More books to love

“The minute I find myself sitting still, I start rummaging around for printed material.” — Michael Perry

How are you doing? Are you finding yourself busy with new tasks and responsibilities? Maybe you are finding new time for slower pursuits? Perhaps you are feeling cooped up, or you are starting to crack open doors and windows to the spring air?

Over this extended stay-at-home time, many of us are wondering what we can do. When in doubt, we say, pick up a book.

So we have been gathering recommendations. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this ongoing list!


I have an author to recommend: Louise Penney. She writes crime mysteries, but more than anything her books are about goodness, the power of being kind and the interconnectedness we share as fellow humans.

Penney is a former BBC journalist turned mystery writer.

Her lead character is Inspector Armand Gamache. Gamache begins the series as head of homicide for the Surete, Canada’s elite police force. I recommend beginning your read with Still Life and working your way through the novels.

Here are some life lessons I’ve learned from reading Penney’s work.

“Never mistake kindness for weakness.”

“There is always a road back. If we have the courage to look for it, and take it.”

“I’m sorry. I was wrong. I don’t know.” He paused again. “I need help. Those are the signposts. The cardinal directions.” — from A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penney

I strive to keep these directions close at hand in daily life. 

JAN LARSON is chair of the Department of Journalism and Communication at UW-Eau Claire and a member of the WHC board.


I first listened to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on audiocassette from the Tippecanoe Public Library when I was twelve. I remember listening to Douglas read his work while lying on the front room floor as the tapes played on the stereo. It was amazing, fun, smart, and totally transported me. Douglas had a way of mixing humor, intelligence, satire, wit, and language without condescension and with indelible storytelling.

It was Douglas’ voicing his characters voices that moved me. 

This book changed me in that I went on to read everything else Douglas had ever written and his style and approach informed my own writing. Although I don’t have an English accent, I have both consciously and unconsciously absorbed his rhythms and inflections when writing sentences and articulating thoughts. His words brought joy–no small thing.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is, as it describes itself, a “wholly remarkable book.”

During quarantine, I have been reading this book aloud to a Facebook community, David Kaye’s “Quarantine Variety Hour,” to keep myself and whoever wants to listen sane. If anyone out there hasn’t read this book yet, they are in for a rare treat. It is my hope that sharing my own voice brings others hope and joy, as listening to Douglas’ once did for young-me.

MICHAEL TIMM is a Milwaukee writer, editor, and game designer who manages the Milwaukee Water Stories program for the nonprofit Reflo, which received a WHC grant. 


The only person to whom I have ever dreamed of writing a fan letter is Louise Erdrich.  I have wanted to tell her how reading her novels transports me to a different place and time.  One of the most magical of Erdrich’s novels for me is The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse.  The central character, Father Damien Modeste, is intriguing and endearing. With them, I cross boundaries, of sex and gender, of spirituality and creativity, and of love and desire. Father Damien remains very vivid in my imagination as a figure whose passion for living is inspirational.

Louise Erdrich is wise, and she shares her wisdom through her observations about the natural world and about human beings in shockingly beautiful phrases and sentences.  She has created a whole world with her interconnected novels, and in that world characters teach us about being fully human, experiencing joy as well as sadness. When I read The Last Report I am swept up on a journey of discovery which I hope will never end.

DIANE LICHTENSTEIN is an emeritus professor of English and Critical Identity Studies (Beloit College) and a member of the WHC board.