NCPR Winter Reading List 2003
I've been in a reading slump. Do you go through ups and downs with
your reading? I think I know why I've slumped: holidays, visitors,
friendly disruptions, frozen pipes. Consistent reading is a habit
that requires a steady rhythm in my life. When that rhythm is uneven,
so is my reading. Ditto for my amateurish attempts at writing. But
I'm back now. Thanks to you! So many incredible titles herefrom
the challenging to purely escapist. And, I've sprinkled this list
with quotes taken from The Writer's Mentor: A Guide to Putting
Passion on Paper, by Cathleen Rountree, hoping these inspire
the aspiring writer in you.
Special thanks to Chris Robinson, of Clarkson University's Liberal
Studies Department, for co-hosting this year's reading list call-in
If you're in a book groupor need some guidance for your own
readingyou may want to track down A Year of Reading: A
Month-by-Month Guide to Classics and Crowd-Pleasers for You or Your
Book Group, Elisabeth Ellington and Jane Freimiller. You may
have heard our conversation with Jane during the reading list call
in. Some very interesting title suggestions, plus conversation-starting
questions and ideas.
Stoke the fire and settle in. These are days for reading.
Ellen Rocco email@example.com
North Country Public Radio, Canton, NY 13617
Poetry is the human soul entire, squeezed like a
lemon or a lime, drop by drop, into atomic words.
Ellen Rocco, NCPR station manager
I traveled to the Four Corners region of the Southwest last fall.
I am still enraptured by that landscape. By the life I imagine is
lived there. These writers help sustain the rapture. And, like Southern
voices, have helped create a regional literature that is universal
in its appeal.
The Meadow and Fencing the Sky, James Galvin. Galvin captures
the feel, the ambiance of the western landscape in a way that echoes
my own experience of that geography.
Blood Meridian, or, The Evening Redness in the West and The
Border Trilogy: All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the
Plain, Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy is a hands down favorite of
mine. Even his strangest books are compelling and remarkably written.
Blood Meridian is very strong stuff.
Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Annie Proulx. Not everyone
loves Proulx's work as I do. I think she's brilliant. So are these
Fools Crow, James Welch.
A Good Day to Die (recent novel) and Shape of the Journey
(poetry), Jim Harrison. Here's another writer I think is extraordinary.
I've been reading Harrison for years. If you like these, there's
plenty more from Harrison.
And, for a re-read (or first read if you weren't alive back in the
'60s or missed it when it was first published):
Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey.
You do not need to leave your room. Remain
sitting at your table and listen. Do not even
listen, simply wait, be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be
unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in
ecstasy at your feet.
-- Franz Kafka (on writing)
Chris Robinson, Clarkson University/co-host of reading call-in
Every year I choose an author and try to read as much of their work
as possible. Two years ago I read Nabokov and this year it is Steinbeck.
I mention these because I used volumes from the Library of America.
Years ago, the famous literary critic, Edmund Wilson argued strenuously
for a collection of the great works composing the American literary
tradition. I think his dream came true with the Library of America
project. This is an ongoing project, but already the Library
of America has an extensive catalogue. The volumes are beautiful-heirloom
quality-and relatively inexpensive. The ones we own will certainly
be passed on to our children and grandchildren. I tend to read in
three categories: literary works, political and historical studies,
and philosophy. I'll give some titles from each of these categories:
1. Political and Historical Works
Community Action and Organizational Change, Brent Faber.
Written by my
friend and colleague, this is a fine study with sections that examine
the relation between universities and their surrounding communities-real
eye openers. Here's an academic who can write for a wide audience.
The Trials of Lenny Bruce, Ron Collins and David Skover.
A People's History of the Supreme Court, Peter Irons.
Books that will help think through the issue of the impending war
Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War,
War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedge. A National
Book Circle Critics Award nominee.
Step Across This Line, Salmon Rushdie. A recent volume of
non-fiction that includes several essays analyzing the gorwing anti-Americanism
movement throughout the world.
On other topics:
The Velvet Coup and The Frozen Republic, Daniel Lazare.
These two books by the journalist and political analyst Daniel Lazare,
I would recommend to anyone interested in Consitutional history
and current political events. Lazare offers interesting arguments
regarding the fallout of the Supreme Court decision in Bush v.
Gore and the political and social consequences of our reverence
for The Constitution.
Mad in America, Robert Whitaker. A stunning historical and
contemporary account of the treatment of schizophrenia and other
severe forms of mental illness.
Benjamin Franklin, Edmund Morgan. A short but eloquent biography.
And this one recommended by my colleague, Joe Duemer:
Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and The Pentagon Papers, Daniel
2. Literary Works
I teach courses called Great Ideas in Western Culture and so every
year I get to read some of the greatest works ever written. What
could compare favorably to The Iliad and The Odyssey?
Here are a few titles that I really enjoyed.
Metamorphoses, May Zimmerman. This play was first produced
off-Broadway in the fall of 2001 and it resonated with audiences
who entered the theatre in the wake of 9/11.
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold. A novel narrated by a 14
year old girl who is raped and murdered and then tells about the
effect of her death on her family.
We've been reading a lot of campus novels of late. My wife has read
all of David Lodge's novels and I've read most. These are real fun
The Lecturer's Tale, James Hynes. A truly twisted story set
in an English Department of a major Midwest University.
Publish and Perish, James Hynes. Three very funny novellas
sewn together with interconnecting characters.
The God of Small Things, Arunhati Roy. The Booker Prize-winning
novel is a great story set against the fascinating backdrop of the
Kerala region or Spice Coast of India.
Here are a few recommendations from friends and colleagues:
Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott. Laura Ettinger recommends
this and other works by Lamott.
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Annegret
Staiger thinks this is the best book she has ever read.
Colors of the Mountain, Da Chen. Luz Castillo (who is also
a Marquez fan) recommends this coming of age story about a boy born
in rural China in 1962, the year of the Great Starvation. She also
loved Isabel Allende's Afroditaone of those great books that
relates stories and paints scenes through the cooking and consuming
of great food.
This is always a tricky category. Every year there are some interesting
works of philosophy that are written for and deserve a popular audience.
This year's group include:
Being Good, Simon Blackburn. A look at the ethical life.
Uncle Tungsten, Oliver Sacks. A memoir.
The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey Through Twentieth-Century
Philosophy, Colin McGinn. Another memoir.
Who Am I?, Yi-Fu Tuan. Another memoir I liked immensely.
Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy, Chris
Phillips. This book is why I keep philosophy titles in my North
Country reading list. Phillips sets up these Socrates Cafes throughout
the country. People arrive, they ask general but profound questions-What
is a friend? What is home? Can we be too curious?and then
in the course of conversation offer equally profound answers. Philosophy's
reputation for abstraction is a bit overdone. Particularly when
we are experiencing personal crises or when we are in mourning,
the questions that animate philosophy affect us deeply and personally.
Grave Matters, Mark Taylor. A beautiful work on death and
cemeteries by a truly interesting thinker and writer.
I know that I talk about my pens and notebooks
the way the master of the seraglio talked about
his love slaves. --Mary Gordon
Rick Hunter, Malone/occasional NCPR call-in co-host
(Rick is a voracious reader and publishes an informal newsletter
from time to time with his suggested titles. Contact me at the station
if you'd like to be in touch with Rick to get on his newsletter
mailing list. For purposes of this list, I have included all of
Rick's suggestions from the December newsletterwithout the
in-depth reviewssimple matter of needing to keep our list
a reasonable length. -ER)
Family Matters, rohinton Mistry. The most recent novel from
Rick's favorite fiction writer.
All We Know of Heaven, Remy Rougeau. Himself a monk, the
author lovingly tells of a young Cistercian monk's search for himself
and God in a Manitoba abbey.
The Royal Physician's Visit, Per Olov Enquist. An historical
novel translated from the Swedish.
A Certain Slant of Light, Cynthia Thayer. A fine novel.
River Angel, A. Mannette Ansay. This novel explores a possible
religious miracle from several varied perspectives.
Saints and Villains, Denise Giardina. A compelling historical
fiction about theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, killed
by the Nazis in the waning days of WW II.
Mollie Peer: Or the Underground Adventure of the Moosepath League,
Van Reid. The middle volume of a charming trilogy set in turn-of-the-century
South of the Big Four, Don Kurtz. This novel makes compelling
the struggles of a contemporary Indiana farmer on marginal lands.
War of the Rats, David L. Robbins. A good, mass-market story
of WW II.
True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Carey. Book Prize-winning
historical novel of Ned Kelly and the Irish experience in Australia.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith. An American classic
about several generations of poor Irish in Brooklyn.
Straight Man, Richard Russo. A comic novel published prior
to the author's Pulitzer-winning, Empire Falls.
Crow Lake, Mary Lawson. A beautiful first novel about how
four children make their way after the sudden death of their parents.
Brighten the Corner Where You Are, Fred Chappell. A charming
story that tells of one day in the life of a mountain schoolteacher.
Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Stephen Leacock. This
1931 collection of character sketches or short stories is set in
Ontario-Mark Twain north of the border.
Life of Pi, Yann Martel.
Open Season, C.J. Box. A mystery that has literary depth
Letters for Emily, Camron Wright.
The Right Man for the Job, Mike Magnuson. A writer to be
Main Street, Sinclair Lewis.
Empire Falls, Richard Russo. A Pulitzer-winner, set in a
dying, New York mill town.
Lying Awake, Mark Salzman. A brief, poignant novel that both
charms and disturbs.
The Rock: A Tale of Seventh-Century Jerusalem, Kanan Makiya.
A fascinating narrative of faiths in conflict.
Jersualem: One City, Three Faiths, Karen Armstrong.
Ice Time: A Tale of Fathers, Sons, and Hometown Heroes, Jay
Atkinson. A coming of age meditation set in the world of youth hockey.
The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World, Michael
Pollan. The author asks how some common plants have evolved to serve
humankind-and how, in turn, these plants have "been going about
the business of remaking us."
Moonlight: Abraham Lincoln and the Almanac Trial, John Evangelist
Walsh. Lincoln's use of an almanac in a 1858 murder trial defense.
The Great Arc: The Dramatic Tale of How India Was Mapped and
Everest Was Named, John Keay. The story of the Great Trigonometrical
Survey and its two leaders.
An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between
Us, James Carroll.
Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little
Big Horn, Larry Colton. The author follows the remarkable story
of the Lady Bulldogs on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana.
Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture,
The Northern Lights: The True Story of the Man Who Unlocked the
Secrets of the Aurora Borealis, Lucy Jago.
Rutherford B. Hayes, Hans L. Trefousse. A short, insightful
James Madison, Gary Wills. Another short study that packs
much into a few pages.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Tom Wicker. The author's life overlapped
with the subject's.
Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone
Walls, Robert M. Thorson. The rise and fall of 240,000-plus
miles of stone walls.
Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky. The author has a gift
for looking at world history through unexpected lenses.
Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation,
The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus
and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels, Timothy Johnson.
Francis of Assisi: A Revolutionary Life, Adrian House.
The Measure of Our Days: A Spiritual Exploration of Illness,
Sacred Geography: A Tale of Murder and Archeology in the Holy
Land, Edward Fox.
The Bible As It Was, James L. Kugel. An examination of the
Torah and its impact on Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution
It Inspired, Benson Bobrick.
Finally, this brief list from Bea Hunter-Rick's nine-year old daughter-who
is a voracious reader in her own right and suggests these titles
with the approval of her siblings Nate and Laura:
Swallows and Amazons series, Arthur Ransom. Stories of boys
and girls from England's Lake District.
All of a Kind Family series, Sydney Taylor. Stories of a
Jewish family growing up in Manhattan in the first part of the 20th
American Girls series, various authors. Stories of girls
growing up in America's history.
Bailey School Kids series, Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton
Jones. Funny mysteries with silly characters and clever plots.
Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne. Two time travelers
adventures in the past and future.
Imagination is a divine gift.
-- Madeleine L'Engle
Jackie Sauter, NCPR program director
Bel Canto, Ann Patchett. I walked by this one on the bookstore
shelves for months
finally bought it, and am so glad I did.
I cried when I finished it because the unusual story about the transformative
power of love and music in the face of violence was so moving and
because I didn't want it to end. Gorgeous, luminous writing. This
book will have special appeal for anyone who loves classical music,
but everyone should read it.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith. About a young girl's
coming of age in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. If you read it years
ago, read it again. A classic.
John Adams, David McCullough. This is not your father's dry
and boring nonfiction. This critically acclaimed book won the Pultizer
Prize, and McCullough is a fabulous writer who really makes Adams
and the American Revolution come to life.
Best Food Writing 2002, edited by Holly Hughes. A wintertime
must for all foodies. Reading about food is almost as much fun as
a Sunday afternoon of baking and cooking in a cozy kitchen! Great
writer, including Betty Fussell, Calvin Trillin, Fred Chappell,
and lots more, and an essay about food chemistry from NPR's Danny
Zwerdling. Even a few good recipes.
Riding the Bus with My Sister, Rachel Simon. A beautifully
written memoir about the bonds between two very different sisters,
one of whom is mentally retarded, but has much to teach about living
in the moment, and slowing down and enjoying the ride.
Nathalie Costa, Adirondack Center for Writing executive director
Midwives, Chris Bohjalian. I very much liked this but not
the best read while you're pregnant (as I am).
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon.
Images from this book keep coming back to me
a year after reading
Servants of the Map, Andrea Barrett. Her latest collection
is just as incredible as her other work. She has got to be my favorite
contemporary author. Worthy of mention: the novella, The Cure,
included in this collection, is set in Saranac Lake.
Burning Margurite, Liz Innes-Brown.
A Star Called Henry, Roddy Doyle.
Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood.
Books to look out for in the coming year: Sue Halpern has a new
book forthcoming, as does Joe Connelly (Crumbtown) and don't forget
about the new edition of Adirondack Reader.
Read, read, read. Read everything-trash, classics,
good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a
carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies
master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write.
-- William Faulkner
Betsy Folwell, Adirondack Life editor
Empire Falls, Richard Russo. My pick for the winter. Russo
grew up in the Mohawk Valley and he has the northern mindset and
Pearl Harbor Ghosts and Searching for Crusoe, Thurston
Clarke. A writer based in this region but better known elsewhere.
Rae Louise Tate, on behalf of Clifton Community Library's Book
Here is a list the Club members compiled. Some are books we have
discussed and some are just on our reading lists. The first title
is the one that has generated the most discussion.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara
The Rose Grower, Michelle de Kretzer.
Nine Shades of Desire, Geraldine Brook.
Quentins, Maeve Binchy.
Sea Glass, Anita Shreve.
Enemy Women, Paulette Jiles.
Justice Hall, Laurie R. King.
It is as if the novel was already written, floating
in the air, on a network of electrons. I could hear
it talking to itself. I sensed that if I would but listen,
it would come through, all ready.
-- A.S. Byatt
Karen Nadder Lago, on behalf of Watertown's Flower Library Book
The book club has been very successful. Last year we had on average
14-20 people show up at our monthly Monday night discussion. This
year we are averaging about 20-25, with a spin off group meeting
separately at a local retirement home. While I chose last year's
titles, this year's list was selected by the group. We are currently
reading Life of Pi, which I would recommend, but also strongly
recommend So Vast the Prison and In the Skin of a Lion,
if not my favorite book, one of the top 5. I am looking forward
to reading it again with the group. What poetry
and it is right
on the mark politically as well.
John Adams, David McCullough.
Almost a Woman, Esmeralda Santiago.
Red Scarf Girl, Ji-Li Jiang.
Life of Pi, Yann Martel.
So Vast the Prison, Assia Djebar (Feb 10).
In the Skin of a Lion, Michael Ondaatje (Mar 10).
Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver (Apr 14).
God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy (May 19).
Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rusdie.
Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel.
The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston.
The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, Jose Saramago.
The Names of Things, Susan Brind Morrow.
In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez.
Bridge on the Drina, Ivo Andric.
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe.
Anne Mamary, Clarkson University, Potsdam
The Brother Cadfael Mysteries, Ellis Peters.
Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet, Edith Pargeter. Historical fiction
set in medieval Wales. And, by the same author, Heaven Tree Trilogy.
The Mask of Apollo, Mary Renault. Historical fiction about
White Teeth: A Novel, Zadie Smith.
Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce,
Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver.
Kindred, Octavia Butler.
Mauve Desert, Nicole Brossard. French-Canadian feminist-experimental
language-beautiful and inscrutable.
Mind of the Raven, Bernd Heinrich. On ravens and crows, by
a biologist. Funny and fascinating.
Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling.
Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy,
The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created
a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain, Maria Rosa
Menocal, Harold Bloom.
Garden in the Dunes, Leslie Marmon Silko.
Ahab's Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund.
The Price of the Ticket: Collected Non-fiction, 1948-1985,
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard.
Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her and A Chorus of Stones:
The Private Life of War, Susan Griffin.
An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales, Oliver
I would never encourage anyone to be a writer.
It's too hard. -- Eudora Welty
Rick Welsh, Clarkson University, Potsdam
Fast Food Nation, Erich Schlosser. You'll never look at a
fast food cheeseburger the same way.
How to Cook a Tart, Nina Killham. Witty send-up of foodies
and the body image conscious.
Slaves in the Family, Edward Ball.
Girl With a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier.
Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen.
Kenyon Wells, Sackets Harbor
Today (January 16), according to The Writer's Almanac, is
the birthday of the poet, Robert W. Service. While Garrison Keillor
made much of The Shooting of Dan McGrew, it's Service's The
Cremation of Sam McGee that I want to suggest for the Winter
Reading List. Never do I go out for a run on one of these cold winter
mornings when I'm not reminded of a line from this poem,
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it
stabbed like a driven nail.
My Aunt Barbara ("Peace be to her ashes" as my father
used to say) could recite this poem and she also knew by heart,
Longfellow's The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and Mr. Thayer's,
Casey at the Bat. I'm sure contemporary educational practice
does not include the memorization of poems like these. Pity!
Ace in the Hole, Annie Proulx. Proulx fans will have certainly
discovered her latest novel. For those of you that may have been
put off by what might be considered the starkness of her earlier
books, it's time to give Ms. Proulx another try. This novel gives
the reader the author's deft impressions of the geography of the
area about which she writes and the unique characterizations of
the folks that inhabit these areas, and combines these unexpected
traits of Proulx's fiction with a more overt humor, and obvious
lightness of narration than she usually employs.
The Hours, Michael Cunningham. This, of course, is "soon
to be a major motion picture near you." I'm about halfway through
this delightful story of three women, one of whom is Virginia Woolf,
of different generations yet connected in a puzzling but, to this
reader, satisfying way by the paths of their lives and Woolf's novel,
Mrs. Dalloway. I suppose, for those not familiar with the
earlier book, reading Mrs. Dalloway before one begins The
Hours might prove useful but not altogether necessary.
The loss of childhood is the beginning of poetry.
-- Andrei Tarkovski
The best gift a writer can have is a horrible childhood.
-- Pat Conroy
Bill King, Tupper Lake
These books are available from the American Opinion Book Store (www.aobs-store.com).
This conservative material so I would be somewhat surprised if you
mentioned any of them on your book show. These books-and many more-are
not at the usual places because of liberal ideology that has enveloped
our nation. You have a chance to prove to me that NCPR is not as
liberal as I now believe.
Phillip Dru, Administrator, Edward House. (Out of print,
The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foregin Relations and the
American Decline, James Perloff. (This book received high customer
ratings on the Amazon site. -ER)
The Creature From Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal
Reserve, G. Edward Griffin. (This one was also well-received
by Amazon readers. -ER)
Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, Carroll
None Dare Call It Education: What's Happening to Our Schools
and Our Children, John Stormer.
Global Gun Grab, William Norman Grigg.
United Nations Exposed, William Jasper, Tom Gow and Warren
The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton et al.
20th Century Heroes (unable to identify author-ER).
The Insiders (unable to identify author-ER).
Sue Grimm, Cold Brook
Small Wonder: Essays, Barbara Kingsolver. Even ridiculously
busy people with no time to read can manage one of these brief jewels
each day-I'm living proof!
The Clam Lake Papers, Edward Lueders. My Mom, Jean Grimm,
just read this one. A man returns to his cabin in the Wisconsin
woods to find the diary of a drifter who spent the winter there.
He reads the man's impressions of both physical and emotional winter
and receives a fascinating look at both his retreat, and another
Kim Bouchard, Potsdam
The Coffee Book, Anatomy of an Industry: From Crop to the Last
Drop, Gregory Dicum and Nina Luttinger. A very readable and
fascinating summary of coffee consumption from its origins in Ethiopia
in the 6th century to the current obsession with "specialty
coffees" a la Starbucks, etc. The research is thorough with
an extensive bibliography of sources including people from the industry
to activists. Given the ubiquitous nature of coffee consumption
in our culture it will serve us well to inform ourselves about where
and how and who is involved in our morning cup of java. I realized
that even though I consider myself an educated person, Iknew very
little about this staple in our lives, second only to oil as the
most traded international commodity. It reminded me of when children
in urban environments say that milk comes from cartons in the grocery
store and make no connection to cows. I promise readers will be
entertained, shocked and enlightened at various points in the book.
The format lets you pick it up and do sections at a time which makes
for great bedtime reading. I recommend it highly. From The New Press,
New York, NY, listeners can obtain it locally at the Potsdam Food
Coop. The New Press also publishes:
The Cigarette Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Seed to Smoke;
The Record Book: Anatomy of the Music Industry; and, The
Sneaker Book: Anatomy of an Industry and an Icon.
The role of the writer is not to say what we
can all say, but what we are unable to say.
-- Anais Nin
Christine Mace, Canton
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte.
Cannery Row and Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck.
White Oleander, Janet Fitch.
Skipping Christmas, John Grisham.
The Red Tent, Anita Diamant.
The Switch, Sandra Brown.
Christmas Sonata, Gary Paulsen.
Odd Girl Out, Rachel Simmons.
Children of Christmas: Stories for the Season, including
The Silver Package, For Being Good and The Christmas
Tree Man, Cynthia Rylant.
I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust,
Stone Flower Garden, Deborah Smith.
The Christmas Train, David Baldacci.
Susan Butcher and the Iditarod Trail, Ellen Dolan.
Black Star Bright Dawn, Scott O'Dell.
My Father, My Son, Elmo, Jr. Zumalt et al.
Shelters of Stone, Jean Auel.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff with Your Family, Richard Carlson.
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris.
Rick Davis, Richmond, VT
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall
Smith. Three books, soon to be four, about a female detective in
Botswana. These are marginal mysteries but wonderful for their portrayal
of life in southern Africa. Funny, touching, and consistently intelligent,
they can't be recommended too highly. I enjoyed all three, but Tears
of the Giraffe, the second in the series, is my favorite.
Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn. This cautionary tale is charming
in its structure (epistolary) and concept (satirical). Ella lives
on an island off the Carolina coast where Nevin Nollop, the author
of "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," has
been deified. When letters from Nollop's sentence fall off his statue,
the elders of the island decide that Nollop wants us to stop using
those letters. Since the book is written as a series of letters-ah,
epistles, those letters-ah, characters-are no longer used in the
book. By the time only LMNOP remain, the text is getting pretty
curious and only the title character can spell her name
quite funny but serious in its satirical content. Imagine Flatland
written by George Orwell and you have some idea.
Pamela Falk, through the web
Small Wonder: Essays, Barbara Kingsolver. One of my favorite
books. I also the essays in
How to Be Alone, Jonathan Franzen.
Gloria Daly, through the web
A few suggestions by Canadian writers:
The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.; Tales
of Passion, Tales of Woe; and, The Last Great Dance on Earth,
Sandra Gulland. The author, who lives just west of Ottawa, spent
years researching the life of Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon's wife.
These three books cover that life from childhood through her turbulent
years as Empress.
Eunoia, Christian Bok. Avant-garde literature. Eunoia, which
means "beautiful thinking," is the shortest English word
to contain all five vowels. This book is divided into chapters for
each vowel. A unique personality for each vowel soon emerges: A
is courtly, E is elegiac, I is lyrical, etc.
When you write, you lay out a line of words.
The line of words is a miner's pick, a woodcarver's
gouge, a surgeon's probe. You wield it, and it digs a
path you follow
You make the path boldly and follow
it fearfully. You go where the path leads.
-- Annie Dillard
Charles Shene, through the web
Skipping Towards Gomorrah-The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit
of Happiness in America, Dan Savage. I actually had a hard time
finding this book. Savage lambastes the hypocrisy of popular media
types like Bill Bennett, Robert Bork, Pat Buchanan, Dr. Laura and
Bill O'Reilly. Since reading this book I have come to believe that
I am more of a civil libertarian, because I concur with the author's
views. If you are a member of the "moral majority" or
if you think that everyone else's business is your's too, than you
probably won't like this book. Otherwise, you will find this book
insightful and funny. When I am done reading it I plan on donating
it to the library so others can enjoy it too.
Ellen Butz, Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts, Blue Mountain
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood,
Alexandra Fuller. I've read a lot of books in the past year, but
I think this was the best
about a young girl growing up in
Star Livingstone, Forestport
Small Wonder: Essays, Barbara Kingsolver. A book of far ranging
essays addressing the attack on 9/11 and subsequent events. I am
always impressed and delighted by Kingsolver's ability to paint
lively, colorful and memorable word pictures. Her writing consistently
manages to release the sweet aroma of hope while facing, without
compromise, the hard questions. This collection is a most worthwhile
read and food for plenty of careful thought that may even lead to
some conscious action.
The Art of the Common Place: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry,
edited by Norman Wirzba. Another recommended book of essays is by
one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry. I find so much to ponder
and digest in this book that I am working my way through it in small
bites. It is well worth the effort.
Cindy Randi, Potsdam
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, Geraldine Brooks.
Polly Ohman, Lake Clear
Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand. One of our favorites this
Don Purcell, Potsdam
The Prime Minister, Anthony Trollope. I agree with the author
of the preface that this book is not as much of a success as was
Barchester Towers, but it has been of great interest because
of its failures-love affairs unbelievable to the point of near-absurdity,
some long, non-novelistic paragraphs, even pages, of generalization
about politics and political people. Yet you can see what he wants
to say and, especially as to the sub-species of politicians, jammed
with quotable, thoughtful remarks. Actually, Barchester Towers,
about a bunch of clergymen, is a sequel political novel.
We enjoyed a lot of re-reading:
Emma, Jane Austen.
Burmese Days, George Orwell.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte.
Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, Ted Conover.
And, Colette recommends:
The Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Susan Vreeland. Grips one on several
levels, all along, with surprises until the end.
Charlotte Miller, Clayton
July, July, Tim O'Brien. I highly recommend this one. The
story revolves around a 1969 college class reunion of now 50-somethings
is rich, rich, rich in characterization and imagery, involving and
I am a HUGE Tim O'Brien fan after hearing
him read at SLU a few years ago
Those who were coming of age
during the sixties will find a lot to relate to here.
Sonia Barros, through the web
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically
Correct Nutrition and Diet Autocrats, Sally Fallon. The cookbook
is almost secondary, although a necessary and wonderful support
for carrying into practice what the author so brilliantly conveys
as nutritional facts throughout the book. It's a fun read, exposing
us to the evils of today's average American diet, and to why that
diet leads ut to illness, and to the foods to favour for improved
health. Here is a link to the Weston Price Foundation website, with
articles about Sally Fallon and information on ordering the book:
Meredith Prime, Lake Placid
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry. A favorite this year. Compelling
story of life in India-beautifully written.
Rich Loeber, Saranac Lake
I have been hearing about the reading list and wanted to toss in
my 2 cents. I too have been returning to favorite authors and am
currently on a quest to read every book by C.S. Forrester, especially
those that do not have the word "Hornblower" in the title.
This quest has led me to some wonderful books, especially The
African Queen (don't expect the same ending as the movie) and
The Captain from Connecticut (or more properly titled "What
Hornblower Would Have Been Like If He Had Been An American").
I have also read his Barbary Pirates, a non-fiction about
the American struggle with the Barbary coast, and The Good Shepherd,
a story from WW II about a trans-Atlantic convoy leader. Some of
these have been more difficult to track down, but they are available.
Other recent titles include:
The Glorious Cause: A Novel of the American Revolution, Jeff
Shaara. The author's latest book on the American Revolution. Shaara
has a good way of making history current and I also recommend this
book's predecessor on the Revolution, Rise to Rebellion.
Benjamin Franklin, Edmund S. Morgan.
Edward Matthews, South Burlington
Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbull. Historical fiction.
Wooden Boats, Michael Ruhlman. Non-fiction.
The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins. An early detective fiction.
Unexpected Light, Jason Elliot. Non-fiction. The travels
of a young man in Afghanistan.
Linda Potter, Canton
The Life of Pi, Yann Martel. Great, great, great book!
The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd.
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold.
Georgia Underwater, Heather Sellers. Sellers is the writer-in-residence
at St. Lawrence University and is featured in the SLU Writers Series
Rosalie and Bruce Smith, Massena
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger.
Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, Harriet Scott Chessman.
The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd.
Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks.
The above are some of the books Rosalie read recently. Bruce has
been re-reading Steinbeck and particularly enjoyed Tortilla Flat.
Estelle Guardino, Watertown
I'd like to share our Avid Readers' book list (Jefferson County
AAUW) for this year (at least so far):
Face of a Stranger, Anne Perry. Victorian mystery introducing
William Monk as the co-protagonist. This is the first in a series
and they get better and better.
Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner. Not a new book. Based on
a true story, set in America in the late 1800s, early 1900s.
Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel. An historical memoir of Galileo
as seen through the actual letters of his daugther, a nun in a cloistered
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry. Set in 1975, a good story
of the unlikely relationships within the caste system.
Tathea, Anne Perry. A fantasy-like book, very unlike her
usual genrea religious allegory, in a way.
Our next three selections are:
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Nancy
The Bonesetter's Daughter, Amy Tan.
Founding Brothers, Joseph Ellis.
Some other books I have especially enjoyed this past year:
Ahab's Wife, Sara Jeter Nasland.
The Buffalo Soldier, Chris Bohjalian.
Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie.
The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd.
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger.
I am also looking forward to:
Zoya's Story: An Afghan Woman's Struggle for Freedom, Zoya
with John Follain and Rita Cristofari.
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold.
Called in during our reading list call-in program:
The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories, Sarah
Station X, Michael Smith.
There's Nothing Like It in the World, Stephen Ambrose.
American Odyssey, John McCain.
Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez.
On the Road, Jack Kerouac.
Brian, Lake Placid
Continental Drift, Russell Banks.
Hemingway's Chair, Michael Pellon.
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy.
A Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin.
Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, Frances Mayes.
A mystery fan. Recommends mystery-readers listserv:
Put a Lid on It, Donald Westlake.
In defense of poetry
New & Selected Poems, Mary Oliver. Pulitzer-winner.
The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1874-1994,
New & Selected Poems, Robinson Jeffers.
A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album,
Ashley Kahn and Elvin Jones.
A big fan of literature from the American West. Recommends authors
Larry Watson, Terry Tempest Williams, Jake Page, plus these titles:
Ace in the Hole, Annie Proulx.
Balsamroot: A Memoir, Mary Clearman Blew.
In the beginning was the Word
and the word was God.
-- JOHN 1:1
The National Book Critics Circle Awards finalists:
Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
Alexander Hemon, Nowhere Man
William Kennedy, Roscoe
Ian McEwan, Atonement
Edith Templeton, The Darts of Cupid and Other Stories
Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
William Langewiesche, American Ground: Unbuilding the World
Samantha Power, "A Problem from Hell": America and
Richard Rodriguez, Brown: The Last Discovery of America
Gaby Wood, Edison's Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for
Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, Vol. II
Robert A. Caro, Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon
Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man
Edmund S. Morgan, Benjamin Franklin
Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg, Will You Miss Me When
I'm Gone? The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American
Major Jackson, Leaving Saturn
B.H. Fairchild, Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower
Harryette Mullen, Sleeping with the Dictionary
Sharon Olds, The Unswept Room
Adam Zagajewski, Without End: New and Selected Poems
And coming up On Readers and Writers on the Air
(the first Thursday of each month at 7pm) ---
Our book club of the air continues, this year in partnership with
St. Lawrence University. Join the conversation with the authors
on the air. Following the broadcasts you also have the opportunity
to attend readings on campus by the authors, thanks to the St. Lawrence
University Writer's Series ---
February 6 - Ihsan Abdul-Rahim - A poet, fiction writer
and playwright. He is the author of ibo landing, an offering
of short stories, and has been content editor for the online magazine
Voice of the Ghetto.
March 6 - Alan Cheuse - In addition to being NPR's book
reviewer, heard regularly on All Things Considered, Cheuse
is a poet, essayist and fiction writer whose work includes The
Grandmother's Club: A Novel, Listening to the Page (adventures
in reading and writing), and The Light Possessed.
April 3- Jane Hamilton - A leading fiction voice of the
past decade, Hamilton's work includes The Book of Ruth, A
Map of the World, and more recently, Disobedience: A Novel.