‘Tis the season…for staying in and curling up with a good book.

That’s right! It’s our winter book show and we’ve got quite the roster of local literary luminaries.

So, naturally, we want to know:

What’s the very best book you read this year and why? Listen and share your favorites below.

Produced by Julie Depenbrock


  • Ron Charles Book World Critic, The Washington Post; @RonCharles
  • Hannah Oliver Depp Owner, Loyalty Bookstores
  • Elizabeth Acevedo Poet, National Book Award Winner for "The Poet X"
  • Laurie Gillman Owner, East City Bookshop

Best Book Selections from NPR Listeners (and Staff)

Our Guests' Favorite Reads of 2018

The Very Best Books Of 2018 - The Kojo Nnamdi Show

We asked Washington Post book critic Ron Charles, East City Bookshop owner Laurie Gillman, National Book Award-winning author Elizabeth Acevedo, and Loyalty Bookstore owner Hannah Oliver Depp for their favorite books of 2018. Here's what they said. Ron Charles' Picks Laurie Gillman's Picks Elizabeth Acevedo's Picks Hannah Oliver Depp's Picks Join ...


  • 12:00:13

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned into "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU 88.5. Welcome, for all you bookworms out there tis the season for reading and we want to know what was the best book you read this year. It's our winter reading show and we've got quite the roster of local literary luminaries. So whether you're looking to curl up with a brand new or give the gift of reading this holiday season, tune in. Listen and share your suggestions because we're talking the very best books of the year.

  • 12:00:39

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIYou can give us a call right now, 800-433-8850. What is the best book you have read this year? What do you like to read, fiction, non-fiction, science fiction? Are you drawn to topics or authors that you know well or are you inspired to read about thing you know absolutely nothing about? 800-433-8850. Send us a Tweet at Kojo Show or email to kojo@wamu.org. You can go to our website kojoshow.org, join the conversation there.

  • 12:01:05

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining me in studio is Ron Charles. He's a critic for the Washington Post Book World and host of the "Totally Hip Book Review." Ron, good to see you again.

  • 12:01:12

    MR. RON CHARLESThanks so much for having me.

  • 12:01:14

    NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Hannah Oliver Depp. She runs Loyalty Bookstore in downtown Silver Spring. Hannah, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:01:22

    MS. HANNAH OLIVER DEPPSo excited to be here.

  • 12:01:23

    NNAMDIAnd Laurie Gillman is the owner of East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill, Pennsylvania Avenue. Laurie, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:01:30

    MS. LAURIE GILLMANThanks for having for me.

  • 12:01:31

    NNAMDIAnd also with us is Elizabeth Acevedo. She's a poet and author who won this year's National Book Award for young people's literature for her novel the "Poet X." Elizabeth, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:01:41

    MS. ELIZABETH ACEVEDOIt's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

  • 12:01:43

    NNAMDIAnd we have been asking for your favorite books of 2018 and here's what some of you said.

  • 12:01:48

    MALE ONEThe best book I read this year is the novel "The Overstory" by Richard Powers.

  • 12:01:54

    FEMALE ONEMy favorite of 2018 was the "Neapolitan" novel series.

  • 12:01:59

    MALE TWOOne of my favorite books this year was "The Indian World of George Washington" by Colin Calloway.

  • 12:02:05

    FEMALE TWOMy favorite book of 2018 is "The Hunger" by Alma Katsu.

  • 12:02:09

    FEMALE THREEOne of my favorite books of the year is "99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret" by Craig Brown.

  • 12:02:13

    FEMALE FOURThis year I discovered the author Louise Penny. The first book I read by her is called "A Great Reckoning."

  • 12:02:18

    FEMALE FIVE"The Aleppo Codex" by Matti Friedman is a great mystery.

  • 12:02:22

    FEMALE SIXI loved Cecelia Ahern's collection of short stories "Roar."

  • 12:02:26

    FEMALE SEVENThe books are "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel.

  • 12:02:31

    FEMALE EIGHTMy favorite book that I read this year was "The Fifth Season," which is the first book in the "Broken Earth" Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin.

  • 12:02:38

    MALE THREEPerhaps the best book I read this year was "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng.

  • 12:02:43

    MALE FOURThe very best book I read this year was easily "The Maytrees" by Annie Dillard.

  • 12:02:48

    MALE FIVEMy favorite book I read this year was "A Different Drummer" by William Melvin Kelley.

  • 12:02:52

    FEMALE NINEJust a luxurious, challenging and incredibly fun read.

  • 12:02:58

    FEMALE TENI love reading these and I can't wait to read the new one that's out. I've already asked for it for Christmas.

  • 12:03:03

    MALE SIXEveryone should read this book.

  • 12:03:04

    TWOI urge everyone to read it.

  • 12:03:05

    FIVEI really really recommend it.

  • 12:03:07

    TENHappy holidays.

  • 12:03:09

    NNAMDIAnd there you have it. My favorite book this year was "Washington Black," a novel by Esi Edugyan. She is Canadian of Ghanaian parents and at least one person in this room reviewed that book, Ron Charles.

  • 12:03:21

    CHARLESYeah, I thought that book was great.

  • 12:03:22


  • 12:03:23

    CHARLESShe was up for the Man Booker Prize. It's so exciting, which you don't always get in literary fiction. You know, sometimes the book can be a little precious, a little slow. But this is an incredible tale of a young boy. He's a slave on a Barbados plantation. It's incredibly cruel horrible place.

  • 12:03:37

    NNAMDIAnd I know Barbados and the description of Bridgetown could stand up today as a matter of fact.

  • 12:03:41

    CHARLESOh, my gosh. Well, he escapes on a hot air balloon with a white friend, who's a scientist. And they go on this incredibly perilous adventure around the world. I thought it was brilliant.

  • 12:03:51

    NNAMDIVirginia, the Arctic, ends up in Nova Scotia. You got to read it. I'll start with you, Hannah, if you had to choose, what would you say are the best books you read this year?

  • 12:04:00

    DEPPIt's been a fantastic year luckily. I feel quite blessed in my reading picks. My favorite novel without a doubt was "The Incendiaries" by R.O. Kwon. It is an absolute gem. Sentence to sentence, I wanted to take it apart and just hold each sentence up to the light. It was so good. It really deals with the issue of the loss of faith and the kind of hole that that can leave in you. There's also certainly a love story in it. There's betrayal. There's cults. There's something for everybody. It reads at times like a thriller. It reads at times like a meditation on devotion. I mean, it really had something for everyone.

  • 12:04:42

    NNAMDIHow about you Laurie?

  • 12:04:44

    GILLMANWell, "The Incendiaries" was one of my picks when we made some lists. But I will go with "Heavy," which is a memoir by Kiese Laymon.

  • 12:04:54

    NNAMDIOh, yeah, I read that.

  • 12:04:54

    GILLMANSo powerful.

  • 12:04:55

    NNAMDIThat's fascinating.

  • 12:04:58

    GILLMANAnd just...

  • 12:04:59

    NNAMDII never knew he was heavy. But that's a whole other story.

  • 12:05:02

    GILLMANRight. Well, he is an amazing--it's so amazingly honest and he really puts out all of his vulnerability and it's--there are some hard hard scenes in there. But I ended it feeling really hopeful because it was sort of like he looked at all that. He examined it. He dealt with it and is ready to move. And I think we'll be hearing a lot more from him. I mean, his books.

  • 12:05:25

    NNAMDIA great deal of it is about the impact of his mother on his life.

  • 12:05:28

    GILLMANYes. And the way he treats the whole subject matter of his mother. It's just an amazing, amazing memoir.

  • 12:05:34

    NNAMDIAbsolutely fascinating. Elizabeth, we are truly fortunate today to have with us a 2018 National Book Award winner. Elizabeth Acevedo won the award for Young People's Literature for her novel the "Poet X." Well, congratulations.

  • 12:05:48

    ACEVEDOThank you.

  • 12:05:49

    NNAMDIBefore we get to your book, though, I'm wondering first what your personal reading recommendations are.

  • 12:05:54

    ACEVEDOWell, I actually have a lot of crossover, with some of the other folks up here. I loved "Heavy." I thought it was a masterclass in poetry, although, it's a memoir. Every line is just such a gem and when you talk about vulnerability on the page, he just really gets that across. But I'm going to go with a young adult book. I loved "Dread Nation" by Justina Ireland. It takes place right after the Civil War. It's an alternate history and so we look at zombies in the streets. We look at young people of color, who are being trained to fight these zombies. It's about race. It's about social justice. It's about how we examine history. It's about how we make up history and brilliant. It's a book I wish I could plagiarize, but I won't.

  • 12:06:39

    NNAMDIOn to you, Ron Charles, since you're the critic in the room, we've saved your picks for last. Can you tell us of all the books you read these year, what are the three or so that stand out?

  • 12:06:48

    CHARLESMy favorite book was by a young woman named Fatima Farheen Mirza. I don't think she's even 30 years old.

  • 12:06:54

    NNAMDIDon't give too much away. I'm currently reading that book it's...

  • 12:06:55

    CHARLESOh, so beautiful.

  • 12:06:56

    NNAMDI...called, "A Place for Us."

  • 12:06:58

    CHARLES"A Place for Us," this is a book I picked by Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint. So I was little skeptical because, you know, celebrity imprints, what does that mean? But she has some great taste here. It's about a Muslim family in California. It begins with a wedding and then the book cycles back through their past. It's the only book I've read that gave me sense of what it is to live the Muslim faith in America now. I thought it was absolutely gorgeous.

  • 12:07:22

    NNAMDIA couple of others?

  • 12:07:24

    CHARLESTommy Orange's book, "There There" has been getting a lot of praises. Another debut, he's a Native American Indian. He's written this collection of linked stories about Native Americans in Oakland, California. Some of them are doing really badly. Some of them are doing okay. And they're all--all their lives converge around a Pow Wow at a coliseum. And, well, I won't give it away, but it has a tremendously exciting climax.

  • 12:07:47

    DEPPAnd I loved that because it gave the viewpoint of Indians in an urban setting. Native Americans, who live a life in the city, which...

  • 12:07:53

    CHARLESI had never--No, I had never read anything like it.

  • 12:07:56

    DEPPNo, I hadn't either.

  • 12:07:57

    CHARLESAnd it begins with an essay that's so brilliant and witty, that I think it's going to be anthologized everywhere.

  • 12:08:01


  • 12:08:04

    NNAMDIWell, I started reading "There There" beginning with that essay and then I said, "Well, I wanted to see a novel with more action." So I switched over to "A Place for Us." But I still have "There There" on my Kindle. So it's next up.

  • 12:08:15

    CHARLESGo back. Go back.

  • 12:08:16

    NNAMDII'm going to go back to that. "The Overstory" won the National Book Award. This ended up on many end of the year best lists. Tell us about that book.

  • 12:08:23

    CHARLESThat is the most exciting book about trees you will ever read. It's unbelievable. It's super complicated. It's a lot of different people and their interactions with trees. Some of them are scientists, one is a pilot, who falls out of plane and is saved by falling into a tree and the trees actually become kind of characters in this book. And one is a biologist or a botanist who understands that trees communicate to one another. And all these stories begin to converge in this great, shall I say, forest of stories. I just thought it was a remarkable book.

  • 12:08:56

    NNAMDIIn your review you wrote that it moves the way an open field evolves into a thick forest, slowly then inevitably.

  • 12:09:01

    CHARLESYeah, at first you can't believe these stories are going to interweave. But they do eventually.

  • 12:09:06

    NNAMDIYou think more complex stories lend themselves better to winter time reading?

  • 12:09:10

    CHARLESIt is a long, complicated, and demanding book. So if you've got the time. But I think summer, you know, when you go on vacation, it's a good time too. So it just depends on what your family situation is and what your vacation situation is.

  • 12:09:21

    NNAMDILet's hear what Alton in Washington D.C. is reading or thinking. Alton, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:09:25

    ALTONHi, Kojo. I recommend Dan Brown's newest book "Origin." It's a good thriller. People like suspenseful reads. I recommend that book.

  • 12:09:34

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much. Laurie, what do you look for in a winter read? Are there any books you'd recommend specifically for this time of year?

  • 12:09:41

    GILLMANI think that it's a really personal thing or at least for me, I associate certain places with winter. So for some reason I associate--well, I know why. But I associate Paris with winter. So for me a really great winter book was "Little" by Edward Carey.

  • 12:09:57

    NNAMDIYou said, "I know why." You're not going to tell us that story?

  • 12:09:59

    GILLMANWell, just because that's when I spent the most time there. There's not a really great story there.

  • 12:10:03

    NNAMDIOkay. Go ahead.

  • 12:10:04

    GILLMANBut "Little" by Edward Carey is book that is historical fiction. It takes place in Paris and around Paris. And it's the story of the woman, who became Madam Tussauds. So it's during the French Revolution and that's the kind of book I look for with a lot going on, kind of complicated, but magical.

  • 12:10:24

    NNAMDIHow are you--how about you, Hannah, what do you look for in a winter read?

  • 12:10:27

    DEPPI tend to look for something that will be engaging. This is the busiest time of year if you're a retail person. So your brain is fried by the end of every day. And there's probably some family things going on. So I tend to look for something really engaging and distracting. It's probably my biggest time I read the most of my genre, my mystery novels, my romance novels.

  • 12:10:49

    GILLMANHow about really short books seems to be what I've been reading lately.

  • 12:10:54

    DEPPYeah, some short stories. It's been a great year for short story collections. I love "A Lucky Man" by Jamel Brinkley. It's one of favorites. It's been a wonderful thing. So you can pick up a short story. Really read it. Dig into that beautiful chunk of story and then put it down and move on. It's huge for me.

  • 12:11:12

    NNAMDIGo ahead.

  • 12:11:13

    DEPPYeah, and then there's a wonderful book that was just published in the States called "Rosewater" by Tade Thompson. And that's Nigerian speculative fiction, which is a whole thing going on that we just are becoming aware of here in the States. And I loved it. And I ate it up. I listened to it on audio actually.

  • 12:11:32

    CHARLESWho reads that?

  • 12:11:33

    DEPPI actually don't know the name of the reader, which is terrible of me.

  • 12:11:35

    CHARLESOh, no.

  • 12:11:36

    DEPPBut it's--they're certainly fantastic and it takes something that may happen to all of us where all of our transactions are being done mentally, because we all have chips in our brain. And there's people who are sort of protecting a biosphere of technology. I can't give too much away. But it had me hooked immediately and, you know, near future Nigeria. Amazing.

  • 12:12:02

    NNAMDIGot a tweet from Sarah B, who says, "This year I discovered David Joy, "Where All Light Tends to Go," "The Weight of this World," and "The Line that Held Us," are all perfect devastating novels that capture the life experiences of many people in Appalachia. So well written, gripping, and revealing." We're going to have to take a short break because, of course, this is our year end membership campaign time. So we would like you to become a member of WAMU 88.5. You're about to find out exactly how you can do that. And then when we come back, we will continue this conversation on winter reading. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:13:04

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on winter reading. We are talking with Elizabeth Acevedo. She's a poet and author, who won this year's National Book Award for Young People's Literature for her novel, the "Poet X." Ron Charles is a critic for the Washington Post Book World and host of the "Totally Hip Book Review." Hannah Oliver Depp runs Loyalty Bookstore in downtown Silver Spring. And Laurie Gillman is the owner of East City Bookshop on Pennsylvania Avenue on Capitol Hill. Here's what Louise has to say about that book store. Louise, you're on the air go ahead, please.

  • 12:13:34

    LOUISEThank you, Kojo. I just wanted to say a word about East City Books. My husband and I went in there with a list of difficult people to buy for. And thanks to the wonderful staff we took care of everyone and according to UPS we shipped about 12 pounds of books.

  • 12:14:00

    GILLMANOh, we love you, Louise.

  • 12:14:03

    NNAMDIYeah, Laurie, is going to start selling books by the pound now.

  • 12:14:06

    GILLMANYes, I like that idea. I like that idea.

  • 12:14:09

    NNAMDILouise, thank you very much for you call.

  • 12:14:11

    GILLMANThank you.

  • 12:14:11

    NNAMDIMarley tweets, "East City Book Shop on Capitol Hill, East has been a godsend to my neighborhood. Every time I go in, they're friendly, helpful, work with me on even my most eccentric genres and have fair prices, heading there soon to stock up for vacation." See some more pounds of books coming out of your store again.

  • 12:14:27

    GILLMANWonderful. Thank you. Thank you.

  • 12:14:29

    ACEVEDOI want to second that. I live in southwest and so East City is one of my local book shops. And I try to stop in all the time. It's a nice walk from Eastern Market to southwest. And you all are great.

  • 12:14:41

    NNAMDIWell, enough about Laurie. Let's turn to you, Elizabeth. I'd like to shift gears and talk about your book, the "Poet X," what's it about?

  • 12:14:51

    ACEVEDOThe "Poet X" is a coming of age story. It's about a Dominican American 15-year-old growing up in New York City. And she's at the crux of everything changing. Her body is changing. Her evaluation of her family is changing. She's ready to burst out of her skin and she doesn't really know what that means. And she's a secret poet. She has all of this writing that she's been engaging in that she doesn't necessarily call poetry. It's just how she journals.

  • 12:15:17

    ACEVEDOAnd she goes to school the first day of sophomore year and learns there's a poetry club. And it's completely antithetical to how her mother is raising her to speak up and to take up space. And now there's this encouragement from the school community to say what's on her heart.

  • 12:15:34

    NNAMDIWhere did your motivation to write this novel come from?

  • 12:15:37

    ACEVEDOI was an eighth grade English teacher in Prince George's county Maryland. I taught at a school called Buck Lodge Middle School. It's a school that is 80 percent Latinx, 17 percent black. It is a Title One school in a community that is incredibly disenfranchised. I was the first teacher they had ever had of Latinx descent teaching a core subject. And I walk into this space. A lot of my students were not on grade level. And I'm throwing all of the exciting book at them, right, at the time. "Twilight" and "Hunger Games" and whatever was big at the moment. And a lot of my reluctant readers were struggling.

  • 12:16:10

    ACEVEDOAnd I had this one student, who one day is just like, "These books ain't about us. Like where are the books about us?" And I went out with my little teacher budget and like got like Jacqueline Woodson and got Sandra Cisneros and Julia Alvarez and Nicky Grimes and all these authors I thought she could relate to. And within two weeks she had read everything I put in front of her. And then she's like, "All right, what's next?" I'm like, "What's next? That's it. That's all we got." That's all my budget can afford. But that's also that's what we have.

  • 12:16:38

    ACEVEDOLike there are only so many books for that age level--for that grade level that were speaking to the experiences she wanted to read. And it sparked this notion of what does it mean to write to and for these students.

  • 12:16:51

    NNAMDIYou--in the dedication you continue, "To all the little sisters yearning to see themselves, this is for you." Why do you feel it's so important for young woman of color in particular to see their own stories reflected in literature?

  • 12:17:08

    ACEVEDOI feel like I grew up in a community where there were a lot of things we couldn't talk about and it's maybe because my parents are from another country, maybe because there were all these gender roles that were just this is what it is and you don't ask questions about it. And books were my way to figure out that answers I wasn't going to find at home. And a lot of the young women I work with I feel like have all these question and they don't know where to turn to and they don't know where they see themselves and they're not finding it in the books that are put in front of them.

  • 12:17:42

    ACEVEDOAnd so it's just a reminder they exist, their problems exist, but their healing also exists. And I think that's critical for them to see themselves triumphant and loved and illustrated with tenderness in a way that they haven't.

  • 12:17:55

    NNAMDII'm wondering if you can read us a poem.

  • 12:17:59


  • 12:17:59

    NNAMDIFrom the "Poet X," a novel written in poetry form.

  • 12:18:04

    ACEVEDOIt is a novel in verse and a lot of folks are afraid of poetry. But I think the book will teach you how to read it.

  • 12:18:12

    NNAMDIIt'll help you get over your fear.

  • 12:18:14

    ACEVEDOIt will. And so I'll start with an early section, where Xiomara is describing you know her name and where she's from. I’m the only one in the family without a biblical name. Xiomara isn’t even Dominican. I know, because I Googled it. It means: One who is ready for war. And truth be told, that description is about right because I even tried to come into the world in a fighting stance: feet first. Had to be cut out of Mami after she’d given birth to my twin brother, Xavier, just fine.

  • 12:18:49

    ACEVEDOAnd my name labors out of some people’s mouths in that same awkward and painful way. Until I have to slowly say: See-oh-MAH-ruh. I’ve learned not to flinch the first day of school as teachers get stuck stupid trying to figure it out. Mami says she thought it was a saint’s name. Gave me this gift of battle and now curses how well I live up to it. My parents probably wanted a girl who would sit in the pews wearing pretty florals and a soft smile. They got combat boots and a mouth that's silent until it’s sharp as an island machete.

  • 12:19:27

    NNAMDIElizabeth Acevedo reading from her National Book Award winning novel, the "Poet X," Xiomara.

  • 12:19:33


  • 12:19:34

    NNAMDIAnd you better get it right, because Xiomara was tough.

  • 12:19:40

    NNAMDILaurie Gillman, Elizabeth Acevedo did a reading from the "Poet X" at East City Bookshop earlier this year, what happens when you see authors connect with their readers and interact with their readers?

  • 12:19:50

    GILLMANIt is really this is one of the parts of the job that I had no idea what a profound difference it would make in my life to see this happening and to meet authors and see them connect with the people and see sort of that spark. Especially, like when Liz was at the shop, we had reached out to a lot of schools a lot of kids of color and kids, who hadn't spent a lot of time in bookstores, reading books that have great teachers, bring them along. And they--they are star struck by some of our authors that we have there and it's wonderful to see them as a, you know, this could be me.

  • 12:20:31


  • 12:20:31

    NNAMDIYou got so many kudos. For those who have not yet been to your bookshop can you paint a picture of East City Bookshop? What’s special about this store in particular?

  • 12:20:39

    GILLMANOh, well, it's a really happy place. I think it's this is something that I've done sort of in my midlife and something that was totally new for me.

  • 12:20:51

    NNAMDII was about to say how much bookstore experience did you have before that?

  • 12:20:54

    GILLMANZero. (laugh) But it--the bookstore community is a wonderful supportive community. But I also--I just don't think there's a reason that anyone should leave a bookstore feeling unhappy.

  • 12:21:07


  • 12:21:08

    GILLMANSo that's sort of the way we approach things.

  • 12:21:11

    CHARLESOr empty-handed.

  • 12:21:12

    GILLMANOr empty-handed obviously. But it's--and it's fun to be I--I've worked in nonprofits all my life, before this. So it's fun to be sort of a community meeting point. I really love that about it.

  • 12:21:24

    NNAMDIRon, we've seen quite a resurgence in independent bookstores over the past few years. What do you think it is about this area that draws people to bookshops as opposed to simply going online to Amazon?

  • 12:21:35

    CHARLESI'm hearing that it's a national trend, that the independent bookstores are coming back strongly. It started even during the recession, I understand. And I think after--it looked like independent bookstores were going to be snuffed out. The owners just got much more serious and said, what can we do that is unique to us that is not like the online experience? And they figured it out and it was to create places that people want to visit and experts that can advise you on what to buy.

  • 12:22:01

    CHARLESI think they offer something very unique and very valuable and lots of people have figured that out. Lots of readers have figured that out, particularly in this area, where we have more and more bookstores every year.

  • 12:22:10

    NNAMDIIdle Time Bookstore, one of my favorites, in Adams Morgan was just sold. And a lot of people thought they were going out of business, but they only wanted to make sure it went to the right owner. And I guess that's really important. Hannah there was period where all we were hearing about was bookstores closing or in danger of closing. Do you feel independent bookstores are making a comeback?

  • 12:22:30

    DEPPI certainly do and I think it was very interesting to be a bookseller during that time. And all of us are looking around at each other going, no, no we're here. We're doing fine. (laugh) You know, they're certainly special challenges every year and it changes. But if you are a bookstore owner and employee, who understands your community, likely your community understands you too. It's a two way street.

  • 12:22:54

    DEPPAnd I do think that as people start to look around their neighborhoods and realize that they've just got restaurants and nail salons and both of those can be lovely experiences. But if you want your downtown to be a place that is special to you and you identify with and you're close to nothing says that like a bookstore. It's a really--it's a community gem.

  • 12:23:14

    NNAMDIYou worked for years at Politics and Pros and you recently opened up your pop-up bookstore in downtown Silver Spring, Loyalty Bookstore. Are there plans to open up permanent, location and where would it be. Why a pop-up?

  • 12:23:26

    DEPPAbsolutely, so we are working right now on securing a location and negotiating that and figuring out exactly where we can be right in the downtown Silver Spring area. And it was community that had not been served by a bookstore since the Borders closed, years ago. And it is an incredibly diverse community. It's an immigrant community. It's a long standing community in addition to all of the development that's happening there.

  • 12:23:51

    DEPPThere's a strong core and those are readers and that is a--they need a gathering place and they want to talk about books. And so we wanted to take advantage of the holiday season and meet them and let them know we were working on it and I am so--so excited to come home to my community. I used to spend my summers there as a kid with my aunt. And I am so happy to come home and bring them a bookstore.

  • 12:24:16

    NNAMDIOn to Grant in Virginia. Grant you're on the air go ahead please.

  • 12:24:21

    GRANTOh, good afternoon. Thanks for taking my call. And it's so refreshing to talk to people about books. I recently read Atul Gawande's "Being Mortal." And I don't know if anyone has read it. But it's a book about the realities of growing old. And it's like one of those books that everybody should probably read, but most people would probably be afraid of.

  • 12:24:45

    NNAMDIWell, that's basically my life story, Grant. (laugh) But, yes, I think a lot of people might be afraid of it. But it's apparently highly recommended reading and a lot of people are reading it and loving it. So thank you very much for sharing that with us. We've got to take a short break. This is our year end membership campaign, where you too can become a member of WAMU, but we'll be right back to our winter reading conversation. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:25:10

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking winter reading with Elizabeth Acevedo. She's a poet and author, who won this year's National Book Award for young people's literature for her novel, the "Poet X." Ron Charles, is a critic for the Washington Post Book World and host of the "Totally Hip Book Review." Hannah Oliver Depp runs Loyalty Bookstore in downtown Silver Spring. And Laurie Gillman is the owner of East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. This one for all of you, do you recommend paper books over tablets? Does it matter? Where someone is reading or just that they are reading, starting with you, Laurie?

  • 12:25:40

    GILLMANWell, of course I recommend paper books over tablets, but even I have times when I read on my tablet. Traveling, we hear that from a lot of people, but I have to say the majority of our customers come in and tell us. I much rather read from a paper book. So we like that. We do have audio books available. I mean, we do have audio books, which a lot of people are buying now. We have ebooks on our website. But they're really not as popular as actual books.

  • 12:26:10

    NNAMDIWhere do you come down in this debate, Ron Charles?

  • 12:26:12

    CHARLESI have to take notes, because I can't remember anything so normally paper for me.

  • 12:26:16

    NNAMDIOkay. How about you Elizabeth?

  • 12:26:18

    ACEVEDOI think it depends on the genre for me. I can't read poetry on an electronic version. I don't know what it is about--I need to see the space on the page. And so for me I need hardcopy. But I'm on the road a lot and so when I'm trying to work through a novel or engage with prose it's so much quicker to read off my phone on a flight.

  • 12:26:38

    NNAMDIHow about you, Hannah?

  • 12:26:40

    DEPPI don't care how you read as long as you read. I personally am a bit divided of a reader. I have an obscene amount of paper books. And I love them and I cherish them and I'm always getting more. But I do have a pretty good ebook collection. And most indie bookstores sell audio and ebooks as well. So I'll sell you a book however I can sell you a book.

  • 12:27:05

    DEPPBut I do think that there is something special about a paper book in your hands. I'm not going to lie. I love also. I'm a bad person, I write all over my books.

  • 12:27:13

    NNAMDII hear from a lot of people that they don't have the time that they like to read, especially when it comes to more ambitious fare. What would you recommend for those folks?

  • 12:27:24

    DEPPFirst that there's nothing they have to read. I think a lot of times people, especially in D.C., they feel obligated to read whatever is in the news. And they should read what they want to read. But for those people I say try a little genre. There's a Newton of French that's incredibly engaging. Several of us recommended Alyssa Cole, who is a wonderful romance novelist, who writes these intersectional feminist romance novels. Try a little genre. Just go for purely for the joy. You'll find the time trust me. You can binge watch 17 shows on Netflix you can find a time for a joy novel.

  • 12:27:58

    NNAMDIHow about audio books, what do you think Ron Charles?

  • 12:28:01

    CHARLESI think the audio book is the most exciting part of the industry right now. And people agree. I mean, it's the only part of the industry that's increasing sales dramatically year by year. And it's because publisher's are producing such incredible products now. I mean, they're more like radio plays now, then what we used to think of as audio books. We heard the, you know, the reading that Liz just did, I mean, she's a spectacular performer. And she started as a poet--a spoken poet.

  • 12:28:24

    NNAMDINational Poetry Slam Champion.

  • 12:28:25

    CHARLESRight and you think, like George Saunders' book with a 166 narrators. It's amazing. It's nothing like reading the book. It's its own special experience.

  • 12:28:35

    NNAMDIIndeed, Elizabeth, your audio book of the "Poet X" has been showered with praise. You did it yourself. With poetry does the audiobook experience make a big difference, do you think?

  • 12:28:45

    ACEVEDOI don't know. I mean I think we love having poems read to us. We love having stories. We love hearing stories, right? Like, to me there's nothing better than one of my home girls, like, leaning into my ear, like, Let me tell you what I just heard. And I think that's what audiobooks do. They make us feel like a friend is telling us this secret of someone else's life. And for poetry I think it can go of one direction of you need to hear a poem again. And so what does it mean to need to rewind an audiobook, I'm really curious of that experience, but also when it's a narrative, when it's a novel in reverse. The ability to just give into the language and allow the story to wash over you, I think has to be amazing. I haven't heard my own audiobook. I refuse.

  • 12:29:26


  • 12:29:27

    ACEVEDOI'm too nervous and too critical of my own words.

  • 12:29:28

    NNAMDIIt's like me, I hate listening to myself on the radio. That's--we got a Tweet from one Tayla, who says, "The emotion in Laurie Gillman's voice as she talks about the magic of seeing kids connect with authors like Liz Acevedo at shops like East City Bookshop tells you all you need to know about how important it is." Well, Taylor, was and is Tayla Burney, who was a producer on this show and who in many respects still is a producer on this show. Because we got a Tweet from Chris, who says, "Tayla Burney's strong endorsement of Camille Acker's "Training School for Negro Girls," I'm looking forward to reading this collection of short stories set in D.C."

  • 12:30:10

    NNAMDIAnd I should mention, as I said, Tayla is still a producer here basically, because Camille Acker will be on this show next week, December 18.

  • 12:30:17

    ACEVEDOThat is an incredible collection.

  • 12:30:19

    NNAMDIIndeed. And it's influenced a lot by Nannie Helen Burroughs. People ride through Washington and they see Nannie Helen Burroughs Street and they say, Who was Nannie Helen Burroughs? Well, you read this and you can find out. On to the phones now. Here is Rafael in Bristol, Virginia. Rafael, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:30:36

    RAFAELI have two books by the same author, Joe Lansdale. And the first one is "The Thicket"--I think it's pronounced--T-H-I-C-K-E-T.

  • 12:30:52

    NNAMDIThe "Thicket."

  • 12:30:54

    RAFAELYeah. And the other one is "The Bottoms." And he's just so gifted. In (unintelligible) I mean, describing at some point it's almost like you are there, you know, watching. He's just very very talented.

  • 12:31:11

    NNAMDIFirst time you're reading Joe Lansdale?

  • 12:31:14


  • 12:31:14

    NNAMDIOkay. Good. Well, thank you for recommending it. On now to Gail in Arlington. Gail, your turn.

  • 12:31:23

    GAILHi the book that I'd like to really recommend is called the "Power," by Naomi Alderman. A very very dystopian novel and when I began reading it, I thought, oh, isn't this great a book that puts women in charge. And then the reality hits that all power corrupts. So that's it's very dystopian. It's very contemporary, so I really want to recommend that. But I also wanted...

  • 12:31:54

    NNAMDIApparently Ron Charles loves it too.

  • 12:31:55

    CHARLESOh, it's such an exciting book.

  • 12:31:56

    GAILYes, I know. Tell Ron that I did--I follow him on Goodreads and I always read his--and his was one of the first reviews that I read about this book.

  • 12:32:06

    CHARLESOh, thank you.

  • 12:32:07

    GAILSo the other thing is, I want to talk a little bit about how I read and why. I'm a book lover and I love having books and I love the feel of books. So for many many years I read, you know, primarily books and used my tablet when I was traveling. But about three years ago I developed a very rare eye condition and if it were not for being able to read on my tablet, using either my iPad or my actual Kindle or listen to audiobooks on audible, I wouldn't be able to read at all.

  • 12:32:42

    NNAMDIOh, good.

  • 12:32:43

    GAILI can't see print in any size.

  • 12:32:47

    NNAMDISo these alternatives are great for you, Gail.

  • 12:32:50

    GAILThey are--I would be probably one of the most miserable people on earth, if those two ways of reading didn't exist.

  • 12:32:58

    NNAMDIThank you very much for sharing that with us. On to Patrick in Washington D.C. Patrick your turn.

  • 12:33:04

    PATRICKWell, sir, good morning. And great to be able to listen to your radio program. And great to have the day off. And I do have my books open as a matter of fact and put on the radio and enjoy your company. What I picked up once again is the "Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity" and are two folks from Stanford University, one is the former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and then Ms. Amy Zegart.

  • 12:33:30

    PATRICKNow of course being from Washington a book called "Political Risk" is you know right up my alley, sir, I totally have a draw for it. However, it's a modern book. It was published this year.

  • 12:33:43


  • 12:33:44

    PATRICKAnd it discusses some of the things that we really should think about when we do come into a situation where there is a risk for business or political risk, how for example negativity can really affect you.

  • 12:33:57

    NNAMDIAnd this is the right kind of town for that book to land in at this time. But we're running out of time very quickly. So I can't pursue the rumors that Condoleezza Rice is going to be the next president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but apparently those rumors have been shot down. And I wanted to give Elizabeth Acevedo the opportunity to read one more poem for us before we came to the end of this broadcast. So Patrick thank you very much for your call. Elizabeth.

  • 12:34:23

    ACEVEDOSo this is near the middle of the book Xiomara has finally spoken up and gets into a lot of trouble for it and is writing a poem to her mother. In translation, my mouth cannot write you a white flag. It will never be a bible verse. My mouth cannot be shaped into the apology you say both you and God deserve. And you want to make it seem like it's my mouth's entire fault because it was hungry and silent. But what about your mouth, how your lips are staples that pierce me quick and hard? And the words I never say are better left on my tongue since they only would have slammed against the closed door of your back. Your silence furnishes a dark house, but even at the risk of burning the moth always seeks the light.

  • 12:35:16

    NNAMDIElizabeth Acevedo reading from her novel the "Poet X." She's a poet and author, who won this year's National Book Award for young people's literature. Elizabeth Acevedo, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:35:26

    ACEVEDOThank you all for having me.

  • 12:35:28

    NNAMDIRon Charles is a critic for The Washington Post Book World and host of the "Totally Hip Book Review." Ron Charles thanks for gracing us with your totally hip presence today.

  • 12:35:36

    CHARLES(laugh) Oh, thank you very much for asking me.

  • 12:35:39

    NNAMDILaurie Gillman is the owner of East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Laurie, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:35:44

    GILLMANThank you for having me.

  • 12:35:45

    NNAMDIAnd Hannah Oliver Depp runs Loyalty Bookstore in downtown Silver Spring, currently a pop-up, but soon to be a brick and mortar location there. Thank you very much for joining us and good luck to you.

  • 12:35:57

    DEPPThank you so much.

  • 12:35:58

    NNAMDIToday's show on books and reading was produced by Julie Depenbrock. Coming up tomorrow on the Politics Hour, we'll catch up with Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro. What are her plans to lead the council?

  • 12:36:10

    NNAMDIPlus Jonathan O'Connell joins us to discuss the regional political battle over the Washington football team stadium. Competition got more heated after it came out that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has been making moves behind the scenes to keep the team in Maryland. And there are those who are also making their moves behind the scene to bring the team back to Washington. But that is also pretty controversial.

  • 12:36:33

    NNAMDIBut you can hear about all of that tomorrow at noon on the politics hour with Tom Sherwood, our resident analyst. Until then thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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