All favorites have been recommended by contributors to Slow Trains


Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Twice I have hiked about Moab, Utah, and twice I have been completely absorbed by the harsh and biblically profound landscape. It becomes real to need water in order to continue -- to be so hot at night, to lay flat out on a slightly cold slab of stone and hear the river running behind you; to swim until you cool down and then rise with the sun, walking amid arches because you slept in the park. Abbey writes carefully of the slow encroachment of the park service as they create roads throughout our wildernesses. To protect "Wild Utah" becomes his calling, his vocation -- to create a new awareness, wherein the Earth is First.     --Ron Porter

Vox by Nicholson Baker
The distance between this novel's two characters and their anonymity at story's start seem to serve them better in their communication than geographical closeness and long-time knowledge do for most people. Nicholson Baker reveals his characters to each other little by little, masterfully. You sense a feeling of excitement when you learn more of them, and sense the excitement each character must feel along the way also. Some of the revelation is astounding, and the humor is ingenious yet low-key. Invented words (calling breasts 'frans' for example) begin as substitutes, and then acquire their own shades of meaning upon repeated use. For over 160 pages the conversation continues (yes, it's 99.9% amazing dialogue and storytelling) without a break. This is a new favorite of mine, a sexy, literate, dual character study done across an arc of arousal.     --John Eivaz

The Book of Eve by Constance Beresford-Howe
More than one of the very first truly feminist novels, more than the template for the hit Broadway play with Jessica Tandy, this is a charming, groundbreaking love story about the fire between an older woman and a younger man.     --Jeff Beresford-Howe

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
More than you could probably have guessed you wanted to know about hiking the Appalachian trail, but a tale you'll be sad to see end. The greatest part of the humor is in the character sketches of folks he meets or walks with on the trail, which are incredibly funny, but never demeaning.     --Brian Peters

Kindness: A Buddhist Treasury for Children and Parents collected by Sarah Conover
The perfect book for parents who want a collection of those classic Zen buddhist tales in a format that children will love and enjoy. Best of it's kind out right now.     --Scott Poole

The Temple on Monday by Tom Crawford
A great look at the Western Mind from a poet living in South Korea. The poetry is beautiful, and will take you to places both common and amazing.     --Scott Poole

Gifts From Our Grandmothers edited by Carol Dovi
This is a hardcover collection of essays and anecdotes about maternal wisdom by a number of widely-published women writers from around the world. It is beautifully written, emotionally gripping, and full of profound insights regarding the evolution of our feminist and human heritage. This collection of essays is edited by Carol Dovi and published by Crown, with a foreward by Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.     --Janet I. Buck

The Creative Fire : Myths and Stories About the Cycles of Creativity audio tape, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
This is one of two books/audio that I give or recommend to anyone struggling with their creativity (the other is Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, the first book only). You can listen to these tapes on a regular basis and begin to remember what it all means -- why you want to create art, why it matters intensely, who is standing in your way, how to regain the spark, and how to live fully in your creative imagination. All of Estes' audio tapes are fabulous -- she has the voice and the wisdom of the mother/friend/ therapist we all wish we had in our lives.     --Susannah Indigo

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fanny Flagg
This first novel by Fanny Flagg, the author of Fried Green Tomatoes, chronicles the fictional life of a young girl growing up in the 50's on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While this could be labeled a "coming-of-age" story, it is definitely written for an adult audience, or at least for the savvy reader. Many times touching, but mostly belly-aching hilarious, the protagonist shows that children are often smarter than their parents. As we watch young Daisy Fay Harper make it through each zany scheme of her father's ever- failing get-rich-quick mentality, we feel for her as well as struggle with, and laugh out loud her unusual situations. Never has a book stuck with me so tenaciously. Not only is it well-written and enjoyable, it grabs for the heart and steals it.     --Jamie Joy Gatto

Rock Springs: Stories by Richard Ford
Richard Ford strikes me as a writer's writer. Ford's Rock Springs brings to mind Hemingway's declarative style from the Nick Adams Stories. Under the scrutiny of Ford's pen, mans mundane pursuits, trials, and tribulations take on a grander range of emotion than the usual. Ford seems to have first-hand knowledge of good men gone bad, and he posesses a powerful narrative understanding of life.    
--Ron Porter

Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry by Jane Hirshfield
Intricate, profound essays about poetry from one of the best, ranging from the inner versus the outer world to the art of translation to writing and the threshold life. A book about the mysteries of art that can be read over and over again.    
--Samantha Cruz

Where The Heart Is by Billie Letts
This is a poignant and poetic novel about a young woman who has a baby in a Walmart store, and then goes on to lay some glorious seeds of self and soul. Letts' style is charged with both realism and hope, and her characters are finely tuned instruments of an unforgettable pilgrimage.     --Janet I. Buck

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov -- audio, read by Jeremy Irons
It doesn't matter whether you've read Lolita a dozen times or seen the films more than once. When you listen to Jeremy Irons reading Lolita on these tapes, you hear the story, the passion and the language all over again for the first time. Listening to these while driving was intensely sensual-- I could not wait to hop back in my car (alone, please!) and drift back into the continuous dream of Nabokov's masterpiece of desire.
    --Susannah Indigo

All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Perkins
A wonderful coming-of-age book from a Michigan writer. My daughter and I read it together at night, and it got us thinking about all kinds of stories we could write.     --Diane Payne

Last Call by Tim Powers
This book is a great mix of fantasy and history, and one of my required books for anyone wanting a feel for Las Vegas. Tim Powers takes historical facts about early Las Vegas during the time of Bugsy Siegel and twists them into a wonderful tale surrounding a poker game played in a houseboat on Lake Mead for souls, and the life of the immortal king of Las Vegas. I met Tim while he was doing research for this book and I give him considerable credit for taking the time to really learn about his subject material before warping it into his fantasy world. He spent a great deal of time researching Las Vegas before writing this book, something that few would-be Vegas authors seem to ever bother with.     --Brian Weiss

Memoir of the Hawk by James Tate
Tate's newest -- a brief excursion into prose poetry for him. Funny and so very dry. Dry comedic poetry at it's finest.
    --Scott Poole

Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
You cannot hope to ever understand the soul of Las Vegas without reading this book. It is quite simply the best book ever written on the subject. I live in Las Vegas because of this book. I read it as an impressionable youth of 16, without really understanding what he was talking about until a decade after I had already lived here. I first watched the screen adaptation of the book at a midnight viewing at Boulder Station on Boulder Highway with a group of Vegas culturites. I'm not sure we ever actually left the theater. Come to think of it, I'm still beating the bats off my windshield now and again.     --Brian Weiss


Heartbreaker Heartbreaker Ryan Adams
Last week a friend gave me a copy of this CD, and I haven't been able to stop listening to this guy. Normally, a title like Heartbreaker would have made me leary, but my friend is cynical, so I figured Adams' lyrics couldn't be sappy. The lyrics are raw and Adams' voice is smooth -- a great combination and a great CD. --Diane Payne

View From the Vault II View From the Vault II Grateful Dead
View From the Vault II, newly available via the Grateful Dead in both CD and DVD, is a complete recording of a June, 1991 show at RFK Stadium in Washington. It's the 29th unedited, complete show the Dead have released, and one of the very best. It's a very strong show from start to finish, but highlights include a magnificent "Stella Blue" -- a ballad Frank Sinatra really should have covered -- and the strange, goose-bumpily intense "Estimated Prophet," as well as the entire first set, which is as playful and simply as fun a set as you'll ever hear the Dead play. Even though it came near the end of their career, this is an excellent introduction to the band. And if you're a Deadhead already, don't overlook this one because it's not from the glory years. It's as good as it gets. --Jeff Beresford-Howe

The Very Best of Aretha Franklin, Vol. 1 Aretha Franklin
A CD that keeps me moving. I remember when I got her autographed album and photo on my sixteenth birthday growing up in Michigan. Her music has stayed with me a long time. --Diane Payne


Bad Lieutenant Director: Abel Ferrara
I was blown away by the audacity and the complete abandonment of western values in this film. The "bad Lieutenant" existed for his appetite; he was the pure, concentrated essence of a man in the grips of a dilemma, his existential angst: heady and raw, he was going down fast, a passion play within the timeline of the world series, seven games, seven chances for Harvey Keitel to pull it off.     --Ron Porter

McCabe & Mrs. Miller Director: Robert Altman
The plot is a simple one -- small time vice overtaken by its corporate equivalent in a frontier western town. But the telling is exquisite. Robert Altman directs this almost anti-western, and allows the strongest performance Warren Beatty has ever turned in, and an exceptional performance by a young Julie Christy as an opium addicted madame. Even the minor characters are distinct and eclectic in their own right, and the film does an extraordinary job weaving this patchwork together in a gritty tale that is never a cliché.     --Brian Peters

The Samurai Series Director: Hiroshi Inagaki
Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai trilogy follows the ascendancy of a Samurai warrior. In the first film, Takezo, with his friend, Matahachi, set out on a journey to find their fame as warriors. But the two are separated by the choices they make, and Takezo's wild nature is tamed by the quietude of a monk who teaches him the way. Eventually overcoming fear, Takezo becomes worthy enough to duel Sasaki Kojirol at Ganryu Island.     --Ron Porter

Trixie Director: Alan Rudolph
This movie is my idea of entertainment -- easy to take, but thoughtful entertainment above all. Director Alan Rudolph has been a favorite of mine since Welcome to LA, and has continually redefined the boundaries of his own special world since then. He's gone through serendipitous realities, on to dark lyricism and fantasy, and into the small-world actions of characters like Trixie. Emily Watson is quite engaging here playing the title role. You want to believe that any quirky person can come up with such a stream of non-sequitors as hers, and wonder along with some of the other characters whether she knows she is doing it. A very lighthearted film for some of its detective story subject matter, stylishly directed (yet not obtrusively so) and well-acted. If you'd like to settle in with a good movie, and your mood is not suited to Last Year At Marienbad or the latest action adventure, say hello to Trixie.     --John Eivaz

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