The D.C. Council tackles a range of progressive labor bills. The fight over who can grow medical marijuana in Maryland will go to court. And Fairfax County's schools superintendent steps down.
Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer are around the corner, which makes now the perfect time to compile your summer reading list. Whether you’re eagerly awaiting new novels from favorite authors, looking for something entirely new or want to explore history through a biography, we’ve got a roundup of page-turners to see you through the season.
- Barbara Hoffert Editor, Prepub Alert, Library Journal
- John Wilwol freelance writer; member, National Book Critics Circle
- Eileen McGervey owner, One More Page Books in Arlington, VA.
2013 Summer Book Recommendations
Novels, biographies and thrillers you’ll want to pack for your next vacation, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Barbara Hoffert’s Picks
Eileen McGervey’s Picks
John Wilwol’s Picks
E. Ethelbert Miller’s Picks
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Summer reading season is upon us. And whether you're looking for a paperback to toss in your beach bag or titles to load onto your e-reader before a long flight, there are lots of new works of all styles and varieties to check out, novels, biography, poetry and pros. And today we've got a group of book lovers ready to bring us up to speed on what to be on the lookout for.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us in studio is Eileen McGervey. She is the owner of One More Page Books. That's an independent book store in Arlington, Va. Eileen McGervey, thank you for joining us.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHi, Kojo. Thanks for inviting me.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is John Wilwol. He is a freelance writer and member of the National Book Critics Circle. He's the regular book critic for Washingtonian magazine. His work has also appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, NPR and other places. John Wilwol, thank you for joining us.
MR. JOHN WILWOLThank you for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd joining us from the studios of the Radio Foundation in New York City is Barbara Hoffert. She is the editor of the Prepub Alert for the Library Journal, which keeps librarians up to date on what's new in the publishing industry. Hi, Barbara. How's it going?
MS. BARBARA HOFFERTGood and very glad to be back on the show.
NNAMDIGlad you're back with us. If you'd like to join the conversation also, 800-433-8850 is the number to call. What's the best book you've read in the last six months? Give us a call. Or if there's a title you've been eagerly awaiting the release of, call us, 800-433-8850. You can send us a Tweet at kojoshow. Eileen, you've said that your customers don't necessarily come in looking for best sellers, but there are a few titles out this month expected to be blockbusters. And lots of people looking for the new Dan Brown and Khaled Hosseini novels.
MS. EILEEN MCGERVEYThat's true. It's not to say that they don't buy them but they don't necessarily pick them up first thing when they walk into our store. Or if they do, they often walk out with other things, which we love.
NNAMDIGood for you.
MCGERVEYBut we try to give a different selection out there, so we try to have the blockbusters if people want those. But also we like to give a lot of space to new authors or to -- maybe from authors that people haven't run across before.
NNAMDIBarbara, this is Khaled Hosseini's third novel, looking likely to join the first one on the Best Seller list. You say it's his best yet. What's different about it?
HOFFERTThe first two are wonderfully popularly written. I think they're great novels. The third one I think is actually a big step up in terms of his writing. And I've not read the whole thing. I've just entered into it but I was immediately struck by his use of language, by his use of folkloric elements. And it called to mind another very favorite novel of mine of the last couple of years, Tea Obreht's "The Tiger's Wife" in how it uses folkloric elements to talk about larger issues. So I'm very excited to finish it and I'd encourage a lot of people to look at it, who might not have even been that familiar with or known the kite runner or been that taken with it. This is a book to look att.
NNAMDIWell, Khaled Hosseini's books helped a lot of readers feel more connected to the Middle East in general and Afghanistan in particular, Barbara. For those looking for further reading in that region, you recommend the "Blind Man's Garden." What made it such a standout for you?
HOFFERTI particularly love this author. His first book that I read of his "The Wasted Vigil," not his first book but the first I knew, I thought was amazing in not coming down black and white in terms of saying the particular viewpoints that, you know, are clearly pro-West, clearly pro-jihad, but showing how complex the Middle East is. And this particular novel is -- it starts in a garden behind the house of a man who's going blind. He is a humanist and a believer, once ran a school.
HOFFERTHe -- the school is now taken over by a much more right wing sort of director and he has lost his wife. And now his son and foster son have -- it's post 9/11 and they've crossed the border. They've gone up simply as doctors because the younger son is training to be a doctor. They have gone off to help victims on both sides in fighting, but they've come from Pakistan. They're heading to Afghanistan.
HOFFERTBut immediately are caught up in things they could not have imagined. And one has such a different sense and understanding -- much deeper understanding I think of place and time and of a particular culture after reading Aslam's book. He emphasizes the idea of how we're all caught up in history and caught up in what's gone before. And there's an image at the beginning of silk cotton trees that have bird snares in them. The birds are caught by the bird pardoner who then as soon as you release the bird that's caught, it's -- apparently you're given the forgiveness you're looking for.
HOFFERTAnd sometimes our forgiveness isn't so easy to come by but it's a wonderful pervasive symbol for the book.
NNAMDI"The Blind Man's Garden" is what it's called. John, Eileen, earlier this week author Stephen King announced that his next novel will be released as a physical book only, no eversion. And publishers reports that the astronomical growth that they'd seen -- that they had been seeing in e-books has started to even out. How do e-books factor into what you do, John?
WILWOLAs a reviewer, I mean, I don't use e-books too much. I don't own an e-reader. I still need the geography of a physical book, if that makes any sense. I find it very, very helpful when I'm going back through a book to sort of have a sense where certain plots plot sort of things happen and where certain characters said certain things. And so I still rely heavily on sort of the physical geography of a book to do that quickly and efficiently. I love the idea of having an e-reader to get through things like -- I would love to read Dan Brown's new thriller on an e-reader. You know, sort of just burn through it once.
WILWOLI'm most fortunate. I don't -- my commute is a walk. I walk to work and I know that lots of people in the D.C. area sort of love to have their e-readers on the bus or on the metro and things like that. And so I'm not opposed to them but I haven't used one yet.
NNAMDINot a big e-reader of this part. How about you, Eileen?
MCGERVEYI'm not a big e-reader either but I always feel that whatever gets people to read is wonderful. Customers will come in and they'll kind of be a little bit embarrassed to tell us that they have an e-reader. And it's totally find with me because most of them read books -- physical books also. And to follow up on what John said, a lot of times they'll read something on their e-reader and then they'll come in to get the physical book because they want to be able to go back through it and, you know, mark different things in it. That's easier with a book.
NNAMDIThey are -- like, John, they like navigating the contours of the real book. In case you're just joining us, this is our summer reading conversation. We're inviting you to join it by calling 800-433-8850. Who or what do you rely on for reading recommendations, 800-433-8850? You can send us a Tweet at kojoshow or simply go to our website kojoshow.org where you will find a list of the books recommended by all of our panelists, including E. Ethelbert Miller who couldn't join us today. That's at our website kojoshow.org.
NNAMDIEileen, one title on many Best Seller lists will already be familiar to lots of listeners, "The Great Gatsby." It's my understanding there's a movie tie-in edition that's out but some book sellers are refusing to stock it, sticking with the original cover art instead. What's on your shelves and which copy is moving more?
MCGERVEYWell, that's -- I'm laughing because this is something we go through every time a movie tie-in book comes out. And a lot of book sellers like those folks of my store are more parochial about it and we like to stick with the traditional. We do have the movie tie-in version and that's up in the ones that, like, the kids will want, you know, or the young adults will go for that. Whereas the older folks like me are more traditional.
NNAMDIWell, more broadly, cover art can play a role in people's decisions to pick up a book or not. Oftentimes they're re-imagined from hardcover to paperback and from one country to another. I'm curious to hear from each of you, starting with you Barbara Hoffert, about the importance of a book's cover.
HOFFERTYou know, it can get you into a book. It certainly works and even in libraries the audience I serve, books are often turned aisles so that you can see the cover. It's funny, as a reviewer they don't influence me that much because I'm going through galleys so fast and I often find myself quite surprised when I see the final version of a book's cover. Because I've gotten the plain -- the covered galley and, you know, it's yellow or marked up. And then here's this, you know, often sometimes to me rather garish cover. I'm sometimes surprised.
HOFFERTI think, you know, covers are important and they're part of it, but what fascinates me is how what works for one person doesn't for another, or how different covers can be from one country to another. I often meet with publicists who say, they're not using the English cover. Thank goodness because their English style is very different from ours. It's a more simple folk-like almost kind of style that's very different from American style. And what works for British readers and obviously draws them in doesn't work for American readers.
HOFFERTAnd it's fascinating how you think -- and you notice trends, for instance, in covers as well. I was on a panel about a year ago and a reviewer -- another person on the panel rather said, have you noticed all these covers lately coming out that are showing only women's -- the back of women's heads and necks. And I hadn't until now. I've collected sort of dozens and suddenly that's the style. And I'm not sure what that says. You know, we're all turning away from the world into the book or whatever.
HOFFERTBut you do notice trends and then it changes and finally you just turn that cover and you get into the content. And that's what matters.
NNAMDIEileen, do you notice in the bookstore, do covers play a role in whether or not people select books?
MCGERVEYThey do. Not necessarily whether they buy it, but certainly whether it prompts them to pick it up. And we also have noticed the trends of certain types of covers. What's interesting to us is when we have authors in the store and covers and authors are a very hot topic, a hot item of debate because often the book cover is not one that the author would've picked. And they're unhappy about it because they don't feel it represents the book. And I know it's a combination between marketing and the artistic side of it with the author. But it's an interesting discussion to hear them talk about what their vision of the book cover should've been.
NNAMDICovers influence you, John?
WILWOLWell, as a reviewer not so much. Like Barbara said, oftentimes I'm not seeing the cover until the book comes out. The galleys usually arrive and there's nothing to the middle. It's sort of just the title printed on the cover of a sort of solid colored paper background and things like that. So -- but as a book buyer I'm very guilty of buying -- you know, you shouldn't judge a book based on its cover but I'm very guilty of buying good books based on their covers.
NNAMDIAnd you have other influences in your life, it is my understanding, that are from the UK.
WILWOLThat's right, that's right. My wife...
NNAMDIGiving you a whole new perspective on covers.
WILWOLExactly, exactly. My wife is English and I'm fortunate in that when I get books from them -- and I'm also often pretty excited to get the English cover -- and I just had to send some books off to my father-in-law. And I had to kind of apologize to him and say, you know, don't judge these books by their cover. They're much better than they look. So...
NNAMDITell us about the latest John le Carre novel "A Delicate Truth" because apparently the covers in the U.S. and the UK are significantly different.
WILWOLYeah, the U.S. cover, if memory serves -- and Eileen or Barbara might be able to correct me a little bit -- but it's got a very dark cover, sort of -- it looks very -- it looks like the kind of thing that you would pick up in one of the -- you know, in CVS or something like that. But the UK edition has this really, really lovely sort of gold dragonfly wing on it, you know, on a white background in a really, really elegant sort of typeface and things like that. So I was fortunate to get that one as a gift recently.
NNAMDIBarbara, new authors might stand to benefit from a memorable cover and you have a number of first-time novelists on your list. By the way, you can look at the lists at our website kojoshow.org. We've talked to one of them, Anthony Marra, about his book "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena." And I wonder, Barbara, what makes you sit up and take notice of a new author and who should be on our listener's radar?
HOFFERTNow there's a question we could talk the whole time about, if we really wanted to. You know, I think the first thing and most important thing about any writer is the language and whether you love the language. How many times do I think a story sounds so interesting or the historical setting is intriguing to me and then the language just falls flat? So I'm always looking for authors who have a special use of language. And also looking for authors who are really wanting to investigate ideas, even as they're spinning a really good story for me.
HOFFERTAnd I thought Anthony Marra was wonderful for drawing me into a world I don't know well, obviously having not been to Chechnya and having followed but not closely the fighting there. But I thought he did a wonderful job of letting us into the mind of characters trying to sort their way through that. And again, it's interesting, our reviewer compared that again to Tea Obreht's "The Tiger's Wife," which I had mentioned earlier. I think people really sort of using certain elements just to try to understand their world, and a world that we can't know.
HOFFERTAnd it's such -- I love books that introduce me to a world I can't know. I don't want to read about what I know about. I want to read about what I don't know about. So that's a perfect book -- it's a perfect example of that.
NNAMDISpeaking of things that one doesn't know about, I've been reading reviews of the book "The Golem and the Jinni." And it's my understanding that you interviewed Helene Wecker who wrote that book.
HOFFERTAnd she was a wonderful interview. It's interesting because she draws on her own background. She is Jewish, her husband is Syrian Christian background. And she blends the Jewish and Arab mythologies into one book incredibly effectively. It's set in the 1890s New York with two fanciful creatures, you know, two creatures that aren't human, a golem who a woman created actually to serve a man who dies on the trip over. She's about to be his wife and so she's sort of lost without a master, you know, because the golem is supposed to have a master.
HOFFERTAnd the Jinni is completely opposite, released with a bit of polishing from a sort of vessel. And then ready to sort of bang his way about New York and a very free spirit. So, again, it's a perfect novel. It's both really -- for me, I love the idea of really an interesting and different setting. I never knew there was a little Syria in New York in the 1890s but there was. And a novel of ideas because it's talking about freewill versus determinism, freewill versus responsibility.
HOFFERTThe likenesses and the differences of these two different cultures and sort of what really makes you human. Because these two creatures aren't, and they're trying to understand the human world. And by the way, speaking of covers, it has an absolutely gorgeous cover that the marketing people and the author both love. So I'll just let you say that -- or finish with that rather.
NNAMDISpeaking of covers, here is Peggy in Potomac, Md. Peggy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PEGGYOh, yes. I wanted to mention a book that turned into one of our family's favorites on a road trip. I picked it out purely because of the picture on the audio book cassette box of the tyrannosaurus. And it was called "T. Rex and the Crater of Doom" by Dr. Walter Alvarez. We listened to it all the way up to Vermont and back and we found it beautifully written, very interesting and very -- it was written so well that we could all follow it and learn a lot about the geology and the (word?) crater.
NNAMDIAnd you couldn't tell that from the cover, but the impulse that you felt when you saw the cover turned out to be ultimately good judgment, huh?
PEGGYRight. We thought our 14-year-old would like to learn more about dinosaurs and we all learned so much more.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. By the way, we will be doing our kids and young adult edition of Summer Reading during the course of the next month or so. And if you're interested in the interview that we did with Anthony Marra, that was on May 13. You can go into our archives and find that. We're going to take a short break. When we come back we rejoin our conversation about Summer Reading and take your calls at 800-433-8850. Or shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our Summer Reading conversation with John Wilwol. He is a freelance writer and member of the National Book Critics Circle. He's the regular book critic for Washingtonian magazine. His work has also appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, NPR and other places. Also joining us from the studios of the Radio Foundation in New York City is Barbara Hoffert, editor of the Prepub Alert for the Library Journal, which keeps librarians up to date on what's new in the publishing industry.
NNAMDIIn studio here in Washington with us is Eileen McGervey. She is the owner of One More Page Books, an independent bookstore in Arlington, Va. John, in the realm of nonfiction, you recommend a biography of a man many of us are familiar with but few of us are likely to know much about. What might we learn about the man behind Ripley's Believe It or Not from "A Curious Man?"
WILWOLWell, we don't know much -- well, at least growing up I was aware of Ripley but I didn't know much about him. And that's because there hasn't been a biography written about him until now. So Neal Thompson's new biography, it's wonderful for a couple of different reasons. Number one, this Ripley's story is great. He's born in 1890. He's an awkward kid. He has terrible buckteeth and Thompson sort of emphasizes that throughout the book. And it's got a stutter but he can draw. And so he sort of starts to get some friends through that talent and things like that. He's also a very find athlete, which figures into the book a little bit.
WILWOLWhen he's 18 his father dies and he's forced to go out and make some money for the family. And he eventually figures out that he can make some money cartooning. So he gets a job in San Francisco as a cartoonist, works for some of the biggest papers out there. And then he makes his way to New York where one of the New York newspapers sends him abroad. And he sends back sort of cartoons about what he sees and things like that.
WILWOLThen he starts covering sports and he's a sports cartoonist. And when he's doing that he starts a column called champs and chumps. And in that column he sort of covers great athletic feats and things like that but eventually he figures out that sports can't sustain the column. And so he starts looking for other things and he starts writing about sort of the different sort of weird human achievements that come out. And that's sort of the start of his Believe It or Not thing.
WILWOLEventually he sort of figures out that some of the best publicity he can get is by lying to people. And by that I mean...
NNAMDIThat still holds today.
WILWOLYeah, I guess it is. I guess it is. What he would do is sort of put something out there that people would assume was untrue. And so he -- one of the ones he was famous for was saying that Charles Lindberg was not the first man to fly across the Atlantic. Of course there was great uproar about this. There wasn't any real way for the public to fact check it. And so he'd reveal a few days later that in fact, you know, he wasn't the first man. There had been other -- he's just the first man to do it solo. So, in fact, he'd sort of get people that way.
WILWOLBut the thing I like about the book the most is the way that Thompson sort of describes how historical circumstances contributed to his success. World War I comes along and it sort of turns all of the news stories into these stories in faraway places with exotic names, this great hunger for things that aren't familiar, for foreign things and things like that. And then when those soldiers come back from the war, they're all adrenalin junkies. And so they start -- there's a lot of interest in doing sort of these sort of interesting feats.
WILWOLYou know, he covers this one Englishman who jumps -- learns how to jump 13' backwards or something like that.
NNAMDIAnd then Ripley's been like a presence in, certainly my life as far as I can remember. But it just occurred to me that I knew absolutely nothing about him.
WILWOLYeah, that's right, that's right. I think that -- if memory serves, I think Neal Thompson says that he maybe read an obituary or saw a story in a newspaper somewhere and sort of got the idea for the story. Oh no, Ripley's -- one of Ripley's Museums was opening up. One of his auditoriums, I think, was opening up in New York City. And Neal Thompson sort of did a quick Amazon search to figure out whether or not there had been a biography done. And there hadn't been so he went for it. And he really pulls it off nicely. I recommend the book strongly.
NNAMDIOn to the phones again. Here's Barnard in Washington, D.C. Barnard, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BARNARDHi. Thank you for taking my call. I just wanted to ask about, from the panelists vast experience, has there been any study or maybe any anecdotal observations they have had of a correlation between the gender or perceived gender of the author and the gender of the buyer, reader or the audience of a novel? I mean, more specifically, I was wondering if women prefer to read female authors of novels, such as ones that get categorized, you know, for better or worse, in the romance section?
NNAMDIWell, I don't know if there have been any studies that have been done, but there's all kinds of anecdotal evidence. So I'll start with Barbara Hoffert on that.
HOFFERTYeah, and I'm trying to think of what I can say. I suspect that -- what I know of it is that in working in my own field that there are so many more women readers and they read so broadly that it doesn't -- I don't think that there's any actual great -- as great an impact as one might expect. I think one of the things that librarians worry about a lot is making sure that young boys keep reading, and that they have enough material for men to read in their libraries. Because men do tend to read both more in the thriller area and more in the nonfiction area in particular. So I know that there's always an effort to keep those shelves well stocked.
HOFFERTBut I think we have to be careful about not drawing too many lines about readers.
NNAMDII was about to say, this is a loaded question, Eileen.
MCGERVEYI was going to say, I agree with Barbara on -- I think it's probably less related to the author and more related to the type of book that it is. And for young boys and young men there seems to be a bias towards the protagonist in the book. A lot of boys don't want to read a book that has a female protagonist. But girls seem to be willing to read both. But again, like I said, it's more related to the type of book that it is when we're older.
WILWOLIsn't it -- and Barbara and Eileen, you can probably help me out with this -- isn't there -- wasn't J. K. Rowling, isn't there -- wasn't she sort of told that young boys wouldn't read the Harry Potter Series if she had gone by her first name? Do you guys know -- does that -- I feel like I've read that somewhere.
NNAMDIIt rings a bell somewhere.
HOFFERTIt does ring a bell. It does ring a bell. And there's always that controversy when you write with children's books in particular, the protagonist. And, you know, my daughter finally sort of got off the Harry Potter books because she actually really wanted a female protagonist. So that's interesting.
NNAMDIHey, Barnard. Thank you very much for your call. You know, sometimes when it's hot outside, Eileen, you want to read a story that might send a shiver down your spine. What mysteries and thrillers are you especially excited about this summer?
MCGERVEYWell, Jo Nesbo has a few -- actually I think two new books coming out this summer, so I'm very much looking forward to reading them. And in addition to being set up in Norway, it's also at Christmastime, so it's doubly cold up there.
MCGERVEYAnd I also -- you know, reading mysteries and especially some of the Scandinavians and also Icelandic ones, the weather is an integral part of the story. It's kind of like a character in the story because it really does influence what's going on.
NNAMDIJo Nesbo's is called "The Redeemer?"
NNAMDIAnd you're also recommending "The Abomination" by Jonathan Holt. Why?
MCGERVEYYou know, actually that was a recommendation from one of our staff members. And, you know, it's set in Venice and it's got a lot of undercover going on. It's a very intricate plot. It's got the Catholic Church and the United States military involved as part of the plot. So there's a lot going on there in a beautiful setting.
NNAMDIHow about you, John?
WILWOLThrillers wise the one I put on my list was "The Marseille Caper" by Peter Mayle, which is decidedly not violent. Someone might get a knock on the head in a Peter Mayle book but for the most part no one gets killed or anything like that. It's the second book in the Sam Levitt series. Sam Levitt is an American who, in the first book, "The Vintage Caper," helped a Hollywood producer steal back a case of vintage Bordeaux from a gentleman in Marseille.
WILWOLAnd in this edition, the gentleman that he sold the wine back from needs Sam's help to try to win a real estate contract. And it's great fun. If you haven't read Peter Mayle books before, they're great summer reads especially. They're set in the south of France and in some ways they're sort of vehicles to celebrate French cuisine and wine and French culture. And if that's your cup of tea, you really can't go wrong. They're great fun.
NNAMDIOne of the mysteries that's been fascinating to me for summer reading is Walter Mosley has brought back his character Easy Rawlins in a new novel called "Little Green." It picks up the story of Easy Rawlins. We introduced "Devil in a Blue Dress" back in the '90s and Easy Rawlins was last seen in 2007's "Blonde Faith" in which he had a drunken accident while he was driving and apparently died. And in one review I've read, Mosley said he thought that Easy Rawlins was dead too, which if you know Walter Mosley you can believe that himself.
NNAMDIBarbara Hoffert, one of the books you're recommending this season set in Somalia has an air of mystery about it. Tell us about "Submergence."
HOFFERTOkay. "Submergence" -- the author's name is J. M. Ladgard and it's L-A-D-G-A-R-D. And he's actually born in the Shetlands but has lived much of his adult life in Africa covering Africa for The Economist. His character -- his main character James Moore is a Nairobi-based Englishman who actually works for the Secret Service and is asked to go to Somalia to investigate possible al-Qaida activity there. And is immediately jailed upon arrival and forced into a vermin infested room and then marched to the unforgiving landscape. So he's a captive and really doesn't know whether he'll live or die.
HOFFERTAnd as he's doing this he's remembering -- as this is happening to him he is remembering back to an affair he had at Christmas at a hotel on the northern coast of France with a young woman who's a mathematician who applies her skills to the ocean -- studying the ocean. And she of course -- it's all a submergence of our characters and how we connect comes throughout this very much novel of ideas but also very absorbing novel.
HOFFERTYou know, of course the -- James has submerged his personality not once but twice, you know, sort of -- and is denying who he is. And now he's lost. No one knows where he is. Danielle is about to submerge herself in the ocean and you as a reader submerge yourself in the story, which really makes you think about the utopias and do they last. Why did someone fight a Jihad? Will we survive as a species? What is the important or the laws of science? How will societies remake themselves in the future?
HOFFERTI had an interesting talk with the author a couple of weeks ago who said he feels very strongly that Africa is, you know, the -- is the future. It's where we have to look to see what is going to happen to our world. So I think reading him gives you a sense of what some of the pieces are in a really satisfying way.
NNAMDIOn to Beth in Springfield, Va. Beth, your turn.
BETHHi. Thanks for taking my call. There's a new book out published in March that had an author book talk at One More Page. His name is John Burgess and he has written a wonderful exciting drama-filled historical novel about the court and the people during the building of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. But you don't have to have any connection to Southeast Asia to love this book because this man is so skilled in his storytelling and so gentle in his presentation of history. It's just a wonderful read.
BETHAt the moment I think it's only available at Amazon.com, although One More Books (sic) may have some stock of it, because he was just there. You can certainly call and ask.
NNAMDII will certainly ask Eileen McGervey, since she's sitting right here and might be able to tell us.
MCGERVEYI was going to say, we usually keep at least one or two copies of that on hand.
NNAMDIAnd it's my understanding that author visits to the store tend to drive book sales a lot, don't they?
MCGERVEYThey do for a couple of reasons. First of all, the opportunity to hear the author brings people in. And I'll -- I'd say probably at least half the people that come in for an author visit, haven't been to the store before they're there because it's interesting to them. But the other reason is it gets us all excited about the book. There's nothing like hearing an author talk about their book to get us passionate about it and to -- you know, then we put it in a special place and then we hand sell it to people. So...
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Beth. We got an email from Ivetta speaking of local authors who writes, "I would love to get the word out on a new local author, Mark Gilleo G-I-L-L-E-O. He has two great books out. 'Love Thy Neighbor' is about a terrorist cell that comes to life in the Arlington area, inspired by real events. 'Sweat' is about a politician and lobbyist involved in a sweat shop and a young man out to save a seamstress and set things right." Holly -- we asked people to tweet about what they're reading for summer. Holly is reading "NOS4A2," which is one the books you were recommending, Eileen.
MCGERVEYYes. That was a book that -- I have not read this. It's by Joe Hill. He is the son of Steven King, and several of our long-time customers were anxiously awaiting this book coming out, and in our store when we have a book that somebody really likes, we put a little post it note on it, and this book is post it -- post note worthy. But, you know, it is a thriller, it's a horror story, and one of the folks said they thought it was even better than his dad's writing.
NNAMDIHolly is also reading "Bring Up the Bodies," "Astray," "The Master," (word?) , and anything else she can get her hands on. Irene is reading "Room" by Emma Donoghue, " (word?) ," and "The Great Gatsby." We're going to take a short break. You can also share what you're reading with us. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow if you'd like to join the conversation. Is there a genre you tend to gravitate towards during the summer months? Tell us what and why. 800-433-8850, or you can simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, see our panelists' recommendations and make your comment there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's our summer reading conversation. We're joined in studio by Eileen McGervey, the owner of One More Page Books. That's an independent book store in Arlington, Va., and John Wilwol. He's a freelance writer and member of the National Book Critics Circle. He's also the regular book critic for Washingtonian magazine. Barbara Hoffert is the editor of the Prepub Alert for the Library Journal which keeps librarians up-to-date on what's new in the publishing industry. Barbara, we talked about "Submergence," but you're also recommending two titles from young women who are part of the African Diaspora here in the U.S. What might we learn from their novels?
HOFFERTI just like the idea that if Africa is indeed opening up and so important for the future that we can connect with it through writers who are part of this Diaspora. One of them, NoViolet Bulawayo's "We Need New Names," just came out from Little Brown, is about a girl from Zimbabwe who, of course, whose village has descended in to chaos, whose family is scattered. She and her friends are scrounging for food on the streets, but she has a relative in America and is able to come to this country and stay here, and suddenly there is all this advertising on television about dieting at the same time that the refrigerator is more than full of food, and she's trying to understand how this all works out.
HOFFERTMy own reviewer said she thought it was freshest voice in the whole -- that she's read recently in this whole African Diaspora, and I think that is an exciting new book to follow. Another one, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I apologize if my pronunciation wasn't good on that. But "Americanah," who's this -- the main character here is a Nigerian ex-pat, Princeton lecturer, posting acerbic comments on the website that really examine the continuing racism and the continuing questions we have about race relations in American from her distinctive perspective.
HOFFERTI'm in the midst of both of those. I haven't finished them yet, but I think they're just incredibly strong books to read now. And I'll just throw in one more person from that Diaspora...
HOFFERT….because he's a favorite, favorite writer of mine, and I think he may have been on your show, Dinaw Mengestu.
NNAMDIOh, sure, yeah.
HOFFERTYeah. "The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears," and "How to Read the Air." Two of my favorite, favorite novels, and I think they're all just incredibly wonderful writers that bridge us through to the whole world.
NNAMDIBecause "The Beautiful Ones" was set in Washington so it was really, I guess, for our listeners a treat, but Dinaw Mengestu, yes. He was on the broadcast. We'll tell you that date so you can go into our archives and check on that at some point. John Wilwol -- October 18, 2011, I'm reliably informed is when Dinaw Mengestu was on the broadcast. John, the temperature is already starting to rise, D.C. denizens know all too well that summer sometime means days so hot you can't even muster the energy to read.
NNAMDITo that end, you recommend a book a virtually no words. What we will find in Demetri Martin's latest?
WILWOL"Point Your Face at --" Demetri Martin's a comedian. He's a New York Comedian, and he's very, very clever. His latest book is called "Point Your Face at This." His first book was called "This is a Book." "Point Your Face at This," is, as you said, it has almost no words in it. There's certainly no narrative. It's just a series of, I don't know, it's probably 250 pages long or so, and it's all cartoons. For those who liked Gary Larson's "Far Side," it's sort of the same idea.
WILWOLYou know, these aren't comic strips. It's sort of one cartoon and then another cartoon and another cartoon. And they're very, very funny and very, very clever. One was -- one that I really liked was, you know how people sometimes, you know, there's this idea for a costume of a horse you would have guy in the front as the forelegs and a guy in the back as the hind legs. And in this one of his cartoons is called "Halloween costume Miscommunication," and it's two guys -- to horse hind quarters, I guess.
WILWOLAnd he also does interesting things like he does these sort of mathematical formulas. He has this fascination with taking things apart, and one of them is lip ring equals lip plus hole plus ring minus good judgment equals lip ring. So it's very funny.
MCGERVEYI was going to say we were fortunate to have Dimetri Martin come to our store for an event. He was on a book tour for this, and he would go to bookstores during the day, and then he would do his nightclub appearances at night, but his book is very clever, and sometimes you sit there and you have to look at it several times to figure out what they are, and then they're great.
NNAMDIWell, Eileen, you were also a fan of a graphic novel collection that has a third volume out next month. Tell us about "The Graphic Canon" from Russ Kick.
MCGERVEYThis was something that I had never heard of before until one of very smart buyers obviously bought it for the store and once we got it in and looked at it, we were fascinated. Russ takes, you know, famous books that we all would know, and he has commissioned a different artist to do pictures of them, and new interpretations of them. Sometimes he uses older art, but generally it's new, and it was kind of like a sleeper book for us in that I think people couldn't imagine what it was until they actually saw it.
MCGERVEYIt's quite a big book, but it was -- it's just a great way of kind of melding -- and they probably would hate this description, but melding like a graphic novel and literature.
NNAMDISo you would have things like "The Picture of Dorian Gray?"
NNAMDIThat would be fascinating to me.
MCGERVEYReimagined -- reimagined by someone.
NNAMDII can only imagine. Here is Alyssa in Arlington, Va. Alyssa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALYSSAHi. I'm so excited to speak with you all. I just the privilege of being at an author visit with 300 elementary school students in Maryland, and the new author was Gary Karton. He wrote "The Last Akaway," and everything you're saying today about keeping young boys reading and having a cover that draws children and adults to it, and it sounds like a great book, and it got a great Kirkus review, and it's from Brattle Publishing. And Gary talked about growing up with a learning disability and always struggling with reading and how special teachers in his life that gave him different tools ended up -- he ended up becoming a sports writer for the Washington Post and now he just wrote this children's book.
ALYSSAIt was just an amazing story and the kids were enthralled, and they ran over time, and it was an amazing experience.
NNAMDIWell, thank you very for your call Alyssa. As I said, we'll be having our kids and young adults reading broadcast -- well, during the course of the next month. But you mentioned him being a sportswriter for the Washington Post, so here now is Bill in Arlington, Va. bill, your turn.
BILLHi, Kojo. I like sports, and I was wondering if Eileen could recommend any new sports books that are either well-written or popular.
MCGERVEYWell, I was going to say, actually, I have one of those that I put on our list and it's very specific to the Washington area. It's a booked called "Beltway Boys," and it's an insider's look at the Washington Nationals and about how they, you know, took their two phenoms, Stephen Strausburg and Bryce Harper and, you know, melded them with an experienced manager and their new team to come up with a really exciting team. The author is local and he's going to actually be at our store in June talking about it, but we have a resident baseball fanatic on our staff, and she read it and loved it. So that would be a definite recommendation from us.
NNAMDIAlso, we got a recommendation from E. Ethelbert Miller of a book called "Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game," by John Sexton. So you might want to check that out. Barbara Hoffert, last year we talked about the fact that the Pulitzer committee chose not to award a prize for fiction. This year it went to Adam Johnson's novel, "The Orphan Master's Son." How important is that award for authors, and what do you make of the pick?
HOFFERTWell, I think -- first of all, I think everyone was relieved and also, well, of course. There's so much great writing, how could there be any question that many, many, many prizes -- or many, many books deserve a prize. What I liked about this book particularly was it's just astonishing that an American who's never lived in Korea, who's never -- in North Korea particularly, who's never lived on totalitarianism, who doesn't know what's it like to have grown up shaped by that kind of thinking could introduce us so well to that world.
HOFFERTAs I said before, I'm always looking for books that are showing me something new and different, and I thought what he did was what fiction can do so well, really transporting me to another place, not by reporting, by through imagination. So I thought he did an amazing job, and I'm very pleased he won.
NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Sharlynn who says that she chooses books based on covers all the time. "If the cover draws me in, I'll read the blurb, and then the reviews on Good Reads. Great typeface intrigues me too." Speaking of Good Reads, John and Eileen, another announcement that made waves in the book world a few months ago was the purchase of the website Good Reads were avid readers share reviews by Amazon. What do you make of that move, John?
WILWOLEileen will probably have a little bit more to say about this than I do. I haven't used Good Reads a whole lot, but, you now, Amazon, I think, is generally seen as, you now, coming into spaces where readers rule, right? So indie book stores are being ruined by Amazon. Brick and mortar books stars in general are being ruined by Amazon, and so here they come again into, you know, a place that I think readers had seen as a place that was maybe not affected by Amazon, and all of a sudden it's gone.
NNAMDIIt's Amazon territory. Eileen?
MCGERVEYYeah. It really upset a lot of people, I think, because, you know, they went to Good Reads. They talked about their books. It's really a readers' forum, and, you know, a lot of people that read a lot are very supportive of independent book stores and, you know, Amazon coming and purchasing this, you know, it's definitely a smart move for them to give them a lot more review material to help in their recommendations. But again, it is kind of, you know, them encroaching in yet another area that made people defensive. Now, I don't know that people would necessarily stop using it, but it kind of soured them a little bit on it.
NNAMDIWhen we spoke last, Eileen, you had opened just five months earlier, and the future for independent book stores was looking pretty uncertain. How are things going?
MCGERVEYThings are going very well or us. We're lucky. You know, Washington is an area where people read a lot. The neighborhood that we're in, you know, people love to read. They support us and they come in and, you know, tell us all the time how happy they are that we're here and that they come and buy our books there. I think, you know, what independent books stores, you know, are doing to survive and to thrive is to, you know, to bring authors out to people so that they can talk with authors in person and to talk to other readers too, because people who love read love to talk about books and share them with other people.
NNAMDIAnd this is something that authors embrace.
MCGERVEYThey do. And I think, you know, it's tougher and tougher for authors to get the word out about their books. You know, the marketing budgets aren't there, and, you know, a lot of authors are on their own, and so what's interesting is some of them will, you know, plan these road trips across the country all by themselves. They'll take whatever little marketing money they have and kind of hop in their car and drive around, and, you know, to get the indie book stores behind them, because we have our community as well where we share information about books and, you know, we have our own best sellers list that, you know, sometimes overlaps with the New York Times, but you'll find a lot of different books on there also.
NNAMDIHere is Marty in Washington D.C. Marty, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARTYHi, thanks everyone. I wanted to recommend a book of poetry, because I think poetry is a wonderful genre for the summer, especially, you know, when one's on vacation and has the time to kind of relax and really interact with poetry that, you know, for some people can be somewhat difficult to access. The book is called "Clangings." It's by a poet named Steven Cramer. It's Cramer with a C. And the terms clangings refers -- it's a psychological terms that refers to the kinds of specialized speech that's used by people with certain mental illnesses, schizophrenics, manic depressives, who have trouble expressing themselves using ordinary speech, and their language then becomes very poetic and rich with imagery.
MARTYAnd Cramer has taken this concept and written this book of poetry. There are 49 poems that kind of flow into a monologue of his main character, and it's a gorgeous book, and very, very accessible.
NNAMDI"Clanging" by Steven Cramer. Thank you for that recommendation. Barbara Hoffert, you've got a selection of poetry you'd like to recommend. It sounds like an incredible group that you've got on the list.
HOFFERTYeah. I was really happy with this particular group of poets, and hope that everyone will be reading them all summer. Anne Carson's "Red Doc>," which is a sort of modern dress reconfiguring of Greek Myth, picturesque tale. In her first autobiography of "Red," Medusa's grandson, Geyron, who was killed by Heracles, actually comes back as a kind of moony youth, and you see him going on and making his friendships, and kind of a fascinating, as I said, picturesque tale among three young people.
NNAMDIOnly got about a minute left, but go ahead.
HOFFERTOkay. Sorry. Juan Felipe Herrera's "Senegal Taxi," Bob Hicok's "Elegy Owed," and Carl Phillip's "Silverchest," all completely different books, and all utterly engaging reads.
NNAMDIJohn, in the 30 seconds or so we have left, if listeners are hoping to pursue their own artistic endeavors this summer, they might draw inspiration from "Daily Rituals" by Mason Currey. What did you take away from that book?
WILWOLI thought it was interesting. "Daily Rituals" sort of describes the artistic habits of 161 sort of creative legends and things like that. And the thing that struck me is that he raises this question in the beginning of the book, you know, how do we do meaningful creative work and still earn a living, and so I was struck by those two things don't usually come together.
NNAMDIYou get to see the habits of all of these writers.
NNAMDIJohn Wilwol, he's a freelance writer and member of the National Book Critics Circle. He's the regular book critic for Washingtonian magazine. John, thank you for joining us.
WILWOLOf course. Thank you.
NNAMDIEileen McGervey is the owner of One More Page Books. That's an independent book store in Arlington, Va. Eileen, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd Barbara Hoffert. She is the editor of the Prepub Alert for the Library Journal that keeps librarians up-to-date on what's new in the publishing industry. Barbara Hoffert, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIThank you. And you all stay cool in Washington.
NNAMDIWe'll try our best. The weather seems to be getting cold again. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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