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From Sea to Shining Sea

I like to listen to podcasts on my morning commute. I’m a big fan of Book Riot, Bookrageous, Books on the Nightstand, NPR: Books…oh, did I mention they’re all bookish podcasts? Don’t worry, the newest one to the rotation doesn’t even have “Book” in the title:  The Readers (gotcha!). I enjoy this one because a) one of the hosts is British, and British accents are a pleasant thing to hear when you’re jammed on the subway too early in the morning and b) they often discuss books that aren’t on my radar.

For the most recent episode, Simon and Thomas made lists of the ten books that they felt most represented their countries. Their discussion was lots of fun – I happen to think Thomas had the rougher task, considering how much larger the US is than the UK. But I found Simon’s list the most interesting, because I tend to picture Britain in very broad strokes – London, Dublin, and Edinburgh,  Heathcliffe wailing on the moors and Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. I never think about the unique personalities of Bath, Bristol, Manchester, let alone the truth vs. the stereotypes of those reasons. So it was fascinating to hear Simon describe various regions of his country and the books he loves that speak for each.

And, of course, it was fun to analyze and second-guess Thomas’ list of books to for the United States. Sure, there’s some fantastic choices on there, but also some glaring oversights. Hello, Middlesex by Geoffrey Eugenides is not only a classic Detroit book, but also a searing portrayal of the 20th-century immigrant experience! And I don’t know how you can pick two books for California without including John Updike. But I suppose we would all have lists that look very different, because we each have our own unique set of connections to our homeland.

What book best represents your part of the country?

Do you know of an awesome podcast I should add to my lineup?

One Response to From Sea to Shining Sea

  1. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    My litmap is an admixture of both books and movies, i.e., the upper Midwest may be home to the Great Lakes, which is about 40 miles east of Lake Wobegon, and I live in the part of California John Steinbeck wrote about in Cannery Row, although most of the stuff he mentioned has long been replaced by a bunch of tacky tourist traps for people who are only vaguely aware of who he was. And yes, the area still looks very much like it did in Play Misty For Me… Naturally, I take all my impressions of NYC from movies like The Sentinel and Val Lewton’s The Seventh Victim, where the Catholic Church ominously guards the doorway to hell in a picturesque old house within sight of the World Trade Center (which is still standing, apparently) and sinister devil worshipers lurk in a noir Greenwich Village where Simon & Garfunckel won’t turn up for another quarter century. (Not to mention all those Woody Allen flicks set in every time frame imaginable) And can anyone tell me why the hell Dorothy would want to go back to a dump like Kansas (then or now) from a nice place like Oz? What’s up with that girl? And I take all my book buzz from PW and John Stewart, for the most part…

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