A book with pages folded into a heart.

As cold weather settles into the Bay Area, Forum opens the phone lines for our biannual book show when listeners share their favorite reads. We invite you to pull up a chair, pour a mug of tea and tell us about your favorite books. What’s your most memorable recent read? What books are you planning to give as gifts this year? And is an e-book ever an appropriate gift?

Recommendations from Our Listeners

10:04: A Novel by Ben Lerner

50 Years of Assimilation by Wanda Lee-Stevens

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Big Bear Little Chair by Lizi Boyd

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy D. Snyder

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine by Tweedy Damon M.D

The Boundaries of Desire: Bad Laws, Good Sex, and Changing Identities by Eric Berkowitz

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Children of Monsters: An Inquiry Into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators by Jay Nordlinger

CIA: Operation Ajax by Daniel Burwen and Mike De Seve

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

City of Rivals: Restoring the Glorious Mess of American Democracy by Jason Grumet

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall

The Devil's Chessboard by David Talbot

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Flings: Stories by Justin Taylor

Germinal by Emile Zola

The Girl with All the Gifts by Mike Carey

Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Horns by Joe Hill

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

In the Country by Mia Alvar

JR and The Recognitions by William Gaddis

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Yowell

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos Papadimitriou

Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Mister God, This Is Anna by Sydney Hopkins under the pseudonym "Fynn"

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James D. Hornfischer

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman

Notes From The Playground by Greg John

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Chris Clark

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Peirce

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua

Thunder & Lightning by Lauren Redniss

Too Much of Nothing, Sweetness and Blood by Michael Scott Moore

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis

The Witches by Stacy Schiff

Recommendations from Our Guests

Books Suggested by Pamela Paul of the New York Times Book Review

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace

The Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace

The Door by Magda Szabo

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf

Jonas Salk: A Life by Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs

My Struggle: Book Four by Karl Ove Knausgard

New World by J.A. Hawkings

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

The Weather Experiment:The Pioneers Who Saught to See the Future by Peter Moore

Books Suggested by Sheryl Cotleur of Copperfield's Books

Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash

The Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them by Nancy Marie Brown

The Other Paris by Luc Sante

Pamela Paul, editor, New York Times Book Review
Sheryl Cotleur, buyer, Copperfield's Books

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    As a major bibliophile who doesn’t own a tv but does have a serious book budget I LOVED Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy MD, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman (I am autistic) and Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon. Any new non fiction on the horizon to keep an eye out for? Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Mason Gibb

      Beth, you may want to keep your eyes out for works by Svetlana Alexievich, the journalist who won the Nobel prize this year and author of War’s Unwomanly Face, Voices from Chernobyl, etc.). After being awarded such a prize, the authors usually see a flurry of English-language translations.


    I would like to recommend two of the oldest books in history ,the ancient Egyptian Book Of The Dead ,and the Pyramid text ,both gives you real incite in the ancient religions ,the birth of monotheism and the birth of Judaism and other western religions and believe ,I also recommend the quotes of Hypathia of Alexandria ,the great woman scientist ,astronomer ,philosopher who lived in Egypt ,born in the year 375 AD murdered by a christian mob in the year 415 AD during one of the episodes of the burning of the great library of Alexandria .

  • Mason Gibb

    –this was originally moderated out of existence for stating what kind of camp borowski was in–

  • Mason Gibb

    Tadeusz Borowski’s “This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” and Varlam Shalamov’s “Kolyma Tales” are two of the best collections of “camp literature.” Borowski was a Pole who survived both Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau, while Shalamov endured the Kolyma gold mines and other Soviet gulags. Both writers address the deepest ethical questions with a stark absence of any moralizing. They write about the extremes of cold, hunger and fatigue; the murderous acts of a few and the unlimited cruelty of even one’s fellow prisoners; in sum, the inhuman realities of life in the camps. But both also tell of those uncanny moments when one was almost content with camp life: usually thanks to an easier labor assignment, a warm stove, or a little more food.
    (I gave out the Borowski collection as a Christmas present last year)

  • Richie Partington

    Here are a pair, just published for young people, that plenty of grownups will enjoy: On the nonfiction side, my favorite is Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. Most Dangerous is, in large part, the story
    of a man whose transformation from anti-Communist hawk to antiwar activist follows that of many Americans who lived through the Vietnam War. Beginning at the end of WWII, when France was seeking to regain control of its former Southeast Asia colony, the story concludes with the fall of the Nixon presidency, the ending of America’s involvement in Vietnam, and the dismissal of charges against Ellsberg. On the fiction side, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is a tale of racism and police brutality in America that is told from the perspectives of two teens, Rashad who is black and Quinn who is white. One more: my pick for the next Newbery is Orbiting Jupiter by two-time Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt.

  • JohanNilsenNagel

    I recommend William Vollmann’s The Dying Grass, a brilliant, day-by-day, post-modern re-telling of the US Government pursuit of the Nez Perce Indians in the mid-1800s. One of seven volumes Vollmann is writing about the encounters between natives and Europeans in North America. This volume is definitely challenging due to its length, and also style — virtually every page captures the conversations as well as thoughts and background noises occurring in each scene though the skillful use of indentations. Fascinating, informative, insightful historical journey that will definitely stay with you a long time afterwards.

  • erictremont

    “Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS” by Joby Warrick. A good introduction to the man who was one of the Godfathers of ISIS, reads like a Robert Ludlum novel but it is all true.

  • De Blo

    Lafayette and the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

  • Maurice Sonny Levenbach

    All of Mary Renault’s books on ancient Greece and its heroes

  • eriksf

    Emile Zola’s Germinal was my favorite book of the year. Very compelling, beautifully crafted and remarkably contemporary in tone. Also I finally made it through the first volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and felt like I was reading the screenplay for Game of Thrones. Endless fascinating scenes of intrigue and betrayal and of course the constant parallels between ancient Rome and modern America.

  • Bella

    I normally stick to non-fiction but really enjoyed Kazuo Ishiguro’s
    “Buried Giant” – plowed right through that. “H for Hawk” is exquisitely
    written. Highly recommend memoirs from Philip Glass and Oliver Sacks. What lives! Next up on my list are Sally Mann’s “Hold Still” and Elizabeth Alexander’s “The Light of the World.”

  • Elaine Kriegh

    “The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe” by Michael Pye. I read this after I read a review in The Dalesman, a local magazine in Yorkshire, England this summer. The author examines the contributions of the cultures around the North Sea from medieval to modern times. A very persuasive argument that not all our modern world is a result of the Reformation in Italy and southern Europe.

  • Debbie

    Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels – amazing! I am on book 3 of 4 – can’t put them down. Amazing portrayal of friendship!

  • sue

    TOTALLY agree with the guy who just called in recommending “Shadow of the Wind”. I was contemplating being a first-time caller for the purposes of recommending the same book. It will transport you, as the caller said. Absolutely gorgeous, magical, mystical.

  • jsweeneycz

    For those who like creative non-fiction historical works, sea adventures, and exploration I recommend Naomi Williams’ LandFalls about the late 18th century French sea born expedition of La Perouse and its mysterious disappearance in the Western Pacific. Williams is a Northern California author and she does a nice job depicting the real personalities of the members of the expedition and their adventures. A similar book on the more successful early 19th century American expedition is a New York Times Notable Book by Nathaniel Philbrick, Sea of Glories. Both expeditions were attempts to emulate Captain Cook’s famous voyages.
    Jim Sweeney
    Los Altos, CA

  • Vijay

    I am re-reading Salman Rushdie’s “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” with my 9 year old daughter and I could not recommend it more highly. Rushdie is a great virtuoso whose word play will leave young and old in splits. I also feel that it is a remarkable introduction to the world of magic realism for young and old alike.

  • Kristen Moreland Stone

    Local author Tamara Ireland Stone’s, Every Last Word. Recently was on the NY Times top 10 ebook list. This YA book is fantastic for both teens and adults. Stone offers readers a fresh take on OCD by focusing on main character, Sam’s internal struggle as opposed to the external behaviors that are typically associated with the disorder. Sam is an endearing protagonist readers will find familiar and enjoy rooting for.

  • Cord Medina

    Find a Way by Diana Nyad!

  • ‘Notes from the Playground’, by San Francisco elementary school principal, Greg John. It contains 100 short stories about students and documents how childhood experiences — especially those that happen on the blacktop — shape who we become. These narratives arise from one principal’s epiphany that came as he looked out over a hundred children, playing, running, yelling, laughing, and crying. He recognized that he stood in a place where millions of journeys begin.

  • Donna Harrison

    I enthusiastically recommend anything by Colum McCann. His writing is lyrical and he takes disparate narratives and links them together in an engaging and intriguing way. My two favorites are Let the Great World Spin and Transatlantic. I ended up reading most of Transatlantic aloud to my husband, because the language demands to be heard, as well as read.

  • JohanNilsenNagel

    Would like to recommend my autobiography, Mysteries, by my father Knut Hamsun. All about . . . well, emptiness.

  • goodbyeMiddleClass

    Elizabeth Scarboro has written one of the most deeply moving books I have ever read (I wish I could use more elegant words to describe how amazing this book is). In her “My Foreign Cities”, Elizabeth, a Berkeley writer, describes life with her husband, from their teenage romance through their marriage during which his Cystic Fibrosis stealthily and then rapidly progresses. I spent years working with oncology patients, so I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming emotional impact this book had for me. It is a beautiful, loving book. (Just an aside, her descriptions of the tremendous care the UCSF medical and nursing staff caring for Cystic Fibrosis patients were incredibly inspiring. This book should be mandatory reading for every medical and nursing student.)

  • James

    The Patrick Modiano novels that have been translated since he won the Nobel are wonderful, a revelation, I recommend Suspended Sentences.

  • nora levine

    I loved Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans. London during the blitz. An orphan and a grifter of sorts meet and become unlikely allies. Sweet and darkly funny. Ms. Evans’ earlier novel, Their Finest Hour and a Half, (great title!) is about the propaganda film makers of WWII England, is also very entertaining. (And recently filmed.) My review of Crooked Heart is here:

  • Patricia

    After reading a string of dark books, our book group is now reading A Week in Winter, Maeve Binchy’s final novel. Binchy paints characters with pastels and bold colors; the characters are nuanced and quite distinct. While there is an overall story, each character (or pair of characters) has a chapter in which the character’s backstory is shared. And as with all good literary fiction, the characters are both unique and universal.

  • Patty

    Resetting Respect: The Attitude Adjustment That Just Might Lower Your Stress Level and Save the World, by local author Debora Wohlford Steininger, is a quick and easy read that focuses on how respect is a way of life that can have a positive impact on our family lives, our politics, our environment, and even our individual and societal mental health.

    • jamessteininger

      This book is simply life changing. Through thoughtful anecdotes and a compelling, simple idea, you can 180 reverse your outlook on relationships and life in a completely positive way. A modern philosophy for the new world.

  • bookwormpas

    I was driving, so could not call in today. “Evidence of Things Unseen,” a novel by Mary Anne Wiggins made a deep impact on me. It is about the dawn of the atomic age, seen through the eyes of two lovers, a World War I vet, (who handles phosphorescent materials in the army and then becomes fascinated with x-rays and ends up working at Oak Ridge Tennessee on atomic materials), and the Southern woman he marries. This sounds so boring doesn’t it? But it is also a love story that at the same time is common and transcendent.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor