NWPR Books

Northwest Public Radio loves to read! Below, you will find our editorial reviews and personal recommendations for literary works we think you, our listeners, would love.

We are also receive station support from many Northwest Independent Booksellers, who provide their own recommendations here.

And, if you have any great reads you would like to share with us, please let us know, by emailing your review to NWPR@wsu.edu!



This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has lived a long life in just 65 years. An immigrant who grew up poor, he came to the United States to achieve his goals and succeed. As a bodybuilder, he took a quirky culture and helped turn it into an internationally recognized sport.

As an Austrian who could hardly speak English, Schwarzenegger somehow rose to fame in Hollywood, landing blockbuster roles and making millions. And once he conquered the silver screen, he became a politician who sought to apply his own life lessons to the public sphere.

The cursing mommy likes her scotch. She also likes a martini — or four — and a full bottle of Kahlua consumed in the afternoon while soaking in a steaming bathtub and ignoring the knocks of her children locked outside. Along with her dubious parenting skills, the cursing mommy has no shame, and she swears an extremely blue streak.

In the fall of 1989, I was walking down a London street when someone handed me a flier that asked, "Should Rushdie Die?" The following afternoon, I headed over to the Royal Albert Hall to hear that question answered by a renowned Islamic scholar.

Some postal codes encapsulate a socioeconomic profile in tidy shorthand: 10021 for Manhattan's tony Upper East Side, NW6 and NW10 for London's racially mixed, resolutely ungentrified northwest quadrant. Zadie Smith's London birthplace — a major wellspring of her work — is the setting of NW, her ambitious though somewhat dilatory fourth novel, which tackles issues of fortune and failure, class and ethnicity, and the often guilt-inducing and sometimes blurry lines between them.

A Linguist's Serious Take On 'The A-Word'

Aug 29, 2012

Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg wants people to take his new book, Ascent of the A-Word, seriously.

"I'd meet people when I was working on the book, and even academics — they'd say, 'What are you working on?' and they'd giggle. Or they'd say, 'You must have a lot of time on your hands,' " Nunberg tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Martin Amis' 'State of England': Anomie In The U.K.

Aug 29, 2012

Too much is made of literature's ennobling qualities. There are those of us who come to books for the debasement and danger, for Hannibal and Humbert. For Faulkner's Popeye and Hedda Gabler. We want to meet the monsters.

In The Real Romney, Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman examine Mitt Romney's political rise since 1994, when he ran for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. They explain how Romney shifted from supporting abortion rights to heavily courting social conservatives in the 2008 Republican primary.

Books Behind Bars In Needham, Mass.

Aug 28, 2012

In 2004, I started a project called A Book from Mom that provides incarcerated mothers with brand new children's books to give as gifts to their children during prison visits.

A Book from Mom helps strengthen the parent-child bond while a mother is away, seeks to increase literacy in both mother and child, and helps ease the tension of prison visits.

In its nine years, the project has placed more than 20,000 brand new books on prison shelves in Massachusetts and has inspired someone else to expand the program to a women's prison in Arizona.

Broken Hearts And Dirty Minds In 'Fundamentals'

Aug 28, 2012

The first and most important thing you need to know about Jonathan Evison's heartbreaking, maddening novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is that one of its two main characters is a paralyzed teenage boy, named Trevor. The other is a grown man, Ben, who frequently acts like a teenage boy. Your enjoyment of the book — the follow-up to Evison's well-regarded West of Here — will be largely predicated on how much you like listening in on can-you-top-this, gross-out sex talk, and ruefully self-demeaning descriptions of the female of the species.

Ask Harry Dolan to take you for lunch at a restaurant he's written about, and he won't disappoint. In downtown Ann Arbor, Mich., on Liberty Street, the vegetarian restaurant Seva serves mushroom sliders and yam fries that both the crime writer and his characters are quite fond of. With any luck, you'll also catch the perfect song playing in the background — "Psycho Killer" by the Talking Heads.

Nick Dybek is the author of When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man.

The sinister face sneering from the cover is reason enough to keep John Fowles' The Magus tucked discreetly away. Then there's the 600 or so pages inside, which are filled with pretentious riffs on psychoanalysis, metaphysics, fascism and the occult.

In the new, updated edition of her landmark biography The Brontes, Juliet Barker tells a sad story about Branwell, the infamous brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne.

Some people suffer from recurring nightmares about being naked on stage, or not having revised for their exams. My bedtime terror is different — I'm gripped with fear that I haven't fed or watered my childhood budgie, with potentially devastating consequences. I loved that bird, Joey, so much, despite the fact that she unmasked herself as female after I'd named her, I still have a tiny box filled with her discarded green feathers. I've never owned a pet as an adult. I prefer animals in novels to avoid the horror of finding two cold, clutched feet in the air.

Faith, Family And Forgiveness In 'We Sinners'

Aug 26, 2012

Hanna Pylvainen's debut novel, We Sinners, is about a large — very large — family that belongs to a small religious sect in Finland originating in the dim distant past. The sect, Laestadianism, calls for very strictly regulated behavior — think Amish, with possible overtones of Lutheran, purified by a schism or two. The novel is told from the point of view of family members, each of whom get a chapter, and the story goes forward in time with each person.

The narrator of Maria Semple's newest book, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, is 15-year-old Bee Fox. She's a nice kid, a good musician and a great student. In fact, she's such a great student that her parents have promised her anything she wants — and she chooses a family trip to Antarctica.

Amanda Coplin grew up in the apple-growing Wenatchee Valley, on the sunny side of Washington state's Cascade range, surrounded by her grandfather's orchards. Her glorious first novel, inspired by family history, takes you back to the days when you could buy what are now considered heirloom apples — Arkansas Blacks and Rhode Island Greenings — from the man who grew them, from bushel baskets lugged into town by mule-drawn wagon. Seattle and Tacoma were mere villages, and train travel was the new-tech way to go.

A Bartender's 'Tale' In Nostalgic Soft-Focus

Aug 22, 2012

At the moment Rusty, the young protagonist of The Bartender's Tale, is rescued from his Aunt Marge's house in Phoenix, author Ivan Doig cranks into motion a dense valentine of a novel about a father and a small town at the start of the 1960s. Rusty's liberator is also his father, Tom Harry, the august bartender and proprietor of the Medicine Lodge bar in Gros Ventre, Mont. Tom is the archetypical flinty Western bartender, slinging beers and shots of wisdom cultivated from a less than perfect life.

In 1964, students at the University of California, Berkeley, formed a protest movement to repeal a campus rule banning students from engaging in political activities.

Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover suspected the free speech movement to be evidence of a Communist plot to disrupt U.S. campuses. He "had long been concerned about alleged subversion within the education field," journalist Seth Rosenfeld tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

In the Kingdom of Men

Jun 21, 2012

In the Kingdom of Men, by Kim Barnes


One of the Northwest’s most prominent authors, Kim Barnes, is out with a new novel about power, poverty, oil and oppression.  It’s called In the Kingdom of Men.   Northwest Public Radio's John Paxson has a first look.

Kim Barnes’ new work is a tale of life--and death--in the closed, often claustrophobic compounds of Americans working in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia.  It is also a portrait of a soul in transition.