May 29, 2004
City Type Writers Recommend Summer Reading

Time to stock up on good books to read over the summer. I went back to some of the writers I’ve talked with in City Type to see what they’d recommend. And, this being Boston, of course, the selections are hardly the typical beach reads.

Peter Jay Shippy, who appeared in City Type on August 10, 2003 and who is the author of Thieves Latin, says, “I'd recommend Seven-Star Bird, a book by David Daniel. Daniel has designed a lyric panorama of the present from the tragedies of the past and the limbo of the future. Harold Bloom calls him “an authentic heir to Hart Crane.” His poems delineate "the terrible speed of beauty born and passing."

The second book I'd suggest is Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos. In 1972, at the age of 20, Gantos was sentenced to serve up to six years in prison. His gripping, dark memoir tackles his period of confinement. We watch Gantos begin to replace his dubious past of crime, drugs, and "life on the edge" for his present, as the prize-winning author of more than 30 books.

Charles Coe, (City Type April 20, 2002), author of Picnic on the Moon, recommends Angela the Upside-Down Girl, by Emily Hiestand. “Smart, engaging essays about people and places. I think of her as John McPhee with a sense of humor.”

Coe’s second recommendation is The Red Thread, by Elizabeth McKim. “Elizabeth's work is very earthy, very elemental. And her language is direct and unselfconscious; she writes to communicate, not to impress.”

Gary Duehr (Feb. 29, 2004), author of Winter Light, suggests Except for One Obscene Brushstroke, a book of poems by Dzvinia Orlowsky that “fearlessly excavates a marriage on the South Shore. It's very personal, very funny at times, and always close to the bone.”

Philip Hilts, (December 7, 2003), author of Protecting America’s Health: the FDA, Industry, and 100 Years of Regulation, says, “David Baron’s book, The Beast in the Garden is a great read. David Baron wrote the book after hearing of the case of a cougar killing a man in Colorado. He says he was haunted by the story, and over time thought about the meaning of the event. Such killings have now become far more common in the west---cougars in their disturbed modern environs are now habituated to humans. Relations between the species have changed fundamentally. So eventually David wrote the tale: a thriller-style book about the killing and its investigation. Around the story he wraps discussion about life outside the garden---how we have changed the world and its creatures, and now must live with it. Easy to take to the beach.

“I’m just reading another book which I find intoxicating, E.O. Wilson’s The Future of Life. This is philosophy: an evocative essay on biology, from Wilson’s tales of animalcules living in Antarctic ice to creatures navigating the steaming hot vents on the ocean bottom. Wilson, too, is talking about humans and the planet. He writes, “The living world is dying; the natural economy is crumbling beneath our busy feet…science and technology led us into this bottleneck. Now science and technology must help us find our way through and out.”

Mameve Medwed (August, 2002), author of End of an Error, Mail, and Host Family, says, “Number one is Elinor Lipman's The Pursuit of Alice Thrift (full disclosure: it's dedicated to me.) which is just out in paperback. It's hilarious, touching, with the most engagingly clueless unreliable narrator in the world and a scoundrel who, despite all your prejudices, wins you over.

“I adored Tom Perrotta's Little Children, which dissects suburbia with a razor-sharp, and yet compassionate, scalpel. It's familiar territory viewed through a skewed original eye. I can't recommend it highly enough. Told brilliantly from various points of view, it even has a pedophile you can't help feeling sorry for. Grab a copy before the Pepperidge Farm fish become chocolate chip cookies in subsequent editions!

“I got Steve Almond's Candy Freak for my kids who used to spend most of their allowance (and now probably probably a fair amount of their salaries!) on Mars Bars and Snickers. This is the book for anyone (everyone?) who'd pick a Hershey's Kiss over the other kind.”

City Type features the city's writers exploring their world. If you have suggestions, contact Ellen Steinbaum at

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