Snapshot: Authors' Favorite Authors

News & Notes closes its month-long series on the black literary imagination with a special snapshot. We asked several of our guests to share some of their favorite books and childhood reading memories.

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TONY COX, host:

As we do every Friday, we end the show with a personal story. But instead of one of our usual voices, we've got a special look back at our series on The Black Literary Imagination. We asked several of our guests after their interviews to share with us some of their favorite books and childhood reading memories. We then cut those together with a few series highlights and the result is this week's Snapshot.

Mr. BYRON PITTS (Reporter, CBS): Oh, well. You said Walter Mosley. I love Walter Mosley's work.

Ms. JOYCE CAROL THOMAS: My name is Joyce Carol Thomas. My favorite book is "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston.

Prof. JAMES ALAN McPHERSON (Author, "Elbow Room"; Professor, University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop): I love Neville. I love Twain. I love Ellison.

Ms. SHEREE R. THOMAS (Editor, "Dark Matter"): Oh, I'm going to go out on a limb. I'm going to say…

Mr. ISHMAEL REED (Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley; Author): You know, the first book that really turned me on was "Collected Works of Nathaniel West."

Ms. TANANARIVE DUE (Author, "My Soul to Keep"): "The Mummy," "Dracula," that kind of thing. I don't think I ever imagined myself as a horror writer or a speculative fiction writer at that time. But I was definitely drawn to that type of writing from a very young age.

Ms. NAKEA MURRAY (Founder, As The Page Turns): Two books stick out in my mind. The first one would have to be "Child of God" by Lilota Files, as well as "Harlem Girl Lost" by author Treasure E. Blue.

Mr. ERIC JEROME DICKEY (Novelist, "Waking With Enemies"): For me, I mean, early on, "Devil In a Blue Dress." I can't tell you the number of times that I read that and just - how everything is a character, you know? Every location is a character. Being specific. Every character has his or her own personality.

Ms. THOMAS: Her characters who are ghosts become real people for me. And so she was in touch with a dimension that most people are not in touched with. And so it's always exciting to see that.

Mr. PITTS: I've only seen my mother cry twice in my life. The first time, when it came on the radio that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. And the second time was when the therapist told my mother - I've never forgotten his words: I'm sorry, Mrs. Pitts, your son is functionally illiterate.

Prof. McPHERSON: This is going to sound silly but I used to play hooky from school and go to Carnegie Public Library across the street from my house and read all day. And I used to love to discover new books.

Ms. DUE: That was such a hard question. I'm so torn.

Ms. BETTY BAYE (Columnist, Courier-Journal; Founder, The Zoras): Sister Souljah's book "The Coldest Winter Ever." That was so instructive.

Mr. PITTS: Walter Mosley, Ed McBain. Right now, I'm reading Anais Nin.

Ms. BAYE: From Baldwin and Hurston to - we've done DuBois, we've done Poitier's memoir. We've done Miles Davis.

Ms. DUE: I'm going to go ahead because I'm feeling sentimental, especially listening to Octavia's voice and say "Parable of the Sower," which - there are so many other books, but that book is such a journey that it actually makes you stronger as the reader as you go on.

Prof. McPHERSON: And (unintelligible) simply go on "The Egyptian" about ancient Egypt through the time of turmoil. I love that book.

Mr. DICKEY: You know, there are no boring subjects, just boring writers.

Ms. THOMAS: You want to read work that reflects yourself, not necessarily, literally yourself but your perspective, your point of view and the community around you. And if you don't see it in the work in front of you, as a writer, you're challenged to write it yourself.

Ms. BAYE: A book club gives you a way to be sort of an unofficial cultural anthropologist in that you tap into other people's lives.

Mr. PITTS: I got this great line in the book where he says, in talking about the beginning of slavery, he tells a small story of the first ship and the so and so, dropped anchor into the muddy waters of history. I thought, wow, yeah. Exactly. That's it.

COX: That was Byron Pitts, Eric Jerome Dickey, Betty Baye, Joyce Carol Thomas, Nakea Murray, Ishmael Reed, James Alan McPherson, Tananarive Due and Sheree R. Thomas with this week's Snapshot.

In case you missed a conversation on our series on The Black Literary Imagination, or you just want to listen again, go to our Web site, nprnewsandnotes.org.

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