J. J. Rowlands, Cache Lake Country. Story about timber cruiser in northern Maine from the 1940s. Wonderful, sensitive description of land and inhabitants.
Octavia Butler, Fledgling. Intense fantasy story about vampires. Last book from a great sci fi and fantasy author who received a McArthur genius grant and Hugo and Nebula prizes. Anything by her is great.
Lee Denning, Monkey Trap. Member of my writing group who's great at plotting genre novels.
A.D. Bloom, Bring me the Head of the Buddha. Another writing group member who writes some wacky sci fi. 99¢ e-book from Amazon.
Susie Bright, Big Sex Little Death. Memoir of growing up in a liberal family, how she became a writer and activist for feminism's gentler, sexy side. Was instrumental in founding On Our Backs, a newsletter for women, which was very influential, much like Our Bodies Ourselves was.
S. Pinker, The Stuff of Thought. One of several books regarding language, communication, and thought.
McWhorter, The Power of Babel. Easy to read book about linguistics, including the basics of language theory and hints at an original language.
K. D. Harrison, Last Speakers. All about collecting vanishing languages, with learning linguistics sprinkled in along the way. Gets a bit preachy and liberal after awhile, but covers lots of ground doing it.
P. Connors, Fire Season. An iconoclast who leaves his journalism job in NY for odd jobs in New Mexico, the main one being a fire watcher, and channels many famous literary voices who came before him, including Abbey and Leopold.
A. Leopold, Sand County Almanac. Forest service official and nature writer who wrote about Sand county Wisconsin in his retirement, which became the archetype of the nature genre.
E. Abbey. The Monkey Wrench Gang. Beautiful nature writing spanning several books by a union organizer, communist, and practitioner of civil disobedience.
R.Pike, Tall Trees, Tough Men. Story of logging in Maine.
Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran. Story of a women's book club who secretly read classic novels, including the banned books by Nabakov, in oppressive Iran.
V. Nabakov, Lolita. Story of an older man seducing a teenager, and all that says about society and the human condition.
J. McPhee, Coming into the Country. Superb non-fiction writer for the NYT. Any of his books is a work of art. This one is about visiting Alaska.
A. Powell, The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird. A buddy of mine writing about conservationists working in Hawaii to save the last members of a species, and all that says about humans and their environment.
M. Pollan, The Omnivore;s Dilemma. A great writer about food and some other domestic topics, who is leading the movement to improve our nation's food supply and consumption. Any of his books are wonderful, as are his interviews. Also try A Place of My Own about building a writing cabin for himself.
C. Moore, Fluke. Long series of fantasy books including Practical Demon Keeping, mostly set in California. Completely wacky and absorbing.
B. Stoker, Dracula. The original vampire story as we know it.
C. Ryan, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. A classmate of mine who wrote a somewhat literary vampire story. Very nicely done, including the title.
T. Cotter, The Cobra in the Barn. Series of books about finding hidden treasures of the automobile sort in people's barns, and fixing them up.
B. Bryson, A Walk in the Woods. A story of a greenhorn walking the Appalachian Trail. Absolutely engaging and hilarious. Any of his books are recommended.
K. S. Robinson, Red Mars. First of a trilogy of going to Mars, and colonizing it.
D. Roam, The Back of the Napkin. Discussion of types of working drawings and how to use them. Includes the next generation of flow charts, diagrams, graphs and lists. Invaluable for communicating complex ideas for anyone.
M. Headlay, The Year of Yes. Short book about a woman in NYC who decides to never turn down a request to date.
T. Vanderbilt, Traffic. Full of factoids about dealing with the flow of cars from the beginning to today.
Great for anyone who drives.
J. Kaufman, Literacy and Longing in L.A. Funny genre book that uses literary references inside the story. Can you spot them all?
P. Leeson, The Invisible Hook. About the economics of pirates. One of many books today, like Freakonomics, that applies econ theory to society. The subject matter of this one is great.
K. Douglas, Cowboy in my Pocket. A parody of a Western Romance genre story.
Kankwamba and Mealer, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Co-author sets the scene in Africa with considerable interesting backstory of how a family tries to survive, and how a boy cobbles together a small windmill to power lights and cell phones. He eventually is invited to speak at an international TED conference to help spread the word.
K. Silverstein, The Radioactive Boy Scout. Explorer scout who manages to gather together enough smoke detectors and free samples to start a small atomic pile!
A. Spiegelman, Maus. Series of graphic novels covering the holocaust. Intense and touching, it took drawing comics to a new level. His website and interviews are amazing. The best speaker I have ever heard.
S. Foote, various. Authoritative writer about the War Between the States from a Southern perspective. Served as the basis for Ken Burns Civil War series.
M. Shaara, Killer Angels. Best of a series of historical novels about the Civil War, this one set at Gettysburg.
His characterizations of real figures is amazing.
W. Cronin, Changes in the Land. I believe this is out of print, but you should still be able to find it. About the colonists and Native Americans, and what occurred during the settlement of early North America. Ground-breaking in its day.
R. Cohen, Sweet and Low. True story about the family who invented Sweet and Low. I compared the situation to the Crouse family and suggested it to Anita, who may still have the book.
L. R. King. The Bee-Keeper's Apprentice. A series of books about a very young woman who marries Sherlock Holmes and the adventures they have. Very well done. The book about the trip to the Middle East in the early 20th century is extremely interesting. King also has other series, the best one about a lesbian detective in San Francisco, which is very good.
C. Ryan, Sex at Dawn. A ground-breaking book, at the level of Kinsey, for information about how humans became the way we are regarding sex. Explains so much, I couldn't stop reading.
J. Evanovitch, One to Get Ready. Her main wacky crime series about a woman PI who lives in Trenton and tries to solve mysteries. Wonderful description of NJ and its denizens. The current best seller is the 17th.
G. MaGuire, Wicked. Wonderful extrapolation of the Wizard of Oz to a magic land with lots of backstory, from the point of view of the Wicked Witch. Translated to Broadway very well. His other Oz and fantasy books are not nearly as good.
H. Ellison, Dangerous Visions and Again Dangerous Visions. Edited by Harlan Ellison, one of the best Sci fi writers ever. These are stories that had topics that made them unpublishable years ago and so had to be collected and bravely published by a small press. Now a bit tame, but still good.
Sources for new books.
NYTimes Review of Books. The best source I can find for new books and good reviews. Some online versions, like on my Kindle via an open source program like Calibre, are free.
Calibre, an open source manipulator of online reading sources. There are others, but I like this one. It serves as a library for your device, much like iTunes does. You can download books and save them on your device, you can delete them, archive them, etc. Uses a lot of processing power, so be patient or get a quad-core pc to handle the multi-tasking it does! Solves the problem of filling up your device especially if yours does not have an SD card or other removable storage. Automates connections to open source books and news feeds, most of which are free, much like iTunes manages podcasts, so you don't have to struggle with the browser “save target” commands.
Project Gutenberg. One of several online archives of public domain books. This is where I got Dracula, for free via Calibre. Several universities have archives now too. Calibre has a basic list of them.
Podcasts: interesting and usually free, many of them have shows that review books. On Point with Tom Ashbrook has an author almost every day, and he has a book show occasionally. Fresh Aire also has authors every day. Faith Middleton in New Haven has a daily show, with book reviews every month or so. Easiest to use via iTunes but there are other ways to download them.