WPSU's BookMark

Biweekly at 5:45pm on Thursdays and at 9pm on Sundays.

Find out about the books our listeners couldn't put down and submit your own review proposal. BookMark focuses on new releases and books by Pennsylvania authors. But sometimes you'll hear a new take on a classic. BookMark features book reviews submitted by anyone who lives within the WPSU-FM listening area.

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BookMark: "A Higher Loyalty" By James Comey

Apr 18, 2019

I have a hardback copy of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” and I have a Kindle copy of Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House.” But while I started them both, I haven’t finished reading them. When I picked up James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty,” on the other hand, I had a hard time putting it down. While it is a historically important book, Comey’s down-to-earth style and willingness to convey emotions as well as hard facts also made me feel like I was getting to know the author personally.

BookMark: "A Stranger Here Below" By Charles Fergus

Apr 4, 2019

If you’ve grown tired of formulaic mysteries and thrillers, then you’re in for a treat with the new book “A Stranger Here Below,” Charles Fergus’s 19th published book and the first in his new series of mysteries. The main character, Gideon Stoltz, is a man living on the outskirts—not just geographically in the small fictional town of Adamant, PA, but also emotionally. The town’s insular characters, including his wife’s family, often mock him for his German heritage, calling him “Dutchy.”

BookMark: "Vulture" By Katie Fallon

Mar 21, 2019

They aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing of creatures: they feed on dead animals, and projectile vomiting on their aggressors is their main defense mechanism. But their migration patterns cover most regions of the world, and indigenous communities in India and North America have long looked to them as symbols of rebirth and new life. In her book “Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird,” Penn State alumna Katie Fallon weaves narrative with nonfiction to show readers the beauty in what our society usually sees as foul: the turkey vulture.

BookMark: "Just Mercy" By Bryan Stevenson

Mar 7, 2019

Across the political spectrum, there is growing recognition of the criminal justice system’s failures. But despite some important reforms in recent years, a lot of work still needs to be done, as cruelty and racism continue to infect many aspects of criminal justice. It’s difficult to imagine a more compelling case for tackling these problems than the one found in Bryan Stevenson’s book “Just Mercy.”

BookMark: "A Natural Woman" By Carole King

Feb 21, 2019

John and Karen were our downstairs neighbors in the first apartment my wife and I shared.  When John returned from some misadventure, often with me, Karen would let her feelings be known by blasting Carole King’s “It’s Too Late (Baby)” at varying volumes depending on the level of her ire. 

BookMark: "Refugee" By Alan Gratz

Feb 7, 2019

  

The mission of the Bellefonte READS Committee is to foster a love of literacy in the community. Each year, the committee chooses a title for “One Book, One Bellefonte” that will engage all community members, but will also challenge perspectives, spark discussion and inspire action. Given the current state of discord in the United States regarding immigration, we believe this year’s choice, “Refugee,” will do just that.

BookMark: "The Female Persuasion" By Meg Wolitzer

Jan 24, 2019

Meg Wolitzer’s new novel, “The Female Persuasion,” is ambitious. It follows the feminist movement from its naïve, optimistic swell in the sixties ­to its present incarnation: a much more complicated, uneasy movement. The novel opens as Greer Kadetsky, a college freshman, hears second-wave feminist Faith Frank speak on her college campus. Greer is captivated by Faith, who is as charismatic as she is persuasive. Greer’s life course is fundamentally altered by meeting Faith after her speech, which sets the stage for the development of their complicated mentor-mentee relationship.

Maria Hummel’s “Still Lives” is one of the smartest thrillers I’ve read in a long time.

In the book, Maggie Richter is an editor at the Roque, a museum in L.A. that is busy preparing for the opening night of artist Kim Lord’s exhibition, “Still Lives.” Each painting in “Still Lives” is a depiction of the artist as a famously murdered woman: Nicole Brown Simpson, “the Black Dahlia,” Kitty Genovese... The show is intended to serve as “an indictment of our culture’s obsession with sensationalized female murders.”

BookMark: "Roads" By Marina Antropow Cramer

Dec 27, 2018

Marina Antropow Cramer’s debut novel, “Roads,” centers on a family living happily in the beautiful coastal city of Yalta, Crimea, in the early 1940s. But with the arrival of WWII, things quickly take a turn for the worst. Unforgettable characters and a plot that takes many twists left my stomach in knots as I tried to imagine how anyone survived at all.

It's almost too obvious to be worth pointing out, but healthcare impacts everyone. And it seems like there's one thing everyone can agree on. Healthcare is expensive, whether we're talking about drug prices or insurance premiums. It wasn't always like this. The story of how healthcare got this way is the subject of Elisabeth Rosenthal's book “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back.” I'm always interested in current events, and with the battles over healthcare on the national stage, this book seemed particularly timely.

BookMark: A 'Baker's Dozen' Of Children's Books

Nov 29, 2018

 

Since 2004, the Pennsylvania Center for the Book has named a Baker’s Dozen of books each year that support family literacy.

The books chosen for the Baker’s Dozen list aim to turn preschool children into lifelong readers and lovers of books. Among the thirteen books chosen this year are “Bulldozer Helps Out” by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann, “I Want That Nut!” by Madeline Valentine and “Who Am I? An Animal Guessing Game” by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page.

Mimi Barash Coppersmith has left an undeniable imprint on State College, Pennsylvania. Whether from her publications like “Town and Gown,” her philanthropies like the Pink Zone, or her civic activities like serving as Penn State’s Board of Trustees chair, Mimi has been a fixture since her arrival as an undergraduate in 1950. 

 

 

I read “Beartown” by Fredrik Backman for the first time in the summer of 2017, and I re-read the book this past summer because the sequel was released in July. Both times, I was struck by the language, the characters and the story.

BookMark: "Looking For Alaska" By John Green

Oct 18, 2018

When I was a senior in high school, a girl I dated introduced me to the work of John Green. But it wasn’t a book that she gave me. I was studying for AP European History, and she sent me a link to a Youtube video where John talked about the French Revolution. John Green and his brother, Hank, each post a video every week to a Youtube channel called vlogbrothers. I don’t know how much I realized it when I first started watching the channel, but I really needed something like vlogbrothers.

BookMark: "My Favorite Thing Is Monsters" By Emil Ferris

Oct 4, 2018

Emil Ferris’s 2017 graphic novel “My Favorite Thing is Monsters” is at turns beautiful, haunting and heart wrenching––and it took the comics world by storm. It won 3 Eisner awards in 2018 for best writer/artist, best new graphic album and best coloring. It was also nominated for 3 Ignatz awards in 2017 and a Hugo Award for “Best Graphic Story” in 2018. It may come as no surprise, then, that the Pennsylvania Center for the Book unanimously selected this book for the 2018 Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize.

BookMark: "The Handmaid's Tale" By Margaret Atwood

Sep 20, 2018

I’m not sure I can really explain how much “The Handmaid’s Tale” means to me. (To clarify: I mean the book. Always the book.) I certainly wasn’t able to explain its significance a few years ago, when I met Margaret Atwood during her visit to Penn State. All I was able to get out was “Thank you. This is my favorite book,” and I knew that was inadequate.

BookMark: "Moby Dick" By Herman Melville

Sep 6, 2018

In my first teaching interview, I was asked what book I’d most like to teach. Without hesitation, I replied, “Moby Dick.” The interviewer probably thought I was trying to impress him, but it was true. I began teaching “Moby Dick” four years ago, and I hope I’ll be able to continue to teach it for the rest of my career.

I wasn’t the best reader in grades K-7. Most years I was invited to a special class in the summer where we cut out pictures of a C-A-T or an H-O-U-S-E from “Ladies Home Journal” and pasted them on construction paper. Between grades 7 and 8 I discovered a box of comics stashed by my brother when he entered the service. Somehow the text and the pictures magically connected, finally leading to my comprehension of what these strung together letters meant.

When I first saw PBS’s list of 100 books vying for the title “Great American Read,” I wasn’t sure which one I would vote for. There were so many books I loved on that list; I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick just one. Little did I know I’d end up voting for a book I hadn’t read yet.

BookMark: "The Grapes Of Wrath" By John Steinbeck

Jul 26, 2018

When the list for PBS’ Great American Read program was released, I was pleased to see that among several favorites, John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” made the cut. Steinbeck has long been in my universe of preferred books. Over the course of a few years while I was a teenager, I made my way through several of his works, including “Of Mice and Men,” “East of Eden,” and the lesser known but deeply comic work “Tortilla Flat.” But of those books, it’s only been “The Grapes of Wrath” that I’ve returned to repeatedly. Since I rarely re-read anything, that says a lot.

BookMark: "Where The Red Fern Grows" By Wilson Rawls

Jul 12, 2018

I first read "Where the Red Fern Grows" 36 years ago. It’s a coming of age novel about a young pioneer boy of strong character. I remember the night well. I was telling my then 13-year-old son good night when he told me about the great book he was reading for school, and then mentioned the book report was due the next day. I asked, “Have you finished reading the book?” He shook his head with a worried expression. “Well, how far are you?” He showed me—page 69. One-hundred and eighty pages to go, and it was already 9 o’clock on a school night.

BookMark: "The Deepest Well" By Nadine Burke Harris

Jun 28, 2018

I heard an interview with Nadine Burke Harris and immediately bought her book “The Deepest Well.”

Nadine Burke Harris is a doctor in a clinic that serves children from low-income families in San Francisco. She was disturbed when she noticed kids from tough backgrounds had persistent medical problems that were hard to treat. She suspected there was a link between the health problems and traumatic experiences such as losing a parent or becoming homeless.

Essayist Jackie Esposito reviews "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes.
WPSU

Dear Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra,

Tomi Adeyemi has been hailed the next J.K. Rowling. She’s the author of the best-selling young adult fantasy “Children of Blood and Bone.” I’m all for the comparison if it encourages people to read the 24-year-old’s gripping debut novel, but I actually think it deserves to stand on its own. I devoured this book.

BookMark: "Rise of the Necrofauna" By Britt Wray

May 17, 2018

The past few years have seen a veritable flurry of renewed interest in the idea of bringing extinct species back to life. Multiple books, articles and even a few TED talks have each approached the topic from different angles, or focused on different species. A new book on the topic caught my attention, not only for its approach, but also for the almost haunting art that graces its cover: the skull of a woolly mammoth and the head of a wooly mammoth facing each other across a dark background.

BookMark: "Strange Practice" By Vivian Shaw

May 3, 2018

Vivian Shaw’s “Strange Practice” introduces a marvelous new character: Dr. Greta Helsing. Physician to the undead--or differently alive, as Dr. Helsing thinks of her patients--Greta is the most recent iteration of the famous van Helsing family. The family quietly dropped the “van” several generations ago to avoid unnecessary attention from those less inclined to view the undead as good neighbors. 

 

There are some books I read and don’t think about much afterwards. They just don’t leave a lasting impact.

But “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid stayed with me.

The novel “Spoonbenders” by Daryl Gregory tells the story of a family of psychics… who aren’t doing very well. You’d think a bunch of people with supernatural talents could use them to get ahead in life, but the three adult siblings in the Telemachus family are instead constantly stymied by their powers.

BookMark: "The Rebounders" By Amanda Ottaway

Mar 22, 2018

Just in time for March Madness, the University of Nebraska Press has published “The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey.” The cover shows author Amanda Ottaway at 4 years old shooting a basketball toward the hoop in her Hollidaysburg backyard. Ottaway, in sweats and sneakers, arms and legs flailing as the ball leaves her hands, is determined to sink the shot. How that passion has shaped her life is at the heart of this beautifully written memoir. 

                                                                  

BookMark: "Ice Mountain" By Dave Bonta

Mar 8, 2018

“Ice Mountain,” Dave Bonta’s most recent poetry collection, consists of short poems etched in an immediate present. Each poem is nine lines long, and carries a date as its title. The collection begins with a poem entitled “22 January, 2014”:

in the owl’s flight
as in the conifers it left
that late morning silence

and at the woods edge
the frozen carcass of a cow
pecked at by chickadees

bare trees like forks
the sky too is a dish
best served cold

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