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What the staff has been reading

Editors and writers share their pick of the literature, from biography to movies, music and crime.

We at The Inquirer are big readers. Below are staff recommendations of much-enjoyed books, old and new. All prices are hardcover only.


Bill Marimow, editor of The Inquirer, writes: "I thoroughly enjoyed


by David McCullough [Simon & Schuster, 1,120 pp., $40]. It's an opus, but it was a highly readable, illuminating opus."

Nick Cristiano, copy editor and country/roots reviewer, likes Ted Gioia's

Delta Blues

(W.W. Norton, 448 pp., $27.95), about the blues, the people who invented the music, and the people who first carried it on.

Foreign-affairs columnist Trudy Rubin recommends

My Father's Paradise

by Ariel Sabar (Algonquin, 325 pp., $25.95). Sabar, an American Jew, goes looking for his father's roots in Iraqi Kurdistan. Rubin is also enthusiastic about

Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq

, by Linda Robinson (PublicAffairs, 432 pp., $27.95), which Rubin calls "a fascinating portrait of how Gen. Petraeus' strategy was conceived and implemented."

Political cartoonist Tony Auth recommends

The Way of the World

, by Ron Suskind (Harper, 432 pp., $27.95), which seeks a way to restore America to international goodness. He also likes Jonathan Alter's

The Defining Moment: FDR's First Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

(Simon & Schuster, 432 pp., $16).

Architecture critic Inga Saffron recommends

Le Corbusier: A Life

, by Nicholas Fox Weber (Knopf, 848 pp., $45) and

On Architecture,

an essay collection by Ada Louise Huxtable (St. Martin, 496 pp., $35).

Movie critic Steven Rea likes

The Lost Art of Walking

, by Geoff Nicholson (Riverhead, 288 pp., $24.95), which "surveys the relationships between human beings and their feet. . . . Funny, personal, illuminating." He likewise recommends

The Oxford Project

, by Peter Feldstein and Stephen G. Bloom (Welcome, 288 pp., $50): "Pretty much the entire population of a small Iowa town is photographed, and profiled, in this big, beautiful, surprising book. And then, 20-some years later, the Oxfordians are photographed again."


Movie critic Carrie Rickey suggests

Pictures at a Revolution

, by Mark Harris (Penguin, 496 pp., $14.96), "an amazing account of five 1967 movies that changed Hollywood."

Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard

, by Richard Brody (Metropolitan, 720 pp., $40), is a study of the French cinéma verité master.

The Dark Side of the Screen

, by Foster Hirsch (Da Capo, 272 pp., $24.95), is "a republication of his 1981 book on film noir."

Rea also recommends David Thomson's

Have you Seen ... ?

(Knopf, 1,024 pp., $39.95), a fierce critic's 1,000-best list of "classics, obscuros, Hollywood entertainments and arthouse masterpieces."


Dan DeLuca, music critic, mentions

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life

, by Joe Nick Patoski (Little, Brown, 576 pp., $27.99), and

The Clash

, by the Clash (Grand Central, 384 pp., $35).

Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death and Country Music

, by Dana Jennings (Faber & Faber, 272 pp., $24), is a clever survey of country lyrics.

Fiction, fiction, fiction.

But wait, there's more! Dan lists

Lush Life

, by Richard Price (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 464 pp., $26);

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

, by Haruki Murakami (Knopf, 175 pp., $21); and

Exit Music

, by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown, 432 pp., $24.99). As for graphic novels, he suggests

The Alcoholic

, by Jonathan Ames (Vertigo, 136 pp., $49.99), and

Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan

, by Chip Kidd (Pantheon, 384 pp., $50).

Metro columnist Annette John-Hall says she loved Ann Patchett's


(Harper, 320 pp., $14.95), a "wonderfully written, richly resonating novel." Patchett seamlessly shows how loving family ties transcend racial boundaries, through the story of two black adopted sons, their Boston Irish father, and the blood sister who accidentally comes into her brothers' lives.

Columnist and book reviewer Karen Heller lists many fine novels, some of which you can find in our list of holiday gift-books:


, by Joseph O'Neill ("terrific - best novel of the year");

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

, by Swedish crime master Stieg Larsson; and

The Given Day

, by Dennis Lehane.

But then she goes and recommends

A Dance to the Music of Time

, by Anthony Powell, a chronicle of 20th-century English life published 1951-1975. "I just needed to brag that I actually read all 12 volumes," she writes. Yeah, OK, fine.

Entertainment writer David Hiltbrand likes

The Army of the Republic

by Stuart Archer Cohen (St. Martin, 432 pp., $24.95), "a gripping novel about a clash between young environmentalists and our corporate masters in an increasingly repressive America." John Niven's

Kill Your Friends

(Harper, 352 pp., $14.99) is "a brutally dark British novel about getting ahead in the record business - at any cost." And Greg Bear's

City at the End of Time

(Del Rey, 496 pp., $27) is "a smart, provocative sci-fi entry about cosmology, fate and time."

Several of us recommend David Carr's

The Night of the Gun

(Simon & Schuster, 400 pp., $26), a New York Times columnist's memoir of his years as a cocaine abuser.

International crime fiction

. Copy editor Peter Rozovsky is an expert on the international crime novel. (He blogs at His favorites of 2008, by author's origin:


Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

, by John McFetridge (Harcourt, 304 pp., $25).


Second Violin

, by John Lawton (Atlantic Monthly, 432 pp., $24).


The Draining Lake

, by Arnaldur Indriðason (St. Martin's Minotaur, 320 pp., $24.95).


The Big O

, by Declan Burke (Adult, 288 pp., $24);

Yours Confidentially

, by Garbhan Downey (Guildhall, 256 pp., $20).


Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio

, by Amara Lakhous (Europa, 129 pp., $14.95), a great little novel that made book critic Carlin Romano wonder: "Do we have an Italian Camus on our hands?"


The Chinaman

, by Friedrich Glauser (Bitter Lemon, 186 pp., $14.95).

Vampires, vampires.

Home & Design/Real Estate editor Joanne McLaughlin confesses that "vampire books and TV shows are my guilty pleasure." One obsession is the work of Tanya Huff, the Canadian fantasy writer whose work was the basis for the

Blood Ties

TV show. McLaughlin bought all five novels in Huff's "Blood Series" (

Blood Price


Blood Debt

, etc.), read them in a few days, and later read all three books in Huff's "Smoke Series."

"Huff's stuff is nicely paced," McLaughlin writes, "funny, and the characters are vibrant. It's not heavy lifting. But these days, who needs heavy?"