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On Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid's fourth novel, Exit West, is superbly written and filled with surprises.  The biggest is Hamid's tone of insistent optimism.  The novel concerns mass migration from places in the South or East blasted by unstable and volatile politics or environmental decay to places of seeming stability in the West.  His protagonists, Nadia and Saeed, who meet and fall

Sam Shepard and the West

Sam Shepard has been an iconic voice in American Arts and Letters for 45 years.  Through his many sharply observed plays, his collections of wry and frequently funny short stories, and his wonderful career as an actor, he has indelibly illuminated our West in all its harsh light.  His characters are frequently alone, or hoping to be, and his ear is finely tuned to the hunger for, and wa

Words in Winter

On the morning of the Women's March I was walking down the middle of Michigan Avenue in Chicago marveling about the huge crowd and chatting about books with a young writer friend named Duncan.  He had just finished (and loved) Zadie Smith's fine new novel and shared that winter always created a yearning in him for serious reading.  I agreed with him, but remarked that since it was 50 degrees that morning in late January, perhaps we would need to find a colder climate.  Duncan reminded me that since climate change is

On John Lewis

Recently a friend's 12 year old son asked me about the Civil Rights Movement for a school project. I gave him John Lewis's graphic histories, March, Books 1-3. These are both Lewis's personal journey and a history of the Movement from the early 1950's to the March from Selma in 1965.

Reader in Chief

There was a lovely piece recently in the San Francisco Chronicle about President Obama and his passionate engagement in, and enthusiastic support of, the art of reading.  More on that in a moment.  Our incoming President is emphatically not a reader, and in fact ascribes no value to it, which means he embodies one of my favorite insults, a line from the  wicked Peter DeVries novel, Madder Music, where a character dismisses a friend as , "one of those people you don't give a book to because they've already got one." Zing!  Take that Mr President Elect!


A Few Favorite Kids' Holiday 2016 Books

A book given to a child at the holidays is much more than just a prettily wrapped gift. It is the chance for some quiet time in the middle of the chaos, two (or more) readers snuggled together sharing a story that may make them giggle or make their hearts grow three sizes that day. You are also giving the gift of appreciating stories, and we all know that time spent reading is time well spent.


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