Books

Thomas Powers in his South Royalton office in 2012. Powers has immersed himself in the American intelligence community, a subject he will give a talk about at Vermont Law School on Feb. 3, 2016. (

Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

America’s Secret Life

Friday, January 29, 2016

The writer Thomas Powers has spent the past 40 years thinking about the American intelligence community, beginning with articles he wrote for Rolling Stone on the CIA and its director Richard Helms, who served as director from 1966 to 1973, which led to his book The Man Who Kept the Secrets , published in 1979. Over his career Powers has …

Book Review: Bill Bryson Takes a Turn for the Worse

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson; Doubleday (380 pages, $28.95) The world is always in decline if you want it to be. In the 1880s, the English experienced an intense collective wistfulness for the period before 1850, which was the year that railroads had finally …

Vermont Poet Laureate Torch Passes Down Conn. River Valley

Friday, January 29, 2016

In November, I was succeeded as Vermont poet laureate by the more-than-worthy Chard de Niord of Westminster West, on whom I wish a tenure as full of rewards as mine proved. I visited over 100 community libraries as laureate, and more often than not, I used the following poem by James Wright as an instance of what lyric can do, perhaps better than …

How American Comedy Got to Where It Is

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Here is the history of American funny that we didn’t know we needed, but did. In The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy, his highly readable overview of the comedy business and its colorful …

Nice Work If You Can Get It: Book Looks at ‘Cats on the Job’

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Los Angeles — Dogs work. Cats sleep, purr and preen. At least that is what dog people would have you believe. Author Lisa Rogak set out to discover what cats really spend their time doing. The result is …

How Shonda Rhimes Broke Out of Her Shell and Said ‘Yes’

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New York — Shonda Rhimes, who owns ABC’s Thursday night (with hit dramas Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder ), had found comfort and refuge in ShondaLand, the dream factory she rules as a …

John Irving Wrestles With Memory in Latest

Sunday, November 8, 2015

John Irving has used the wrestler’s tool kit to become among the very best known novelists in America. His latest effort, Avenue of Mysteries, is a book about the strength of memory, the mystery of faith, the weariness …

New Book, in a Hurry

Friday, November 6, 2015

Over more than a quarter of a century of writing and illustrating his How Things Work series of books, David Macaulay grew used to spending at least a year or two at a time on a project, the …

Rock Star’s Memoir Is a Mash Note to Her Bandmates

Friday, November 6, 2015

There’s a cliched arc to rock memoirs: the ambitious young man (almost always a man), the climb up the charts, the blinding success, the sex and drugs, then the crash and burn. Thankfully, that’s absent from the new …

‘Slade House’ Is a Spooky but Cerebral Thriller

Friday, November 6, 2015

Slade House: A Novel by David Mitchell; Random House (256 pages, $26) With Slade House, the latest thrill ride from the astounding David Mitchell, you really can judge the book by its cover. True: At first glance, that cover presents as your standard clothbound board, colored in nondescript …

Zadie Smith on Family, Love, Life

Sunday, November 1, 2015

There’s something about interviewing the author Zadie Smith that brings to mind Little Red Riding Hood’s reaction when she finds the wolf in bed dressed as her grandmother. You know the line — “What big eyes you have!” And you know the wolf’s response: “All the better to …

Literary Inventors: Retired Dartmouth Professor Spengemann Studied Creators of American Language

Friday, October 23, 2015

William Spengemann, professor emeritus of English at Dartmouth College, and a scholar of the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, two writers as associated with New England as it is possible to be, is a California boy. …

Book Review: ‘City on Fire’ Can’t Carry Its Own Heft

Friday, October 23, 2015

City on Fire: A Novel by Garth Risk Hallberg; Alfred A. Knopf (912 pages, $30) A long book represents an act of faith. On the writer’s part, to be sure: The faith that he or she has something …