With more than 40 writers scheduled to speak during our Seminar this January, it can be difficult for a reader to know where to start. Sure, there are the classics and prize-winners, like William Kennedy’s Ironweed and David Levering Lewis’s two-volume biography of W.E.B. DuBois; and recent books like Joyce Carol Oates’s Wild Nights! and Gore Vidal’s Selected Essays. But what of the hundreds you won’t have time for? The exquisite pastime of reading can suddenly grow so stressful!
With this in mind, we’ve asked our panelists which books they would recommend from among their own works and those of their peers. In round 2 of this ongoing series, we hear book recommendations from Samantha Hunt, Megan Marshall, and KWLS board member Robert Richardson:
• Samantha Hunt is the author of two novels, numerous pieces of short fiction, essays, and a play about the life of Charles Babbage:
“I recommend Andrea Barrett’s Ship Fever– a beautiful book that skips through the centuries, where each story comes down to the passionate love of both science and the natural world. From my own work, I’d recommend, The Invention of Everything Else, which is a novel about Nikola Tesla, America’s most forgotten inventor. The book is set at the Hotel New Yorker in 1943 but travels as far as Croatia in the 1850s, Colorado Springs in the 1890s, and even a little bit into the future.”
• As a reviewer for the Radcliffe Quarterly, Megan Marshall had the chance to comment on recent works by three fellow Seminar speakers.
About Geraldine Brooks’s The People of the Book: “Brooks shows her respect for history not by preserving or even re-creating but by imagining, filling in gaps and silences, creating and solving mysteries, thoroughly informed by but never in thrall to fact.”
On Jane Kamensky’s The Exchange Artist: “… In place of the Puritan ‘city upon a hill” has risen a Boston of scheming businessmen whose paper-money trails Kamensky tracks with relentless cunning. A gifted storyteller, she employs every tool of the historian’s trade … to bring a lost building and its era back to life.”
And on Tony Horwitz’s A Voyage Long and Strange: “… Above all, Horwitz is determined to confront the past in as material a form as it can be located in the present. In so doing, he gently reminds his readers how much of history is readily available to all of us, if we would only think to look and ask.”
Marshall herself is the author of The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism, a Pulitzer finalist and winner of the Francis Parkman Prize, about which biographer and KWLS board member, Robert Richardson has written: “Vivid and well written, it combines domestic, cultural, and intellectual history with the skill of a novelist in a book that reads, at times, like an American Middlemarch.”