What the library staff is reading: as we end summer and start autumn.

Janet: “The Mighty Currwongs & other stories” by Brian Doyle.

            I was drawn to reading this book for two reasons: Kate recommended it to me AND the description of the back included these words – “A nimble and very funny collection.” Who would not want to read a book described as nimble!?! I have since finished this book and very highly recommend it. I’m not usually one to read short stories but the writing in this book is superb, humorous, and serious all at the same time. Some of the stories are only 2 pages long but each one delivers satisfaction.

 

Kate: “The Warden’s Daughter” by Jerry Spinelli.

I have known about this author, but never got a feel for his writing. This book has an interesting premise: a girl living with her father, the warden above a prison, in the 1950s.

 

 

 

 

Amanda: “Restart” by Gordon Korman.

This juvenile novel takes a fresh look at the heated and ever-present topic of bullying from a fresh perspective: that of the bully. This middle-school football star suffers from a concussion and loses his memory. He is ordered not to play sports and begins to make new friends and develop other aspects of himself while slowly beginning to realize what kind of a person he had been. The shock of the staff, students and his aggressive father (who had been a football start when HE had attended the same school) as the former bully becomes a “new person” will have certain readers feeling a bit more humanity for their own tormentors.

 

Vesta: “Orfeo” by Richard Powers.

My book club’s next selection. It is well written and well read—I’m reading the audio version—and has a great deal of interest for anyone who appreciates classical music.

 

 

 

 

Vesta: “The Weight of Ink” by Rachel Kadish.
A long book that I found recommended on a list I trust, and one that grabbed me from the first page, when a soon-to-retire college professor is asked to look at some Shakespearean-era Hebrew manuscripts that were found when a 17th century house was being renovated. Beautifully written, with two stories from two eras working well together.

 

 

Vesta: “The Flight” by Dan Hampton

Recommended on one of the lists I regularly consult — takes the reader into the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis with Charles Lindbergh during his historic flight. Based on his own words and memories, it’s very real and exciting and informative as it conveys the difficulties of Lindbergh’s remarkable solo flight.

 

 

 

MaryAnne: “The Garden of Evening Mists” by Tan Twan Eng.

I was drawn to it because it was recommended by a patron who has similar “book tastes” to mine. The New York Times Book Review says it well: “[A] strong quiet novel [of] eloquent mystery.” I was hooked right away!

 

 

 

 

 

Candy: “The Boleyn Inheritance” by Phillipa Gregory.

I loved “The Other Boleyn Girl” and wanted to read more about this era. Gregory does a fine job of blending fact with fiction. It’s a fun way to step into history.

 

 

 

 

Henry: “The Best Stories of William Kittredge”

I am rereading this collection because decades after I first read them, they still haunt me. And because he writes about the Rockies where I lived for a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

Susan: “The Ballad of the Broken Nose” by Arne Svingen

I really liked this book. A few chapters in and I was hooked on this unusual kid with a big voice and bigger problems. It was originally published in Norway in 2012 with this English edition published in 2016. The voice and tone are just a touch different, which adds to its charm. A middle school boy with a loving but dysfunctional Mom has to manage everything himself while trying to learn boxing when what he really wants to do is sing opera; but only in the bathroom. Hiding his talent all goes awry when he meets a girl who shows genuine interest but can’t keep a secret. It’s funny, sweet, and completely engaging.

http://misssusansbooknotes.blogspot.com/

I put little reviews of the books I’ve read on “Miss Susan’s Book Notes” which can be found on the Children’s page of the library website (see the pull-down menu under KIDS”)

NoveList Plus 2017 STAFF PICKS

Visit the bottom left hand side of the Library’s website and you’ll see an icon for MARVEL!  Take an adventure and visit NoveList Plus to see what that librarian staff picks for 2017 must-reads!

THE ESSEX SERPENT

Publishers Weekly:

In Perry’s (After Me Comes the Flood) excellent second novel, set in the  Victorian era, recent widow Cora Seaborne leaves London with her 11-year-old son, Francis, and loyal companion, Martha, and goes to Colchester, where a legendary, fearsome creature called the Essex Serpent  has been sighted. Scholarly Cora, who is more interested in the  study of nature than in womanly matters of dress, tramps about in a man’s tweed coat, determined to find proof of this creature’s existence. Through friends, she is introduced to William Ransome, the  local reverend; his devoted wife, Stella; and their three children. Cora looks for a scientific rationale for the Essex Serpent, while Ransome dismisses it as superstition. This puts them at odds with one another, but, strangely, also acts as a powerful source of attraction between them. When Cora is visited by her late husband’s physician, Luke Garrett, who carries a not-so-secret torch for her, a love triangle of sorts is formed. In the end, a fatal illness, a knife-wielding maniac, and a fated union with the Essex Serpent  will dictate the  ultimate happiness of these characters. Like John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman, whose Lyme Regis setting gets a shout-out here, this is another period literary pastiche with a contemporary overlay. Cora makes for a fiercely independent heroine around whom all the other characters orbit. (June) –Staff (Reviewed 04/17/2017) (Publishers Weekly, vol 264, issue 16, p)

 

FATAL

Library Journal:

With his new stand-alone, Lescroart takes an infrequent step away from the lives of lawyer Dismas Hardy and his pal Abe Glitsky (last seen in The Fall) to introduce Sgt. Beth Tully of the San Francisco homicide squad. Beth is a hardworking single mom whose longtime friend Kate Jameson initiates an affair with a married man named Peter Ash six months before he is murdered. Beth and partner Ike McCaffrey are assigned to investigate the killing, propelling Beth into the uncomfortable position of interrogating Kate in a manner that barely falls short of accusation and causes a painful rift between the friends. What follows is a complicated turn of events that brings about the deaths of two more victims before Beth and Ike are able to sort through their growing list of suspects. VERDICT True to form, Lescroart handles his multiple story lines with aplomb, enticing readers to leave Dismas Hardy behind—for now. [See Prepub Alert, 7/18/16.] –Nancy McNicol (Reviewed 10/01/2016) (Library Journal, vol 141, issue 16, p73)

 

THE ALICE NETWORK

Library Journal:

/* Starred Review */ In May 1947, Charlotte “Charlie” St. Clair and her mother have crossed the Atlantic so the unwed Charlie can discreetly end her pregnancy in a Swiss clinic. A chance to search for her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared during World War II, gives Charlie the courage to break free and head to London. Rose may have been involved in the French Resistance, and her last known connection was a woman named Eve, who carries her own war secrets. Even with the background detail given at the  novel’s outset, there is so much more to learn as these characters are thoughtfully developed through interior decision making and the  actions they take. Allowing Charlie to describe present events, while Eve shares her experience as an English spy for the  real-life Alice Network  during World War I, creates a fascinating tension that intensifies as the  finale approaches. VERDICT A compelling blend of historical fiction, mystery, and women’s fiction, Quinn’s (“Empress of Rome” series) complex story and engaging characters have something to offer just about everyone. [See “Summer Escapes,” LJ 5/15/17.]—Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH –Stacey Hayman (Reviewed 06/01/2017) (Library Journal, vol 142, issue 10, p96)

 

THE HEARTS OF MEN

Booklist:

Butler’s best-selling debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs (2012), garnered widespread praise for its poignant depiction of small-town life in a Wisconsin farming community. Using the backdrop of  his home state once again, this time centering on a Boy Scout campground in Wisconsin’s north woods, Butler’s latest work follows the  erratic fortunes of  Nelson Doughty, an aspiring Eagle Scout and virtually friendless outcast. During the life-changing summer in 1962, Nelson unexpectedly befriends a popular older scout named Jonathan Quick, who, after the pair loses a clandestine contest between scout troops, abruptly betrays him, prompting Nelson to rat out his peers in a camp scandal. Decades later, after surviving a harrowing tour of Vietnam, Nelson ascends to the rank of  scoutmaster and finds himself in charge at the  same campground where Jonathan’s teenage grandson and daughter in-law are involved in a very different but similarly unsettling incident. Butler achieves a rare triple play here of  brilliant characterizations, a riveting story line, and superlatively measured prose, putting him in the  front ranks of  contemporary American writers of  literary fiction. — Hays, Carl (Reviewed 2/1/2017) (Booklist, vol 113, number 11, p28)

 

THE GIRL BEFORE

School Library Journal:

Emma and Jane have a lot in common; they even look alike. Each has been through a traumatic experience and needs to move into a new London apartment, but neither has much money. They both see a gorgeous, glamorous (but minimalist) flat on Folgate Street that is, miraculously, within budget—assuming that the  renter meets the  owner/architect’s strict requirements: no alterations, no rugs or carpets, no pictures, no potted plants, no throw pillows, and about 200 other stipulations. The flat should be experienced as is and, in fact, is meant to transform the occupant rather than the  other way around. But there’s something very compelling about the apartment. When Jane moves in, she learns that Emma was the previous resident—and that she died there. Told in chapters that alternate between Emma’s and Jane’s stories, the  book ratchets up the  tension page by page as Jane can’t resist looking into Emma’s life and death. By the end, readers will have no idea whom to believe or how far any of the characters will go to get what they want. VERDICT Teens who gobbled up Paula Hawkins’s The Girl  on the  Train and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl  will be clamoring for this page-turning psychological thriller, which is already being made into a movie by Ron Howard.—Sarah Flowers, formerly at Santa Clara County Public Library, CA –Sarah Flowers (Reviewed 03/01/2017) (School Library Journal, vol 63, issue 03, p153)

 

 

 

Elisabeth Ogilvie’s Tide Trilogy

Biographical Note: Elisabeth Ogilvie was born in Boston on May 20, 1917, to Frank and Maude Ogilvie. She was raised in Dorchester and Wollaston, Massachusetts, summering on the island of Criehaven in Maine. The family spent nearly every summer in Maine, which would make a strong impression on Elisabeth as she grew up. Her childhood was happy and creative, as she was involved with both ballet and Scottish Highland dancing. Her family’s love of words was also very influential in shaping Elisabeth’s career. Her mother Maude wrote for her school magazine, and later for the Boston Post. Her brothers enjoyed writing plays and poetry, and her father was a voracious reader.

Even though Elisabeth loved to make up stories, her true passion for writing did not fully emerge until her English classes with Frank Smoyer at North Quincy High School. He encouraged Elisabeth to write for the school’s literary magazine, The Manet. After her first story was published in the journal, she wrote a new piece every two weeks, and continued to contribute works to The Manet from eighth grade through her senior year. Elisabeth graduated at the height of the Depression, so a college education was not an option. She was determined, however, to improve herself as a writer, so she enrolled in a “Writing for Publication” course at Harvard University in 1936. Shortly thereafter, her first story was published in a Massachusetts newspaper Sunday supplement. Her instructor, Donald MacCampbell, became a staunch supporter, and offered to be her agent when the course ended. Elisabeth’s stories were published in several publications, such as Woman’s Day, Redbook, and Good Housekeeping.

In 1944, she published her first novel, High Tide at Noon, about a lobstering family who lived on fictional Bennett’s Island. Shortly after she moved to Cushing, Maine, and wintered in a farmhouse – called Tide’s Way – on 33 acres on Gay’s Island where she lived with longtime companion (and another Maine writer) Dorothy Simpson for fifty years. Dorothy and her husband, Guy, were great friends to Elisabeth, and often gave her advice and inspiration for her writings.

With the critical and public success of High Tide at Noon, it did not take long for Elisabeth to write the second installment, Storm Tide (1945), which won the New England Press Association Award for Best Novel in 1945 and the Northeast Woman’s Press Association Award in 1946. The Bennett’s Island series eventually grew to include eight books, the last in the series, The Day Before Winter, being published in 1997. She wrote 46 adult, young adult, and children’s books.

Though most of her novels are set in Maine, her Jennie Glenroy series is set in Scotland, the place she called her second favorite after Maine, to which she traveled extensively throughout her life. Elisabeth also wrote several mystery and suspense novels, including No Evil Angel (1956) and The Devil in Tartan (1980), as well as historical fiction. She became involved with several writers organizations, such as the Authors Guild and Mystery Writers of America, as well as lecturing at schools, libraries, and professional organizations, like Maine Media Women.

Elisabeth garnered many fans throughout her long career for her rich descriptions of setting, heartwarming storylines, and great attention to characterization. She died in 2006 on the ninth of September.

Summer Reading list “Sail-Away-on-a-Good-Read” and Pop Up Bookstore from Island Readers and Writers

In addition to their “Sail-Away-on-a-Good-Read”  summer reading list, the local organization Island Readers and Writers, based in Southwest Harbor, will be holding 2 POP UP bookstores this summer—one of them right here at our library on Friday, July 21st!  We hope to see you there.  Come into the library and see the display in the Young Adult room of books from the summer reading list and take a few home with you to share with your family.

Use the link below to see the full list of books in the “Sail-Away-on-a-Good-Read” collection.

http://islandreadersandwriters.org/

New To You! Great books you might have missed.

NoveList Book Squad – a reader advisory service found in MARVEL! (check out the link on our website) just sent along this poster of wonderful reading suggestions.  Southwest Harbor Public Library has 9 of the 12 titles right on our own shelves and the remaining 4 books can be ordered for you through inter-library loan (Eight Girls Taking Pictures, The Other Typist, Quicksand, and The Star Side of Bird Hill).

Maine Library Patrons Want to Read…

Enjoy seeing what your fellow Mainers wish to read (or listen to) the most!

Each month Josh Tiffany, the librarian at the Gray Library creates a High Demand Hold List from the Minerva Catalog requests.

Books

1)      The Stars Are Fire (Shreve) – 245 holds on 45 items

2)      The Stranger in the Woods (Finkel) – 219 holds on 65 items

3)      Anything is Possible (Strout) – 147 holds on 40 items

4)      A Piece of the World (Kline) – 144 holds on 56 items

5)      The Fix (Baldacci) – 140 holds on 44 items

6)      The Black Book (Patterson) – 100 holds on 38 items

7)      Golden Prey (Sandford) – 96 holds on 33 items

8)      Into the Water (Hawkins) – 95 holds on 13 items

9)      16th Seduction (Patterson) – 94 holds on 26 items

10)   The Women in the Castle (Shattuck) – 67 holds on 33 items

11)   Option B (Sandberg) – 43 holds on 7 items

12)   Shattered: Inside Hilary Clinton’s Doom Campaign – 41 holds on 1 item

13)   Against All Odds (Steel) – 40 holds on 15 items

14)   Robert B Parker’s Little White Lies (Atkins) – 38 holds on 7 items

15)   The Dark Prophecy (Riordan) – 29 holds on 7 items

16)   Old School: Life in the Sane Lane (O’Reilly) – 26 holds on 9 items

17)   Prince Charles (Smith) – 20 holds on 7 items

18)   Less Than Treason (Stabenow) – 17 holds on 8 items

19)   Radium Girls (Moore) – 17 holds on 4 items

20)   Slow Horses (Herron) – 17 holds on 1 item

Audiobooks:

1)      The Stars are Fire (Shreve) – 37 holds on 13 items

2)      The Fix (Baldacci) – 16 holds on 5 items

3)      The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood) – 14 holds on 5 items

4)      The Black Book (Patterson) – 13 holds on 5 items

5)      Golden Prey (Sandford) – 12 holds on 5 items

6)      Beartown (Backman) – 10 holds on 5 items

7)      Bone Box (Kellerman) – 8 holds on 3 items

8)      Fast and Loose (Woods) – 8 holds on 2 items

9)      One Perfect Lie (Scottoline) – 7 holds on 3 items

10)   Unshakeable (Robbins) – 6 holds on 1 item

Graphic Novels

1)      My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Ferris) – 16 holds on 3 items

2)      Valerian: The New Future Trilogy – 4 holds on 1 item

3)      Avengers vs. X-Men – 3 holds on 1 item

4)      Nightwing: Vol 1 – 3 holds on 1 item

5)      Deadpool vol. 4 – 2 holds on 1 item

6)      Deadpool vol. 5 – 2 holds on 1 item

7)      Rising of the Shield Hero – 2 holds on 1 item

8)      Suicide Squad vol. 1 – 2 holds on 1 item

9)      Supergirl vol.1 – 2 holds on 1 item

10)   Supergirl vol. 2 – 2 holds on 1 item

APRIL Reading

 

April 1865: The Month That Saved America

by  Jay Winik

 

One month in 1865 witnessed the frenzied fall of Richmond, a daring last-ditch Southern plan for guerrilla warfare, Lee’s harrowing retreat, and then, Appomattox. It saw Lincoln’s assassination just five days later and a near-successful plot to decapitate the Union government, followed by chaos and coup fears in the North, collapsed negotiations and continued bloodshed in the South, and finally, the start of national reconciliation.

In the end, April 1865 emerged as not just the tale of the war’s denouement, but the story of the making of our nation.

Jay Winik offers a brilliant new look at the Civil War’s final days that will forever change the way we see the war’s end and the nation’s new beginning. Uniquely set within the larger sweep of history and filled with rich profiles of outsize figures, fresh iconoclastic scholarship, and a gripping narrative, this is a masterful account of the thirty most pivotal days in the life of the United States.

 

April Morning

by Howard Fast

 

When you read this novel about April 19, 1775, you will see the British redcoats marching in a solid column through your town. Your hands will be sweating and you will shake a little as you grip your musket because never have you shot with the aim of killing a man. But you will shoot, and shoot again and again while your shoulder aches from your musket’s kick and the tight, disciplined red column bleeds and wavers and breaks and you begin to shout at the top of your lungs because you are there, at the birth of freedom—you’re a veteran of the Battle of Lexington, and you’ve helped whip the King’s best soldiers.

 

April’s Rain  

by David Johnson

 

Eight years after losing her closest friend, Tucker struggles to keep her rebellious, self-destructive granddaughter under control. When April accidentally kills her boyfriend while defending herself from his attack, Judge Jack helps Tucker ferry her granddaughter away to Spirit Lake, a remote treatment facility in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. There, April creates a false identity, painting herself as a young socialite, and blocks Tucker’s attempts at communication.

Tucker’s grandson March, missing for eight years, is discovered half-dead, having lost both his sight and his memories. As he recovers, March’s blindness persists but fragments of his life reemerge. When he finds himself at Spirit Lake, he runs headlong into his past.

Will Tucker be able to reunite her family after their paths have splintered?

 

Broken April

by Ismail Kadare

 

 

Two destinies intersect in this novel — that of Gjorg, a young mountaineer who has just killed a man in order to avenge the death of his older brother, and who expects to be killed himself in keeping with the code of the highlands; and that of a young couple who have come to study the age-old customs, including the blood feud.

 

April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici

by Lauro Martines

 

One of the world’s leading historians of Renaissance Italy brings to life here the vibrant–and violent–society of fifteenth-century Florence. His disturbing narrative opens up an entire culture, revealing the dark side of Renaissance man and politician Lorenzo de’ Medici.
On a Sunday in April 1478, assassins attacked Lorenzo and his brother as they attended Mass in the cathedral of Florence. Lorenzo scrambled to safety as Giuliano bled to death on the cathedral floor. April Blood moves outward in time and space from that murderous event, unfolding a story of tangled passions, ambition, treachery, and revenge. The conspiracy was led by one of the city’s most noble clans, the Pazzi, financiers who feared and resented the Medici’s swaggering new role as political bosses–but the web of intrigue spread through all of Italy. Bankers, mercenaries, the Duke of Urbino, the King of Naples, and Pope Sixtus IV entered secretly into the plot. Florence was plunged into a peninsular war, and Lorenzo was soon fighting for his own and his family’s survival.
The failed assassination doomed the Pazzi. Medici revenge was swift and brutal–plotters were hanged or beheaded, innocents were hacked to pieces, and bodies were put out to dangle from the windows of the government palace. All remaining members of the larger Pazzi clan were forced to change their surname, and every public sign or symbol of the family was expunged or destroyed.
April Blood offers us a fresh portrait of Renaissance Florence, where dazzling artistic achievements went side by side with violence, craft, and bare-knuckle politics. At the center of the canvas is the figure of Lorenzo the Magnificent–poet, statesman, connoisseur, patron of the arts, and ruthless “boss of bosses.” This extraordinarily vivid account of a turning point in the Italian Renaissance is bound to become a lasting work of history.

 

April Witch

by Majgull Axelsson

 

“No excuses will do anymore. Time to put my sisters in motion.”
Desiree lies in a hospital bed thinking, dreaming. One of the children born severely disabled in 1950s Sweden and then routinely institutionalized for life– and one of a very few to survive nearly to the century’s end– she cannot walk or talk, but she has other capabilities. Desire e is an April witch, clairvoyant and omniscient, leaving her own body and traveling into the world denied her.
The working-class woman who gave Desire e up at birth took in three foster daughters several years later, and even as adults they know nothing of the existence of their fourth ” sister.” Christina, abused by her psychotic birth mother and burdened by a sense of inferiority, is now a physician; Margareta, the onetime foundling, an astrophysicist who can never manage to complete her dissertation, is as restless and sensual as she was in her youth; and Birgitta, in her day the fastest, sexiest teen queen in town, is now a derelict alcoholic and substance abuser.
In spite of her physical disabilities, Desire e possesses tremendous intelligence, and she observes the world around her with great acumen. She has developed a very special relationship with her primary care physician, Dr. Hubertsson, who realizes that she could and should know something about her own background. Unbeknownst to him, she goes on to make supernatural use of this information.
Sensing that her own time is drawing to a close, Desire e also feels that one of the others has lived the life that should have been hers. One day, each of the three women– Christina, Margareta, Birgitta– receives a mysterious letter that inspires her to examine her past and her present, setting into motion a complex fugue of memory, regret, and confrontation that builds to a shattering climax.
April Witch created a furor upon its original publication in Sweden, where it was an immense bestseller. Addressing themes of mother-daughter relationships, competition between women, and the failures of Sweden’s postwar welfare state, it is foremost a thrillingly written and fascinating story.

 

2016 Maine Literary Awards Winners

2016 Maine Literary Awards Winners

In 2016, nearly one hundred and forty books were entered across the award’s categories; compare that to the 2011 awards when seventy books total were submitted. In addition, more than one hundred manuscripts were submitted into the award’s Short Works Competition, and nearly sixty Maine students submitted work in the same categories in the award’s Youth Competition.

Book Award for Fiction
Closer All the Time by Jim Nichols

Book Award for Crime Fiction
An Unbeaten Man by Brendan Rielly

 

Book Award for Speculative Fiction
The Realm of Misplaced Hearts by Rick Hobbs

Book Award for Nonfiction
Love and Other Ways of Dying by Michael Paterniti

Book Award for Memoir
How to Cook a Moose by Kate Christensen

 

 

 

Book Award for Poetry
Little Arias by Kristen Case

Book Award for Young People’s Literature
Either the Beginning or the End of the World by Terry Farish

 

 

Book Award for Children’s
The Lemonade Hurricane by Licia Morelli (Illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris)

Book Award for Anthology (Editors)
A Gateless Garden by Liza Bakewell

 

John N. Cole Award for Maine-themed Nonfiction
Ghost Buck by Dean Bennett

 

 

 

Excellence in Publishing
Historical Atlas of Maine

by Stephen J. Hornsby & Richard W. Judd

(University of Maine Press)

 

 

 

BOOKS: President Obama’s Secret Survival Strategy

 

President Obama in the Oval Office in 2012. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

President Obama in the Oval Office in 2012. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

On January 16, 2017 there appeared in the New York Times two articles giving us insight as to how important books and reading have been to the 44th President of the United States.  Here’s a link to the article and the text of the interview transcript when Michiko Kakutani interviewed him in person.  President recently gave one of his daughter’s a Kindle pre-loaded with books he felt were of great importance for her to read.

Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books

https://nyti.ms/2jP8PuI

President Obama in the Oval Office on Friday during an interview with Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for The New York Times. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama in the Oval Office on Friday during an interview with Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for The New York Times. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

https://nyti.ms/2iCrYmb

Transcript: President Obama on What Books Mean to Him

Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for The New York Times, interviewed President Obama about literature on Friday at the White House. Here are excerpts from the conversation, which have been edited and condensed.

These books that you gave to your daughter Malia on the Kindle, what were they? Some of your favorites?

I think some of them were sort of the usual suspects, so “The Naked and the Dead” or “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” I think she hadn’t read yet.

Then there were some books I think that are not on everybody’s reading list these days, but I remembered as being interesting, like “The Golden Notebook” by Doris Lessing, for example. Or “The Woman Warrior,” by Maxine [Hong Kingston].

Part of what was interesting was me pulling back books that I thought were really powerful, but that might not surface when she goes to college.

Have you had a chance to discuss them with her?

I’ve had the chance to discuss some. And she’s interested in being a filmmaker, so storytelling is of great interest to her. She had just read “A Moveable Feast.” I hadn’t included that, and she was just captivated by the idea that Hemingway described his goal of writing one true thing every day.

What made you want to become a writer?

I loved reading when I was a kid, partly because I was traveling so much, and there were times where I’d be displaced, I’d be the outsider. When I first moved to Indonesia, I’m this big, dark-skinned kid that kind of stood out. And then when I moved back from Indonesia to Hawaii, I had the manners and habits probably of an Indonesian kid.

And so the idea of having these worlds that were portable, that were yours, that you could enter into, was appealing to me. And then I became a teenager and wasn’t reading that much other than what was assigned in school, and playing basketball and chasing girls, and imbibing things that weren’t very healthy.

I think all of us did.

Yeah. And then I think rediscovered writing and reading and thinking in my first or second year of college and used that as a way to rebuild myself, a process I write about in “Dreams From My Father.”

That period in New York, where you were intensely reading.

I was hermetic — it really is true. I had one plate, one towel, and I’d buy clothes from thrift shops. And I was very intense, and sort of humorless. But it reintroduced me to the power of words as a way to figure out who you are and what you think, and what you believe, and what’s important, and to sort through and interpret this swirl of events that is happening around you every minute.

And so even though by the time I graduated I knew I wanted to be involved in public policy, or I had these vague notions of organizing, the idea of continuing to write and tell stories as part of that was valuable to me. And so I would come home from work, and I would write in my journal or write a story or two.

The great thing was that it was useful in my organizing work. Because when I got there, the guy who had hired me said that the thing that brings people together to have the courage to take action on behalf of their lives is not just that they care about the same issue, it’s that they have shared stories. And he told me that if you learn how to listen to people’s stories and can find what’s sacred in other people’s stories, then you’ll be able to forge a relationship that lasts.

But my interest in public service and politics then merged with the idea of storytelling.

What were your short stories like?

It’s interesting, when I read them, a lot of them had to do with older people.

I think part of the reason was because I was working in communities with people who were significantly older than me. We were going into churches, and probably the average age of these folks was 55, 60. A lot of them had scratched and clawed their way into the middle class, but just barely. They were seeing the communities in which they had invested their hopes and dreams and raised their kids starting to decay — steel mills had closed, and there had been a lot of racial turnover in these communities. And so there was also this sense of loss and disappointment.

And so a bunch of the short stories I wrote had to do with that sense, that atmosphere. One story is about an old black pastor who seems to be about to lose his church, his lease is running out and he’s got this loyal woman deacon who is trying to buck him up. Another is about an elderly couple — a white couple in L.A., — and he’s like in advertising, wrote jingles. And he’s just retired and has gotten cranky. And his wife is trying to convince him that his life is not over.

So when I think back on what’s interesting to me, there is not a lot of Jack Kerouac, open-road, young kid on the make discovering stuff. It’s more melancholy and reflective.

Was writing partly a way to figure out your identity?

Yes, I think so. For me, particularly at that time, writing was the way I sorted through a lot of crosscurrents in my life — race, class, family. And I genuinely believe that it was part of the way in which I was able to integrate all these pieces of myself into something relatively whole.

People now remark on this notion of me being very cool, or composed. And what is true is that I generally have a pretty good sense of place and who I am, and what’s important to me. And I trace a lot of that back to that process of writing.

Has that continued to be so in the presidency?

Not as much as I would have liked. I just didn’t have time.

But you keep some form of a journal?

I’ve kept some, but not with the sort of discipline that I would have hoped for. The main writing that I’ve done during the presidency has been my speeches, the ones at least that were important to me.

How has the speechwriting and being at the center of history and dealing with crises affected you as a writer?

I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to see when I start writing the next book. Some of the craft of writing a good speech is identical to any other good writing: Is that word necessary? Is it the right word? Is there a rhythm to it that feels good? How does it sound aloud?

I actually think that one of the useful things about speechwriting is reminding yourself that the original words are spoken, and that there is a sound, a feel to words that, even if you’re reading silently, transmits itself.

So in that sense, I think there will be some consistency.

But this is part of why it was important to pick up the occasional novel during the presidency, because most of my reading every day was briefing books and memos and proposals. And so working that very analytical side of the brain all the time sometimes meant you lost track of not just the poetry of fiction, but also the depth of fiction.

Fiction was useful as a reminder of the truths under the surface of what we argue about every day and was a way of seeing and hearing the voices, the multitudes of this country.

Are there examples of specific novels or writers?

Well, the last novel I read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad.” And the reminder of the ways in which the pain of slavery transmits itself across generations, not just in overt ways, but how it changes minds and hearts.

It’s what you said in your farewell address about Atticus Finch, where you said people are so isolated in their little bubbles. Fiction can leap —

It bridges them. I struck up a friendship with [the novelist] Marilynne Robinson, who has become a good friend. And we’ve become sort of pen pals. I started reading her in Iowa, where “Gilead” and some of her best novels are set. And I loved her writing in part because I saw those people every day. And the interior life she was describing that connected them — the people I was shaking hands with and making speeches to — it connected them with my grandparents, who were from Kansas and ended up journeying all the way to Hawaii, but whose foundation had been set in a very similar setting.

And so I think that I found myself better able to imagine what’s going on in the lives of people throughout my presidency because of not just a specific novel but the act of reading fiction. It exercises those muscles, and I think that has been helpful.

And then there’s been the occasion where I just want to get out of my own head. [Laughter] Sometimes you read fiction just because you want to be someplace else.

What are some of those books?

It’s interesting, the stuff I read just to escape ends up being a mix of things — some science fiction. For a while, there was a three-volume science-fiction novel, the “Three-Body Problem” series —

Oh, Liu Cixin, who won the Hugo Award.

— which was just wildly imaginative, really interesting. It wasn’t so much sort of character studies as it was just this sweeping —

It’s really about the fate of the universe.

Exactly. The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade. [Laughter]

There were books that would blend, I think, really good writing with thriller genres. I mean, I thought “Gone Girl” was a well-constructed, well-written book.

I loved that structure.

Yeah, and it was really well executed. And a similar structure, that I thought was a really powerful novel: “Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff.

I like those structures where you actually see different points of view.

Which I have to do for this job, too. [Laughter]

Have there been certain books that have been touchstones for you in these eight years?

I would say Shakespeare continues to be a touchstone. Like most teenagers in high school, when we were assigned, I don’t know, “The Tempest” or something, I thought, ‘My God, this is boring.’ And I took this wonderful Shakespeare class in college where I just started to read the tragedies and dig into them. And that, I think, is foundational for me in understanding how certain patterns repeat themselves and play themselves out between human beings.

Is that sort of comforting?

It gives me a sense of perspective. I think Toni Morrison’s writings — particularly “Song of Solomon” is a book I think of when I imagine people going through hardship. That it’s not just pain, but there’s joy and glory and mystery.

I think that there are writers who I don’t necessarily agree with in terms of their politics, but whose writings are sort of a baseline for how to think about certain things — V. S. Naipaul, for example. His “A Bend in the River,” which starts with the line, “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.” And I always think about that line, and I think about his novels when I’m thinking about the hardness of the world sometimes, particularly in foreign policy, and I resist and fight against sometimes that very cynical, more realistic view of the world. And yet, there are times where it feels as if that may be true.

So in that sense, I’m using writing like that as a foil or something to debate against.

I’ve read that Lincoln loved Shakespeare his whole life, but when he was dealing with the Civil War, reading the history plays helped give him solace and perspective.

Lincoln’s own writings do that. He is a very fine writer.

I’d put the Second Inaugural up against any piece of American writing — as good as anything. One of the great treats of being president is, in the Lincoln Bedroom, there’s a copy of the Gettysburg Address handwritten by him, one of five copies he did for charity. And there have been times in the evening when I’d just walk over, because it’s right next to my office, my home office, and I just read it.

And perspective is exactly what is wanted. At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted, the ability to slow down and get perspective, along with the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes — those two things have been invaluable to me. Whether they’ve made me a better president, I can’t say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.

Is there some poem or any writing or author that you would turn to, say, after the mass killings in Newtown, Conn., or during the financial crisis?

I think that during those periods, Lincoln’s writings, King’s writings, Gandhi’s writings, Mandela’s writings — I found those particularly helpful, because what you wanted was a sense of solidarity. During very difficult moments, this job can be very isolating. So sometimes you have to hop across history to find folks who have been similarly feeling isolated. Churchill’s a good writer. And I loved reading Teddy Roosevelt’s writing. He’s this big, outsize character.

Have you read a lot of presidential biographies?

The biographies have been useful, because I do think that there’s a tendency, understandable, to think that whatever’s going on right now is uniquely disastrous or amazing or difficult. And it just serves you well to think about Roosevelt trying to navigate World War II or Lincoln trying to figure out whether he’s going to fire [George B.] McClellan when Rebel troops are 20, 30, 40 miles away.

I watched some of the civil-rights-movement documentary mini-series “Eyes on the Prize” after the election.

It was useful.

You do see how far we’ve come, and in the space of my lifetime.

And that’s why seeing my daughters now picking up books that I read 30 years ago or 40 years ago is gratifying, because I want them to have perspective — not for purposes of complacency, but rather to give them confidence that people with a sense of determination and courage and pluck can reshape things. It’s empowering for them.

What books would you recommend at this moment in time, that captures this sense of turmoil?

I should probably ask you or some people who have had time to catch up on reading. I’ll confess that since the election, I’ve been busier than I expected. So one of the things I’m really looking forward to is to dig into a whole bunch of literature.

But one of the things I’m confident about is that, out of this moment, there are a whole bunch of writers, a lot of them young, who are probably writing the book I need to read. [Laughter] They’re ahead of me right now. And so in my post-presidency, in addition to training the next generation of leaders to work on issues like climate change or gun violence or criminal justice reform, my hope is to link them up with their peers who see fiction or nonfiction as an important part of that process.

When so much of our politics is trying to manage this clash of cultures brought about by globalization and technology and migration, the role of stories to unify — as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize — is more important than ever.

There’s something particular about quieting yourself and having a sustained stretch of time that is different from music or television or even the greatest movies.

And part of what we’re all having to deal with right now is just a lot of information overload and a lack of time to process things. So we make quick judgments and assign stereotypes to things, block certain things out, because our brain is just trying to get through the day.

We’re bombarded with information. Technology is moving so rapidly.

Look, I don’t worry about the survival of the novel. We’re a storytelling species.

I think that what one of the jobs of political leaders going forward is, is to tell a better story about what binds us together as a people. And America is unique in having to stitch together all these disparate elements — we’re not one race, we’re not one tribe, folks didn’t all arrive here at the same time.

What holds us together is an idea, and it’s a story about who we are and what’s important to us. And I want to make sure that we continue that.

I know you like Junot Díaz’s and Jhumpa Lahiri’s books, and they speak to immigration or the American Dream.

I think Lahiri’s books, I think Díaz’s books, do speak to a very particular contemporary immigration experience. But also this combination of — that I think is universal — longing for this better place, but also feeling displaced and looking backwards at the same time. I think in that sense, their novels are directly connected to a lot of American literature.

Some of the great books by Jewish authors like Philip Roth or Saul Bellow, they are steeped with this sense of being an outsider, longing to get in, not sure what you’re giving up — what you’re willing to give up and what you’re not willing to give up. So that particular aspect of American fiction I think is still of great relevance today.