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The 39th annual Aspen Summer Words is just around the corner, and the AW staff are cramming in lots of last-minute reading. When our talented group of faculty/authors arrive in Aspen on June 21 to teach workshops and speak at public panels, we’ll have (as a staff) covered almost all of their varied and award-winning books. Below is a selection of some of our favorite Summer Words 2015 reads.

Stop by the Summer Words bookstore after any of the Readings & Conversations to purchase a book and have it signed by one of the featured authors. The AW staff are always available to give you a good book recommendation, so don’t be shy!


empirefallsEmpire Falls by Richard Russo

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, Russo creates a mesmerizing portrait of a small New England town in decay. As the story unfolded, I felt a growing anxiety about the well being of characters to which I had become so intimately attached, and I wept for their heartache and joy and sorrow as the tale reached its inspired conclusion.  


italian wifeAn Italian Wife by Ann Hood

It’s a passionate and wise exploration of the heart told through interwoven stories of immigrant mothers, daughters and granddaughters longing for fulfillment.




family-life-novel-coverFamily Life by Akhil Sharma

Akhil Sharma’s Family Life is a tale of the profundity of familial relationships, crafted by the presence of a silent, blind, immobile brother and son, Birju. The Mishra family emigrates from India to Queens with great hope, yet the thrill of newness soon unravels when a simple accident leaves Birju lifeless. Family Life chronicles the failed attempts at breathing life back into Birju, wrapping the family in deep grief and giving the reader only glimpses at weightless love.


townieTownie by Andre Dubus III

Simultaneously jarring and uplifting, Andre Dubus III’s memoir has turned me on to this genre. The story of a broken family in a gritty Massachusett’s mill town rife with drugs and crime, Andre tells this coming-of-age story with zero pretenses. Whether it’s the smell of the polluted river, bar brawls, sex or abandonment, every scene has a clear setting and rawness of prose that make the words jump off the page.


elsewhereElsewhere by Richard Russo

In his memoir, Elsewhere, Richard Russo opens the kimono on his childhood and his intense relationship with his late mother, who was, to put it mildly, a piece of work. Her at times smothering, often annoying “mom-ineering” of her son can get old, but the writing is so good and the humor so redeeming, I wanted to keep reading. And afterward, I had renewed admiration for Russo’s talent and success as a writer, one who took the rough hand he was dealt and made the most of it.


Still-Writing-by-Dani-ShapiroStill Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Live by Dani Shapiro

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro is as hopeful and inspiring, as it is wise and practical — a wonderful memoir on the challenges and rewards of the writing life. 



One_Story_(magazine)_cover_tigerOne Story – A literary magazine co-founded and edited by Hannah Tinti 

Each month I eagerly await the arrival of my One Story envelope. Inside rests a guaranteed-to-be-good short story from an up-and-coming writer. Hannah Tinti and her crew at One Story curate a collection of beautiful stories that allows me to discover new voices on a short time frame.

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