August 11, 2017

Stories (and books) recommended by past speakers

With one month left of summer, we put together a list of stories and books recommended by our former speakers on Twitter.

To get inspiration from the amazing writers we met along the years, we peeked into their Twitter feeds to see what stories and books – old and new – they’ve read lately and recommended. Here’s a list to keep you busy during this last month of summer.

Cheryl also interviewed Clinton about politics, hiking (she even joked that the Clinton should join her on the Pacific Crest Trail), and their mutual love of books.

  • Love Thy Neighbor? (Stephanie McCrummen, The Washington Post), a powerful story about a Muslim doctor living in a western Minnesota town whose life changed after the election of Donald Trump.

“This story absolutely blew me away”, wrote book critic and 2011 speaker Laurie Hertzel, who also recommended the Star Tribune version of the same story.

Writer and 2014 speaker Kelley Benham French recommends it and praises the author: “Casey Parks is the next big thing. She spent three years with this boy and told his story with empathy and grace. Read it, and ask yourself what you would do it your daughter became your son, and then wanted to cut off his breasts.”

  • Surviving the unsurvivable (Kimber Williams, Emory Medicine), a moving story about how Sylvia Ennis, a clinical business manager at Emory School of Medicine, survived a car accident that sent her into a medically-induced coma. Three years later, Ennis reached out to thank her Emory colleagues and physicians for their support.

2013 speaker Tom Junod says: “This is one of the best magazine stories I read all last year. A great magazine story has a little bit of the miraculous about it, a sense of great forces coming together in a necessarily compressed stretch of printed real estate. This story is about something like a miracle, but also a small miracle in its own right.”

When writer Chris Jones is in search for some inspiration, he goes back to older stories that meant something to him. Here are two of them, which he recently reminded us about on Twitter:

  • Resurrecting The Champ (J.R. Moehringer, Los Angeles Times), a baffling piece that sees Moehringer retracing the path of a former boxer now living on the streets. “Sometimes you need to re-read pieces that made you believe in the first place,” Chris wrote.
  • The Peekaboo Paradox (Gene Weingarten, The Washington Post), a story about the secret life of The Great Zucchini, Washington’s most sought after children’s birthday party entertainer. Chris says: “If you’ve never read Gene Weingarten’s 2006 story of The Great Zucchini, today is a good day to correct that.”


  • Goodbye, Vitamin, by Rachel Khong: a novel about a young woman who finds herself at a crossroads and decides to quit her job and go back home, to her parents, only to find a complicated situation.

A book highly recommended by two of our 2016 speakers, author Caroline Paul and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton: “Funny, poignant, beautiful! Wish it didn’t end,” Caroline tweeted.

  • Lincoln in The Bardo, George Saunders’ first novel, a moving father-son story featuring Abraham Lincoln, and other living and dead characters, recommended by #Story16 speaker Colin Meloy, songwriter and lead singer of The Decemberists: “I feel like it’s my duty to insist that you drop everything and read this book.”
  • The Unwomanly Face of War (Svetlana Alexievich), the long-awaited English translation of a daunting book, the oral history of women in World War II across Europe and Russia. First published in 1985, it brings to life the words of soldiers, nurses, munition workers and women left behind.

#Story15 speaker John Freeman says: “This new (old) book by Svetlana Alexievich is everything. Such a powerful montage of the lives of Soviet women who fought in World War II. A cathedral of listening.” John also wrote a review of the book.