Bookmarks "Bookmarks" are stories mined from our secret lives as readers. Stories of intimate relationships and life-changing encounters with books. Stories about the books we can't forget. In this micropodcast, the producers behind "To The Best Of Our Knowledge" ask writers and creators to share what they've read and how it shaped them.


From Wisconsin Public Radio

"Bookmarks" are stories mined from our secret lives as readers. Stories of intimate relationships and life-changing encounters with books. Stories about the books we can't forget. In this micropodcast, the producers behind "To The Best Of Our Knowledge" ask writers and creators to share what they've read and how it shaped them.

Most Recent Episodes

Ebony Thomas on 'Anne of Green Gables'

Ebony Thomas is the author of "The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games." For her the most important word in that title is "imagination." She believes that without imagination we can't change the world because we can't see it. We can't daydream a better world into existence. It's why she's always identified with another literary daydreamer — Anne of Green Gables. Hi, my name is Ebony Elizabeth Thomas. I am the author of "The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games." My favorite book has changed over time. My favorites were Beverly Cleary's stories about Ramona and Judy Blume's stories about Peter and his little brother Fudge, because Fudge reminded me of my little sister, Danielle. By the time I was nine, my parents gifted me with "The Little House on the Prairie" series, which I have critiqued 30 years later. I have to say that I encountered my favorite girl protagonist of all, Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables. I remember encountering Anne when I was 12 years old, not through the library or a bookstore, but through PBS and the CBC. I grew up in Detroit, we were right next door to Canada and so we had channel nine, CBC. They were airing a little series titled "Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel" over in Canada, and "Anne of Avonlea" here in the States. And I will never forget seeing Anne and her neighbor, rival, and eventual love interest, Gilbert Blythe, on a bridge. It was just at the right time of my life. I was 12 years old, quite romantic, head full of dreams. I remember Gilbert telling Anne, "I won't leave you." There was something about that encounter that just really struck me. When I went to the library next, I went to search for the books and come to find out there were eight stories in total. I picked up everything I could get my hands on. Lucy Maud Montgomery told Anne's story from the time she was 11 years old until she was in her 50s. That is how I fell into the world of Avonlea, And I was hoping to go to Prince Edward Island this year for the conference, but the pandemic stopped that. That was my favorite book growing up and my favorite story girl. —This author recommends— Anne of Green Gables (Puffin in Bloom)

Enrique Salmon on 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain is one of the most controversial books in the American literary canon, particularly because of its frequent use of the N word. But for Enrique Salmon, a young Native kid trying to master the English language, "Huckleberry Finn" was the book that launched his lifelong love of reading. I'm Enrique Salmon. I'm a professor of American Indian Studies at California State University East Bay. And I've also written the book, "Eating the Landscape," and I have a book coming out right now about American Indian ethnobotany called "Iwígara." When I was growing up, I couldn't really read or write or speak English very well, up until like 11th grade. It was amazing I even made it to 11th grade. And then there was a teacher, an English teacher, Mrs. Anderson, who decided she was going to bring me up to speed with regards to being able to read and write in English. And she introduced me to Mark Twain, and more specifically, "Huckleberry Finn." And I remember working my way through "Huckleberry Finn," and reading about Huck and Jim and the Mississippi River and all of those things. It really had this impact on me as a person of color of how people from different ethnic backgrounds can just be friends, in that space along the Mississippi River and in this area that was actually very racist. I can understand where people are coming from with the use of the N word that Mark Twain used. But I look at it from the perspective that the Mark Twain was writing in a period and from a perspective, emerging from his own experience. He never says if he liked or disliked the word, it was just, that was his experience, then the fictional characters experience. And we have to acknowledge that experience and be mindful of that. Cultures and people change through time, and today we realize that that word is not acceptable anymore, and we have to respect that as well. That book led me to other Mark Twain books, that led me to Hemingway and "The Old Man and the Sea," that led me to Steinbeck, and to Faulkner. And then, and ever since, I've just had this incredible fascination with books and with reading and to the point where I'm a writer myself. And that's the power of an 11th-grade English teacher, taking it upon herself to teach a young Native guy to read and write through Mark Twain. —This author recommends— Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (SeaWolf Press Illustrated Classic): First Edition Cover

Ada Calhoun on 'Street Through Time'

There's a book that Ada Calhoun, author of "Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis" thinks of as both one of her favorites to read out loud with her son, as well as one that has inspired her own writing. It's "A Street Through Time: The 12,000 Year Journey Along the Same Street," Illustrated by Steve Noon and written by Anne Millard. The book is the story of one street, leading the reader through historical events and the passage of time, with the street itself starring as the main character. My name is Ada Calhoun and I'm the author of "Why We Can't Sleep Women's New Midlife Crisis." When I was the mother of a young child, I was reading this book to him and it was called "A Street Through Time: The 12,000 Year Journey Along the Same Street," Illustrated by Steve Noon and written by Dr. Anne Millard. The great thing about it, it's mostly pictures of the same street and every time you turn the page it's hundreds of years later. So the houses go up and there's an invasion. The houses come down and then they come back up again and then they get bigger. What I love about this book is, first of all, it gives you this amazing history lesson, because you see how world civilization has evolved over thousands of years. And then also it just gives you the sense of perspective about how small we are and how different things have been just not that long ago. And I love it that you'll see somebody will drop his sword in a battle and then another, 200 years later, someone will fish out the sword while they're out in their rowboat. And it inspired me a lot when I started working on a book about the history of my street, St. Mark's Place in the East Village, that's where I grew up, called St. Mark's is Dead: the Many Lives of America's Hippest Street. And I feel like I was really influenced by that way of looking at history. As you look at this, this one piece of land, and it's a stage and people come onto the stage and they have a fight or they have a conversation and then some people leave the stage and other people come on the stage. And so, thinking of the street as a stage where things change, but it's like a fixed place, was really, really helpful to me and I think it inspired me to do the book the way I did it. Then that book did pretty well. And then I was able to do another book and then I was able to do this book. So I kind of, I traced my whole career back to reading that children's book to my son many years ago. I like it because, yeah, we sort of think of that as anti-career time. In ways sometimes I think, okay, I'm not going to work right now. I'm going to focus on my child. Or I'm going to have to step away from my child and go do my work. But I think a lot of the best things with both are when they come together. And I think about now, reading that book to my son was really creative for me. It was really inspirational. And it, I feel like led basically my whole writing career in some ways. —This author recommends— A Street Through Time: A 12,000 Year Journey Along the Same Street —More from this author— Interview: The Things That Keep Gen X Women Up At Night

Nicola Griffith on 'The Blue Sword'

A girl, a horse, and a magical sword save a kingdom in Robin McKinley's young adult classic, "The Blue Sword" — a book beloved by women of all ages. "Hild" author Nikola Griffith explains why. My name's Nicola Griffith. I am the author most recently of a novel called "Hild." I'd like to recommend a book. If you haven't read it, then please pick up "The Blue Sword" by Robin McKinley. It is ostensibly for teenagers, but I think I was probably about 25 or so when I read it. And I have re-read it many times since, and it holds up. It's a wonderful first-person story about a woman called Angharad, but she calls herself Harry, and by the end of the book is known as Harry, Harimad-sol. She moves from a place called Home. Sometimes I think of it as an English place, and sometimes I think of it as American Northeast, but it's very stuffy. It has lots of etiquette rules. Basically, the Wild West or the Indian frontier. When I first read it, I was thinking in terms of the Raj, I was very English. I am very English. But now that I've lived in this country for a bit, I can see the parallels with settlers who moved out to the Western frontier. Anyway, there's lots of magic. There are swords and horses. It's sword and pony fiction with magic. I love it. It's a great book. I've just started reading it aloud. I just read the first three pages, which is why it's on my mind. And McKinley does this amazing job of taking us in to this teenager's head, her essential loneliness, her longing for a place to belong. And she does that really, really well. And then further on in the book, there are these wonderful scenes where Harry learns that she has this power. She can do prophecy. She can fight. She can control her horse. Essentially, she could beat everybody, except, of course, the king who she ends up marrying. Sorry for the spoiler. So it's romantical, but it doesn't follow some of the really tired tropes of old fashioned romance in the sense that the woman has to look at the floor and flirt. She's basically very angry with this man in the nicest possible way. And he's reluctant to use her in the way that his powers dictate that she be employed to help him in his goal, which is to keep everyone safe because of her magic. The Blue Sword is the novel about a young woman becoming herself. It's about a woman finding her place in the world. She is a woman, but she could just as well be a man. It's about a person learning to belong, about a person finding their feet. And that is a story for any age, for any era. —This author recommends— The Blue Sword (Newbery Honor Roll) —More from this author— Interview: Nicola Griffith on Lesbian Crime Writing—Interview: Meet a Medieval Warrior-Girl: Nicola Griffith's "Hild"

Helen Macdonald On 'The Dark Is Rising'

Every year, at holiday time, Macdonald reads this tale of a boy who finds out he's one of the "old ones," part of a series from author Susan Cooper. She says it reconnects her with a sense of wonder inspired by what might lurk beneath the surface of the seen world. My name's Helen Macdonald — I'm the author of "H Is For Hawk" — and I want to recommend a 1973 children's book called "The Dark Is Rising" by the author Susan Cooper. This funny thing happens in England every year: a whole bunch of friends of mine — on the winter solstice — we all read this book. It's a book about magic. Anyone who's read Harry Potter will know that there is a long history of books about small boys, when they're about 10 or 11, realizing that they're not normal, that they have magical powers. And this is one of the early books in that kind of tradition. It's about a small boy called Will who wakes up on his eleventh birthday to discover that he is, in fact, one of the "old ones." And his job is to protect the world against the forces of darkness. This all sounds very, very clichéd but my goodness, I cannot recommend this book more highly. It's one of the most beautifully written fantasy books I've ever come across. It made the English landscape sing for me as a child. It's full of snowy woods. It's full of Arthurian legend. It's full of Anglo-Saxon myths. It's full of everyday life. There are the most astonishing sequences which brim with eerie power of the small boy who has the power to light fires out of dead wood he sees lying on paths, and the panic as he realizes that — for some reason — he cannot put them out. When you're small, you're prey to fear, you're prey to panics in a way that I think disappear as you get older. Whenever I read this book, those old panics about our place in the world and the limits of our powers come back bright as ever. It's also a very poignant book. There are characters in here who suffer. There are characters who are caught out of time. And the whole thing is also about how we see the past in the landscape. This has been very influential for me — when you look at the landscape wherever you are in the world, it's very fascinating to try and imagine who stood there before you. And this book plays with that sense and plays with the stories we've told about the places we live. Also it's got the kind of really cool things that you find in fantasy books, you know: Will has to collect a series of very important things of power — again, very Potter-like — and the whole book itself is part of a much wider series that deals with this great fight between the dark and the light. You know you can't mess around with that, as a topic. So I really recommend you go out and buy this book and I really hope you'll love it as much as I do. —This author recommends— The Dark is Rising (The Dark is Rising Sequence) —More from this author— Interview: Helen Macdonald Battles Grief with a Goshawk—Interview: Helen Macdonald and "Birdle" the Parrot

Lulu Miller on 'The Search for Delicious'

Lulu Miller, author of "Why Fish Don't Exist," first read the young adult book "The Search for Delicious" when she was in that transformative and uncertain stage in between childhood and adulthood. The enchanted fairy tale by Natalie Babbitt taught Miller to still believe in the power and poetry of magic, whatever her age. —This author recommends— The Search for Delicious —More from this author— Interview: We Call Them Fish. Evolution Says They're Something Else.

Quan Barry on 'White Fang'

"White Fang" by Jack London is a classic outdoor adventure story about a wild wolf-dog's struggle to survive in the Yukon Territory during the 1890's Gold Rush. Writer Quan Barry read it for the first time at age 11 and learned just how powerful a book can be. My name is Quan Barry, and I'm the author of "We Ride Upon Sticks." And the book that I'd like to talk about, that affected me quite a bit as a writer is "White Fang" by Jack London. I have to admit, I haven't read White Fang probably since I read it when I was in seventh grade. I was 11 years old. I have this memory of sitting in the house that I grew up in as a child. I had my own bedroom, it was tiny. It had a red rug, and I have this memory of lying on the floor, on my stomach, reading White Fang for seventh grade English. For those of you who don't know, so "White Fang" is basically very similar to "Call of the Wild." It's a book about a dog in the Yukon or somewhere in Alaska and the adventures that this dog has. The thing though, that I remember. And again, I was 11 years old. [It was] many, many years ago, more than 30 years ago, 35 years ago or so when I read this book. I have a memory though, that it was the first book that made me cry when I finished it. I can't even tell you what happened at the end. I barely remember. I'm like, "Does he live or die? I don't even know." I think White Fang, not be a spoiler, but it might be the kind of thing like, "Son of White Fang goes on," that kind of thing. But I don't really remember. But I just remember crying, and I didn't realize that literature could do that to you, that you could read something, and then cry about it. It was such a new experience to me. So it's interesting that I remember that. I don't even remember the story itself. I just remember my reaction to it. And that's the reason why it stayed with me all these many years. —This author recommends— White Fang: 100th Anniversary Collection —More from this author— Interview: In a 'Post-Truth' Era, Should You Get Your News From Poems?—Interview: The News From Poems: 'Inaugural'—Interview: Quan Barry Writes Vietnam

Coming April 30: Bookmarks, Kid's Book Edition

Neverland. Wonderland. Magic wands and unicorns. Your escape from COVID-19 is just a wish-upon-a-star away. Season 3 of Bookmarks — the kid's book edition — is flying in on a fire-breathing dragon. In this ragtag collection, awesome writers share their favorite children's books from an audio treehouse of hope in tough times. Because you know what you need right now? An orphan on an adventure where she triumphs against all odds! It's Black Girl Magic meets White Fang on a raft down the Mississippi with a little Search for Delicious along the way. Bookmarks is brought to you by Anne Strainchamps and the producers of TTBOOK — a crew of ballerina pirates who are all just kids at heart. We'll eat you up, we love you so! Check out the latest season at, or wherever you get your podcast fix!

Malcolm Gladwell on 'When Police Kill'

Over the years, author, journalist and podcaster Malcolm Gladwell has written about some notorious cases of police brutality, including the deaths of Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant who was shot 41 times by New York police officers when he reached for his wallet to show them his ID, and Sandra Bland, the black woman who died in a jail cell after being arrested for a routine traffic violation. Gladwell is famous for mining behavioral science for his work — including his books "The Tipping Point" and "Outliers," and his podcast "Revisionist History" — and when it comes to understanding the intersection of crime, violence, and policing, he turns again and again to criminologist Frank Zimring. A law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Zimring has had a long academic career examining policing, gun violence, crime rates, and the social factors that interact with each of them. In 2017, he published a book called "When Police Kill," one that Gladwell believes is especially important to read as the police killing of George Floyd sparks debates about defunding police departments. —This author recommends— When Police Kill —More from this author— Interview: 'Why Do Police Do Traffic Stops?' Journalist Malcolm Gladwell On Rethinking Law Enforcement

Robert Macfarlane on 'The Living Mountain'

Nature writer and adventurer Robert Macfarlane has given away one book more than any other volume. It's "The Living Mountain," by Scottish writer and poet Nan Shepherd. —This author recommends— "The Living Mountain" —More from this author— Interview: Why We're Drawn To Darkness