Books To Look Forward To in 2011

Everyone is busy writing or sharing their favorite books of 2010 list, but I’m already thinking about all of the books coming out next year that look interesting, or that I’ve already read and loved. Here is a very incomplete list.









In addition to the books listed above, here’s a great list Scott Esposito put together over at Conversational Reading.

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Call me the girl who hasn’t updated her blog in forever…

Oh hi, my poor abandoned blog. I never meant to abandon you. I just got distracted for a little while. (More like over a year…but Twitter has been keeping me busy!) I’ve decided to start posting on my blog again, so feel free to add me to your Google Reader. I might even host giveaways once in a while.  What about starting now? I was going to give away a copy of one of my favorite books of 2010, The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope, to my 4000th follower on Twitter. The person never responded to my DM, so it’s your lucky day! Leave a comment in this blog post about your favorite classic novel of all time, and I’ll pick a winner randomly from all of the comments.

So I’m on a staycation all week, and I’m celebrating by reading a classic I’ve had on my list forever: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. Many claim it is THE Great American Novel. I’ve heard lots of folks say how they could never get through it, but I’ve also been told by many readers I trust that it’s one of their favorite books of all time.  What made me finally decide to read it? Paul Harding, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers, told me it’s one of his favorite books. As many of you know, Paul’s book is probably my favorite contemporary novel written, so I’ll read ANYTHING he tells me to read. And boy, I’m glad I listened.

I’m reading this book slowly. It’s one to savor and linger over, like the most delicious meal. I’m happy that I stumbled across Power Moby-Dick, an online annotation of the book. There are so many mythological and biblical references that I would miss if I didn’t have this handy reference. It’s like taking a class on the book from the comfort of your home.

How can you NOT love a book that has this incredible sentence on the first page?

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off– then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” – Herman Melville, MOBY-DICK

I can already tell this is going to be one of the best books I will ever, ever read.

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Kamila Shamsie and Paul Harding

I have two new author interviews up at different websites.

At The Quarterly Conversation you can read my interview with Kamila Shamsie, a wonderful novelist whose most recent book, Burnt Shadows, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.

The July issue of Bookslut includes my interview with Paul Harding, author of Tinkers (my favorite book I’ve read so far this year, and if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?). There are a lot of other gems in the new issue, including interviews with Shaun Tan and Brian Evenson.

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Perhaps I will tinker with my blog

great perhapsFor a variety of reasons, it has been way too long since I wrote a new blog post.  I’m happy to say that some of those reasons are good ones. I’ve been busy with all of the events at RiverRun Bookstore, and also with some freelance writing assignments.

Check out some brand new ones:

My interview with the highly intelligent and very talented Joe Meno is now up at Identity Theory.  If you need to know about “what makes books different than television and film and a gym shoe”, Meno has the answer for you.

A review I wrote of Paul Harding’s Tinkers, which is by far one of my favorite debut novels I have ever read, is now up at The Quarterly Conversation.

Tinkers’ prose sings of seizure and shock, of frigidness and frozen motion. A grave condition is transformed into a poetic burst of alliteration and examination, but also remains terrifying. (Harding asks: “What is it like to be full of lightning? What is it like to be split open from the inside by lightning?”) The novel is full of these brief, intense moments of illumination and introspection; they both highlight the terror and awe of life and remind us of the pervasive ticking down of a person’s time.

For the rest of the review, go here. (Note, the last link didn’t work.  I’ve updated it since then).

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The only bad thing about being a bookworm…

I’m packing up my books this month to move into a new apartment.  There’s nothing worse than moving when you own as many books as I do. It’s a blessing and a curse to have such a LARGE personal library.

How does one decide what books to hold on to and what to give up?

I think the answer is that I need to become a billionaire and have a fancy library in my home like Jay Walker.

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Balancing the old with the new, and the many with the few

Pssst…I have a confession to make. I’ve never read Moby Dick.  Or Ulysses. Or Anna Karenina, for that matter.  I’ve meant to for a while now, but there’s one big thing that stops me. I’m a bookseller who works at a bookstore that sells new books. Yes, we sell older titles, too, but often I want to read the new titles that are coming out.  For one thing, it’s fun to be part of the pre-publication buzz.  The other thing is that I like to be able to recommend new reads to customers. A classic novel or even a book that came out ten years ago and won the Pulitzer doesn’t need my recommendation to help it sell.

Then there’s the whole dilemma of re-reading books.  But as Tom (my boss at RiverRun Bookstore) recently blogged about, sometimes we just really need to lose ourselves in a book we already know will keep us glued to our reading chairs for hours on end.  I just purchased The World Before Her by Deborah Weisgall, and a blurb that made a comparison to A.S. Byatt’s Possession immediately made me want to go back to the rich, romantic and scholarly world that I found in Byatt’s book.

So how do we balance the old and the new? It’s important to give ourselves permission to re-read, to read the classics, or to even read a contemporary book that’s already a couple of years old. I guess there’s no such thing as “balancing” when it comes to the reading life. The Libra in me wants to strive for that perfectly level scale, though! (And I’d really like to read Ulysses one of these days).

Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness address the issue of the unopened book on the bookshelf in one of their podcasts at Books on the Nightstand.

Posted in Bookselling, reading trends | 10 Comments

Kate Christensen’s review of “The Song Is You”

phillips_songisyou1Readers of my blog know that one of my favorite contemporary novelists is Kate Christensen.  Kate has written a glowing review of Arthur Phillips latest novel in The New York Times Book Review.

If novelists were labeled zoologically, Arthur Phillips would fall naturally into the dolphin family: his writing is playful, cerebral, likable, wide-ranging and inventive.

Just try to tell me that the review doesn’t make you want to read the book right this instant.

I’m planning a really fun event featuring Kate and Arthur at The Red Door martini bar in Portsmouth on June 22nd. We’re going to have drinks for sale named after the books, local musicians as part of the Hush Hush Sweet Harlot series, and readings from both authors. Mark your calendars now!

Posted in Author Tours, Book Reviews | 1 Comment