What To Read This Fall

September 6th is Read a Book Day, so if you’re in the market for a new read, here’s what the Toads are whipping through for our unofficial fall book club.

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko

Part history lesson, part epic adventure novel, a story about a boat has never been so gripping (no offense to Moby Dick). In 1983 during the legendary El Niño floods of the Colorado river, a small crew set out to chart the fastest dory ride down the grand canyon -- 277 miles against the odds. It’s a book about the triumph of the human spirit, the sheer awesomeness of nature, and a history of the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, the Glen Canyon Dam. Makes you want to white water raft... or not.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

To be fair, anything by Coates is worthy of your time, but if you haven’t read any of his books, this is our favorite place to start. Written as a letter to his son, this book is the story of Coates’ awakening to the truth about Black belonging in the world through a series of experiences -- from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, the South Side of Chicago to Paris – he drops you into a world that is clear and vivid. It’s a beautiful wake up call for all and a welcome confrontation of our present with a hopeful vision for the future could (will?) hold.

Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and illustrations by Jules Feiffer

Simply put, this classic is a blast to read. Milo, our young protagonist, is sitting at home bored out of his mind (familiar?) when a tollbooth appears to whisk him off to the Lands Beyond... so why not? Give the COVID headlines and election updates a rest and just get in the tollbooth. It’s world building at its best – fantastical but tangible, childlike but oh-so-poignant. Pure delight.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is a distance runner. And his beautiful memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk about Running, is a unique contemplation on the crafts of writing and distance running, especially as one ages. Well-worth a perusal – even if you’re not a runner at all.

Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Helene Cooper

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was Liberia’s first democratically-elected female president. In an election driven by the grassroots mobilization of female street vendors and traders, Sirleaf’s “rise to power” is a beautiful case study in community building. If you want perspective on female leadership, the power of passion, and a dollop of African history, this book is the ticket.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (strongly recommend audio!)

From stand-up to slap-stick to grammy winning musician (and the BANJO no less!), Steve Martin is a national treasure. Sure this is a memoir about a great comedic genius (so, yes, it’s quite funny), but Born Standing Up is a tale of grit. Because anything worth doing is not just about the passion — it takes lots of work, even when you're not sure of the road