What I Learned at WAMU

For nearly 15 years, I have spent the day before Thanksgiving not baking pecan pie but talking up winter books on the Kojo Nnadmi Show out of WAMU in Washington, DC. This year was no different, but something unusual did happen on the show. For the first time since I’ve appeared, the guests‚ who included Marcela Valdes, NBCC buddy and winner of the Roger Shattuck Award for Criticism from the Center for Fiction, and Michael Dirda, the Putlizer Prize‚ winning columnist for the Washington Post‚ argued with one another about the book’s merits. Michael found Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve not entirely fresh, while Marcela thought Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot a bit disappointing and twee. I’d question Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery because I sometimes found that the overlay of historic detail got in the way of narrative pleasure, though I didn’t speak up at the time. I find it hard to argue with people I can’t see‚ I do this show from a radio studio in New York‚ and in any case we were short on time. But I’m mentioning my views now as a way of introducing a thought I had post-show. I’d wholeheartedly recommend these titles as book-club books precisely because they inspire such heartfelt debate; there’s nothing worse than discussing a title everyone mildly likes or dislikes, and books are supposed to make your think. Here’s our entire list; you’re sure to find more good reading there.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.