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Seattle: City of Literature

Seattle's 2017 designation as a City of Literature by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) recognizes the remarkable diversity and vibrancy of the region's literary culture. Seattle shares this honor with Iowa City and 37 cities across the globe, including Odessa in Ukraine; Durban, South Africa; and the Pakistani city of Lahore.

Companionable Narrators

When we sold my father's house last summer, I drove from New Jersey to Michigan to clear it out. For most of that 12-hour drive, Tom Hanks was my companion as he narrated Ann Patchett's wonderful The Dutch House (Harper Audio) as Danny. The intimacy of his voice almost made me believe he was sitting in the passenger seat, telling the story of his family home, and how the enormity of it drove off his mother and attracted a new stepmother, causing a rift between himself and his father and bringing him closer to his sister. It never occurred to me when I selected this audiobook from Libro.fm that this was the story of various people's relationship to a house. It was cathartic.

A Three-Course Literary Meal

James Salter, who died in 2015 at age 90, has long had a reputation among his fellow writers for his elegant style. Two of his best-known novels are exemplars of that gift, and a collection of lectures on writing offers a glimpse into his views of the craft.

Student Resistance in the Age of Chaos

Mark Edelman Boren's Student Resistance in the Age of Chaos is one of those rare acts of historical sleight of hand where something we have seen fleeting glimpses of for years suddenly looms large and makes sense in a majestic new way. Working as Mark's editor for the last two years, I learned so much.

Reading for a Living

I read for a living, more or less, so Labor Day's approach seems like a good excuse to share some recent titles I loved that are, in addition to many other things, about work. Each does its job well, in very different ways.

Harlem Shuffle

In Harlem Shuffle: A Novel, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Colson Whitehead makes the world from 125th Street and above in New York City as complex a character as the people who inhabit it. He opens his tale in 1959 with a tantalizing line: "His cousin Freddie brought him on the heist one hot night in early June." Freddie is cousin to Ray Carney, who up to now had been "only slightly bent when it came to being crooked." That's what Carney continues to tell himself when Freddie tries to talk him into handling a haul from "the Waldorf of Harlem." Even though Carney thinks, "Robbing the Hotel Theresa was like taking a piss on the Statue of Liberty," he agrees to help Freddie fence the goods from their robbery.

Christine Van Zandt: What's Behind Today's Underpants

While I was contemplating nonfiction topics that would engage kids, my (then) third-grader suggested underwear. Yes! I love hearing children laugh when they read, and there aren't many topics funnier than underpants. Once I began researching what had already been published, I felt there was a need for a concise, quick-paced book that could be amusing and informative. I charged forward like a knight in quilted underpants and wrote the first draft.

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