- Amherst ReadsAmherst Reads
- Featured Book of the Month
- Past Features
- 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: Chris Bohjalian '82
Photo by Tsar Fedorsky '82
(view alumni profile - log in required)
Date of Birth
Place of Birth
White Plains, NY
During one four-year period growing up, I went to four different public schools -- a different school for each grade.
That wasn't a bad education, either.
Favorite Amherst Class
I really enjoyed both ILS (Introduction to Liberal Studies) courses I took my first year. In "The Copernican Revolution" in the autumn I read Dante for the first time; in "Perspectives on the Professions" in the spring I was introduced to the fiction of James Gould Cozzens. (Is it any wonder that years later so many of my characters would be lawyers in small towns?) I also enjoyed the "Literature of the Great War" and Theodore Greene's American Studies seminar about the 1920s. One of my great misfortunes at Amherst? I never had a course with William Pritchard and so I didn't meet him until after I had graduated.
Favorite Amherst Professor
Any could earn that distinction. But if we are going to play American Idol, certainly among the finalists would be Hugh Hawkins, Theodore Greene, Stanley Rabinowitz, Barry O'Connell, and David Wills.
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
My older brother - Andy, Class of 1977 - was spectacularly happy there.
Awards and Prizes
New England Book Award; Anahid Literary Prize; Numerous "Best Books" lists, including the Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best Books of the Year for Skeletons at the Feast.
To Kill a Mockingbird; Catch-22; The Great Gatsby; The Cider House Rules; The Voyage of the Narwhal; Sophie's Choice
John Irving; Scott Fitzgerald; Joyce Carol Oates
Number of Languages Your Books Have Been Translated Into
Number of Movies that Are Based on Your Books
Number of Novels You Started to Write but Scrapped and Molder Now in the Archives of the Frost Library
Tips for aspiring writers
Read lots. Have a thick skin. And write often -- and write about things that interest you passionately. Writing teachers often encourage young writers to write about what they know -- or, conversely, to write about things that are foreign to them. I think neither should be a cardinal rule. Instead, write about things that interest you, regardless of whether you know anything about the topic when you start or you're among the world's foremost experts.
The key is to care so deeply about the subject - to find it so extraordinary - that you are willing to give it at least a year or two of your life. If you bring that level of enthusiasm to the story, it certainly increases the chances that you will create something of interest to strangers browsing in a library or bookstore.
One more thing: Have fun and avoid a mean spirit. I've never felt a writer needs to be tormented to succeed in this business.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author.
When I was 13, my family moved from a suburb of New York City to Miami, Florida, and we moved there the Friday before Labor Day weekend. I started school the following Tuesday, and then, that afternoon, went to see my new orthodontist -- a sadist, it would turn out, if ever there was one.
He gave me some orthodontic headgear that looked like the business end of a backhoe, and I had to wear said device for four hours a day when I was awake.
Since I couldn't (well, wouldn't) wear it during school, I had to wear it after school. It was inevitable, but I couldn't speak when I was wearing it.
And so I couldn't meet any kids in my neighborhood and make new friends.
Consequently, most afternoons I simply retreated to the Hialeah Miami Lakes Public Library and I read. I read the sorts of things any adolescent boy was likely to read in the mid-1970s. I read William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist, Thomas Tryon's Harvest Home, and Peter Benchley's Jaws.
Also, in all fairness, I read a somewhat higher caliber of literature as well -- Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time and Joyce Carol Oates's Expensive People.
I read those books in the library as well as in the den in our new home, and from them I learned a great deal that would help me as an adult writer. I learned the importance of linear momentum in plot from Blatty and Benchley and Tryon. And I learned about the importance of voice - and the role of person in fiction-- from Lee and Oates.
Of course, it's also evident that I wasn't an especially quick learner. I amassed over 250 rejection slips before I ever sold a single word.
For more question and answer with Chris, check out his website.