Josh Ritter

American tales and travels, selected by a modern troubadour.



It took almost ten years for singer-songwriter Josh Ritter to rise from relative obscurity, playing earnest, Americana-laden folk at Irish music festivals, to international stardom, buoyed by the songs from his 2010 album So Runs the World Away. With his music firmly rooted in the balladeer's tradition of storytelling, it's little surprise he'd turn to fiction as well. His debut novel, Bright's Passage, is a visionary tale of one man and his infant son's journey through a lonely America in the aftermath of the first World War. This week, Ritter recommends three books that will appeal to writers and world-weary travelers alike.


Buy Bright's Passage


Music by Josh Ritter



The Paperboy

By Pete Dexter


"I've been a huge fan of Mr. Dexter for some time, but this book -- brutal, funny, and full of twitchingly manic energy -- just takes the cake. A young man and his obsessive journalist brother attempt to prove that a man convicted of murder is innocent. Brotherhood, writing, ambition, and love curl around each other like kudzu in the Florida Everglades."



The Ghost Writer

By Philip Roth


"A young writer gets the opportunity to meet his literary idol and is snowed in with the author, his wife, and his assistant. As the night crawls by, he begins to notice some mighty strange things about the trio...I recommend this book for anyone embarking on a career as a writer of any kind."




Blue Highways: A Journey into America

By William Least Heat-Moon


"In the mid-seventies, at the end of a marriage and a job as a professor, Heat-Moon decided to take a trip around America using only the non-interstate roads. What follows is a travelogue of supreme beauty that is a constant companion with me on my own roads."

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."