Cross Country Checkup

Summer Booklist May 31, 1998

REX MURPHY'S Suggestions:

"The Iliad", "The Odyssey" by Homer, translation by Robert Fagles (Penguin Classics).
George Steiner's introduction to the Illiad is the best summary account of the writer there is, says Rex. Also, worth reading are the new English translations of Virgil and Horace.

"U.S.A.: The 42nd Parallel, 1919, The Big Money". A trilogy by John Dos Passos. (Library of America).
A descriptive force of social conditions in early twentieth century by an author who lived through it.

"Middlemarch" by George Eliot. (Koneman).
The author's bywords are like a little handbook of observation on human circumstances...Eloquent and witty.

"Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster" , by Jon Krakauer. (Anchor Books).
A nice piece of stretch journalism between hard covers.

ELEANOR WACHTEL'S Suggestions:

*Eleanor Wachtel is host of CBC Radio's "Writers and Company" and "The Arts Today".

"Le Divorce" by Diane Johnson. (Plume Publishing).
A delightful comedy of manners...a contrast between new and old, innocence and experience, earnestness and elegance. Amusing and yet both light and serious.

"Travels With Myself And Another" by Martha Gelhorn. (out of print).
A lucid and seemingly effortless writer...She has the distinction of being the only wife to leave Ernest Hemingway, who is "Another" in this case. Also her two collections of non-fiction: Faces of War and View From The Ground.

"The Reader" by Bernhard Schlink. (Pantheon).
A very clever, thought-provoking and worthwhile read because it starts out as one kind of book and then becomes another. Its power to shock, to move profoundly, arises from its absolute narrative logic and humanity.

"Who Will Run the Frog Hospital" by Lorrie Moore. (Knopf).
A coming of age story initially set in Paris followed by upstate New York. About female friendship and a woman's marriage that, clearly from the start, isn't perfect.

"My Brother" by Jamaica Kincaid. (Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
A story about the death of the author's younger brother of AIDS after injecting drugs. Chronicles her visits to him at home in Jamaica. Suprisingly honest about death, family.

"Here But Not Here: A Memoir" by Lillian Ross. (Random).
This is the story about Ross' forty-year affair with William Shawn, editor of the New Yorker, who hired her as a reporter in 1945. Not terrifically well-written without the candor we've come to expect in that kind of story. Nevertheless, a remarkable story.

"Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker: The Invisible Art of Editing" by Ved Mehta. (Overlook Press).
About the Indian-born Mehta who became blind when he was just a child. Precocious and extraordinarily talented, many of his early books and memoirs were published in the New Yorker.

"How Proust Can Change Your Life: Not a Novel" by Alain de Botton. (Random).
A combination of two unlikely genres...literary biography and self help manual. Charmingly entertaining...biographical tidbits are the best part.

"Patchwork Planet" by Anne Tyler. (Viking).
Eminently and reliably readable, engaging fiction. Always humane stories with somewhat indiosycratic characters. The fourteenth novel after others such as "The Accidental Tourist" and "Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant".

MORDECAI RICHLER'S Suggestions:

*Mordecai Richler is the author of Barney's Version, which won the 1997 Giller Prize and this year's Leacock Award for Humour.

"Master Georgie" by Beryl Bainbridge. (Carroll & Graf)
A novel of great subtlety, economy and a great delight to read.

"Seize The Day" and "Henderson the Rain King" by Saul Bellow. (Viking Penguin).
Bellows belongs to almost the last generation of writers that could count on their audiences being literate in areas such as Greek mythology, the Bible, Rousseau and Voltaire.

"The Stories of John Cheever". (Knopf).
Impressive volume that makes for a highly thoughtful portrait of America in the years he was writing.

BILL RICHARDSON'S Suggestions:

*Bill Richardson is host of "Richardson's Round Up" on CBC radio and author of Bachelor Brothers Bed and Breakfast, published by Harcourt and Brace.

"The Wise and Foolish Virgins" by Don Hannah (Knopf)

"The Electrical Field" by Kerri Sakamoto (Knopf)

"I Captured The Castle" by Dodie Smith. (St. Martin).
A mock English pastoral about the adventures and misadventures of an impoverished and artistic family who take leave at a castle.

"Kindergarten" by Peter Rushforth. (Godine).
A re-telling of Hansel and Gretel which relays how the horrors of the holocaust resonate in the lifes of those who weren't alive at the time.

"Paradise, Piece By Piece" by Molly Peacock. (McClelland & Stewart).
A memoir about the author's emotional and biological decision not to have children. Also a book about sanctuary of the body, about writing as sanctuary and about reading as sanctuary.

JANE BUSS'S Suggestions:

*Jane Buss is the Executive Director of the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia.

"The Lost Salt Gift of Blood" by Alistair MacLeod. Also "Brute Bring Forth the Sun". (McClelland and Stewart).
Slowly-written classics, yet unfortunately not very well known.

"Random Passage" by Bernice Morgan. (Breakwater Press)
A glorious and compelling story about the people of Random Harbour. Concludes in another volume called "Waiting For Time".

"Wandering Sole Murders" and other mysteries by Gail Bowen. (McClelland and Stewart).
Compelling along the lines of P.D. James...surprisingly set in Regina, Saskatchewan.

CROSS COUNTRY CHECKUP'S CALLER'S Suggestions:

"A Wizards of Earthsea" , "The Tombs of Atuan", The Farthest Shore", "Tehanu" a series by Ursula K. Leguin. (Penguin Modern Classics)
An epic story of a wizard who goes through trials to save the world. Clear and concise writing...

"The Man Who Listens To Horses" by Monty Roberts. (Knopf).
A story about connecting rather than harshness...a pull for gentling down the spirit.

"Death In The Silent Places" by Peter Hathaway Kapstick (St. Martin's Press)
The story of a big game hunters who set out to eliminate man-eating creatures that are terrorizing local populations. Humourous and accurate.

"Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail" by Bill Bryson. (Doubleday Canada).
Humourous and educational.

"Larry's Party" by Carol Shields. (Random).
As a woman, her insight into the male psyche is uncanny and infuriating. It's down to earth...couldn't put it down!

"The House On The Strand" by Daphne du Maurier. (Random)
About how mind-altering drugs affect people. Interesting studies of personalities with a clever twist.

"Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush" by Lael Morgan. (Epicentre Press).
A well-crafted story about prostitution. Pierre Burton calls it "an important and entertaining addition to gold rush literature. These women are as important to the Klondike story as Big Alex and Swift Water Bill. After all...they too were gold diggers".

"City of Joy" by Dominique Lapierre. (Warner Books)
Gives us greater understanding of the absolute, abject poverty people experience...vivid and forceful.

"The Canadian Army & the Normandy Campaign: A Study of Failure in High Command" by John English. (Goldendoor Press).
It's about more than the war. Looks at the Army's inability to develop a strong high command capable of mechanized warfare, largely due to budget constraints.

"The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Still Don't Work & What You Can Do About Yours" by Michael Gerber. (Harper Business).
About entrepreneurship and people who start up their own businesses and why, despite having the technical abilities, they so often fail.

"Writing Home" and "Writing Away", a PEN Canada Anthology. (McClelland & Stewart).
A who's who of Canadian literature. A great introduction to Canadian writers with proceeds going to PEN Canada.

"A Passionate Pen: The Life & Times of Fay Fenton" by Jill Downie. (Harper Collins).
A social narrative about a journalist and school teacher who back in the late 1800s had the ear of legends such as John A. MacDonald and Susan B. Anthony. Great introduction to Upper Canada as well as the fight for gender equality. Beautiful and moving...you cry and then you laugh and then you cry some more.

"That Hideous Strength" by C.S. Lewis. (Simon & Schuster).
The last of a trilogy of futurist or "what if" literature. Allegorical. Written in the depths of World War II when Lewis was a teacher in a smalltown college in rural Britain. Based on what he saw happening around him.

"The Bone People: A Masterful Story of Myth & Emotional Healing" by Keri Hulme. (Viking Penguin).

"Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. (Viking Penguin).
Powerful social statements woven into the story of a poor American family that packs up and moves West. Parallels in a global sense with what's happening today with concentration of capital and the way people are pitted against each other when everything is reduced to a dollar value.

"The Adventure of Man" by Pierot Scanziana. (out of print).
Author takes reader through a journey from birth to death. A poetic, profound and spiritual read.

"Deja Dead" by Kathy Reichs. (Pocket Books).
A fast-reading murder mystery about a forensic anthropologist transplated from the U-S and living in Montreal. You'll want to read it twice.

"Someone Like You" by Roald Dahl. (Knopf).
By the same author of children's stories such as "Matilda" and "James and the Giant Peach" and "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory", this is a collection of about fifteen short stories for adults. Humourous, intriguing and sinister with some "pie in the face" endings.

"Gaff Topsails" by Patrick Kavanagh. (Cormorant Viking Penguin).
Poetic and breathtaking portrait of a day in the life of a Newfoundland outport.

"Before The Dawn" by Gerry Adams. (Morrow).
An unexpectedly humorous yet intellectual autobiography by the leader of Ireland's Sinn Fein.

"She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb. (Pocket Books).
A story about relationships from the eyes of a girl who eats to excess and hooks up with the wrong men. Interesting twist at the end. Couldn't put it down.

"Blown Sideways Through Life" by Claudia Shear. (Dell).
A calming, yet moving memoir about not fitting in to the map life has routed for us.

"A Dream of Eagles" by Jack Whyte. (Penguin)
A series of stories set in the time of King Arthur's legends with very believable characters and more realism than fantasy and magic.


Return to Cross Country Checkup
Return to Homepage