neal Burdick, editor
  • Nobody's Fool, Richard Rousseau
  • The Dirty Life, Kristin Kimball
  • Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
  • The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar
  • A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
  • An American Childhood, Annie Dillard
  • The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  • The Book of Love, Rumi
  • My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk
  • The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk
  • Other Colors, Orhan Pamuk

Poets--didn't mention them--but they are from VT and really wonderful:

  • No Man's Land, Paige Ackerson-Kiely
  • Crocus, Karin Gottshall

Jackie Sauter, NCPR program director

Here's what I'm looking forward to reading this summer:

  • 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, Kostya Kennedy. Remembering the summer of 1941 and why that record might be one of the greatest in the history of sport.
  • Bleeding Heart Square, Andrew Taylor. A noir thriller set in London in 1934.
    Shadows on the Rock, Willa Cather. Set in Quebec City in the late 1700s.

And re-reading:

  • Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak. If you've only seen the movie, you need to red the book…there's so much more. Get the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation.


  • The Inspector Gamache mysteries by Louise Penney, set in Montreal and the Quebec Eastern Townships. Wonderful settings, characters and plots.
  • The Lake of Dreams, Kim Edwards. From the author of the wonderful The Memory Keeper's Daughter, this new one is set in the Finger Lakes and will be irresistible to anyone who knows the lakes and western New York. There's a historical mystery, and a subplot that picks up threads of the suffragist movement of that part of the state.

Recommendations via web, email and phone

Many people recommended this one via our pre-show blog:

  • Upcountry: A Novel, R.M. Doyon. As one person put it: "A story of two sisters and two lives as they come back together after years of abuse, success, heartache and trauma. Set by and large in northern NYS.

Heike Saynisch, Madison, WI (former resident of Canton)

  • Hello to everybody in the North Country from Madison. I have been recovering at home from a bike/car collision (I was the bike) and have read 5 books so far. My favorite:
    The Sweetness of Tears, Nafisa Haji.

Laura Cordts

I was off work for a month this spring, recuperating from surgery. Here are two books that helped me pass the time.

  • The Lonely Polygamist, Brady Udall. Who knew I could empathize with a polygamist? Laugh out loud, cry a little—you won't want this book to end.
  • Room, Emma Donoghue. Thoroughly original, creepy, and impossible to put down.

Lynn Mattot, via email

I am reading through the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith.  The titles alone are intriguing and invite you to read about life in Botswana, formerly the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland and home to the Kalahari Desert.  Mme Ramotswe solves mysteries, ranging from a losing football club to a kidnapped child.  She is guided by her down-to-earth philosophy, e.g., "Of course Lily Sephotho was foolish, but were we not all foolish, in one way or another, and did we not all deserve a second, or even a third chance?"

They also provide a glimpse of life in modern Africa, while occasionally revealing its darker past.  They also illustrate the difference between city life and rural culture.   With my interest in mental health, I was surprised to learn Botswanans understand modern depression and even prescribe medication.  There are no witch doctors in the city, but still some in the countryside. 

These books are fun, easy to pick up and read a chapter or two, yet engrossing enough to keep on reading.  I recommend them for the long, hot summer.  Once started with Alexander McCall Smith, you can keep on going, as he has written several other sets, including the Isabel Dalhousie and the 44 Scotland Street series.  My favorites, however, are the mysteries of Mme Ramotswe and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. 

Here are the titles in order in this series:

  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
  • Tears of the Giraffe
  • Morality for Beautiful Girls
  • The Kalahari Typing School for Men
  • The Full Cupboard of Life
  • In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
  • Blue Shoes and Happiness
  • The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
  • The Miracle at Speedy Motors
  • Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
  • The Double Comfort Safari Club
  • The Saturday Big Tent Wedding

Anonymous, via email

  • Napoleon's Gold: A Legend of the Saint Lawrence River, Thomas Pullyblank. If you like this one, you'll also want to read Pullyblank's Cornflower's Ghost.

Chris Shaw, Middlebury College (and somewhere in the hidden Adirondack backwoods)

  • Greetings from camp. While I'm thinking of it I can't recommend highly enough Colin Thubron's To A Mountain in Tibet, about his circumnavigationing Mt. Kaiias in Tibet. It's his best book, spare, intense, sharply visual, fast paced, and a classic journey narrative. It moves seamlessly back and forth between objective observation, historical and cultural exposition, and subjective feeling, and surrounds factors in the writer's life that give it special meaning--without those factors impinging on the story at all. I think it's a book that will last and should be read by all trekkers, walkers, and others who feel like there is meaning in the naked given world and in specific places.

Jeanne, somewhere in the 1000 Islands

  • The Lost Cyclist, David Herlihy
  • Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
  • Slinging Doughnuts for the Boys, James H. Madison

Fred Goss, via the ether

  • That Old Cape Magic, Richard Russo. A relative lightweight compared to Empire Falls and several others of his, but a veteran writer in good form…fine summer read.
  • Colonel Roosevelt, Edmund Morris. A superb book, a biography that is a page-turner, the man can really write. (If you see him on TV talk shows, try to ignore his obviously enormous ego.) His word picture of TR's funeral with ex-President Taft crying at the graveside had me in tears as well. But, if you've read the first two in the series, you already know you must read this one and, if not, begin with The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Washington, Ron Chernow. Deserving of the awards it has won but, honestly, a bit of an 800-page slog. I think I liked his previous Alexander Hamilton better…perhaps Hamilton's life had more drama.
  • The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter, Ian O' Connor. If, like me, you have champagne on ice waiting for hit #3000, you'll enjoy this…if not, to paraphrase James Thurber, this book may tell you more about Derek, his life and career, than you wanted to know.
  • George Vecsey of the NY Times has written a new biography of my boyhood hero, Stan Musial (Stan Musial: An American Life) that got a nice review in Sports Illustrated. This will be my fifth biography of Stan (one dates back to the mid-fifties when Stan was mid-career). Stan was a great ballplayer and was and is, by all accounts, a very nice person (married to the same girl for over 70 years now), but his life hasn't been that "interesting"—never feuded with writers, spit at fans, married a movie idol, etc.

Chris Bigelow, Chazy Lake

  • The Glass Room, Simon Mauer. A novel about what happens over the years from 1920-1990 in a house with a beautiful glass room. It is based on an actual house designed by a famous architect…in Czechoslovakia.
  • Lucy, Ellen Feldman. This is a novel about FDR's affair with Lucy Mercer. According to the book cover, it is "based on recently discovered materials."
  • Bitter in the Mouth, Monique Truong. Only read this if you have time to read carefully and are not bothered by the intrusion of the "taste words" that the narrator uses to tell her story. The line of truth in this novel is, "We all need a story of where we came from and how we got here. Otherwise, how could we ever put down our tender roots and stay."
  • Heidegger's Glasses, Thaisa Frank. Historical fiction about Jews who saved themselves by being able to translate and write in different languages. Frank illuminates the Nazi interest in the occult to create an almost mystical society of scribes.

Jim Tracy, Old Forge

  • Life, Keith Richards. This surprising book is much more than the usual celebrity b—t. It's not self serving, it's pure. Keef satisfies our prurient curiosity by delivering plenty of amusing anecdotes, but he also gives us a peek at the creative process behind The Stones' earth shattering music! And…Life answers the burning question, "Did Keef have his blood changed?"

Ginger Dunlap-Dietz, via the ether

  • The Hare with the Amber Eyes, Edwin De Waal. British ceramist Edwin de Waal writes engagingly about his family's historical connection to a collection of netsuke from the late 19th century acquisition through Japonism in France, Impressionism, the Second World War, the Jewish diasporo, to Tokyo and finally to England. I am captivated by the history of the Ephrussi family.

June McKenney, via phone

  • Through These Doors: The Story of a Small Business in the Adirondacks

Sue, Vermontville

  • Corpse in Armor, Martin McPhillips

Barb, Morristown

  • The Help, Kathryn Stockett
  • Of Time and An Island, John Keats

Andrea Bellinger, Ogdensburg

We're doing cookbooks:

  • Man With a Pan, John Donohue
  • The Improvisational Cook, Sally Schneider

Brent, Canton

  • Tinkers, Paul Harding

Linda Cohen, Old Forge

In the Adirondack category:

  • Adirondack Nature Notes: An Adirondack Almanac Sequel, Tom Kalinowski
  • Brandreth (author unclear, and probably out of print)


  • The Hare with the Amber Eyes, Edwin de Waal

Marjorie, Cadyville

  • Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver
  • Bossypants, Tina Fey
  • Poems: Old and New, May Swenson

Betsy Folwell, Blue Mountain Lake

  • Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby
  • Night After Night, Diane Starr Cooper

John, Colchcester

  • Disappearances: A Novel, Howard Mosher
  • Walking to Gatlinburg: A Novel, Howard Mosher

Leslie Ann, Cranberry Lake

  • The Bastard of Istanbul, Elif Shafak
  • Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak

Brandon, Watertown

  • Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
  • The Pale King, David Foster Wallace
  • The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, David G. McCullough

Jane, North Creek

  • My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: Volume One, 1915-1933, Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Georgia's Bones, Jen Bryant and Bethanne Anderson

Ann, Burlington

  • This Life is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone, Melissa Coleman
  • My Life and Hard Times, James Thurber…or anything else by Thurber or Calvin Trillin
  • The Last Mall Rat, Erik E. Esckilsen

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: You can always contact me at:

Ellen Rocco, North Country Public Radio, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617.