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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 …

Our Drunk History

Friday, October 23, 2015

Drinking, and not drinking, is as old as America itself, from the beer-loving pilgrims on the Mayflower and Paul Revere’s boozy horse ride to Prohibition and the rise of Alcoholics Anonymous. Some nations drink more and some less, …

A Flawed 100 Years of Short Stories

Sunday, October 18, 2015

When sickly Bostonian Edward J. O’Brien put together the first Best American Short Stories anthology in 1915, short stories were considered junky pop culture. He was hoping that his project would elevate the short-story form. He had no idea he was launching a series that would last a …

National Book Award Finalists

Thursday, October 15, 2015

In the race for the National Book Award, the field has just been narrowed. The National Book Foundation, which presents the National Book Award, announced the five finalists in each of four categories Wednesday morning in a scheduled appearance on NPR. The 10-book longlists in each category were …

Patti Smith Reckons With Life With Words

Sunday, October 11, 2015

First, let’s clear up a misconception: Patti Smith’s M Train is not a sequel to her 2010 National Book Award-winning memoir Just Kids. In fact, M Train is not a memoir at all, except in the loosest sense — a book of days, a year in the life, …

Minor Figures Tend to Play Outsize Roles

Friday, October 9, 2015

An opera house would seem to be the very last place an aspiring young writer should frequent for inspiration. Opera has always gone to fiction for ideas, seldom the other way around. And yet when I was younger, living in New York, I went every chance I got, …

Henning Mankell L eaves an Enduring Legacy With Wallander

Friday, October 9, 2015

It’s not easy for an author to catch on across borders, but Swedish crime novelist Henning Mankell did it, all on the strength of a single character. Although Mankell wrote novels and plays about many things, he was …

How to Give Your Bookshelf Style

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bookshelves are one of the most underutilized pieces of furniture in a home. Stuffed with scattered books, papers and DVDs, they can be a complete eyesore. But styled in a chic way with just the right number of accessories, they can make a big statement. When it came …

Book Review: ‘The Shift’ Puts Readers in a Nurse’s Shoes for 12 Hours

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Shift by Theresa Brown, RN; Algonquin Books (272 pages, $24.95) U.S. medical schools routinely send out books to their incoming first-year class to give students a glimpse of the profession they’re about to embark upon. Rush Medical …

Rowling Posts New Potter Tale

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New York (ap) — Eight years after writing the last of her Harry Potter novels, J.K. Rowling is still adding to the boy wizard’s story. The author posted new information Tuesday about the Potter family, the background provided on a “newly imagined” and mobile friendly version of the …

Who Profits Most From America’s Schools?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Prize by Dale Russakoff; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (246 pages, $27) It’s easy to feel cynical and even angry while reading The Prize, a stunning account of efforts by wealthy outsiders and ambitious politicians to fix Newark, N.J.’s …