Gift Books and Winter Reading List

So many titles, so little time. That’s the way it feels when we do our reading list call ins.

Something good to read—whether in book, digital or audio format—can be the perfect gift. During our  two-hour call in we gathered a wide variety of suggestions—very likely you’ll find ideas to help you check off some of the people  on your holiday list, plus books recommended for your own winter reading. Thanks to everyone who helped us get this list started. As always, it’s a work in progress and we hope you’ll add your suggestions in the comment section. Our next book call in is scheduled for February…so you have some time to work your way through the titles that most interest you below.

Chris Robinson, Clarkson University professor/ co-host NCPR book list call in

The philosopher Immanuel Kant described a reality that was divided into what we can know and what we can only intuit.  What we could know is realm of phenomena: things that conform to and are shaped by our own mental categories of space and time. But what we cannot know is what is truly or ultimately important. This is the noumenal sphere, and there we might find the good, the beautiful, the just and, yes, God.  For Kant, the best way to live is as if you can know the noumenal, and so you should always tell the truth, treat others as you would like to be treated, and attend to the sensations that issue from good and beautiful things.

There is a lot to admire in Kant, and a lot to criticize too. But it does occur to me that the strict division of the universe he poses is incorrect. We can and do know those things that Kant included in the noumenal by reading, well, Kant (and many other writers, too).  We can know the good and the just and the beautiful by beholding literary and artistic creativity. I write this on Election Day. In my mind, the campaigns of the two major candidates involved enormous sums of money, floods of words and images, and almost nothing of any significance was communicated. Conceptions of the just life, indeed conceptions of how to combat the concrete injustices and suffering we see in the world today, require us to turn away from the noise of electoral politics and toward the those capable of writing and speaking on matters of ultimate importance.  Justice has to be conceived not in the Kantian terms of unintelligible abstraction, but as a stage where the voices of the those who are suffering can be heard and responded to with respect, compassion and, where possible, solutions.  Literature is a significant feature of this stage. To read is to engage in justice. To bring literature and literacy to others is the greatest of all gifts.  This idea guides my approach to gift giving in this holiday season.

  • Claude Lanzmann, The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir. Lanzmann is best known as the director of the epic documentary, “Shoah.”  But he has had a storied life beyond this film. Lanzmann was an active member of the French Resistance as a mere student. He went on to study philosophy, and eventually came into contact with the Sartre Circle.  This led to a decade long “marriage” to Simone DeBeauvoir. Lanzmann became intensely interested in the world of Israeli politics, and this interest led him into filmmaking. Throughout the sixties and seventies, Lanzmann made films and practiced journalism. He became and remains editor of Les Temps Modernes.  This memoir is filled with memorable portraits of some of the most important thinkers and artists of the Twentieth Century.  Lanzmann seems to have met everyone.


  • George Orwell, Diaries.  I have been waiting a long time for this collection to be published in the United States. The entries move easily from the mundane – Orwell’s adventures in gardening as a means to sustain independence – to his transcendent reflections on London during the war.  There is almost no connection between these diaries and the books he was producing in parallel to this writing: The Road to Wigan Pier, Homage to Catalonia, Animal Farm, 1984, etc. But you do get a real sense of the suffering behind these works. Orwell’s health was precarious. The death of his first wife tragic. Through it all, Orwell’s prose is marked by stoicism and an extremely dry sense of humor.


  • Geoff Dyer, Zona.  If you have seen my various reading lists from the last couple of years, then you will see that I have made it a point to read everything by Geoff Dyer.  This attraction started with his beautiful novel, But Beautiful, which remains my very favorite fictional work on the jazz world. In Zona, Dyer takes up film criticism.  The book is an extended meditation on Tarkovsky’s film “Stalker.” I have to admit that I had never seen the film. Dyer takes the reader through each scene, describing what is occurring felicitously, while simultaneously offering up his own reactions to these moments. When I finally did see the film, about a week after finishing this book, I watched it with Geoff Dyer’s observations and responses running through my head. It was a wonderful experience.


  • Carlin Romano, America, The Philosophical.  There are few subjects that interest me more than American history. Part of my interest is sparked by amazement at how awful my high school American history classes were.  How do you make so fascinating a subject so dull?  You reduce it to chronologies of dates and events, and distill out all that challenges some version of American exceptionalism or the image of the country as the culmination of the world’s best political ideals and God’s will. Romano challenges the perspective that America is an un-philosophical nation. We are too pragmatic and materialistic to have cultivated what can be called a philosophical culture. From the founding period through Transcendentalism, Progressivism, Pragmatism, and contemporary culture, Romano makes a compelling case that America might very well be the most philosophical nation imaginable. Not that I agree with this conclusion.


  • Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, Days of Destruction, Days of Rage.  The United States today is composed of entire regions described best as “sacrifice zones.” These are regions where poverty, ecological destruction, and urban decay are so profound that they inspire moral blindness on the part of the rest of the nation. From an Indian Reservation in North Dakota, to a coal town in West Virginia to Camden, New Jersey, Hedges and Sacco paint grim pictures of the lives of fellow humans who have come to be regarded as expendable.  The issue of poverty was conspicuously absent from this year’s campaigns. This book is a reminder that 50 percent of all Americans live on or near the poverty line.


  • Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1972. This remains my very favorite book on American electoral politics ever.  Thompson is insightful on how the McGovern campaign, a true grassroots movement through the primaries, was coopted by Democratic Party professionals during the presidential campaign. What he missed was the dirty dealing between Hubert Humphrey and Nixon insiders to keep this good and decent peace candidate from mounting a viable effort.  As Thompson summarized the forces against McGovern: “When the going gets tough, the tough turn pro.”


  • Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lachs. This was the summer reading for our Clarkson first year students.  I know Ellen had some reservations about the book, but I thought Skloot’s study of the woman and her family behind the “HeLa” cell fascinating. Yes, Skloot skirted a number of bioethical questions, but her narrative approach personalized this chapter from contemporary medical research and its biomedical industrial offshoots and rendered it memorable.


  • Dick Teresi, The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers – How Medicine is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death.  Determining whether a person is truly dead is a problem with deep historical roots.  From classical Greece to the near present, physicians would rely on techniques and indicators such as cutting off fingers or inflicting other forms of pain to test for reaction, the cessation of respiration or heart beats, and finally the onset of putrefaction to make the determination.  Teresi argues that even modern technologies like MRIs and other tests do not lead to the kind of certainty most of us would hope for were we to be lying in a hospital bed. Moreover, the pressure to harvest organs from the recently deceased kept “alive” through artificial means, leads to skimping on standard protocols employed to declare someone dead.  This book is an intriguing investigation into the practices of medicine and the definitions of death deployed to ensure a constant pool of healthy organs for transplant.


  • Kurt Vonnegut, Library of American Collection.  First I want to tout the entire enterprise called The Library of American.  Years ago, the literary critic Edmund Wilson declared it a national tragedy that there was no standard collection of the writings of great American authors. As a result, our literary heritage was under-read and under-appreciated.  The Library of America has gone far to redress this wrong.  Now you can find complete collections of the works of Thoreau, Melville, Emerson, and other authors who compose that category of Great American Writer of the Past. But there are also collections of the works of contemporaries and near-contemporaries.  There are now two volumes of the collected works of Kurt Vonnegut.  (I talked about the three volume collection of works by Philip K. Dick last year.)  Giving the writings of Vonnegut to a fan of his work, or to a young adult, would both enhance the reading life of the recipient, while supporting the work of the editors of the LOA.


  • Chris Kraus, I Love Dick, Aliens and Anorexia, Torpor, and Summer of Hate.  Kraus is known primarily as an art and literary critic.  But I think she is categorized best as an experimental artist. I think her fiction should be better known, and these are the works I have listed.  The writing is difficult to describe. But if you are interested in philosophy and feminist social and political theory, and you wish to see the ideas of Walter Benjamin, Simone Weil, Simone DeBeauvoir, or Judith Butler employed with clarity and verve in fictional settings that abut the memoir, then Kraus’ work is for you. I’m pained that I have read the entire oeuvre now. I have to wait for the next one.


  • Martin Duberman, Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left. I’m a sucker for biographies of intellectuals and public activists. As a sign of this illness, I have the massive new tome on Jacques Derrida by Benoit Peeters sitting next to me on my desk.  Duberman’s book on Zinn is the biography of a public intellectual by another public intellectual.  The book therefore veers away from hagiography by paying attention to blind spots in Zinn’s activism, particularly regarding the rights of gays and lesbians and feminists. But Duberman does a fine job examining Zinn’s extraordinary courage in his roles as professor at Spellman College in Atlanta and in the civil rights movement in the South in the early sixties.  This is followed by a thoughtful and well document study of Zinn’s work in the anti-war movement and his clashes with Boston University President, John Silber.  Most readers know Zinn through his People’s History of the United States.  Duberman shows that that work must be seen as the culmination of a life devoted to advancing the causes of peace and justice in this country.


John Ernst, Elk Lake/Book Club co-host, reader extraordinaire

  • BRING UP THE BODIES -Hilary Mantel (2012)

Also: Wolf Hall

Hilary Mantel’s follow up to the Man Booker winner, Wolf Hall, focuses on the 1535-36 period in which Henry VIII is married to Anne Boleyn, his long-sought prize, and the former queen, Katherine, is in exile and in failing health. But all is not well in the royal house. Anne, like her predecessor, has been unable to bear Henry a son, and the king is beginning to tire of her histrionics. The whey-faced Jane Seymour, a lady in waiting in several senses, lurks in the wings.

Of course, at the center stage of Mantel’s novels is Thomas Cromwell, whom she single-handedly rescued from an oblivion tinged with obloquy. Here again he is everywhere at once -careful, sly, humorous, intelligent -carrying out the king’s wishes, protecting his interests, and making numerous enemies along the way.

The brilliance of Mantel’s work is, I think, the way she weaves the larger tapestryof politics and international relations into a galvanizing story line, employing a precision of language and eye for detail that makes every paragraph an individual jewel.

Interestingly, although the story is told in the third person, Mantel always refers to Cromwell as “he” -no matter how many others are involved, so that she must often resort to the locution, Ifhe, Cromwell” to make clear whom she I talking about. It’s a bit odd, but it serves to keep the spotlight on the central figure. The story is also told in the present tense. This is not some dusty tale out of history; it is living drama. You are there as a witness.

The title refers to the delivery of accused prisoners for trial-Weston, Brereton, Smeaton, and the others, followed shortly by Anne.

Next up, Jane Seymour. I can hardly wait.


  • WHEN THE RIVERS RUN DRY –Fred Pearce (2006)

This is an arresting book about the impending crisis in water availability, written by a former news editor who has covered the subject for over 30 years.

Pearce begins with startling information about what he calls “virtual water.” This is the amount of water needed to produce a product or a crop -650 gallons of water to grow a pound of rice -an astounding 3,000 gallons to produce a quarter pound hamburger.

Spanning the globe, Pearce describes the enormously wasteful ways in which water is used -draining underground reservoirs, drying up rivers, draining vital wetlands. The so-called green revolution put off dealing with a world hungerproblem, but at the cost of using water inefficiently for crops where they should never be grown.

Dams and levees make the problem worse, actually increasing flooding. Channeling rivers through concrete sewers, building massive de-salinization plants -these are not the answer. For Pearce, the answer lies in “porous cities” that will trap and re-use rainwater, in “more crop per drop” methods of high-tech irrigation, in ancient wells and tunnels that are being re-discovered in the Middle East and Africa, and in allowing river deltas to do the job they have done for millennia.

Pearce provides plenty of horror stories of poisoned wells in India, of cities like Phoenix draining the Colorado River for golf courses and swimming pools in the desert, of water wars between dam builders and those living downstream, of $14 billion water systems, like that built by Quaddafi in Libya.

To quote hydrologist Robert Ambroggi, who said it 30 years ago: “The problem facing mankind is not a lack of fresh water, but a lack of efficient regimes for using the water that is available.” This book shines a light on what may be the biggest problem of the new century and suggests sensible ways to bring it under control.


  • A WORLD ON FIRE: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War –Amanda Foreman (2010)

N.Y. Times 10 Best 2011 Also: Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire

Amanda Foremen is Visiting Research Fellow at the University of London and won a Whitbread Prize for her biography of the Duchess of Devonshire. In this magisterial work, Foreman looks at the entire Civil War through the prism of Britain’s role in the conflict. She follows British individuals from all walks of life who volunteered for both the North and the South and those who sent dispatches or illustrations to the press in England. She traces the labyrint ian diplomacy between the American Secretary of State, William Seward, and the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Russell and between the embassies in London and Washington. And she traces the effects of the naval blockade of the South on the vital cotton trade in Britain.

What may come as a surprise to many is how tenuous relations were between the U.S. and Britain during the war. Tempers flared over Canada from which the South fought a guerilla war and over blockade runners, some built in British ports. The South made desperate attempts to gain recognition from both the British and the French.

Foreman takes in the entire period from Fort Sumpter to Appomatox, as well as the period leading up to the war and its aftermath. It is though one is looking at a familiar story through a new lens. Everything is slightly off-center from one’s expectation, but the view is fresh and instructive.


  • RESTORATION -Olaf Olafsson (2012)

Also: The Journey Home, Absolution, Walking into the Night

This is an original paperback by an author unknown to me who was born in Iceland, is the author of three other novels, and is Executive Vice President of Time Warner. The book was given to me by a friend (as was By the Lake). (Thank you, Dan Wolk.) And I loved it.

The story takes place in a small town in Tuscany in 1944 as the Allies are driving North from Rome and the idyllic Tuscan countryside is becoming a war zone. The narrator is the owner of a villa and runs a large tenant farming operation while also taking in orphaned children and partisans (anti-Nazi Italians). The character is partly based on Iris Origo who, with her husband, restored their Tuscan estate called La Foce, whose gardens are still a wonder today.

One strand of the novel describes the narrator’s troubled marriage. Another involves a famous art restorer who is willing to profit from German avarice. And there is the young restorer who has an affair with her employer and turns the tables on him in a remarkable way which involves a painting by Caravaggio.

Olafsson shifts focus in time and scene with great deftness, and the story carries you along as if you were caught in a strong river current. This is a wonderful novel with believable, engaging characters, a vivid landscape that has a personality all its own, and a moving and surprising denouement. If it sounds like your kind of thing, I would encourage you to seek it out.


  • 11/22/63 Stephen King (2011)

This 800 plus page novel (named one of the 10 best of the year by the New York Times) posits what is perhaps the central literary question of our age: Does Stephen King get paid by the word?

As practically everyone knows, 11/22/63 is a time travel story about a Maine English teacher who slips through a rabbit hole in a neighborhood diner and enters the world of 1958, where he ultimately returns to undo the assassination of John F. Kennedy -with unexpected dire consequences for the future of the world. (It all has to do with crossed strings and harmonics, according to Mr. King.)

This is a device King has used at least as early as PET SEMETARY, and it obviously still intrigues him. On the plus side, he is a hypnotic story teller. I kept going even as I resented the crude attempts to manipulate my emotions.

But King’s 1958 is a moldy Saturday Evening Post world. The writer uses every advertising slogan, brand name, radio station, song title, piece of slang and assorted nostalgia item that his prodigious research can unearth. The book is stuffed with research. It groans from ersatz authenticity.

Inside this grossly inflated book there is actually an interesting love story and the details of the stalking of Lee Harvey and Marina Oswald are memorable. If Stephen King is your thing, this may be a book you want under the tree.


  • BY THE LAKE-John McGahern (2002)

Also: Amongst Women, High Ground

Reading this novel is a bit like slipping into a comfortable old cardigan sweater, building up the peat fire in the stove, and sipping a glass of Irish whiskeypreferably the local favorite, White Powers.

By the time you hit the last page you have spent a memorable year in the Northern Ireland town by the lake. You know your neighbors -the gentle gossiploving Jamesie and his thicker-skinned wife, Mary; the Rutledges, who have abandoned London for a quiet life raising sheep and cattle; the orphaned Bill Evans with his mind (such as it is) only on cadging smokes; and the often-wed menace to women, John Quinn. You know the woodbine and the whitethorn hedges and the meadowsweet in the fields. You know the inside of Luke Henry’s bar and the Shah’s scrapyard. You know every fowl that seasonally populates the lake.

As the Shah, (Rutledge’s uncle and the local tycoon) is wont to say: “The rain comes down. Grass grows. Children get old.” This bitter-sweet hymn to the autumn of life is etched with sharp detail and poignant observation. The life it portrays is not somnolent. There are crises and tensions. There are births and deaths. Very seldom have I felt so close to a group of characters. This novel is moving, charming, melancholy and inspiring. It is a performance worthy of opening a fresh fifth of  White Powers.


Betsy Kepes, Book Club Co-host/NCPR book reviewer

  • In the gift book category, and for the adventurous cook in your family, I suggest Naomi Duguid’s new cookbook– BURMA: RIVERS OF FLAVOR. I saw the book in the temporary bookstore at the Kingston Writers’ Festival and was immediately drawn in by the luxurious pages filled with color. The book is large with beautiful photos of the food and people of Burma, also known as Myanmar. This is a book for the armchair traveler and, perhaps, the armchair cook. That’s me. Duguid’s first cookbook– FLATBREADS AND FLAVORS: A BAKER’S ATLAS received lots of awards and is the same mix of recipes and photos and cooking history.


  • In the Guilty Pleasures category–  When I go to a writing conference, I try to read some of the books by the authors who will be on the faculty there. Several years ago Justin Cronin was part of the Colgate University writing conference team. He’d written a couple of “literary” novels that were good but didn’t sell particularly well. He had a young daughter and they liked to exercise together– the little girl on her bicycle and her father running. As they pedaled and jogged along they made up a story that they continued every time they went out together. After a few months, Justin decided to write some of it down and surprised himself by writing 60 pages. He presented the idea to his agent who was very interested. This resulted in a multi-million dollar deal for a three book series. Wow. Have a mentioned that this is a vampire story? I told myself I did not read that kind of book but when I saw its shiny cover on the new books table at the Colton Library, I checked out THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin. I stayed up late for a week and gave myself nightmares but I couldn’t put it down. Now part 2 is available– THE TWELVE. It is an addictive combination– a good writer plus an end-of-the-world story with a young girl who has to save the world from truly horrifying zombie/vampires who are smart and unstoppable.


Ellen Rocco, Book Club Co-host/NCPR Station Manager

There are so many titles to share with you this time—from my co-hosts and others who contributed to this list—that I’m going to recommend just three titles. The first is a great gift for anyone with an interest in the Adirondacks and natural history; the second two are both works of fiction by authors I stumbled on and love…and these are first books from both of them.

  • The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, Jerry C. Jenkins and Andy Keal. Maps, photos, graphs and deep information. I love this book.


  • You Know When the Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon. A collection of loosely related stories, all set at Ft. Hood in Texas, most from the perspective of army wives and girlfriends. A terrific debut work. I look forward to Fallon’s next release. And, this good news: Phil LaMarche at SUNY Canton, who organizes the writers series there, has arranged for Fallon to be part of the series this spring.


  • Open City, Teju Cole. A meditative novel, set mostly in NYC. We are inside the protagonist’s mind as he meanders around the city. Cole was featured at the Kingston Writers Festival earlier this fall. I can’t tell you why I liked this book except to say the voice got inside my head and I couldn’t stop reading.


Lois Ann FitzRandolph, SLU Brewer Bookstore

[I asked Lois Ann, as someone who reads extensively and works around books every day, to share her ideas about books to give as gifts and about winter reading ideas. Here’s the fabulous list she sent me. –ER]

  • Regional coffee table type books:

Adirondack Style: Great Camps and Rustic Lodges

Summer Cottage: Retreats of the 1000 Islands

The Adirondacks: Photographs of Carl Heilman

Adirondack Camps: Homes Away from Home 1850-1950

River Views: A History of the Thousand Islands in 3-D


  • Other gift books of note:

National Parks: America’s Best Idea—An Illustrated History (Ken Burns)

Hubble’s Universe: Greatest and Latest Images

Unseen Ansel Adams: Photographs from the Fiat Lux Collection

Worlds of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways

The Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Rock

Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian      Visions

The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy

George Washington’s America: A Biography Through His Maps

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy

Dogs Make Us Human: A Global Family Album

Van Gogh Paintings: The Masterpieces

Great Gardens of America

Gardens of the World: The Great Traditions

Encyclopedia of Garden Design and Structure

The Great American House

Gourmet Today (Ruth Reichl)

Bon Appetit Dessert

Ad Hoc at Home (Thomas Keller)

La Cuisine (Francoise Bernard)

Ski House Cookbook

Classic Home Desserts

William Yeoward on Entertaining

Alinea (recipes from the great Chicago restaurant)

Two titles with regional relevance:

New York Amish: Life in the Plain Communities of the Empire State, Karen Johnson-Weiner

Why We’re Here: New York Essayists on Living Upstate, Bob Cowser, editor


Kathy Rivet, Old Forge

  • The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood

Loved this book – It is about 3 children found in the woods and taken in by the wealthy Lord Frederick and his new wife, Lady Constance.  The kids exhibit all sorts of canine tendencies from howling to chasing squirrels.  Lord Frederick hires Miss Penelope Lumley to tame the children.  Fresh from The Swanburne Academy  for Poor Bright Females, Miss Lumley is anxious to succeed in her new position.  Lady Constance, however, is disgusted and fearful of her new brood.  We laughed out loud at the daily challenges that Miss Lumley faces with the children.

  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Set in 1935, this is the story of 12 year old Moose Flanagan.  Moose’s family moves to Alcatraz Island so his father can work as a guard and electrician at the prison.  Moose struggles to make friends and look after his autistic older sister Natalie.  He meets Piper, the Warden’s daughter, who is a troublemaker (but also kind of cute).  The book has some typical themes – primarily good vs bad.  Why are kids fascinated by crime and bad guys?  This one inspired my son’s Halloween costume this year as – you guessed it – Al Capone.


Teresa Witmer, Potsdam

  • Citizens of London: Americans Who Stood By London in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olsen, a great writer who brings that time – and people – to life!  ( It’s one of those non-fiction books that is so continually interesting, you’ll think it’s a novel!  Tom Brokaw says about it: “Citizens of London is a great read about a small band of Americans and their courageous role in helping Britain through the darkest days of early World War II. I thought I knew a lot about that dangerous period but Lynne Olson has taught me so much more.”

Got it from my local library!



Lynn Myers, from Hannawa Falls, shared this poem by Carolyn Wells:

The books I ought to read

are pokey, dull, and dry.

The books I want to read

I am ashamed to buy.

The books that people talk about

I never can recall;

But the books that people give me,

Oh, they’re the worst of all.


Chris Bigelow, Chazy Lake

  • Girl Reading by Katie Ward. If a reader is interested in art/photography over time, he might want to read this. Each chapter is from a certain time period and, of course, has a connection to a girl reading. I liked that the reader learns a story associated with the art work or photograph. It does come together, somewhat, at the end, but to me that was not important.
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton  Time shift, a mystery, and interesting characters. The reader learns information, a little at a time which made me want to keep reading.
  • The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalle  The relationship between a mother who is dying and a son who spends time with her is close and heartbreaking, yet there is a wonderful connection to the world. At times, they read the same book, and at other times, they exchange books. The discussion of the books says so much about each of them. At the same time the book deals with how they are preparing for her death.
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel by Rachael Joyce  This has been compared to The Canterbury Tales. The people Harold meets and his experiences along the way are comical and sad. I highly recommend this book.
  • Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall. It is a book about how a husband who is not happy with his wife’s independence can “get rid of her.”
  • In One Person by John Irving.  This book brought back memories of A Prayer for Owen Meany and World According to Garp. It is filled withquirky characters and funny incidents. The narrator is an older man looking back on his life, always an insightful experience.
  • The Known World by Edward Jones. This was a reread for me because our book club chose it for November. An interesting discussion evolved where some people could not understand why it was a Pulitzer Prize winner, “confusing,” “badly written,” “a bad Faulkner,” and yet, some said, “I loved it.” It is always fun to go back to a book at laterdate and see if your reaction has changed.




Leslie Ann, Owego

  • The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, T.R. Reid


Mary Ann, Adams Center

  • Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier
  • The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  • Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith


Chris, Saranac Lake

  • Zeitoun, Dave Eggers


Lindsey, Malone

  • The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust, Edith H. Beer and Susan Dworkin


Beth, Potsdam

  • Fall of Giants; Winter of the World (Books 1 & 2 Century Triology), Ken Follett
  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time Carissa Phelps and Larkin Warren


Bonnie, Canton

  • Taking Hart, Ma Noble. Local, set in the early 1800s, young adult.


Lynn, Hannawa Falls

  • Twenty Years A-Growing, Maurice O’Sullivan


John, Potsdam

  • Fear and Faith in Paradise: Exploring Conflict and Religion in the Middle East, Phil Karber


Albert Glover, Canton

  • Eating the Bread of this World, Becky Harblin


Anonymous, Heuvelton

  • The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel; 11/22/63, both by Stephen King


Adrian, Keeseville

  • The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford Dictionary, SimonWinchester


Linda Cohen, Old Forge

  • Agrees about The Professor and the Madman, and recommends two other titles by Winchester:
  • Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883
  • The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom

Also from Linda:

  • Adirondack Paddling, Phil Brown
  • Adirondack Adventures: Bob Gillespie and Harvey Dunham on French Louie’s Trail, Roy E. Reehil, William J. O’Hern, Neal Burdick
  • Old Filth; The Man in the Wooden Hat, both by Jane Gardam


Barb Heller, NCPR Program Host/Proprietor of Leaner Weiners Hotdog Cart

  • Stan the Hotdog Man, Leonard P. Kessler and Edith Kessler, a great kid’s read.


Nancy, Blue Mountain Lake

  • Bubble Trouble, Margaret Mahy and Polly Dunbar (another great read for kids)


Connie Meng, NCPR Announcer/Theater Reviewer

  • Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon
  • Toby’s Room, Pat Barker
  • Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, Robert K. Massie


Mary, Milton VT

  • Don’t Mess With Travis, Bob Smiley


James, Massena

  • The Civil War: A Narrative (3 volumes), Shelby Foote
  • Into Thin Air, Jon Krakawer


Pat, Morristown

  • The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, Timothy Egan
  • The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, Candice Millard


Lois, Indian Lake

  • The Dirty Life, Kristin Kimball


Don, Saranac Lake

The Chet and Bernie mystery series by Spencer Quinn including:

  • Dog On It
  • A Fistful of Collars
  • Thereby Hangs a Tail


Anonymous, Canton

  1. A Murderous Thirst: Death Comes to the Adirondacks, Aileen Vincent-Barwood
  2. And, finally, our first suggestion via Twitter:
  3. Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon (and the anonymous Tweeter reminded us that the book has a great Christmas scene)

  1. Ellen Beberman says:

    The End of Men by Hanna Rosin. Rosin takes a look at trends in the roles of men and women in modern society and concludes that we are living in a new era where women are going on to ever greater gains in power and status while men struggle to find their footing. Thought-provoking and even jarring; once you read this book you will see the signs everywhere.

  2. Dear Ellen,

    As a “woman with an older mind,” I related to your inability to recall the title/author of a book to which you briefly referred on this morning’s show. I thought immediately of a book I finished recently “The Household Guide to Dying – a novel about life.” This may not be the book you were speaking of since I don’t believe it received much attention in the US.

    Wrtten by Australian author, Debra Adelaide, I hesitated recommending it as a “gift book” but then I heard a couple of very heavy books brought up on show. I’ve been a non-fiction reader most of my life (mostly work related topics). However, I’ve recently retired and my husband, an avid reader of fiction, is attempting to expand my horizons. He considered this book “a chicklet” and I initially resisted its premise for two reasons. A quick perusal irked my somewhat feminist sensibiliity and the topic hits a bit “too close to home.” Not one to dismiss anything at first glance, I was pleasantly surprised on both counts.

    If you are familiar with this book, you’ll know why I think its worth making your list for winter reading. If you do not know it, please Google to determine if it falls within your guidelines. I look forward to the list, since retirement has given me more time for reading AND more time for listening to NCPR. Loved the show – thank you for your efforts in putting it together.

    Pat McManus

  3. Pam Covert says:

    I just came across this site and wanted to share that I am a graduate of Colton Pierrepont and will be back in the north country this weekend to promote my book titled And So This Is Christmas. The book is set in Colton and I’ll be at the Hepburn Library in Colton Saturday Nov. 10th from 1:30-3:30. The book is available on in kindle and paperback, descriptions and sample pages are available for viewing. Would love to meet all book lovers at the library Saturday! Everyone is welcome!

  4. Since ACW is presenting a live performance by the producers of Selected Shorts the same night as the call-in I decided to quickly email my reading list for this winter so I don’t miss you. There are so many books just published by my favorite authors, it is almost stressful! On my list new books by: Dave Eggers, Micheal Chabon, Zadie Smith, and Ian Mcewan. I haven’t read any of these yet, but am ridiculously excited about all of them. Books I HAVE read and recommend, if I’ve said it once, I’ve asid it a thousand times SALVAGE THE BONES is an exceptionally well-written book that I adored. Also, “How to Escape a Leper Colony” and “We the Animals” both short story collections so if you don’t like that….So many more books, but I’ll stop now. Nathalie Thill, Adirondack Center for Writing

  5. Ellen Rocco says:

    Here’s a great list of gift books from Lois Ann FitzRandolph, who works at the SLU Brewer Bookstore (each is followed by its ISDN number so easy to order from your favorite bookseller):

    Adirondack Style: Great Camps and Rustic Lodges(0789322668)
    Summer Cottage: Retreats of the 1000 Islands(0847830659)
    The Adirondacks: Photographs of Carl Heilman(0847827909)
    Adirondack Camps: Homes Away from Home 1850-1950(0815606265)
    River Views: a History of the Thousand Islands in 3-d(0615460321)
    New York Amish(not exactly a coffee table book, but of local interest)0801445183
    Why We’re Here: New York Essayists on Living Upstate(same goes for this book)

    Other Gift Books of Note:
    The English Country House(0847830578) for fans of Downton Abbey
    National Parks: America’s Best Idea – an Illustrated History(Ken Burns)
    Hubble’s Universe: Greatest and Latest Images(1770851078)
    Unseen Ansel Adams: Photographs from the Fiat Lux Collection(1607100133)
    Abbey Road: The Best Studio in the World(1608199991)
    Worlds of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways)(0061563552)
    The Rolling Stones: 50 years of Rock(1440218293)
    Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian Visions(0762343764)
    The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy(1419703692)
    George Washington’s America: A Biography Through His Maps(0802717489)
    Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy(1401324258)
    Dogs Make us Human: A Global Family Album(1608195651)
    Van Gogh Paintings: the Masterpieces(0500238383) for those who saw the exhibit in Ottawa

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