- Amherst ReadsAmherst Reads
- Featured Book of the Month
- Past Features
- January 2016: Girl in Glass By Deanna Fei '99
- November 2015: Visiting Indira Gandhi's Palmist by Kirun Kapur '97
- October 2015: Rescue Road by Peter Zheutlin '75
- September 2015: Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker '96
- August 2015: The Tutor by Andrea Chapin '82
- July 2015: The Patisan Divide by Tom Davis '71
- June 2015: John William Ward: An American Idealist By Kim Townsend
- May 2015: The Gentleman Bat by Abraham Schroeder '01
- April 2015: Hungry for France by Alexander Lobrano '77
- March 2015: The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber '93
- February 2015: The Cottoncrest Curse by Michael Rubin '72
- January 2015: Race Horse Men by Katherine Mooney '04
- December 2014: Gruesome Spectacles by Austin Sarat
- November 2014: All I Love and Know by Judith Frank
- October 2014: Catching Lightning in a Bottle: How Merrill Lynch Revolutionized the Financial World by Winthrop H. Smith, Jr. '71
- September 2014: When Paris Went Dark: : The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 by Ron Rosbottom
- August 2014: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian '82
- July 2014: The Economy of You by Kimberly Palmer '01
- June 2014: Collecting Shakespeare:The Story of Henry and Emily Folger
- May 2014: The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil
- April 2014: Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor '91
- March 2014: Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece
- February 2014: Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age
- January 2014: Full Upright and Locked Position by Mark Gerchick '73, P'13
- December 2013: This Indian Country by Fred Hoxie '69
- November 2013: The Partner Track by Helen Wan '95
- October 2013: The Forage House by Tess Taylor '99
- September 2013: Inferno by Dan Brown '86
- August 2013: Six Years by Harlan Coben '84, P'16
- July 2013: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein '88
- June 2013 - Brothers Emanuel by Ezekiel Emanuel '79
- May 2013 - Cadaver by Jonah Ansell '03
- April 2013 - Masters of Disaster by Chris Lehane '90
- March 2013 - Schroder by Amity Gaige
- February 2013: El Iluminado by Ilan Stavans
- January 2013: Everything Under the Sun by David Suzuki '58
- December 2012: Arcadia by Lauren Groff
- November 2012: The Hidden Europe by Francis Tapon '92
- October 2012: The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz '64
- September 2012: Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum '99
- August 2012: Hitlerland by Andrew Nagorski '69
- July 2012: Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach '93
- June 2012: Vineyard at the End of the World by Ian Mount '92
- May 2012: God's Jury by Cullen Murphy '74
- April 2012: Big Birthday by Kate Hosford '88
- March 2012: EyeMinded by Kellie Jones '81
- February 2012: 1493 by Charles Mann '76
- December 2011: The Vices by Lawrence Douglas
- November 2011: Don't Cross Your Eyes by Aaron Carroll '94
- October 2011: Come On All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder '89
- September 2011: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace '85
- August 2011: Scoundrels in Law by Cait Murphy '83
- July 2011: Terror and Wonder by Blair Kamin '79
- June 2011: What Should I Do? by Professor Alex George
- May 2011: Model Nazi by Professor Catherine Epstein
- April 2011: A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei '99
- March 2011: Unlikely Allies by Joel Paul '77
- February 2011: Secret Historian by Justin Spring '84
- December 2010: The Best of Foxtrot by Bill Amend '84
- November 2010: Higher Education? by Andrew Hacker '51
- October 2010: Routes of Man by Ted Conover '80
- September 2010: The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick '75
- August 2010: Innocent by Scott Turow '70
- July 2010: Simple Fresh Southern by Matt and Ted Lee '93
- June 2010: Ballet's Magic Kingdom by Professor Stanely Rabinowitz
- May 2010: Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman '68
- April 2010: Andean Express by Adrian Althoff '04
- March 2010: Freefall by Joseph Stiglitz '64
- February 2010: Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl '89
- December 2009: What to Read When by Pam Allyn '84
- November 2009: On Poets and Poetry by William H. Pritchard '53
- October 2009: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell '95
- September 2009: Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey
- August 2009: The End of Overeating by David Kessler '73
- July 2009: The Mirror Effect by Dr. Drew Pinsky '80
- June 2009: Art and Politics of Science by Harold Varmus '61
- May 2009: Hold Tight by Harlan Coben '84
- April 2009: Passing Strange by Marni Sandweiss
- March 2009: Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian '82
- February 2009: Loneliness as a Way of Life by Tom Dumm
- January 2009: Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein '88
- December 2008: The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff '01
- November 2008: The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate '89
- October 2008: The Thing Itself by Dick Todd '62
- September 2008: Are We Rome by Cullen Murphy '74
- Search the Catalog
About the Author: Mark Gerchick '73, P'13
New York, New York (October 14, 1952)
Scarsdale High School, Amherst College (1973), Harvard Law School (1977)
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
Having grown up in suburban Westchester County and the environs of Manhattan, bucolic Amherst was strangely exotic, especially in those pre- shopping mall days. That first glimpse of Johnson Chapel at sunset on Route 9 from then-rural Hadley – a shining academy on a hill, apologies to Governor Winthrop by way of Ronald Reagan. Amherst felt like “college” and I applied early without hesitation – a little to the chagrin of my Ivy-educated mother who took a while to appreciate why I didn’t apply to Harvard.
Most memorable or most influential class and professor at Amherst:
G. Armour Craig’s Advanced Composition blew my synaptic connections when it came to writing and expression, and his elegantly -- and deceptively -- simple weekly essay questions remain with me: “what is your work?”; “what does it mean to testify?” (As it happened, Prof. Craig also taught my first-ever college class session -- English 11, in a first floor Chapel seminar room. On a warm September day in 1969, a month after Woodstock, his memorable first question was: “What does groovy mean?”) And I will never forget the remarkable Earl Latham, a flinty New Englander with the driest of dry wits who cherished unsentimentally the genius of the American Republic and the practical art of government and politics.
The likely upending of the international airline industry by a new cohort of foreign mega-carriers – backed by what I call their “aerostates” -- is my current focus. But aviation and air travel aside, I’ve spent much of my career in or near Washington D.C.’s law-lobbying-media constellation and I’m fascinated by the ever-more-sophisticated use of “smoke and mirrors” communication to manipulate everyday social, commercial, and political relations. What does it say about true friendship, for example, when “friend” becomes a verb? Or for that matter, exactly do new airline bag-check fees “enhance consumer options”?
(In no particular order) David Foster Wallace, Norman Mailer, Kazuo Ishiguro, Bill Bryson, Annie Proulx, Evelyn Waugh, John McPhee, Hunter Thompson.
Tips for Aspiring Writers?
- Write what you know. It’s the oldest chestnut, but true. That said, finding what you know is another matter.
- “Kill your darlings” – another well-worn classic. It takes courage, but deleting that precious phrase or conceit can be liberating. Repeat to yourself: “just say what you mean.”
- Be passionate about your subject – you will be living with it for months and years.
- Research, research, research. It’s all in getting the details and getting them accurately.
- Get up from the screen often. Take walks. Do back exercises.Don’t try to write all day.
Path to Becoming an Author
My good fortune is to come from a family of writers and careful listeners. What with a mother who wrote Broadway theater reviews and magazine pieces and a Freudian psychiatrist father, words were important in our house, and writing a more-than-honorable aspiration. Amherst did much to teach me writing, in class and perhaps more as a senior Student editor.
My first post-Amherst job was as a local reporter with the Miami Herald, covering zoning fights and county courthouses – the very year that Watergate made journalism not just respectable but downright heroic. Wanting ultimately to head to Washington to cover the Supreme Court – New York Times writer Anthony Lewis was a role model--law school loomed.
I underestimated law school’s socializing power, though, so when I did find my way down to Washington, JD in hand, it was not as the writer I had started out to be. Instead, I had learned to write “like a lawyer” – and partly unlearned how to communicate like a human being.
My path from big-firm lawyer to author passed through losing and winning Presidential campaigns (mostly losing), political appointments at the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department, and founding an aviation consulting firm. I tried to follow two rules drawn from personal experience: avoid doing any one thing for more than seven years or so, and keep asking “what’s worth doing?” Ultimately, I found myself in a place with enough confidence, knowledge, and thick skin that I could return to the audacity of writing the way I really wanted -- less constrained by technical precision or the strategic use of words -- the way “real people” communicate. It’s been more than a little liberating.