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Final Chapter: Listening to Your Suggestions


This summer we've talked to authors, scientists, performers and others to find out what they've been reading for work and for fun. We also asked our listeners to tell us what books have captivated them this summer.

Ms. MARIAN HOGAN (Caller): This is Marian Hogan from Tacoma, Washington. Imagine finding a book that falls like a template over your life, that connects your childhood and your adulthood with a truth you didn't realize anyone else understood. For me, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress by Mary Edwards Wertsch, is that book. When I read it, I felt a lot of things: anguish, release, great joy and even shame.

You know, lots of kids experience nomadic childhoods, but military brats, we're a tribe unlike any other. We're involuntary soldiers. We move from base to base in the service of our country and our behavior has a direct affect on the success or the failure of our parents' careers. How can the military establishment better protect the new brats, the baby brats, from the damaging affect of their service to family and country? That's the question I come away with after reading this groundbreaking book.

Mr. WESLEY ROTE(ph) (Caller): This is Wesley Rote from Greensboro, North Carolina. So far this summer, I've made it half way through Pillar of Fire. It's the second part of America in the King Years, a three-volume series by Taylor Branch. The series has made me think a lot about moral courage, the moral courage of Martin Luther King, Jr., of course, but certainly that of John Lewis, Robert Moses, Diane Nash, and thousands whose names aren't even known.

I'm wondering if I have that same courage? I did not have it in 1964 when older respected friends talked me out of going to Freedom Summer, the campaign to register black voters in Mississippi. I also wonder, if I have that courage now, how can I use it?

In 1964 I was hopeful and saw how people with moral courage could in fact effect change. Now I see another unnecessary and seemingly endless war, impoverished put off with unfulfilled promises, and the environment ravaged to enrich the wealthy, and I feel befuddled and helpless, not knowing what to do.

Ms. RAMONA GAULT(ph) (Caller): This is Ramona Gault from Seattle. One book that will stay with me for a long time is War and the Soul by Edward Tick. He's a psychotherapist who works with U.S. war veterans. I'm a member of the Vietnam War generation myself, and I've longed been concerned about the problems faced by returning soldiers. Edward Tick believes that post-traumatic stress disorder is actually a soul wound, and that healing that wound requires the compassion and understanding of the entire community.

Now we have thousands of young men and women returning from horrendous conditions in Iraq. Their successful re-entry into civilian life should be a concern of every American.

Ms. AMANDA WATSON (Caller): I'm Amanda Watson and I teach English at Charles M. Russell High School in Great Falls, Montana. This summer I spent a lot of time preparing for a new class and reading the sophomore curriculum. All the books carry a common theme, the changing world. I found myself constantly asking whether we change the world or it changes us?

I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and found it as poignant as I did when I first discovered it in the 10th grade. I read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar with new eyes, eyes darkened by knowledge of the workings of the modern world and how the public hasn't learned a single thing. We still let people tell us what to do and believe their words with complete trust. Anthem by Ayn Rand was completely new to me. I've never been a fan of science fiction, but I've changed my mind about the genre.

Reading these books, I learned that Lee, Shakespeare and Rand saw where the world was headed and tried to explain it to the rest of us so that we could prevent disaster. However, we humans refuse to listen to good advice.

Ms. AMELIA FURLONG (Caller): I'm Amelia Furlong from Mount Vernon, Washington. I just finished A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I liked everything about this book, from the vivid description to the thought-provoking metaphors. I felt as though I knew the four main characters all my life, when really it was only a few weeks.

The book was also subtle in the way that it haunted and horrified you. Rohinton Mistry does not spare the main characters. They didn't always get out of horrible situations. They too were victims of the harsh environment. What I liked most of all was that this book makes you re-examine your own life and appreciate all you have.

HANSEN: You can find reading recommendations and interviews with this year's summer readers on the Books Page at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.