Autumn Reads

by Barbara Theroux

There is an abundance of things to celebrate this time of year – wonderful fall colors, variety of community festivals, so many new books.

Those of you who came to see Ira Glass last month will want to check out this book about radio storytellers:

Out on wire“Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio” by Jessica Abel
With the help of This American Life’s Ira Glass, Jessica Abel, a cartoonist and devoted fan of narrative radio, goes behind the scenes at five of the most popular storytelling shows on the radio to look at the ways that they construct a narrative – and we get some great insider details. Within these pages, we listen to Jad Abumrad of RadioLab talk about chasing moments of awe with scientists, we hear Robert Smith of Planet Money talk about his slightly goofy strategy for making interviewees feel comfortable, and we see how mad – really mad – Ira Glass of TAL becomes when he receives edits from his colleagues. Out on the Wire is informative, funny, and engaging, and it demonstrates that in the midst of all the other media that consumes us, radio is still very much alive.

New books by two favorite authors:

crossing the plains“Crossing the Plains with Bruno” by Annick Smith
In “Crossing the Plains with Bruno,” Annick Smith weaves together a memoir of travel and relationship, western history and family history, human love and animal love centering around a two week road trip across the Great Plains she and her 95-pound chocolate lab, Bruno, took in the summer of 2003. It is a chain of linked meditations, often triggered by place, about how the past impinges on the present and how the present can exist seemingly sans past. Traveling from her rural homestead in Montana to pick up her nearly 100-year-old mother from her senior residence on Chicago’s North Side and bring her to the family’s beach house on a dune overlooking Lake Michigan, Smith often gets lost in memory and rambling contemplation. Bruno’s constant companionship and ever present needs force her to return to the actual, reminding her that she, too, is an animal whose existence depends on being alert to the scents, sights, hungers, and emotions of the moment.

swallowed by the great land“Swallowed by the Great Land And other dispatches from Alaska’s Frontier” by Seth Kantner
Seth Kantner’s novel, “Ordinary Wolves,” told the story of a white boy growing up with homesteading parents in Arctic Alaska and trying to reconcile his largely subsistence and Native-style upbringing with the expectations and realities tied to his race. “Swallowed by the Great Land” features slice-of-life essays that further reveal the duality in the author’s own life today, and also in the village and community that he inhabits a mosaic of all life on the tundra. Unique characters, village life, wilderness and the larger landscape, a warming Arctic, and hunting and other aspects of subsistence living are all explored in varied yet intimate stories.

Now in paperback and worth discussing:

ploughmen“The Ploughmen: A Novel” by Kim Zupan
Two men — a killer awaiting trial, and a troubled young deputy — sit across from each other in the dark, talking through the bars of a county jail cell. John Gload, at the age of seventy-seven, faces the prospect of longterm incarceration and Valentine Millimaki, low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department, who draws the overnight shift after Gload’s arrest. With a disintegrating marriage further collapsing under the strain of his night duty, Millimaki finds himself seeking counsel from a man he’s sworn to keep behind bars, a man whose troubled past shares something essential with his own.

Good escape into the Scandinavian mystery world:

hanging girl“The Hanging Girl: A Department Q Novel” by Jussi Adler-Olsen
In the middle of his usual hard-won morning nap in the basement of police headquarters, Carl Mørck, head of Department Q, receives a call from a colleague working on the Danish island of Bornholm. Carl is dismissive when he realizes that a new case is being foisted on him, but a few hours later, he receives some shocking news that leaves his headstrong assistant Rose more furious than usual. Carl has no choice but to lead Department Q into the tragic cold case of a vivacious seventeen-year-old girl who vanished from school, only to be found dead hanging high up in a tree. The investigation will take them from the remote island of Bornholm to a strange sun worshipping cult, where Carl, Assad, Rose, and newcomer Gordon attempt to stop a string of new murders and a skilled manipulator who refuses to let anything — or anyone — get in the way.

Two books for the hunters and gatherers:

Hunting, butchering and cooking“The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Volume 1: Big Game” by Steven Rinella, with photographs by John Hafner
“The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game, Volume 1: Big Game” breaks down exactly how to hunt big game with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions, photographs, and illustrations. Organized according to animal, this manual guides readers through each step of the hunt—from the prep work, to the best hunting techniques and equipment, to detailed information about each animal, to what to do once you’ve captured your prey, to how to cook it.

Haute cuisine“The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine: How I Spent a Year in the American Wild to Re-create a Feast from the Classic Recipes of French Master Chef Auguste Escoffier” by Steven Rinella
After stumbling upon August Escoffier’s 1903 culinary milestones “Le Guide Culinaire,” outdoorsman, avid hunter and nature writer Steven Rinella embarks on an unusual quest to procure all necessary ingredients for a forty-five-course meal, born entirely of Escoffier’s esoteric wild game recipes. For one year, Rinella traverses the country assembling his feast — fishing for stingrays in Florida, flying cross-country to Michigan to obtain a fifteen-pound snapping turtle, and hunting mountain goats in Alaska. “The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine” is a delicious, absorbing account of one man’s relationship with his family, friends, food, and, of course, the natural world.

For the young at heart:

Secret misson“The Secret Mission of William Tuck” by Eric Pierpoint
Eric Pierpont visited several schools in the Missoula area when his book, “The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole” was first released. The story of Caleb and his brother and sister as they travel from Kansas to the Montana Territory had great adventure but also good historic information. Since then Missoula teachers have been ready for his second book on the American Revolution, “The Secret Mission of William Tuck.” After seeing his brother murdered by the British, William leaves home to join the Patriot effort. Then, in the midst of a conflict, a dying soldier with an intricate watch and a secret message for a Patriot named James Armistead offers him a chance to avenge his brother’s untimely death. As William begins his new mission he meets Rebecca, a girl who will do anything to get back at the men who kidnapped her father — even pose as a boy. Together they embark on a cross-colony journey through a secret network of Patriot spies that leads them on a quest to find General Washington himself.

Day crayons came home“The Day the Crayons Came Home” by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Poor Duncan! His crayons sure are a colorful bunch of characters! In “The Day the Crayons Quit,” they threatened to walk off the job. Now a whole new group of crayons have sent postcards asking to be rescued. From Maroon Crayon, who was lost beneath the sofa cushions and then broken in two after Dad sat on him; to poor Turquoise, who is stuck to one of Duncan’s stinky socks after they both ended up in the dryer together; to Pea Green, who knows darn well that no kid likes peas and who ran away, each and every crayon has a woeful tale to tell and a plea to be brought home to the crayon box. And wait until you see what happened to Yellow Crayon and Orange Crayon who were always arguing what was the real color of the sun!

Enjoy the change of seasons and keep your life interesting with good books to read and share.