Summer's Most Magical Form of Transport: Books

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Looking for some great summer reading recommendations? You cannot go wrong with NPR’s Alan Cheuse. Here are the excerpts of some of the titles on his 2006 Summer Reading list.

Swell Books for Summer Loafing by Susan Stamberg is another source not to be missed. This morning I heard wonderful suggestions from three independent booksellers. My list is growing and I need to get a bigger beach bag!

And then there is the Talk of the Nation Summer Reading List.

Just to make sure you won’t run out of good reads this summer, we will soon be making some summer reading suggestions too in our Books Blog. Watch for them.

New Fiction on the New York Times Best Sellers List (6/4/06)

After last weekend's sunshine it appears we are back to gloomy weather this week. The two new entries are "hard-boiled" American mysteries that also walk on the dark side of human nature.

At #2 is Dead Watch by John Sandford: in this new series Jacob Winter is a political operative instead of a newspaperman but he also ends up pursuing a murderer.

At #3 is The Hard Way by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back, helping a dealer in mercenaries find his kidnapped wife.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #24 - Geography as Character

Two exemplary recent Australian releases treat geography as character - the highly original and witty debut Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany, and The Secret River by the 2001 Orange Prize winner, Kate Grenville.

Set in 1930s Victoria, Everyman is narrated by Jean Cunningham, the young, curious and courageous sewing teacher on the “Better-Farming Train” which travels throughout the country, bringing advice to agricultural communities. Love comes in the form of Robert, an idealistic soil scientist with the rare ability to identify the origin of soil by taste, and who adheres unyieldingly to his Rules for Scientific Living.

The Secret River on the other hand, is inspired by Grenville’s own family history and the early settlement of New South Wales. William Thornhill and his family must struggle for a delicate coexistence with the native population along the savage Hawkesbury River.

Landscape is far more than mere setting. Whether harsh or lush, beneficent or punishing, it drives the plots and leaves indelible marks in the lives of these characters.

An extraordinary story

Death becomes a pivotal character in the mezmerizing novel, The Book Thief by Australian author, Marcus Zusak. Death, often hard hearted, is drawn to Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl growing up near Munich during World War II. Abandoned by her mother and still sffering nightmares about the death of her younger brother, Liesel is taken in by foster parents in the rough working class neighborhood of Molching where she steals her first book. Over the ensuing years, Liesel steals more books which become for her an escape and a silent protest to the totalitarian regime in which she lives. She befriends Max, a Jew, whom her parents hide in their basement and who whitewashes the pages of Mein Kampf to make his own book as a gift to Liesel. To hear an interview done by NPR's John Ydstie with Zusak, log on to the NPR site.

Hold the Flag High by Catherine Clinton

William H. Carney is an officer of the first all African-American regiment of the Civil War. Carney’s determination not to allow the flag to touch the ground inspired his men to move forward into battle. Catherine Clinton gives an historical account of the first African American who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Paul Auster wins major literary award in Spain

Paul Auster wins major literary award in Spain

Paul Auster, 59, was awarded Spain's The Prince of Asturias Award for Letters yesterday.

Auster, whose latest novel, Brooklyn Follies (2006), was released earlier this year was praised by prize committee president, Victor Garcia de la Concha, as "...one of the U.S. greatest living writers."

Auster, married to author Siri Hustvedt, will receive the 50,000 Euro ($70,760) purse in an October 2006 ceremony.

Fresh Air Picks from the Week of May 22nd, 2006

Award-winning Australian novelist Peter Carey has a new novel out, called Theft: A Love Story. Publisher's Weekly calls it "a magnificent high-stakes art heist wrapped around a fraternal saga." Carey has already won the Booker Prize twice, for Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang. Listen to the review on Fresh Air here.

You may know Leonard Cohen from his music, but he's also been writing poetry for over fifty years. On Monday, he spoke on Fresh Air about his new volume of poetry, Book of Longing. Listen to the piece on Fresh Air here.

Prolific country music singer and songwriter Willie Nelson also has a new book out, called The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart. Also, check out the two-disk set The Essential Willie Nelson or Willie Nelson's Greatest Hits (and some that will be). Listen to the piece on Fresh Air here.

Curiouser and curiouser ...

Ever feel as though it's all been done before? As though you may as well give up trying to create anything new, because your efforts will never equal those of the masters?

The Alexandrians, named "for the fire, not the library," feel the same way.

To help pave the way for new art, they have orchestrated the planned removal from society of works of art, literature, music, film ...

A talking dog, a nine-year pregnancy, Hank Williams ... with this strange brew, Terry Bisson, author of the short story "Bears Discover Fire," delivers the increasingly odd story of one of those charged with doing the removing: The Pickup Artist.

In the Wake of Memorial Day

Memorial Day was a good chance to finish reading Flights of Passage: Recollections of a World War II Aviator by Samuel Hynes, a fabulously personal account of one man's experience learning to fly and fighting in the Pacific at the tail end of World War II. Many veterans of Hynes' generation are participating in the Veterans History Project organized by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

The Today Show features AWOL

The Today Show highlights a new book on "The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service-and How It Hurts Our Country".

How many famous people can you name that are currently serving in the armed forces? Why aren't the rich and famous in uniform? Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaffer discuss how "we were raised in a culture, a privileged culture, that misunderstands and underestimates the meaning of military service".

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