Letters: Summer Reading, Basic Training

Listeners comment on smoking in the movies and the changing nature of basic training. They also reminisce about memories of prom and offer suggestions for this year's summer reading.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

It's Tuesday, the day we read from your emails. Our show last week on Army basic training - whether it's too tough or if it's gotten too soft - struck a nerve with a number of veterans, including Brian, a listener in Kentucky.

I entered the Army Reserves in 1999, he wrote. In 2004, I deployed to Iraq. Basic training is not all it can be. Soldiers need to learn discipline with advanced thinking and combat skills. The breaking down and building up mentality is for soldiers with preexisting discipline problems, not the majority of new recruits. Using demeaning language teaches nothing. Hard work and correct training will keep soldiers alive.

Many emailers were not happy with our discussion about smoking in the movies. New releases will now be rated on how they depict smoking, as well as on sex and violence. And guest, Richard Klein, explained that while tobacco use can kill you, moviemakers use cigarettes to express character and sometimes because it can make those characters alluring.

Give me a break, complained Heidi Zardis(ph) in Wyoming. Beautiful and useful used to describe smoking, with offhand references to it being bad for your health? It's a disgusting, dirty, life threatening habit that puts people in bondage and makes them wheeze, stink, cough and die young.

One thing we all agree on is that proms can be nerve-racking events for kids and parents. Last Thursday, we invited "Ask Amy's" Amy Dickinson to help guide us through it and reminisce a little about our own bad hair and big dresses - memories Matthew Banks would rather forget.

I spent most of my high school career buying the fantasy about prom that was sold to me, he wrote. But I spent most of that evening moping around and eating cheese. The theme of the prom was Romance in the Tropics. I got no romance, no tropics, and ended up with a lonely looking picture that made me look I belonged on the cover of a Beatles album. Not a memory I intend to cherish any time soon.

To help mark the unofficial start of summer yesterday, Lynn Neary hosted our annual review of summer books. The panel rattled off books from a number of genres, and many of you called and emailed with pics of your own. Susan emailed to suggest "Magic Time" - Doug Marlette's latest novel that has all the requisites of the perfect summer read. Okasha Canter(ph) recommended "American Born Chinese" by Gene Luen Yang. She said it's an engaging graphic novel that blends Chinese mythology with the frustrations of a second-generation Chinese-American teenager as he grapples with identity.

And Susan Freedman emailed to say treat yourself to "Sweet Francaise" by Irene Nemirovsky. It describes the tearing apart of the lives of various citizens of Paris as the Nazi occupation begins. The characters are diverse, and the writing and translation are exquisite. The book takes you to that time and place in a way no movie could. Not a mystery - it is most certainly a page-turner.

We've got dozens of other recommendations and reviews on the show - probably too many for me to read or for you to write down. But our nimble-fingered productions assistants compiled a list of the authors and titles, which we've just posted on our Web page. You can see it at npr.org/talk - again, npr.org/talk. If you have other recommendations for summer books or any comments, questions or corrections for it, the best way to reach us by email. Our address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from, and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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