The best books about searching for answers in the past and present

Terence M. Green Author Of Shadow of Ashland
By Terence M. Green

Who am I?

There are things expressed only in writing, never spoken aloud in our culture. We can find them in books, in the honesty and insights of those willing to take the time and make the effort to say what they feel and think. Another reason to read is for the sheer joy of a story well told, one that can open both the mind and the heart. I have published 7 novels and a collection of short stories, have just retired from teaching creative writing at the university level. My life has been spent among books. Simply, I am in awe of the ones recommended here.


I wrote...

Shadow of Ashland

By Terence M. Green,

Book cover of Shadow of Ashland

What is my book about?

“Things have to be settled, or they never go away.” Before she dies in 1984, Leo’s hospitalized mother shows him a rose she says was just given to her by her brother, Jack, who disappeared 50 years earlier. After her death, letters from Jack begin to arrive at the family home. They are postmarked 1934. The final one is from Ashland, Kentucky.

Leo heads to Ashland, to find out why they are arriving now, after 50 years. Time runs underground, then surfaces, and Leo experiences the ghosts of the past as no one has in 50 years, in Ashland, where dreams die and are born again.

The books I picked & why

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Earth Abides

By George R. Stewart,

Book cover of Earth Abides

Why this book?

This novel appeared in 1949 and is eminently readable still—wise and unpredictable—about a plague that decimates the globe before it became fashionable as a topic. Stewart was a professor of English at UC Berkeley. First read it as a teenager, and several times since over the years. It holds up! Stewart was way ahead of his time—and writes a terrific story.

Earth Abides

By George R. Stewart,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Earth Abides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this profound ecological fable, a mysterious plague has destroyed the vast majority of the human race. Isherwood Williams, one of the few survivors, returns from a wilderness field trip to discover that civilization has vanished during his absence.

Eventually he returns to San Francisco and encounters a female survivor who becomes his wife. Around them and their children a small community develops, living like their pioneer ancestors, but rebuilding civilization is beyond their resources, and gradually they return to a simpler way of life.

A poignant novel about finding a new normal after the upheaval of a global crisis.


Memoir

By John McGahern,

Book cover of Memoir

Why this book?

McGahern, an Irish writer, arguably should have won the Nobel prize for his body of work (I’ve read everything I could get my hands on). He died in 2006 of cancer. This was published posthumously in 2007, the year I first read it... Have read it 3 times since. McGahern opens up and lets us in, with beautiful prose. Hypnotic, haunting, wise, and honest.

Memoir

By John McGahern,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memoir as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the story of John McGahern's childhood, his mother's death, his father's anger and violence, and how, through his discovery of books, his dream of becoming a writer began.

At the heart of Memoir is a son's unembarrassed tribute to his mother. His memory of walks with her through the narrow lanes to the country schools where she taught and his happiness as she named for him the wild flowers on the bank remained conscious and unconscious presences for the rest of his life.

A classic family story, told with exceptional restraint and tenderness, Memoir cannot fail to move…


Stoner

By John Williams,

Book cover of Stoner

Why this book?

This novel is the story of William Stoner, raised on a US midwestern farm, who becomes an English professor at the University of Missouri. It follows his life throughout, in simple prose, becoming both moving and profound. It was introduced to me by a knowledgeable NY city book dealer back in the 90s. I pick it up every few years for another reading experience. It’s become a bit of an obscure classic.

Stoner

By John Williams,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Stoner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WATERSTONES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2013

'It's the most marvellous discovery for everyone who loves literature' Ian McEwan, BBC Radio 4

Colum McCann once called Stoner one of the great forgotten novels of the past century, but it seems it is forgotten no longer - in 2013 translations of Stoner began appearing on bestseller lists across Europe. Forty-eight years after its first, quiet publication in the US, Stoner is finally finding the wide and devoted readership it deserves. Have you read it yet?

William Stoner enters the University of Missouri at nineteen to study agriculture. A seminar on English literature…


A Canticle for Leibowitz

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.,

Book cover of A Canticle for Leibowitz

Why this book?

Published in 1959 (and never out of print)—arguably the best and most idiosyncratic of post-holocaust novels. Civilization is kept alive by a group of monks in the southwestern United States. Remarkably, it’s filled with irony and humor, as well as minute attention to the details of monastic life. Written as a 3-part narrative, it manages, incredibly, to span 1800 years. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve re-read it.

A Canticle for Leibowitz

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked A Canticle for Leibowitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz has made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.

In a terrifying age of darkness and decay, these artifacts could be the keys to mankind's salvation. But as the mystery at the core of this groundbreaking novel unfolds, it is the search itself—for meaning, for truth, for love—that offers hope for humanity's rebirth…


Onion Man

By Kathryn Mockler,

Book cover of Onion Man

Why this book?

Mockler is currently a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada). This small volume (poetry? prose? sui generis?) knocked me out the first time I read it in 2011, and its brevity has led to me re-reading it several times since. About an 18-year-old girl working in a canning factory in London, Ontario—wise, funny, moving, honest... it’s got it all. I’ve purchased several copies over the years and use them as gifts to fellow readers. Highly recommended.

Onion Man

By Kathryn Mockler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Onion Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the late 1980s of London, Ontario-a time in Canada when the recession lay like a lead weight on the shoulders of young people, leaving the future bleak-an eighteen-year-old girl is working for the summer at a corn canning factory. Her story is told through a series of masterfully-sculpted linked poems, following her relationship with her boyfriend, her alcoholic mother, her terminally-ill grandfather, the factory job, and the man who every night "peels an onion and eats it as if it were an apple." The Onion Man doesn't speak English and is tormented by the other workers, and ater his…


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