Open Phones: Brian's Summer Vacation Reading and Music List

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Brian's off for the next two weeks, and he needs good recommendations to feed his media appetite.

Listeners: What should Brian listen to, what should he read?!

Comments [84]

Ed from Larchmont

Brian Lehrer shouldn't go on vacation: bad things happen. And at this time a bad economic event threatens.

Aug. 05 2011 06:13 AM
Jennifer Madden

Harriet Segal's latest ebook, The Expatriate - a wonderful WWII novel with a great ending!

Aug. 04 2011 03:20 PM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Mark Helprin's "A Soldier of the Great War".....a modern epic and a forgotten gem.

Aug. 04 2011 01:47 PM
patricia mansfield

NAILER, the latest novel from Irish novelist Tom Phelan ( Or his previous novel, THE CANAL BRIDGE.

Aug. 04 2011 01:05 PM
Paula Beckenstein

I just finieshed reading "Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri and highly recommend it.

Aug. 04 2011 12:41 PM
Justin from North Bergen

I have recently self-published my first novel, "Ball in the Sky". It starts as a coming of age story about growing up in a dysfunctional family, then develops into a love story, but crises hit when the protagonist descends into madness. Available at, as paperback and for nook and kindle.

Aug. 04 2011 12:32 PM
Judy from Hillsborough, NJ

I recommend "A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's plays teach us about justice" by Kenji Yoshino. Perhaps it's not light reading, but it is enlightening.

Aug. 04 2011 12:21 PM
Reid from Nashville, TN

Music: Travis Meadows "Killin' Uncle Buzzy"
The calm of summer vacation is the perfect time to absorb one man's battle with addiction and the destructive life and consequences that come with such decisions.

Aug. 04 2011 12:16 PM
Peter Ungar from New Rochelle, NY

Konrad Lorenz "On Aggression" is a classic work on aggression in animals of all kinds. It is an eye-opener to someone like myself who did not know much about the behavior of animals. Lorenz also discusses how our animal heritage is reflected in our own aggressive behaviors.

Aug. 04 2011 12:09 PM
linda from Stroudsburg, PA

re: THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin---in my haste to be relevant, I left out the author's last name....sorry

Aug. 04 2011 12:08 PM
Michelle Antonisse from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Hi Bryan!
Two great, older books that make great, juicy beach reads are the "once and future king" and "i, claudius", both classic stories made into beautifully written melodramas. Brush up on your history while being thoroughly entertained!

Aug. 04 2011 12:04 PM
John Demas

David McCullough's Americans in Paris

Aug. 04 2011 12:03 PM
Alena from Babylon

I just finished Conquistadora by Esmeralda Santiago. It chronicles the history of Puerto Rico in the mid 1800s following the story of a wealthy young woman marrying in Spain and moving to Puerto Rico to run a sugar plantation. Great story!

Aug. 04 2011 12:03 PM
Leah from Greenpoint

Listen to old time radio shoes while you do something outside! I rediscovered Cape Cod Radio Mystery Theater programs, which Edward Gorey was affiliated with; great fun.

Aug. 04 2011 12:03 PM
laura ide from brooklyn

Highly recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks-- about a black woman in the 50's whose cancer cells were first to survive in culture and went on to development of cures, profit and research around the world-- and about her children and descendants who ironically live in poverty and no health care.

Aug. 04 2011 12:02 PM
Katherine Jackson from LES

Band: My Morning Jacket

Aug. 04 2011 12:02 PM
Sam from astoria

Nick Harkaway, "The Gone-Away World." Epic, hilarious, insightful world war III kung-fu coming of age novel. Best thing I've read all year.

Aug. 04 2011 12:02 PM
judith ackerman

I recommend the books of Beverly Swerling in this order: City of Dreams, City of Glory, City of God, Shadowbrook. In this month will come out City of Promises. She's a writer that gets you up in the middle of the night to find out what happens in the next chapter. Historical fx covering NYC from 1600's onwards. I'm crazy about her!!!! Warning: You might suffer sleep deprivation!!!! Love, blessings, Judith of the upper west side.

Aug. 04 2011 12:02 PM
Margaret Schnipper from Park Slope

Henry Shukman's "Mortimer of the Maghreb" - 3 novelas, with the center piece about a love affair being a correspondent and a photojournalist covering the Tourag uprising. Like an epic romance - so moving.

I'm going on vacation too (up to Maine for 2 weeks!) and I'm taking Ann Patchett's new book.

Have fun, Brian! : )

Aug. 04 2011 12:01 PM
Linda Danges from STroudsburg, PA

Best escape: THE PASSAGE by Justin Passage (fiction)--conspiracy, science fiction?or is it? Epic! save the world from human avarice. The AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN---so relevant and BIG! use a kindle---unless you LOVE research to the nth degree--nix the citations.
MUSIC: Any SHINNS recordings

Aug. 04 2011 12:01 PM
Carol from New Jeraey

Uncle Tom's Cabin that was on Nicholas Kristof's socially responsible summer reading list. Written in 1852 it makes all the atrocities ring true. America's Holocaust.

Aug. 04 2011 12:01 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Manhattan Transfer is not only the title of a novel but also the name of a jazz vocal quartet, which is well worth listening to!

Have a great vacation, Brian!

Aug. 04 2011 12:01 PM
Cory from Crown Point, NY

If you are going to the Adirondacks again, don't read anything. Paradoxically, although it has been the wettest Spring and Summer (concentrated rain) anyone can remember, we have mainly glorious sunny days and cool, crisp nights. Get outside and enjoy it. Forget about reading.

Aug. 04 2011 12:01 PM
Maude from Park Slope

read: Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle or Breakfast of Champions.
Just re-read these, the man was a genius.

audiobook: Amy Sedaris Crafts book. Made me laugh most of any Sedaris book so far.

Aug. 04 2011 12:00 PM
Brooklyn_Working_Mom from Brooklyn

"First Man in Rome" - not recent, but this historical fiction by Coleen McCullough about Rome circa 110BC is a lot of fun. The parrallels with current events (in my opinion) is telling. We despartately need a First Man in DC or least some degree of "dignitas". Enjoy your summer Brian.

Aug. 04 2011 12:00 PM
John from NYC

He died with felafel in his hand, by John Bimingham. Hilarious memoir about post-college house shares.

Aug. 04 2011 12:00 PM
Ann from Westchester

I just finished Julia Glass's Three Junes. The writing is honest and straightforward, without gimmicks, yet it goes deep. Glass delves into the lives of her characters and allows us and them to gain insight and perspective, to move from a black and white understanding of life, to an acceptance of a gray that is neither dismal nor monochromatic, but is, instead, a rich, multi-hued color, a color that has many shades. You will read the last page and feel yourself firmly planted in the here and now, and, I hope that you will feel, as I did grateful.

Aug. 04 2011 11:59 AM
John K.

Read "The Rum Diary", by Hunter Thompson, a quick read, pretty entertaining. Best of all a film adaptation is being released in the fall...

Aug. 04 2011 11:58 AM
Charlie from Brooklyn

Combine music and reading: read Patti Smith's and Keith Richards' memoirs. Both beautifully written.
Fiction: "The Great Fire" by Shirley Hazard

Aug. 04 2011 11:58 AM

Helen DeWitt's _The Last Samurai_ (not related to the movie) about a young prodigy searching for his father in London. Brilliant book.

Aug. 04 2011 11:57 AM

I dread what news stories will break while you're away!

Unusual Fishes by Sarah Vowel was pretty great- history of Hawaii, and the missionaries who went there to Americanize it (but funny).

Aug. 04 2011 11:57 AM
Katherine Jackson from LES

1) The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg. One of the truly great writers of our time, and a New Yorker to boot!

2) Distant Star by Roberto Bolaño. A chilling, brilliant, hallucinatory novella about Fascist Chile (and anywhere).

Aug. 04 2011 11:57 AM
Dante from Fort greene

George RR Martin's Game Of Thrones series is awesome!

Aug. 04 2011 11:56 AM
Tom Davis from Manhattan

My suggestion is Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards' memoir, Life. A brilliant ride, man! Kick back under a palm tree and roll with it.

Aug. 04 2011 11:56 AM
Phoebe from Bushwick


Aug. 04 2011 11:55 AM
Jesse from Brooklyn

Read: Nick Tosches' 'The Devil And Sonny Liston'

Listen: Grinderman 2 by Grinderman (Nick Cave/Warren Ellis' band)

Aug. 04 2011 11:54 AM
eric from park slope

not current or trendy, but excellent and timeless:
listen to some hank williams, you can't go wrong.
I really liked Mark Helprin's - Memoir from Antproof Case

Aug. 04 2011 11:53 AM

Recent non-fiction: Philip Connors, Fire Season (Lopate 4/18)
Tobias Moscowitz and L. Jon Wertheim, Scorecasting (Lopate 1/26)

Recent music (for the road or beach):
Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What
Tom Ze, Estudando a Bossa (Nordeste Plaza)
Vieux Farka Toure, The Secret

Recent collections (same):
Allen Toussaint, Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky: The Hit Songs & Productions 1957-1978
Alan Jackson, 34 Number Ones

Aug. 04 2011 11:51 AM
Kay from Brooklyn

If you want to read am awesome book to get ready for the school year, grab "8th Grade SuperZero" by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich! It is really funny, heartwarming, and you will root for the main character till the very end.

Aug. 04 2011 11:51 AM
Patrick Jarkowsky from Hoboken, NJ

A must read, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy by William Strauss and Neil Howe.

Aug. 04 2011 11:51 AM
Sheila from Stamford CT

My suggestion is Burmese Lessons by Karen Connelly.
Enjoy your vacation.

Aug. 04 2011 11:42 AM
David from Upper West Side

The Book of Mormon, original Broadway cast recording! you'll laugh so hard your ipod will think you're speaking in tounges

Aug. 04 2011 11:27 AM
nick from nyack

Must read "We the drowned" by Carsten Jensen. Heard his interview on your show, ran out and bought the book and could not put it down, fantastic!

Aug. 04 2011 11:19 AM

Fo that summertime feeling, nothing beats Loudon Wainwright's "The Swimming Song." Early studio version preferred or, my favorite (sorry, Loudo!) the version recorded by Kate & Anna McGarrigle. And, of course, Beethoven's 6th Symphony for evoking those late-day thunderstorms. I personally go with Rattle on this one.

Aug. 04 2011 11:18 AM
Karen from NYC

I would also have recommended "In the Garden of the Beast," which recounts the gradual disillusionment of the U.S. Ambassador to Germany and his daughter with the Nazi regime, and the Ambassador's subsequent efforts to alert the U.S. government and State Department to the Nazi pathology -- but you will be on vacation and, frankly, after a few hours reading about Hitler's Germany, I had to go for a long run and take a shower. Maybe for when you get back.

Aug. 04 2011 11:18 AM
Joanne from Boonton

Mary Chapin Carpenter, "The Age of Miracles." An album full of hope amid crisis by one of our most intelligent songwriters. We could use a few miracles after the recent debt-ceiling nonsense.

Although you've probably read it or know all this already, Brooke Gladstone's "The Influencing Machine" is worth reading It taught me a lot I didn't know about the media.

Have a great vacation!

Aug. 04 2011 11:15 AM
ecogronomissed from Montreal Canada

Joe Flood's "The Fires" about the Rand Corp program affecting how Mayor John Vliet Lindsay's FDNY and how it caused the Bronx to burn!

Music the album "La Ligne Orange" whose name refers to the number 2 Subway Line in Montreal. The band is "Mes Aieux" which means my ancestors.

Aug. 04 2011 11:15 AM
Karen from NYC

Best-sellers, but good:

"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption," by
Hillenbrand, Laura (incredible survival story, but you'll also learn a lot about the treatment by the Japanese of US POWs);

"The Greater Journey," by David
McCullough (fall in love with 19th Century Paris while visiting the 2011 Adirondacks);

"Solar," by Ian McEwan (better than the reviewers said that it was).

Good weather! No crises while you're gone!

Aug. 04 2011 11:10 AM
Freddy Jenkins

John Le Carre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", Osamu Tezuka's, "Buddha" manga: who knew enlightenment could be so exciting?

Aug. 04 2011 11:07 AM
Jeff from Upper East Side

You should take a look at "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom" by Evgeny Morozov.

A great song to start your vacation: "Working for Vacation" by (the New York-based) Cibo Matto

Aug. 04 2011 11:05 AM
Amy from Boston, MA

Download Harriet Segal's "The Expatriate" for your kindle or other e-reader. A sweeping WWII saga, well-researched and absolutely gripping! Will keep you up late, as you delve into the years before, during and after WWII, as seen through the eyes of a young American woman studying art history in England and Austria.

Aug. 04 2011 11:03 AM
Paul Diveny

I just finished reading Donovan Hohn's "Moby Duck". It was a terrific read - it was informative, funny, and thoughtful. I will never look at plastic the same way again.

Aug. 04 2011 10:56 AM
Andrea from Philadelphia

If you haven't read it yet, Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad"--it's kind of a counterpoint to Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom."

Aug. 04 2011 10:55 AM

Survival, by the JFK Special Warfare Center &I School. Become self-sufficient when needed.

Aug. 04 2011 10:50 AM
Linda from Jersey Shore

Jacqueline said it The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell. Just goes to show, there is nothing new under the sun. And I said on facebook, any Ann Pachett book, "State of Wonder", "Bel Canto" or "Run"

Aug. 04 2011 10:48 AM
Robert from NYC

Since NPR has abandoned playing any classical organ music over the past decade I recommend, Brian, that you listen to any or all of JS Bach's organ music and open your mind to heart to some of the best music ever written. You studied music and probably know how properly to listen to music intellectually; finding and following themes and motifs should come easily to you, and if you listen closely you would be amazed at the Master's genius (you will also find the "faliures" shall we call them?) but mostly the genius of Bach.

Aug. 04 2011 10:48 AM

For the ninth million xxxtimesssxxxx the us needs to make "ring" magnet trains...thats the new energyyyy...

Aug. 04 2011 10:43 AM
Gerry Segal Singer/Songwriter from NYC

I'm taking a "Mulligan" on this as the last url didn't work.


You might like this song I wrote about parenting..."Mediocracy"

Have a great and relaxing vacation.


Aug. 04 2011 10:35 AM
Kari from New York, NY

“Crashers,” Dana Haynes’ new thriller -- It’s a page turner, which Booklist says: “Action-oriented readers will embrace for its lively and fast-moving story…The premise is simple: a crack team of National Transportation Safety Board experts investigate airplane crashes. Normally they take months to sift through wreckage and evidence, but this time they have mere days: if they can’t figure out what and who brought down CascadeAir Flight 818, more planes will fall from the sky.”

Aug. 04 2011 10:34 AM
Jacqueline from Montclair

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell. Published in 1914, but VERY contemporary in theme: working-class house painters are fooled into thinking that their bosses are the "philanthropists," who generously create jobs for workers. But, of course, the real philanthropists are the workers themselves who work for poverty wages and make their bosses rich.
Edwardian England = 2011 America.

Aug. 04 2011 10:28 AM
Deborah Eisberg from Panama (the country)

The book, "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann, a 2010 Nat'l Book Award Winner (Fiction) focuses on one day in 1974 -- the day Philippe Petit, the French acrobat walked across a tightrope between the twin towers; and on that day in the lives of various New Yorkers who's stories come together by the end of the book. Without addressing the events of 9/11/2001, the makes itself felt throughout throughout the book.

The book is a great homage to NYC and it's people; especially in a time -- the 1970's -- that NYC was down and out.

The book is beautifully and intricately written and considered.

Aug. 04 2011 10:26 AM
Drew Montgomery from Brooklyn

I recommend "At Home" by Bill Bryson. It's the history of the way we live through looking at the various rooms of a house. It goes back to when homes were a single room or hall to today. It's a fascinating history of how we got to where we are in day to day life.

Aug. 04 2011 10:25 AM
Barbara from From Williamsburg, Brooklyn but now in the Catskills

A good summer soundtrack...ROME by Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi (with guests Norah Jones and Jack White...just the right dosage of each!)...great for day dreaming and languid long afternoons.

Book: Ann Patchett's STATE OF WONDER...enough of an edge to satisfy a NYC temperament yet magical and some how uplifting...

Have a great vacation...

Aug. 04 2011 10:23 AM
Naomi Azar from Brooklyn, NY

Hi Brian,

I just finished reading an incredible book - that I have a feeling you have already read: "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It's the memoir of a woman born into a Muslim family in Somalia, who journeys from a "mental cage" into freedom. She is now one of the leading women speaking out against oppression of women in Islamic communities worldwide - and raises important Q's about multiculturalism.

Aug. 04 2011 10:23 AM
Gerry Segal Singer/Songwriter from NYC

I forgot the url for the song in my last message:




Aug. 04 2011 10:22 AM
Gerry Segal Singer/Songwr from NYC

Hi Brian:

You might like to hear my song about parenting. It's called "Mediocracy"

Have a great vacation.


Aug. 04 2011 10:22 AM
Louisa from France

London Eye, by Walter Ellis. Hilarious and classy, on Kindle.

Aug. 04 2011 10:21 AM
Jon from Brooklyn The Yacoubian Building (9789774248627): Alaa Al Aswany ...

This is a wonderful book. I learned a lot about corruption, fanatical politics, poverty, sexual bigotry and human frailty. Beautifully written.


Aug. 04 2011 10:20 AM
Shereen from Brooklyn

Hi Brian - this isn't recent but I'd suggest Fun Home by Alison Bechdel if you & listeners haven't already read it. It's a brilliantly written graphic-novel-memoir.

Enjoy your time off!

Aug. 04 2011 10:19 AM
David Goldbeck from Woodstock, NY

"Mating" by Norman Rush. Not about "mating" in the traditional sense. One of the most brilliant and challenging books you will ever read. And a good rest to you.

Aug. 04 2011 10:19 AM

Non-Fiction suggestion: Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy Degruy

Aug. 04 2011 10:19 AM

Good Summer Read: 10,000 SAINTS by Eleanor Henderson. Captures the 80's Lower East Side Straight Edge culture as I remember it.

Aug. 04 2011 10:19 AM

The Oracle of Stamboul : a novel / Michael David Lukas. Great summer read, just don't know how to describe it. History, mysticism, fantasy, really well written

Aug. 04 2011 10:19 AM
Jesse from Brooklyn

the recent album "Everything Under the Sun" by Jukebox the Ghost. Sunny summer vacation music!

Aug. 04 2011 10:18 AM
Kimmarie from Manhattan

"The Art Of Racing In The Rain," by Garth Stein is a fanciful, lovely story told from the perspective of a dog who longs to be human.

"Troubadour" by Somali/Canadian rapper K'nann. Exquisite.

Have a great vacation.

Aug. 04 2011 10:18 AM
Cowboy011 from Tenafly, NJ

Recent wonderful non-fiction - The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A True Story of Resilience and Recovery by Andrew Westoll. Guarantee you will learn things about our closest relatives that you didn't know. It's also particularly relevant reading as Congress is currently considering The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (H.R.1513/S.810). You can also find out more about the act at

Aug. 04 2011 10:18 AM

We recommend
The hare with amber eyes by edmund de waal
Marylea and Rolf Meyersohn

Aug. 04 2011 10:17 AM
Roger Cohen from Bloomfield

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall (yes, of THAT Udall clan). An epic, comic, empathic tale of a Mormon poly family in the outlands of south Utah. Wonderful.

Aug. 04 2011 10:17 AM
Don from Brooklyn

It's not necessarily new, but since science non-fiction is not particularly widely read, I recommend "Origins of Life" by Freeman Dyson. It is a somewhat academic attempt by a prominent physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton to elucidate the beginning of life on earth based on physical principles, especially an analogy to the design of early computers.

Aug. 04 2011 10:16 AM
Rebecca from Brooklyn

Basically anything by Jonathan Batiste. : )

Aug. 04 2011 10:15 AM
Diana Bloom from Manhattan UWS

I recommend any of the DISCWORLD series of sci fi fantasy novels by British author Terry Pratchett. They do not need to be read in order, but the first will either hook you or not.

Aug. 04 2011 10:14 AM
patrick penta from brooklyn

Mozart: String Quintet in G minor.

The greatest composer's greatest piece of chamber music.

Solomon Quartet & Whistler.

Aug. 04 2011 10:14 AM
Hazel R. Feldman from Manhattan

You may enjoy Pete Hamill's new book (fiction) Tabloid City. Enjoy your vacation.

Aug. 04 2011 10:13 AM
Robin from Queens

We will miss you Brian!

Aug. 04 2011 10:12 AM

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