All the books from this morning’s Coffee Table on KBBI


Click on the logo above to listen to the recording of the show.

This morning I was on the air at KBBI with Terry Rensel and Kathleen Gustafson, talking about books we like with anyone who called in. These are the books we talked about:

The Quiet World by Douglas Brinkley
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Asleep, also by Banana Yoshimoto
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Kathleen loved this book, too, and recommends it for young people who feel misunderstood)
Troublesome Young Men by Lynne Olson
The Long War by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett
Fifty Miles from Tomorrow by Willie Hensley
Dead Wake by Erik Larsen
Destiny of the Republic by Candace Millard
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
(I forget which of his books came from the Homer Public Library’s 15 in ’16, but some of both of ours did.)

Shady Grove Oliver called in from California:
Garlic and Sapphire by Ruth Reichl
Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel (Kathleen liked Sobel’s Longitude, too)
Nevada Barr’s Anne Pidgeon series

Kathleen, other than the public radio operations manual:
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Building Stories by Chris Ware (in which the book comes to you in pieces and you put it together into a graphic novel, which sounds like fun)
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Homer’s Big Read selections Bridge of San Luis Rey and Our Town, both by Thornton Wilder, as well as The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder

Jim, who called in at the last possible moment:
Jacob L. Devers: A General’s Life by James Scott Wheeler and Rick Atkinson

Death Sentence by Damien Boyd (a terrific police procedural crime fiction novel)
the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey (an almost picaresque nuts-and-bolts sf story)
Anything for You by Kristan Higgans
All the Single Ladies by Rebeca Traister
Chain of Title by David Dayen (don’t read this book if you ever want to trust a bank again)
Some Writer! by Melissa Sweet (delightful children’s book about E.B. White)
Turn Again by Kris Farmer
Hamilton: The Revolution, a beautifully produced book containing the libretto for the Broadway play by Lin-Manuel Miranda, lavishly illustrated with photographs from the production.
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston (I’m still reading the ARC I scored off a bookstore owner friend but boy is it good. It comes out next month.)

Books! Books! Books!

As promised, here are all the books we talked about on Coffee Table on KBBI this morning. Quinton, Terry and I had a blast like we always do, and thanks to everyone who called in!

Click on the photo below to listen to the audio of this morning’s show:

Me, Quinton and Terry in the studio this morning, all with our annotated book lists. (Photo by Rose Grech)

Me, Quinton and Terry in the studio this morning, all with our annotated book lists. (Photo by Rose Grech)


11.23.63 by Stephen King (which Quinton hasn’t actually read, but he gave it as a gift to his father, who loved it. Quinton is now officially the favorite son.)

The three of us got to talking about books everyone has heard of that we feel like we are the last to have read, and in that category Quentin recommends The Giver by Lois Lowry and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. He also liked the Conn Iggulden series on Genghis Khan, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here by Karima Bennoune, and Pink Martini lead singer Storm Large’s memoir, Crazy Enough, which he says is an emotional read while at the same time an easy read, and he could not put it down.


Terry, now that he has completed his degree, is delighted to report that he gets to read in a less structured way, as in whatever he wants whenever he wants to. He’s still big with the history, recommending Edmond Morris’ trilogy about Theodore Roosevelt, which he says improves in craft as it goes along, as it well might given it was twenty years between the first and second books. He also recommends Lynn Olsen’s Those Angry Days, when FDR and Charles Lindbergh went head to head over entering into World War II. He was chilled to the bone by Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. In fiction, he just finished Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, an alternative history which explores the possibility of the Allies losing World War II and a post-war US occupied in the east by Nazi Germany and in the west by Japan. He says there is a twist at the end that he did not see coming. Sounds like Philip K. Dick to me.

And from our callers–

The History of Love by Nicole Krause
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercranz

Two Great Courses audible books, The Barbarians of the Steppes (there was a Genghis Khan theme going on this morning) by Professor Kenneth W. Harl, and Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King, which he made sound like a how-to book, my favorite kind.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne.

Teresa called in from the Homer Public Library, where she coordinated this year’s “15 in ’15” event, and from which list I got some of my favorite reads this year (see below). She reports that the event was so successful that they’re doing it again next year, whoop!

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The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
Ms. Marvel, Volumes 1-3 (and a fourth one is due out the first week of December, yay!)
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

PS–I’ve been reading great fiction, too, like The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb and the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, but we didn’t have time to get to them on the air. Check out my reviews on Goodreads for more.

Coffee Table on KBBI — Good reads for summer!

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I was a guest on Coffee Table on KBBI this morning, keeping company with Shady Grove Oliver and Terry Rensel as we talked about our favorite reads with people who call in. It was a blast, as always–thanks, guys!–and without further ado, here’s the books we talked about on the air.

Cow Woman of Akutan (there’s a title for you) by Joan Brown Dodd
The Wind is not a River by Brian Payton

The Martian by Andy Weir
Astoria by Peter Stark (Lee compares this book to Alfred Lansing’s Endurance, one of the great survival stories.)
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

A Thousand Prayers by James Sweeny
The List, a collection of short stories also by James Sweeny

Shadow Show by Sam Weller
Hyperbole and a Half (another great title) by Allie Brosh
I’m a Stranger Here Myself and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (Dana inserts herself here with her favorite Bill Bryson book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid)
The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley (Shady says its a great adventure story).
All’s Fair by Mary Matalin and James Carville (Shady says it’s a horrible book but you won’t be able to put it down. I just ordered a copy from the Homer Bookstore, so sold!)
Among Others by Jo Walton
Also, she’s been reading a lot of Agatha Christie, and says it’s interesting to see how Christie’s craft evolved over the years (decades)[century]. If you have yet to encounter Dame Agatha, Dana recommends Murder on the Orient Express. (They made a terrific movie out of it, too.)

Murder on the Orient Express

A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin, a history Terry says reminded him of Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly.
Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright (which Terry recommended in response to my recommendation of Read My Pins, see below)
Winston Churchill, Winston Churchill’s War Leadership and Churchill’s Political Philosophy, all by Sir Martin Gilbert. (Terry says these books are small, about 116 pages each, and a quick way into the life and character of Churchill, if you’ve always wanted to read about him but were daunted by the massive amount of books with his name in the title. Like me.)
The Martian by Andy Weir (Dana says she’s halfway through and loving it.)

If I Should Die by Matthew Frank
Sniper’s Honor by Stephen Hunter
The Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Euphoria by Lily King
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
The Plantagenets by Dan Jones
Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Read My Pins by Madeleine Albright
You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld
Dana says you can read her reviews of these books on her Goodreads page.

You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack

And a shoutout to the Homer Public Library’s Read 15 in ’15 reading challenge, because Shady and I and Terry are all participating. Click on the link to download a list of 150 books in various categories, and pick 15 of them to read in 2015. You can fill out an online form about a book you’ve read and leave a few comments, too. They’re printing out the comments and posting them on a bulletin board in the library so you can stop buy and get a few ideas. I’ve read seven from their list so far and every one has been a book I never heard of or something I wouldn’t have picked for myself. Fun.

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Books! Books! Books!

This morning I got to do one of my favorite things–be on KBBI‘s Coffee Table to talk about good reads, this time with KBBI’s Shady Grove Oliver and Terry Rensel. We got all your Christmas presents for you right here.

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All the books mentioned on Coffee Table yesterday.


If you were trying to remember just what book we were talking about on the air yesterday morning, here’s a list. If I forgot any or wrote down the wrong author or title, or if you’d like to recommend a good read for a Christmas present (or just recommend a good read), weigh in in the comments section below.

And if you want to listen to the show, Aaron has posted it on KBBI’s website. Go here.

Terry – Jack 1939 by Francine Matthews, the Billy Boyle series by James R. Benn, Chris Mackowski’s Civil War books, Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods, and I didn’t get which book but one of Jim Collins’. Terry? In the comments, please. Terry also read Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly, at (ahem) my recommendation, and really liked it. (My review here.)

Aaron – Aaron gave a big thumb’s up for local author Tom Kizzia’s Pilgrim’s Wilderness, as did many of our callers.

Pilgrim's Wilderness by Tom Kizzia

Jenny of the Homer Bookstore called in with this interesting factoid: It was a record year for Homer authors, as ten of us had new books out this year. Besides me and Tom, she recommends

Eva Salitas’ Into Great Silence
Erin Hollowell’s Pause, Traveler
Brenda Adams’ A Moose in my Garden (On my to-read shelf for breakup!)
Jim Rearden’s Tales of Old Alaska
Bumppo’s Everlasting and the Great River
Marianne Schlegelmilch’s Slugs Forever (Jenny loooooves this one, a kid’s book for grownups, and it comes with a CD)
Nina Faust’s The Alpaca Relaxation Guide (a great gift book, Jenny sez)
Michael McBride’s The Last Wilderness (also recommended by many callers)

(I bet Jenny can get you signed copies of all these books, and mine, and Tom’s, for that something extra for a great Christmas gift. Info below. Not that I’m pushing or anything.)

Michael McBride's The Last Wilderness

David – Kaylene Johnson’s Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffth

Shannon – Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose
Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (my review here)
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (Shannon says to read it before you see the movie, and I heartily concur)
Miranda Weiss’ Tide, Feathers, Snow
Shannon also liked Michael McBride’s The Last Wilderness and Tom Kizzia’s Pilgrim’s Wilderness, and anything by Nancy Lord (Yet another local author. There must be something in the water.)

Howard – Howard just read Tom Paine’s Common Sense and says it’s still relevant today. I mentioned Christopher Hitchens’ Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man as a companion piece.

Kim – A big huge thumb’s up for the Tolkien trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and with me, Aaron and Shannon agrees that if you liked the films, you will love the books. There is so much more of that world on the page than there is on screen. She also liked Erin McKittrick’s Small Feet Big Land: Adventure, Home, and Family on the Edge of Alaska.

Erin McKittrick's Small Feet Big Land

Caroline – Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West and Accelerated by Bronwen Hruska.

Andy from the Old Inlet Bookshop actually made it all the way through James Joyce’s Ulysses. Let us all pause a moment in respectful silence. He also liked Alisdair Gray’s Lanark, Tom Kizzia’s Pilgrim’s Wilderness, and is now embarking on David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. (I feel like an amateur reader next to this guy.)

Jerry – Another vote for Tom Kizzia’s Pilgrim’s Wilderness, and anything by Jim Lehrer.

Tom – The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Bluttner, and Tom says if I liked Gavin Menzies 1421: The Year China Discovered America (I did), I will love Menzies’ The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History’s Greatest Mystery Revealed.

Michael – Chasing Alaska by Chris Bernard, and he really liked If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth.

Jeff – Mei Mei Evan’s Oil and Water

And, (almost forgot) Dana – Appetite for America by Stephen Fried
China Airborne by James Fallows
The Black Count by Tom Reiss
James R. Benn’s Billy Boyle series (Terry’s loving them, too)
James S.A. Corey’s slam-bang action-adventure sf series, Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War and Abbadon’s Gate (recommended by Patrick at Mysterious Galaxy)

All of these books available from the Homer Bookstore
toll free in Alaska 1-888-635-BOOK
or email them (I always do) at

Support your local bookstore!

Homer Bookstore

If you’re looking for an indie bookstore in your area, go here.

Coffee Table Books for December 14

These are all (I hope) of the books mentioned on the air during Coffee Table this morning. For Christmas gifts for friends and family, as follows:

Tom likes Alcohol Can be a Gas by David Blume.

Amy likes The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Samantha loves her new cookbook, Fish Without a Doubt by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore.

Pam likes Diapering the Devil by Jay Hammond (So do I. If you want to know how and why you get a PFD every October, start here).

Mark likes Simple Food for the Good Life by Helen Nearing and is also reading Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, the one about the Great Game, aka covert ops between Russia and China in the late 1800’s.

Mike made Bill Moyers’ The Conversation Continues sound like a must-read, and the perfect bedside book.

Caroline recommends local author Dottie Cline’s children’s book, Raven Paints the Birds, and the coffee table book Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds That Built Them by Sharon Beals, which she says is gorgeously photographed. I went and looked, and she’s not lying.

photo by Sharon Beals

Trish likes Mary H. Perry’s Onward Crispy Shoulders, and I must say she had me at the title.

Mike likes Alaska fiction, in this case Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kanter and 2182 Kilohertz by David Masiel.

Al recommends Charles Brower’s autobiography, Fifty Years Below Zero, another great title.

Dave likes John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar.

Host Aaron is reading The Hunger Games, and both he and engineer Terry read Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander at my instigation (she said proudly) and loved it.

More Terry picks:
A Voice in the Box, the autobiography of Bob Edwards, a voice you will recognize if you’re a long-time listener to NPR.
The Colorado Kid by Stephen King, a departure Terry says from King’s usual weird scary stuff.
A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester (big thumbs up from me here, too).
Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, and
The Thousand-Mile War by Brian Garfield, which Terry says he got from the list of Alaska history books at the end of Though Not Dead. Yay, somebody read it!

My recommendations:

The Chrysalids by John Brunner. Classic dystopian if-this-goes-on science fiction. Substitute global warming for a nuclear holocaust and it reads as prescient today as it did sixty years ago, and it has a couple of strong female characters that could be taken as models for Katniss Everdeen.

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker. A chief of police in rural France deals with wine, cheese, drug dealers and Nazis. A marvelously realized setting, terrific characters, an interesting plot that doesn’t cheat, and my new favorite crime fiction series.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. A sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, with murder thrown in. Turns out Mr. Darcy was James’ model for Adam Dalgleish.

Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man by Christopher Hitchens. Irascible author and essayist gives Tom Paine’s manifesto a biography. Anything either guy writes is pure gold, Hitchen’s historical context is matchless, and it’s only 133 pages long.

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. Vividly detailed recreation of a woman, a place, and a time. I’d travel in time back to her Alexandria, so long as I’d had all my shots.

Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel. Harvard government professor explores the answers to questions like “What wounds deserve the Purple Heart?’ and “Did those A.I.G. executives deserve their bonuses?” Where headlines and philosophy meet. This would make a great book club book. I may choose it for mine.

Inside the Sky by William Langiewiesche. A collection of essays on flight and flying. Topics include what’s going on inside the tower, meteorology, storm flying (on purpose!), and the last chapter is a mesmerizing examination of the Valujet crash in Florida. The perfect gift for the pilot in your life, and let’s face it, what Alaskan doesn’t have at least one of those?

Oh, and a recommendation I made last year for Aaron’s mom: Great Maria by Cecelia Holland. A strong woman in medieval Italy goes after what she wants and gets it. Aaron’s mom, if your son forgets for the second year in a row, buy it for yourself, it’s a great read.

Book Recommendations for Christmas Gifts

Hey, guys–Just got back from KBBI and the Wednesday morning Coffee Table program with host Aaron Selbig. We talked for an hour with callers about what they’re reading and loving, and what follows is an I hope comprehensive list of all the books that we mentioned on the air. If I missed any, or if you tried to call and we couldn’t get to you, or you just want to weigh in, please feel free to recommend books and authors in the comments section below.

Here goes:

Shirley from Seldovia recommends Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Hi, Shirley!).

Kim recommends A Long Trek Home by Erin Mckittrick.

Stonewall in Soldotna recommends The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor and the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.

Bjorn recommends Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits and everything else she has written.

Bumpo recommends the fabulous Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell (and so do I, and so would my father if he were still around).

Mike recommends Locust by Jeffrey Alan Lockwood, The Trees by Conrad Richter, and The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie.

Roberta recommends Albert Einstein’s The World As I See It, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Michael recommends checking out the library for books on the film industry.

Caroline recommends Frank Deford’s Bliss Remembered and Rita Dove’s poetry.

Larry recommends Patrick O’Brian’s biography of Joseph Banks and Family After All: Alaska’s Jesse Lee Home by Raymond L. Hudson.

Michael recommends Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Ada BlackJack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic by Jennifer Niven.

Ken recommends It Doesn’t Take a Hero : The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Robert Kennedy: His Life by Evan Thomas, and The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest by Alvin M. Josephy.

Aaron strongly recommends Wicked by Gregory Maguire, and says he is so hooked that he is going on to read all three books in the series.

I recommend (man, this is a long post)

For the young adult reader in your life, Terrier and Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce.

Non-fiction — Cochrane, The Real Master and Commander by David Cordingly and Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides.

General fiction — Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. One of the best and best written books I have ever read.

Oldie but a goodie — Great Maria by Cecelia Holland. Terrific historical novel about a strong woman in medieval Italy who gets what she wants. Be a great book for a book club discussion.

Mysteries — Stephanie Barron’s Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron, the Phryne Fisher series by Kerrie Greenwood, The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow, and the Charlie Hood novels by T. Jefferson Parker, the latest of which, Border Lords, just came out in hardcover.

Military science fiction — Tanya Huff’s Valor series, beginning with Valor’s Choice.

Epic fantasy — Jim Butcher’s Alera series, beginning with Furies of Calderon.

Whew, okay, I’m done.