This week's guest blog comes from the Aspen Words staff.
With temperatures dropping and snow in the forecast, some might be prepping for ski season. But here at Aspen Words, we call this prime reading season! Here are seven books to read by the fire, all written by authors who will be speaking at events in Aspen during the 22nd annual Winter Words series, dubbed “après ski for the mind.” At five events held throughout the winter season, authors at the height of their careers will discuss their work, inspiration and the writing process. Explore the granite walls of Yosemite, the underground escape channels of a Georgia plantation, the dark money-lined halls of power, or the quiet solitude of Cape Cod in off-season—all through this specially-curated reading list. Then, come meet the authors this winter in Aspen! More info, tickets & series passes can be found here.
“The Push” is an inspirational story about one man’s pursuit to the edge of his abilities. From the top of the sport-climbing circuit, to becoming a hostage in Kyrgyzstan, and the first free climb of the Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s El Capitan, this book humbly pulls the curtain back on some of the most ambitious athletic feats in recent history. It’s equal parts gripping adventure tale and soul-searching coming of age story, where Caldwell honestly shares his moments of doubt, his failures, and his huge successes. – Jamie Kravitz
Best-selling novelist Curtis Sittenfeld (“Prep,” “Eligible”) is known as a smart, funny observer of human relationships, and in this debut story collection her talents are on full display. Among the characters featured in the book’s 10 stories are a professor of women’s studies who has a one-night stand with her airport shuttle driver, a suburban mom who obsesses about a former friend turned celebrity lifestyle guru, and a shy college student who discovers the truth about a classmate’s seemingly enviable life. As The Washington Post noted, Sittenfeld has an “astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads.” –Elizabeth Nix
Set on Cape Cod during the off season, Emily Jeanne Miller’s “The News From the End of The World” is a novel you’ll want to tear through and savor simultaneously. With complicated characters brimming with long-held secrets and pent-up resentments, this engrossing novel examines a family on the brink of catastrophe. – Adrienne Brodeur
Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” won both the 2017 Pulitzer Prize and the 2016 National Book Award. This imaginative novel of speculative fiction follows the story of Cora, a slave who escapes her Georgia cotton plantation by following a literal underground rail system that operates beneath southern soil, in addition to a network of secret routes and safe houses. The book offers chapters told in alternate characters’ voices: Cora’s mother Mabel; the terrifying slavecatcher Ridgeway; a station manager’s son Martin and his reluctant slave sympathizer wife, Ethel; and Cora’s fellow escaped slave, Caesar. It is a meditation on the ferocious will to escape bondage, but also a shattering commentary on our brutal, shared American history. – Ellie Scott
This memoir—about divinity professor Kate Bowler’s search for answers as she battles colon cancer—is heartbreaking, but it is also deeply funny, provocative and inspiring. She weaves her own experience with religion into her research on the Prosperity Gospel, while inviting us to re-examine the clichés that we tell ourselves and the questions that we have about faith, morality and mortality. –Marie Chan
“Why Religion” by Elaine Pagels (February 26, 2019)
Elaine Pagels’ new book “Why Religion” takes us from her early encounters with Billy Graham and Jerry Garcia through the heartbreaking experience of losing her young son and husband to the present day, asking the big questions about religion and life. With equal parts heart and scholarly rigor, Pagels weaves a personal story with the history, meaning, and relevancy of the world’s religions. –Jamie Kravitz
No matter your political beliefs, it’s impossible not to be wowed by the meticulous level of detail and research that went into this book. Mayer spent five years interviewing hundreds of sources to trace the influx of special interest money in politics and the rise of an American oligarchy. This book shines a spotlight on some of the darkest corners of our democracy and confirms that Mayer is one of the very best investigative journalists working today. –Caroline Tory
More information about the series is available at aspenwords.org/programs/winter-words/