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Critics Pick Top Ten Must Reads For The Fall

This morning on These Days, two local critics gave us their book recommendations. Lucia Silva is the manager of The Book Works in Del Mar and seems to read everything! Bob Pincus is the visual arts critic and the books editor at the Union-Tribune, and while Bob reads a lot, he's constantly on deadline (oh, so very familiar), so it's a thrill that he was able to make time for us. These two always recommend the best stuff, so take note and head to your local independent bookseller to stock up!

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
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Above: A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

"A Gate at the Stairs"

By Lorrie Moore

Moore's first novel in 15 years is getting rave reviews. It tells the story of a young Midwestern woman who leaves the family farm to go to college. Once there, she accepts a nanny job for a sophisticated, yuppie couple who have recently adopted an African-American child. The novel addresses post-9/11 anxiety, the war in Iraq, family, race, and loss.

Raymond Carver, a famous American writer and poet, described himself as

Above: Raymond Carver, a famous American writer and poet, described himself as "hooked on writing short stories."

"Collected Stories by Raymond Carver"

This comprehensive collection of Carver stories from the Library of America series is unique because it includes some Carver stories before they were heavily edited by his former editor Gordon Lish. The unedited works come at the end of the collection and raise questions as to the role of the editor and authorship. Any way you shake it, this is an important collection from one of America's greatest short story writers.

"This Is Where I Leave You"

By Jonathan Tropper

This comic family drama about siblings who gather to sit shiva for their dead father is ready-made for the big screen. The narrator, a radio producer who has recently lost his wife, his job, his house and now his father, tries to comprehend his circumstances in the midst of a forced family reunion.

Margaret Drabble's new book,
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Above: Margaret Drabble's new book, "The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History With Jigsaws" is a memoir.

"The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History With Jigsaws"

By Margaret Drabble

A memoir about depression structured around the author's love of jigsaw puzzles. Margaret Drabble is an accomplished English novelist and the sister of A.S. Byatt, from whom she is famously estranged.

"Big Machine"

By Victor LaValle

This urban fantasy mashes lots of genres in its confines. It's the story of Ricky, a middle-aged janitor who is called to become the member of a secret organization called the Unlikely Scholars, a group with renegade terrorists in its ranks. The novel becomes an exploration of good and evil, destiny and faith, and cross-cultural romance. It's been called provocative and "wildly original."

E.L. Doctorow's novel based on the true story of the reclusive Manhattanites,...

Above: E.L. Doctorow's novel based on the true story of the reclusive Manhattanites, the Collyer brothers.

"Homer and Langley"

By E.L. Doctorow

Joyce Carol Oates calls him the "great chronicler of American mythology" and this time Doctorow blends fact and fiction in a story about the Collyer brothers, two men of privilege who lived as recluses in New York City. The Collyers compulsively hoarded things, and eventually their apartment was packed with clutter and completely unsanitary. This true story captivated Americans when the brothers were found dead in the apartment surrounded by 100 tons of rubbish.

Kazuo Ishiguro's latest short story collection.
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Above: Kazuo Ishiguro's latest short story collection.

"Five Stories of Music and Nightfall"

By Kazuo Ishiguro

A new collection of short stories from the author of "Remains of the Day" and "Never Let Me Go."

"A New Literary History of America"

Edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollers

A 1,128 page collection from the editors at Harvard University Press that attempts to chronicle literary history through 220 essays by scholars, writers and historians. The definition of "literary history" is broad, including films, television, political addresses, memoirs, comics, art, theater, and more.


By Philippe Claudel

This novel has been described as an adult fairy tale. A stranger is murdered in a small, idyllic French village just after WWII. Brodeck, who survived life in a concentration camp, is charged with writing a report about the murder absolving his neighbors and the villagers. Apparently, the novel is dark and atmospheric, but also full of wonder. Author Philippe Claudel also wrote and directed last year's French film "I've Loved You So Long" (which was amazing due in large part to Kristin Scott Thomas' performance).

This is a memoir by an accomplished British writer, Jenny Diski, about her ex...

Above: This is a memoir by an accomplished British writer, Jenny Diski, about her experiences in the 1960s.

"The Sixties"

By Jenny Diski

A memoir by British writer Jenny Diski about her experiences of London in the 1960s. She writes about the cultural mores of the time, including drugs, fashion and sex (and how free love was really exhausting!). She concludes however, that the 60s cultural revolution was ultimately a disappointing one. She writes: "the single focus on our inner selves," produced "[n]o new ideas, no great books or paintings or poetry," only "an album cover or two." Ouch.

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Avatar for user 'EMSD'

EMSD | September 23, 2009 at 11:30 a.m. ― 7 years, 6 months ago

The discussion was interesting, but I'd like to know why, with the plethora of great local authors, you are not exploring these accomplished authors and their effect on our community. A number of new author events have come into play as of late, e.g. the San Diego Public Library 'Page One' event and the San Diego 'Read Local' event, which will present author panels over the coming months. Why not give local authors their due on KPBS?

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone | September 23, 2009 at 11:55 a.m. ― 7 years, 6 months ago


Thanks for your comments. I'm producing content related to books all week long and will be highlighting these upcoming events, along with the San Diego City College Book Fair at the end of the week. The reason we didn't talk about them on the radio today is because they are future events - Page One begins in middle October and Read Local is on Nov. 14th (if I'm wrong about those dates, please let me know).

The 4th Annual San Diego City College International Book Fair (which you didn't mention, but is great, though not just local authors) begins on Monday of next week.

The show you heard today is a show we do on a quarterly basis to recommend books chosen by our trusted and knowledgeable critics. We do it to give people a list of good books to chose from - ones that aren't always covered broadly in the media (though some certainly are). Highlighting local authors and book-related events is something we focus on in other segments on the show. Though, you are right, we can always do more!

Thanks anything good lately - perhaps a local author you want to recommend?

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Avatar for user 'EMSD'

EMSD | September 23, 2009 at 1:02 p.m. ― 7 years, 6 months ago

Hi Angela,

Thanks so much for your detailed posting. I agree that your top ten list was quite comprehensive and intriguing, but I was also gratified to hear that you are on board with promoting local authors.

Re recommending a local author - would it be too egregious to recommend my own books? I know it probably is, but when I read about Jenny Diski's 'The Sixties' I was reminded of my most recently published novel, FourEver Friends, which tells the story of four teenage girls in a high school for gifted students in the 60s. The book is based on my own journals of that period, and the socio-political events of the decade form a background for this tale of adolescent angst. I will be highlighting the book in author panels for both 'Page One' and 'Read Local' - does any of this strike a chord with you?

Again, my thanks for championing our local literary talent. It's wonderful to know that San Diego not only appreciates how important reading is to our lives but that its local authors have so much to offer.

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Avatar for user 'terraveda'

terraveda | October 15, 2009 at 9:23 p.m. ― 7 years, 5 months ago

I always enjoy the segment, especially the recommendations from independent bookstore owners. However, I'm a bit disappointed that the YA and children's market haven't been spotlighted.

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone | October 16, 2009 at 10:59 a.m. ― 7 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for the comment. In the past, I've always produced separate segments on children's books - and it's about time we do another one given the approaching holidays. So stay tuned! Also, we have such a great resource here in San Diego with the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature at SDSU. They have a book review section:

Also, the independent bookstores in town are really good on this topic - I've been told the booksellers at stores like Warwick's in La Jolla are a terrific resource for children's and young adult literature.

Thanks for reading!

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