The Literary Hill


Always in style and just the right size, books make the perfect holiday gift. And if you give a book by a DC author, you’re also supporting the local literary community. Need some suggestions? Here are some titles reviewed in this space over the past year that will be sure to please everyone on your list.

Ethelbert Miller has given a splendid gift to anyone who loves poetry or baseball—or the poetry of baseball. In “If God Invented Baseball,” the DC literary icon writes lyrically of race and redemption, triumphs and disappointments, and the sheer celebration of life that is baseball.

Reading Jonathan Lewis’s “Babel On,” is like spending time in the company of a very observant and literate friend. Spanning the year, his poems present glimmering impressions, character sketches, and stories that take on a life beyond the economy of their precise, telling details.

Working in a library becomes a hazardous business in Con Lehane’s savvy series of mysteries set at the New York City Library. Murderous secrets abound in “Murder at the 42nd Street Library,” and in “Murder in the Manuscript Room,” a body turns up on a bookshelf.

“K Street Killing” marks the fourth in Colleen Shogan’s “Washington Whodunit” crime novels featuring Hill staffer-cum-sleuth Kit Marshall. Previous books in this smart insider series have found Kit solving murders in the Senate, the House, and the Continental Club.

The host of “The Bill Press Show” and the Hill Center’s popular “Talk of the Town” series charts his trajectory from the seminary through a life in politics to his current prominence in the political media in his memoir, “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”

Former Congressman and House Democratic Whip David Bonior shares the story of his successful political career in “Whip: Leading the Progressive Battle During the Rise of the Right,” a sequel to his autobiographical “Eastside Kid: A Memoir of My Youth from Detroit to Congress.”

In “Guardians of the Grail: A Life of Diplomacy on the Edge,” Christopher Datta writes with authority and feeling about his experiences as a diplomat serving in some of the most troubled spots in the Mideast and Africa, where he battled corruption, power grabs, and bureaucratic folly.

William S. Kurtz has lovingly edited the WWII correspondence of his cousin, John Burnham Shaw, to create “Letters from a Soldier,” a collection of dispatches that startle with their immediacy and provide a lasting tribute to one of the members of the Greatest Generation.

Daniel Stone offers a new twist for the foodies on your list with the story of a botanist who changed what America eats.

Combining recipes, history, essays, and photographs, authors Claudia Kousoulas and Ellen Letourneau have created a glorious tribute to the people, places, and flavors that are part of our local food chain in “Bread & Beauty: A Year in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve.”

In “The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats,” author Daniel Stone tells the story of David Fairchild, a turn-of-the-century botanist who traveled the world collecting native fruits and vegetables and investigating new growing methods to benefit American farmers.

In his thought-provoking book, “The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke,” journalist Andrew Lawler discusses what evidence remains of the 1587 English settlement in North Carolina and why the mystery surrounding its disappearance continues to capture people’s imagination today.

The discovery of an 1801 stone springhouse inspired architectural historian Kim Prothro Williams to undertake a survey with the Historic Preservation Office of surviving rural buildings. The result is “Lost Farms and Estates of Washington, D.C., an invaluable resource that helps piece together DC’s rural past.

John Y. Cole’s compendium dedicated to Mr. Jefferson’s Library is the next best thing to visiting the library itself.

In “America’s Greatest Library,” John Y. Cole explores the key moments and ongoing role of the Library of Congress, with essays that elaborate on the people and programs that helped shape the Library and illustrations demonstrating its impact, from its distinguished visitors to the breadth and depth of its collections.

In “A Literary Guide to Washington, D.C.,” editor Kim Roberts presents nearly two dozen writers, maps showing sites associated with them, and samples of their work, making this a perfect gift for anyone interested in books, local history and the diverse authors who have called DC home.

English teacher Grant Goodman began writing action-adventure novels like “Tiger Trouble,” “Robot Rumble!,’ and “Mecha-Mole Mayhem” for his middle-school students, but now all kids can enjoy this series which features strong characters like Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve, confidence-building messages, and plenty of butt kicking.

Liz Costanzo’s novels of contemporary/historical young-adult fiction feature what she calls “R and R—romance and reincarnation.” In “Flashback,” a pair of enamored teens in Iowa discovers odd connections to a couple from the 70s whose thwarted romance they may be fated to carry out.

Laura Krauss Melmed’s newest book, “Daddy, Me, and the Magic Hour,” is a sweet and gentle story, warmly illustrated by Sarita Rich, that focuses on a little boy and his father who spend some quality time together in the twilight hour between supper and bedtime.

Platypus Media, Capitol Hill’s award-winning publisher of books for children and their families, added two illustrated bilingual titles to their “Beginnings” collection this year: “Cuddled and Carried” (ages 1-5) and “Babies Nurse” (ages 4-7), both focusing on how mammals care for their young.

On the Hill in December
Check out these websites to find listings for local readings, book clubs, discussions, and book signings:

  • East City Bookshop
  • The Folger Shakespeare Library
  • The Hill Center
  • Solid State Books
  • Smithsonian Associates