Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stamberg's Shortlist

Last week, the crantastic wonderful NPR broadcaster Susan Stamberg was in town to headline an event for the Library Foundation. When asked about her favorite storytellers, she responded that Studs Terkel, Joan Didion, John McPhee and Philip Roth are all on her shortlist.  The authors she noted are all hugely acclaimed and brilliant, of course, but something else they share is a keen ability to unearth and examine different facets of life in America - which is maybe not a surprising preference for a journalist.  So here's a few books from Susan Stamberg's favorites, each reporting on uniquely American experiences (if you find that you like them, maybe shoot a couple bucks to NPR during their next pledge drive as a thank you to S.S.):

Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel - In this unique re-creation of one of the most dramatic periods in modern American history, Studs Terkel recaptures the Great Depression of the 1930s in all its complexity. The book is a mosaic of memories from those who were richest to those who were most destitute.  (Bowker)

My American Century by Studs Terkel - This book is a collection of Terkel's encounters over his long career as the nation's premier oral historian. Described by Terkel as a "jazz work," it is made up of material taken from the author's major books…   The packaging of Terkel's work in one volume makes for a convenient and accessible title that recognizes the human side of history.  (Library Journal)

We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live by Joan Didion -  Joan Didion's incomparable and distinctive essays and journalism are admired for their acute, incisive observations and their spare, elegant style. Now the seven books of nonfiction that appeared between 1968 and 2003 have been brought together into one thrilling collection. (Bowker)

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion - The first nonfiction work by one of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era, Slouching Towards Bethlehem remains...the essential portrait of America-- particularly California--in the sixties. (Bowker)

Annals of the Former World by John McPhee– When John McPhee began his journeys back and forth across the United States, he planned to describe a cross section of North America at about the fortieth parallel and, in the process, come to an understanding not only of the science but of the style of the geologists he traveled with… this is our finest popular survey of geology and a masterpiece of modern nonfiction. (Bowker)

Silk Parachute by John McPhee - The world's complex mechanisms beguile us in this scintillating collection of essays, many from the New Yorker. McPhee is fascinated by all manner of intricate and subtle processes... The result is a narrative that is wryly humorous, raptly observant, luxuriating in idle curiosity.  (Publishers Weekly)

Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth -  Goodbye, Columbus is the story of Neil Klugman and pretty, spirited Brenda Patimkin, he of poor Newark, she of suburban Short Hills, who meet one summer break and dive into an affair that is as much about social class and suspicion as it is about love. The novella is accompanied by five short stories that range in tone from the iconoclastic to the astonishingly tender and that illuminate the subterranean conflicts between parents and children and friends and neighbors in the American Jewish diaspora.  (Bowker)

American Pastoral by Philip Roth- American Pastoral is the story of a fortunate American's rise and fall - of a strong, confident master of social equilibrium overwhelmed by the forces of social disorder. Seymour "Swede" Levov - a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, the prosperous inheritor of his father's Newark glove factory - comes of age in thriving, triumphant postwar America. But everything he loves is lost when the country begins to run amok in the turbulent 1960s.  (Bowker)