Reader Spotlight: Nancy & Sam Raskin, Adams Morgan

Nancy and Sam Raskin, DC residents since 1969 (and parents of Steve Raskin of globe-trotting electronic funk band Fort Knox Five, and Joyce Raskin, a freelance art director for Houghton Mifflin), are two of our community's avid readers and book club members.

Sam and Nancy Raskin. (Mary Morris)
Nancy, former assistant executive director for the DC Jewish Community Center and currently a docent for the Corcoran Gallery of Art, says, "I read mostly in bed before I fall asleep, but when my book club meetings draw near, since I'm retired I have the luxury of reading during the day. For our last book, I spent a day reading the last couple hundred pages. I was on deadline but I also couldn't put the book down.

"Every month or two, my husband and I drive to Boston to visit the grandkids and we love listening to Books on Tape that we get from the library or friends. We really enjoyed Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin and Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem.

Says Sam, retired from federal government service, "Like my wife, I read mostly in the evening before going to sleep. I sometimes read in the afternoon, especially when I need to finish a book for my book club or when a book is very interesting."

I read a book a month for my "Girlfriends" book club. Each member (thirteen of us) takes a turn bringing suggestions and we vote. Mostly we read fiction but we do read non-fiction sometimes.

We just read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. I didn't want it to end even though some passages were difficult to bear. This coming of age story is about a farm boy who is born mute but has great communication skills with the dogs his family breeds. It's about love, death, supernatural beings, and revenge -- a Greek tragedy and Shakespearean drama rolled into one. The author is an incredible storyteller. I got caught up in the life of the family and their struggles to survive. At times nothing much happens but the writing is beautiful and the ordinary becomes extraordinary. The parts about breeding and training dogs were fascinating.

My other book club, associated with the Corcoran Museum Docents, meets every two or three months. We read books about art and artists, e.g., The Unknown Night by Glyn Vincent about American artist R.A. Blakelock who painted haunting landscapes in the early 20th century. We have long-time dear friends who have owned Reiter's book store in DC for over 40 years, and they offer us book suggestions from time to time.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Aching to Be, my daughter's memoir published last year. She writes about singing and playing electric bass in rock bands, as a teenager in the local DC music scene, and as a young adult in a band signed to a major record label that toured the US and Europe. When she is 24, her world comes crashing down in the heart-wrenching dissolution of the group. I cried when I read it even though I had lived though it and knew what happened. It's a great read and it's so exciting to see it for sale on

I just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Marcel Barbery, which was delightful, for my book club. I especially like the insights into the different attitudes of the upper and lower classes in contemporary Paris. I've started To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, next month's selection. I've also been reading New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century by Jed Perl, a book my wife's Corcoran book club read. I dip into the Oxford Book of English Detective Stories [Patricia Craig, editor] when I feel like lighter reading or when I'm between books.

In my book club we take turns proposing books and vote on the suggestions. I use the Washington Post book reviews, recommendations from friends, and fond memories of books I read in my youth that I want to reread. Other books are those I buy in thrift shops, primarily books about China and the Far East such as Dragon by the Tail by Davies Patron John which I recently picked up.

I'd like to mention my daughter's book, Aching to Be, as a favorite book, too, but I wasn't allowed to read it. Too much sex, drugs and rock and roll.

-- Mary Ishimoto Morris

By Mary Ishimoto Morris |  March 3, 2009; 12:35 PM ET Mary Morris
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