From time to time, we ask the authors we interview if they can suggest a "companion book" for their latest work -- a novel, short-story collection, poetry or nonfiction book that would enhance our understanding or enjoyment of what they have written.

Frequently, we get a recommendation straight out of their bibliographies -- the list of works they read while researching their topics. Fair enough, as that led us to Alex Ross' witty and erudite history of music, "The Rest Is Noise," suggested by novelist Richard Powers, author of "Orfeo."

That connection held true as well for Diane Johnson, who was asked about her memoir "Flyover Lives," which delved deep into her own ancestry.

"I read a lot of history for this book, especially the writings of 19th-century historian Francis Parkman," Johnson said. "His writing is rather flowery but wonderful on the French-Indian War. He also wrote about the Oregon Trail, although most of his work is on the Eastern Seaboard. The one I liked very much was 'Montcalm and Wolfe' -- one was the English general and the other was the French commander in the French-Indian War."

"Montcalm and Wolfe" (1884), the sixth of seven books in Francis Parkman's monumental "France and England in North America" series, is considered by many to be the finest of the lot.

-- Sue Gilmore, Staff

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