HPPR Radio Readers Book Club

HPPR Radio Readers Book Club is an on-air, online community of readers exploring themes of common interest to those who live and work on the High Plains. 

The 2018 Spring Read's theme is WWI-Perspectives.  You'll find the thoughts and ideas about books from Radio Readers through a series of BookBytes posted below. If you'd like to contribute a BookByte, simply contact Kathleen Holt at kholt@hppr.org for more information. 

Become an HPPR Radio Reader today! Click here to join the Book Club—and stay informed by liking our Facebook page!

To download materials from previous seasons of the Book Club, please visit our archive.

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HPPR Radio Readers Book Club is made possible in part by a generous contribution from Radio Readers: Dr. George Hopkins of Garden City, KS; Lon Frahm of Colby, KS; and Lynne Hewes of Cimarron, KS.  HPPR thanks them for their support!

  

Wikipedia

I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club selection, Burning Beethoven by Erik Kirschbaum. The book is subtitled The Eradication of German Culture in the United States during World War I, and it contains a multitude of scary echoes for 21st century America.

I recall, back in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, eating at a steak joint out on the Claude Highway near the Palo Duro Canyon. I ordered my New York Strip, but I hesitated about ordering fries. I simply couldn’t bring myself to say the words “freedom fries.”

Beware of Becoming What You Hate

Feb 19, 2018
Harry R Hopps / Wikipedia

I have often suspected that if people aren't careful, they become what they hate. How many times have you seen a hypocrite pontificate about hypocrisy? A bigot complain he or she is the object of someone else's bigotry? Or someone preaching tolerance harbor assumptions that aren't actually that tolerant?

It's hard for people to see themselves as others do -- there's a reason for that which I'll get to in a bit -- and because of that we sometimes wind up acting like the very people we most despise.

Poems from Above the Dreamless Dead

Feb 18, 2018
Ernest Brooks / Wikimedia Commons

This is Denise Low, a regular contributor to HPPR and 2nd Poet Laureate of Kansas. Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy, is one of the selections for this season’s HPPR book club. Today I want to look at some of the fine poems in this illustrated anthology.

Bound to Repeat It

Feb 14, 2018
Wikicommons

I’m Galen Boehm from Kinsley, Kansas, for HPPR’s Radio Readers Spring Read commemorating the 100th year anniversary of WWI.  I’m covering Kirschbaum’s book Burning Beethoven, noting how fear rather than reason too frequently dictates how we respond to political and personal concerns.

Prior to WWI, German immigrants to the United States established settlements to provide a sense of social and cultural identity.  These immigrants came for religious, political and vocational reasons.  

Freedom. Something We Give?

Feb 12, 2018
Pintrest

Suppose you were plucked from wherever you are now and plopped into a foreign country where you were told you are perfectly free. You are allowed to say anything you want, worship any god you want, speak any language you want, and make your living in any way you can. The only catch is, your neighbors don't agree. In such a scenario, are you really free?

This hypothetical situation is not exactly what German-Americans faced during World War I, but it still may help us understand what their story tells us not only about their freedom but also our own.

Joey Survives

Feb 9, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

Howdy, I am Michael Grauer from Canyon, Texas,

Written in the spirit of Anna Sewell’s masterpiece of animal literature, Black Beauty, Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse tells the story of a “spindly half-Thoroughbred” horse, Joey, who is raised on an English farm and is “drafted” into service by the British Army to serve in World War I and his struggles to survive. 

Two Kinds of People

Feb 7, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

When I began Michael Morpurgo's children's book War Horse, I didn't know what to think. Though I love historical fiction, animal stories were never at the top of my reading list, and I haven't read a children's book since ... well, since I was child as far as I can remember. Though the book was much-praised even before Steven Spielberg filmed it in 2011, somehow it had flown under my radar, and frankly, telling the story of World War I from the viewpoint of a horse sounded to me like a cheap gimmick.

From the Mouth of . . .

Feb 5, 2018
Pintrest

Hi, this is Daniel Helbert for HPPR’s Radio Reader’s Book Club coming to you today from Canyon, Texas.

For this installment about Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, I want to think a little about one of the more distinguishing features of the novel: namely, that it is narrated by a horse.

The Importance of Chapter 15

Feb 2, 2018
Library of Congress

Hello, my name is Luke Hamilton, I am a junior at Colby High School, and I will be talking about Michael Morpurgo’s book, War Horse.

In this story, war is narrated by a staunch and wholehearted horse named Joey. Like Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, themes like death, duty, companionship, and war are outlined throughout. But in stark contrast to Hemingway’s downplayed and existential storytelling, War Horse gives a more emotional and positive perspective. Morpurgo wrote this way to show his readers the humanity and hope that can exist in war.

DAH-DI-DI-DIT DAH-DI-DAH-DIT DAH-DIT DI-DI-DAH

Jan 31, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

I’m Kathleen Holt speaking to you from my home in Cimarron, Kansas.  My maternal grandfather was a quiet man who lived several hours away, so I didn’t know him very well. He described himself to us when we were kids:  ”T.I. Spence, sitting on a fence, trying to make a $ out of $.15.”  

I didn’t know much about WWI either, since we rarely made it that far in the history classes of my childhood.

No Man's Land

Jan 29, 2018

Hello, this is Daniel Helbert from Canyon, Texas. This installment of HPPR’s Radio Reader’s Book Club is about Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse—a novel that follows the journey of a farm horse named Joey who travels back and forth across the Western Front of World War I.

In what is unequivocally the central scene of the book, Joey has inadvertently wandered into No Man’s Land after being terrified by tanks, starved by the scorched earth of the battlefield, and mercilessly mauled by barbwire fortifications.

WWI Comics and Poetry: A Fine Example

Jan 26, 2018

This is Denise Low, a regular contributor to HPPR.

Dear Listener, first a confession before I discuss Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy. I don’t like comic books. My mother forbade them when I was a child, except for Bible stories. So, what mixed feelings I had when I opened this World War I book of poetry about a gruesome trench war. The word “comics” suggests humor, but Above the Dreamless Dead is in no way a humorous book.

Pintrest

I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club selection, War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. This spring’s Book Club theme is World War 1, but we decided to forego the novels on the conflict that you might have expected us to select.

You won’t find Hemingway or Ford Madox Ford or Erich Maria Remarque on our reading list. That’s mostly because anyone who’s interested in fictional recounting of the Great War has likely already read All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms.

Let's Be Honest

Jan 22, 2018
Pintrest

Hello, I’m Daniel Helbert from Canyon, Texas for HPPR’s Radio Reader’s Book Club. Joey, the horse who is the main character and the narrator for Michael Morpurgo’s novel War Horse is a spectacular and noble steed who has a noticeable emotional effect on humans that associate with him.

The Whole Wretched Mess

Jan 19, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

Hey, this is Andrew Taylor, a 17-year-old junior from Wheatland High School coming to you from Grainfield, Kansas.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is an interesting look at many different perspectives of World War I. At the center of these is a horse named Joey. Throughout the war, Joey trades hands from a farm boy named Albert to Captain Nicholls of the English cavalry, to being captured by German soldiers.

Heroism, Horses & Humanity

Jan 17, 2018

Hi, I’m Daniel Helbert from Canyon, Texas; I teach literature at West Texas A&M University and I research and write about the literature of the British Middle Ages.

For HPPR’s Radio Readers Book Club, I’m going to talk to you today about Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel, War Horse. The book bills itself as a children’s story, but—as its recent adaptations into an award-winning stage-play and film attest—it certainly has the potential to appeal to a much wider audience. 

Perspectives - Introducing the 2018 Spring Read

Jan 15, 2018
Wikimedia Commons / U S War Bonds Poster

My father once said “You could call this place six-foot country.” He was an Arkansas native, raised among the trees of the Ozark foothills. His most vivid first impression of the Texas Panhandle area was that a six-foot tall man like him could see for ten miles in any direction, although he said that in 1932, there wasn’t really that much to see.

I remember vividly standing in our front yard in our small town and him pointing to the solitary barn lights of farmers whose places were five, maybe ten miles away.

   The first white explorers of this vast emptiness we call the High Plains agreed there wasn’t much to see. The leader of a mid-nineteenth century surveying party reportedly wrote across his map that “this is a vast treeless plain, unfit for human habitation.”

So what does HPPR Radio Readers Book Club's 2018 Spring Read have in store? 

Here's more info about all four books! 

Radio Readers BookByte: Tsil Cafe & New World Foods

Nov 10, 2017
Tom Averill / Topeka, Kansas

I’m Tom Averill, author of the culinary novel Secrets of the Tsil Café, and a “foodie” in my kitchen and in my library. My book, published in 2001, came from years of research, starting in 1992, the 500th anniversary of the Columbus voyage.  I wasn’t on the Columbus bandwagon, given the European decimation of the New World:  the killing and enslavement of people, the pilfering of gold and silver, the outlawing of languages and religions, even the environmental damage done. 

Radio Readers BookByte: Edible Stories? Not so Much

Nov 8, 2017
Free Republic

What is edible about this book, Edible Stories: a novel in 16 parts?

Not much, really. A far cry from the Kurlansky selection we read in August, there are no recipes, no community stories… The most mouthwatering descriptions are of Orangina and caviar… Things already prepared for us, and placed on a shelf in a store for us to pick up.

We start this book with a lie. A man decides to lie rather than be embarrassed for a single moment… He pretends his entire life to everyone he sees and knows. It makes them wary of him; they stop trusting him. The people around him—his wife, his secretary, his boss and colleagues—they grow tired of his false front. They can’t connect to this persona.

Radio Readers BookByte: Control the Food - Control the Culture

Nov 6, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

There’s a certain possessiveness with art, even if we did not create it ourselves.  People love to be the “discoverer” of greatness.  I have this possessiveness toward books.  When I read an incredibly powerful book, I am torn between my desire to share the greatness with others so that we may talk and revel in the wonder of it together, and my desire to keep it to myself.  A part of me wants to own it and hoard it.  I realize this is completely irrational. 

Radio Readers BookByte: Memama's Sweet Roll Dough

Nov 3, 2017
Lynne Hewes / Cimarron, KS

Every year at Thanksgiving, I spend quality time with my grandmother, a wonderful woman who died about 40 years ago.  Together, early each Thanksgiving morning, she and I pour a cup of coffee, dig out a handwritten recipe card, peel, cut up, and boil one large potato, and set about creating “Memama’s sweet roll dough.”

Radio Readers BookByte: Food and Common Ground

Nov 1, 2017
Jason Harper / Ft. Hays State University

Today my focus is on Mark Kurlansky's Edible Stories, and how food is one of the many bonds that people find as common ground.

This common ground through food is true in fact, fiction -- and in teaching. Years ago, beginning in 2006, I taught college composition courses in a partnership program between Pittsburg State University and a university in Asunción, Paraguay. Then, a year later, I was teaching for partnership between Fort Hays State University and a university in China. 

Radio Readers BookByte: Name that Character

Oct 30, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to the Radio Readers book club and the 2017 Fall Read.  We’ve been discussing our second Mark Kurlansky selection. 

Earlier in my chats about Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts, I promised I would touch upon Kurlansky’s use of names.  While I don’t believe that Kurlansky chose every single name in the book for symbolic reasons, I do think paid close attention to this task.

Radio Readers BookByte: Belons and Oysters

Oct 27, 2017
Kansapedia / Kansas State History Society

Hello Radio Readers!  Dana Waters from Fowler, Kansas, here.  When I read Mark Kurlansky’s Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts, I found the oysters in the story titled “Belons” especially intriguing.  Wouldn’t it be fun to compare the Belons to the Portugaises, paired with a bottle of Sancerre of course?  I’m thinking a small Paris café, since Belons are probably not a High Plains specialty, right? 

Radio Readers BookByte: City Food

Oct 25, 2017

Mark Kurlansky’s Edible Stories is an odd collection of strange characters and strange experiences. People fall into holes and go to baseball games and watch the stock market at the gym and argue with their neighbors. Throughout these braided stories of characters that criss cross one another is the food—pink salt, fattening muffins, wine—that punctuate misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It’s a book about people, mostly.

And yet the stories are about food. Food, really, in cities.

Radio Readers BookByte: Win Friends & Influence People

Oct 23, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to the Radio Readers Book Club, where we are wrapping up our Fall Read with discussion of Mark Kurlansky’s Edible Stories.  I’m Valerie Brown-Kuchera, your discussion leader for this title, coming to you from Quinter to delve into the idea that people who snack together, pack together. 

Library of Congress

I believe in Jackalopes. They exist in postcards, seen throughout the western plains at truck stops. They must be real. This is one story I have heard about a particular jackalope named Jack, who is the hero of my book called Jackalope, from Red Mountain Press in Santa Fe.

Radio Readers BookByte: Six Degrees of Separation

Oct 9, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

Hello, Radio Readers.  This is Valerie Brown-Kuchera, talking to you again from Quinter.  I’m introducing our final selection, Edible Stories by Mark Kurlansky.  You might recognize the author because he’s also responsible for the Federal Writers’ Project collection The Food of a Younger Land, which was our first book in Food and Story. 

Radio Readers BookByte: Edible Stories

Oct 6, 2017

Hello Radio Readers!  Now that we’ve explored the food described by Federal Writers’ Project authors in The Food of a Younger Land, and mulled over Joanne Harris’s novel of food, family, and a community caught up in the complexities of wartime occupation, Five Quarters of the Orange, it’s time to move on to the third book in our Food and Story series, Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts

Mark Kurlansky, a noted food author with best selling books on salt, cod, and oysters, throws us a real curve with Edible Stories.  His mining of the Federal Writers’ Project depression era essays in our series opener, Food of a Younger Land, did not prepare this reader for the wacky, disjointed-but-not-disjointed series of stories he creates in Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts.  I found these fictitious short stories (or are they chapters?) both delightful and baffling.  Kurlansky presents us with a parade of characters who are odd, to say the least.  He organizes this book with a motif of, yes, food, but in a most unexpected way.  Each of the sixteen stories bears the title of a specific food: “Muffins,” “Hot Pot,” “Orangina,” “The Icing on the Cake.”  The exception is the last story, titled “Margaret.” 

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