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.


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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 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.