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The Avid Reader

The Avid Reader is a podcast for book lovers. Sam’s podcast includes a history of over 450 interviews over the past decade ... listen on iTunes, Podomatic, Spotify and Tunein.comBelow are a few of Sam's most recent interviews.  Enjoy!
The Winter Army: The World War II Odyssey of the 10th Mountain Division, America's Elite Alpine Warriors Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781328871435
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - November 5th, 2019

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October 28, 2019 08:33 AM PDT

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Maurice Isserman author of the book The Winter Army: The World War II Odyssey Of The 10th Mountain Division, America’s Elite Alpine Warriors. publish earlier this month by Houghton (Howton) Mifflin.

Dr. Isserman is a prolific author, penning about two scholarly works a year since the early eighties.

They all concern fascinating aspects of American History with regard to some of the nooks and crannies of our past about which we many have never otherwise known

His work regularly appears in the NYT, The Nation and other renowned periodicals.

The Winter Army is a fascinating tale of pioneering, convincing and fighting, all related to how the US and the work of just a few men, primarily one led to the story of the 10th. The first and only American Ski Regiment. This led to a military force that scaled peaks, literally and figuratively, which before then no fighting force has every done 
In addition to helping in the culmination of our victory over the Axis powers, the Regiment went on to fight for us in the 80s and 90s!

Parenthetically, it also helped to create the organization of one of America’s favorite past-times.

Welcome Maurice and thanks so much for joining us today.


Ducks, Newburyport Cover Image
Call to Order
ISBN: 9781771963077
Availability: Backordered
Published: Biblioasis - September 10th, 2019

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October 28, 2019 08:26 AM PDT

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Lucy Ellman, author of Ducks, Newburyport released is September by Biblioasis (Biblio-aas-iz).

Lucy’s novels include the autobiographical Sweet Desserts, Varying Degrees of Hopelessness and Man Or Mango.

She is a contributor to The Guardian, The New Statesman, The Times Literary Supplement and lots of other prestigious publications.

Later in her career she published Dot In The Universe, Doctors and Nurses and Mimi.

Ducks, Newburyport is her longest and most novel novel, if it is a novel, which is shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. 

Welcome Lucy and thanks for joining us today.


Dad's Maybe Book Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780618039708
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - October 14th, 2019

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Dad's Maybe Book Tim O'Brien

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September 28, 2019 10:03 AM PDT

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Tim O’Brien, best known over the past decades as the author of The Things They Carried, a book that changed my outlook on a lot of things, just as it did for one of the characters in this memoir, (or pretty modest level memoir.)

Tim started off back in the 70s with If I Die In A Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home.

He won the National Book Award for Northern Lights and Going After Cacciato.

His other works include, in part, The Lake of the Woods, Tomcat in Love and July, July.

As you will see in this book, his influences include Hemingway, Conrad, Faulkner .

His collision with truth has run through his novels, if they all are novels, except perhaps with my favorite of his The Nuclear Age.


The Tenth Muse: A Novel Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062574060
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Published: Ecco - June 18th, 2019

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September 28, 2019 10:07 AM PDT

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Catherine Chung, author of The Tenth Muse, published in June by Ecco.

Catherine was honored for her first novel Forgotten Country and has been a National Endowment For The Arts Fellow, a Granta New Voice and worked (enviably) at The Institute For Advanced Studies in Princeton. She has a degree in Mathematics from the University of Chicago (which is very important to this book), worked at a think tank in Santa Monica and her writing has appeared in NYT and Granta and she is a fiction editor at Guernica (ger nee ka) magazine.

The Tenth Muse is a novel about mathematics, problems with no solutions, at least for now. It is also about personal relationships, their parabolas and inconsistencies. And perhaps most importantly it is about Katherine and her search for her parents and her identity. What makes this book so wonderful is that all of these disparate subjects somehow whirl about and coalesce in many different ways, governed by strict rules that are sometimes broken or forgotten. In the end it is all about discovery and courage and to add the mystery to the mix, betrayal.


The Dutch House: A Novel Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780062963673
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - September 24th, 2019

 

 

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September 24, 2019 07:10 AM PDT

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Brought to you by my independent book store, Wellington Square Bookshop. Ann’s is Parnassus Books in Nashville.
So our guest is Ann Patchett who really needs no introduction, but I’ll give one anyway.

Anne has written seven novels including The Magician’s Assistant, State of Wonder and of course Bel Canto.

She’s been the recipient of the Orange Prize, The PEN Faulkner award. And have been NYT Notable books, and so many awards.

Ann’s latest novel is The Dutch House, which will be released tomorrow!

But if you want to be one of the first ones to get a signed copy and to hear part of the book and ask questions about it, you can hear all about it from Ann herself at the Free Library downtown tomorrow, Tuesday the 24th at 7:30.
And if you miss that you can see her at Congregation Keneseth Israel (where I was Bar Mitzvah and also ejected with my brother from Saturday services in front of 2000 people) on Wednesday the 25th from 9:30-11:30 in the morning.

The Dutch House, as in many of Ann’s work, explores the intricacies and emotional upheavals of a family. The story is set in Elkins Park about 30 minutes from where I sit and is very nostalgic for me. I have many connections with that place and that time. But the book’s real main character is a house, an extraordinary house with a history that suffuses, permeates the lives of everyone we meet.

And with that, welcome Ann and thanks so much for joining us today.


Everything Inside: Stories Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780525521273
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - August 27th, 2019

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September 09, 2019 09:36 AM PDT

HIGHLIGHTED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES, read their take here.

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Edwidge Danticat. Her collection of short stories, Everything Inside was released last month by Knopf. Edwidge has won the Pushcart Prize, the Pen/Faulkner award the American Book Award.

Her novels include The Art of Death, Claire of the Sea Light, Brother, I’m Dying, Breath, Eyes, Memory. The Farming of Bones, Behind the Mountain and the short story collection The Dew Breaker.

Her work has also appeared in the NYT, Time, the New Yorker Harpers and many others.

Everything Inside is a book of and about Haiti. Most of us in this country know little or nothing about this Caribbean country that was first populated by the Taino people, won independence through its slaves, was the first place Columbus set shore on—on his First Voyage in 1492, and it was the second Republic, after us in both North and South America. And the First to abolish slavery.

Edwidge is proud of her country and saddened by the disasters that have befallen it, from political upheaval, Hurricanes to a catastrophic earthquake on January 12, 2010. And even the United Nations has contributed to its grief.

Edwidge was born in Port-au-Prince and came to the US before she was a teenager.

These stories give us a great opportunity to learn more about both Haiti and at the same time allow us to understand more about families, sadness and resolve.

Welcome Edwidge and thanks so much for joining us today.


The Lager Queen of Minnesota: A Novel Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780399563058
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pamela Dorman Books - July 23rd, 2019

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September 09, 2019 08:58 AM PDT

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is J. Ryan Stradal, author of The Lager Queen Of Minnesota published by Pamela Dorman Books in July.

Ryan is the author of Kitchens Of The Great Midwest, which won numerous awards. He has written for the WSJ, Vanity Fair, McSweeney’s amongst many other publications.

The Lager Queen Of Minnesota is a novel about beer. I guess to a certain extent, beer is one of the protagonists of this story. But the heroine of the book is Edith Magnusson a mistress of pies, a hard worker, and a good person. But because bad things Do come to good people, she is widowed, underemployed and saddled (at first) with taking care of her teenaged granddaughter Beverly.

Edith’s sister is for most of the novel, the polar opposite of Edition. They are estranged because of an act that Helen chooses and Edith chooses to respond.

But once again and in closing this introduction, we learn a lot about beer, the good and bad of it, the making of it and how it can forge friendship, enmity and sometimes, love.

Welcome Ryan and thanks so much for joining us today.


Lost and Found Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781982613419
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Published: Blackstone Publishing - September 10th, 2019

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September 09, 2019 08:47 AM PDT

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Orson Scott Card, whose latest novel is Lost And Found to be released tomorrow by Blackstone.

Mr. Card needs no introduction but as is my wont, I will give one anyway.

Nobody had won the Hugo and Nebula awards for two novels two years ago until Orson did. For Ender’s Game and Speaker For The Dead and the third of the Enders book Xenocide was just as good as the others and I read each the day that they were released.

And of course Ender didn’t end there.

And so many other books, including the Homecoming Saga and The Tales of Alvin Maker

Lost And Found is a bit of a departure, at least to me, from the other books that I have read by Orson. Ezekiel, (not Zeke) Bliss or Blast (as he prefers) is not a thief. But he finds any number of things and knows who belongs to those things.

His good friend (and good in many senses) is Beth, who as Ezekiel does—-has a micro power, and we all may have micro powers. He has friends who also have varied micro-powers. Not X-men powers, but powers that at first blush seem to be parodies of powers. As we read on, we realize that those tiny powers can make the earth move, can solve crimes, can bring people together.
The book appeals to kids and adults alike as do many of Orson’s work and I mean that as a high compliment.

This book has a great sense of humor, of imagination and intrigue. I loved it and it will be displayed in a special place in my bookstore.


The Papaya King Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9781733258531
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Jackson Heights Press - July 15th, 2019

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September 09, 2019 08:40 AM PDT

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Adam Pelzman, an old friend of the show and of our bookshop. We last spoke after the publication of his last novel Troika after which he came to Philly and read and signed at the shop. All in all it’s been a pleasure working with Adam.
He is a lawyer, as am I, and has worked in the financial and private equity world for many years. None of which have anything to do with writing nor the fact that Adam has about 7 unpublished novels sitting in the bottom drawer of his dresser at home. That might not be quite accurate.

So, now we get to chat about his latest work, The Papaya King, published in July by Jackson Heights Press.

Don’t get me wrong here. Troika was a great book and we all loved it. But this one is incredible. It cannot be read in more than one sitting. And it deals with a subject so arcane, so zany, so weird and so germane that I doubt we will see its like again. The closest I can come is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, my brother’s and my favorite book. Which is why he now has a copy of this one.
It is really a throwback in time to when decency and civility existed, kind of like the way Mark Helprin would like it to exist, although not in as a Republican a way (but don’t get me started on that).

Robert Walser is a conundrum, an enigma wrapped in a riddle. We respect him for his gravitas, his demeanor, his sartorial attention, his devotion as Dante to his Beatrice, as Kafka (in a way) to his Felice, Florentino and Fermina in Love In The Time Of Cholera. OK. I’ll stop there before I go off on one of my many tangled tangents.

But Robert is also a fop, a dilettante, a coward of sorts and a fool.

So basically, he is a little like most of us.

So why are we so attracted to him? Because of that similarity? Or is it because it harkens again back to Helprin and Winters Tale another favorite and one as in love with NYC as this book.

All of those things and before I start to explain them myself in an inherently incoherent fashion, let me introduce my friend, entrepreneur and author of tales of love, intrigue and imagination.


A Door in the Earth Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780316451574
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - August 27th, 2019

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September 09, 2019 08:31 AM PDT

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Amy Waldman, whose new novel A Door In The Earth was released by Little Brown in August of this year.

Amy is a national correspondent for Atlantic Monthly. She, at the NYT collaborated on the Pulitzer Prize winning series Portraits Of Grief, which chronicled the lives of every victim of 9/11.

Her novel, Submission (a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award) was published in 2001.

A Door In The Earth explores a country and a people that we as Americans are slightly aware of but only from skimming an article or watching a sound bite on CNN or listening to a politician spout some words about withdrawal or military victory.

And although, as most of you know I blame pretty much everything on Trump from solar eclipses to hurricanes in Alabama, in this case I have to make an exception

Beyond that superficial level I just mentioned we really know nothing (myself included) about the nation and its citizenry (and I don’t even know if those are the right terms).

But in A Door In The Earth, through the eyes of Pareen (a first generation American, born to Afghan parents) and her ears because she can speak Dari, she can converse with the villagers she meets, as she follows the trail of her idol Gideon Crane along a convoluted path of truth and lies, a tenuous peace and an orchestrated war, until she reaches a resolution of sorts, but key to all of these is she leads us along, so that in the end, the “through a glass darkly” that we all glance through is cleared a good bit and we leave with lots of questions and some answers.


The Most Fun We Ever Had: A Novel Cover Image
$28.95
ISBN: 9780385544252
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday - June 25th, 2019

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August 15, 2019 11:43 AM PDT
Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had, Published in June by Doubleday.
This is Claire’s first novel and debuted on The NYT best seller list.
Her short fiction has appeared in Barrelhouse, Little Fiction and Longform amongst others.
She is not a woodwind musician. But then again, either am I.
She is working on her second novel.
So the cover is Gingko leaves and there are four of them.Wendy, Violet, Liza, Grace.


The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780451492944
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - August 20th, 2019

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August 15, 2019 11:34 AM PDT
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Ian Urbina, author of The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across The Last Untamed Frontier, published this month by Knopf.
Ian is an investigative reporter who usually writes for the NYT and is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic and contributes to The National Geographic as well He has received the Pulitzer Prize.
Most of us ignore the ocean. Either we live “inland” so to speak, or our only experience with this resource that covers two-thirds of our planet, is when we go to the beach with our umbrellas and lounge chairs, building sandcastles. Or when we sail comfortably on Norwegian or Royal Caribbean cruise ships to the Bahamas
Ian takes us to a different place, a place where vast spaces are covered with water thousands of feet deep, are crisscrossed with vessels of all types. Illegal fisherman in old rusty ships, stowaways on all kinds of craft, illegal abortions performed at sea and repo men cruising the globe to “steal” or take back ships that have wandered astray or are financial treasures whose ownership is in question.
This view of our oceans, provider of 90% of our goods, much of our oxygen, and of course a good portion of our food supply, changes the outlook we have and helps us to recognize the beauty, the danger, the opportunities and also the fact that time is running out for all of us in so many ways.


The Need Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781982113162
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - July 9th, 2019

August 15, 2019 11:31 AM PDT
Good afternoon and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Helen Phillips author of The Need published in July by Simon and Schuster.
The Need is Helen’s fifth book, preceded by her children’s book Here Where The Sunbeams are Green, And Yet They Were Happy, The Beautiful Bureaucrat and Some Possible Solutions
Each of which have received various awards. She has also received and it is my favorite award ever—-The Italo Calvino Prize in Fabulist Fiction. On my fabulist bucket list.
Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, NYT, Tin House and many other publications.
The Need is a scary book. It is a funny book, it is a sad book, a tragic book, an heroic book and a book that is really hard to put down.
Do we have an unreliable narrator? I don’t know. Do we have a parallel universe? Beats me. Do we have two matching pennies? I can’t say. Do we like someone or another? But when a book asks you these questions and you can’t answer them, you know someone is on to something.
The Need starts out being something then morphs into something else. funnels, tunnels and as it does our questions begin to rise as do the protagonists.
And our protagonists are two sides of the same coin.
It is a book I will not soon forget maybe with a beatific dream every once in a while with the odd, and I mean odd, nightmare thrown in for good measure.