Librarian Nancy Pearl's 2009 Under-The-Radar Books The end of another year means another giant stack of books you missed during the past 12 months. Nancy Pearl, our favorite librarian, stops by to share recommendations that should keep old, young and 'tween readers content.
NPR logo

Librarian Nancy Pearl's 2009 Under-The-Radar Books

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Librarian Nancy Pearl's 2009 Under-The-Radar Books

Librarian Nancy Pearl's 2009 Under-The-Radar Books

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Librarian Nancy Pearl is here again with some recommended reading for all ages. Books to keep you content over the holidays on a plane or a train or curled up in an armchair at home. She calls it books under the radar, books that might have slipped past you during the year. Hi, Nancy.


INSKEEP: The first book on your list is called "Spooner" by Pete Dexter.

PEARL: This is Pete Dexter's newest book. I think it's the best thing he has written yet. And, you know, he's the author of one of my favorite books, "The Paper Boy" with its fabulous first line: My brother, Ward, was once a famous man. And I never thought he would ever write anything that I would really appreciate more than "The Paper Boy." But "Spooner," as someone said to me, is the book that Pete Dexter was born to write.

INSKEEP: This is the title character here Warren Spooner is...

PEARL: Warren Spooner is - had not a particularly normal childhood, and it's the story of a boy growing up and becoming a man and learning to live in the world as it is. And it's very autobiographical, as I understand. So it's a way of meeting this character that you won't forget.

INSKEEP: You also have a book that you consider unforgettable here called "The Good Soldiers" by David Finkel, which is brutally true.

PEARL: And sadly true and a book that really, I think, helps us understand all of those brief stories we get in the newspaper about soldiers coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. And David Finkel is a Washington Post reporter, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who is embedded with a Ranger Group.

INSKEEP: These are relatively elite troops. They may be doing especially difficult jobs, okay.

PEARL: Yes. Yes. And he talks about their experiences as they go day by day. And their experience, I mean, it's like dull, dull, dull, dull, panic or terror, dull, dull, dull, dull, terror, and it's not like those terror episodes are regular so you could come to expect them. It's just their unexpectedness that just grasps you and grasps them. And makes them become something that they weren't when they went to war. And I think there have been so many books about Iraq and Afghanistan. I think this is, if not the best, I think it's certainly one of the best that I've read.

INSKEEP: Nancy Pearl is giving us books under the radar. And we have a stack here that takes us in a different direction. This book here is "Bubble Trouble."

PEARL: Yes, it's by Margaret Mahy, a very, very well-known picture book writer. This book began as a poem that she wrote and then they found the perfect illustrator, Polly Dunbar, to turn it into what I think is the most adorable picture book of the year. And it's about a little girl named, Mabel, who blew a bubble that caused a lot of trouble.

INSKEEP: Read it. Read it, read the first, read the first page.

PEARL: (Reading) Little Mabel blew a bubble and it caused a lot of trouble. Such a lot of bubble trouble in a bibble bubble way, for it broke away from Mabel as it bobbed across the table where it bubbled over baby and it wafted him away.


PEARL: And then the town, who all have such wonderful, wonderful names and there's a Greville and Neville and Sybil. If you're a grandparent or a mother or father, and you have kids who just like the same books over and over and over again, this is one. First of all, you'll have to be on your toes because...

INSKEEP: Tongue twisters.

PEARL: ...there are very much tongue twisters, and it doesn't get boring, because there are so many wonderful, wonderful little jokes that Margaret Mahy has put in here. I love this book.

INSKEEP: You've got another book here on your stack. Rebecca Stead "When You Reach Me."

PEARL: And that was exactly the experience I had with that book. I read that book. I loved it, and then I went back to the beginning and started it all over again to see the clues that Rebecca Stead had put out for us that maybe we didn't realize were clues at that moment.

INSKEEP: We have one more book here that's called "When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler's Journal of Staying Put."

PEARL: Vivian Swift for many years worked for Sotheby's for more than two decades and she traveled a lot, doing a lot of their buying...

INSKEEP: For auctions.

PEARL: And you just get this sense of Vivian Swift as somebody that you wish lived next door to you, so you could be infected with her joy in living in the world and staying put. And the best thing you learn is once you do give up travel, what to do with your suitcases.

INSKEEP: Such as?

PEARL: Oh, such as piling them up and using them as a table. You can store knick knacks on there. She collects teacups, so there's all of those things. And these are really beaten up suitcases. It's a charmer.

INSKEEP: Nancy Pearl, I'm glad you've traveled the library shelves once again to bring us more books here.

PEARL: Thank you, Steve, my pleasure.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.