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.

Posted in blogging, Books I Have My Nose In | 17 Comments

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).

Posted in Author Interviews, Book Reviews | 2 Comments

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

I’m now officially a Bookslut

Let’s see how many people stumble across my blog now that the word “slut” is in the title of this post.  I can only imagine how my traffic will spike! I’m honored, though, to be associated with the word in this scenario. I’ve been reading Jessa’s wonderful blog and literary website for years now, and it’s definitely one of the best out there.

The April 2009 issue of Bookslut is now up, and features a LOT of good stuff. A sampling: interviews with Wells Tower (the new darling of the literary world), Jules Feiffer, and a book review of James Tate’s Dreams of a Robot Dancing Bee.

I have two authors interviews and a book review published there:

  1. An interview with Jedediah Berry, author of the extremely fun The Manual of Detection.
  2. An interview with Samantha Hunt, author of the whimsical and captivating The Invention of Everything Else.
  3. A book review of Mari Strachan’s The Earth Hums in B Flat.
Posted in Author Interviews, Book Reviews | 7 Comments

For those with short attention spans…

Vincent Van Goghs The Poets Garden

Vincent Van Gogh's "The Poet's Garden"

Is it just me, or is March an incredibly hectic month? And to top it all off, Daylight Saving Time makes it harder and harder to concentrate on the tasks at hand.  We’re all antsy for the warmer weather, the longer bouts of sunshine, for an end to being cooped up in our homes or apartments.

That’s why one of my favorite forms of writing is always perfect to read in the spring months.  (Not that it’s not perfect other times of the year as well.)  Reading good poetry is similar to that enlightened, grounded feeling you get after an hour-long yoga class.  Best of all, it’s free, and you can find plenty of places on the internet to read some.

You can hear my review of a new book of poetry published by Norton, called Essential Pleasures, over at the Books on the Nightstand most recent podcast.  You can also see me blog about poetry over at Identity Theory’s Book Rate blog.

What are some of your favorite poems, and what do you read when you don’t have time to devote to a novel or long book? I’m also a huge fan of short stories. I think they are the most underappreciated form of writing.  If you don’t understand the big deal about short stories, just read Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain”.  If he doesn’t change your mind, I don’t know who will.

Posted in links, poetry | 1 Comment

Links! News! Distractions!


  • I’ve written before about one of my favorite shows, LOST, and how naturally the redneck-disguised bookworm Sawyer is the best character.  Over at Jacket Copy, executive producers and writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse talk about their literary choices:

“It’s really more about the fact that we’ve been influenced by literature in the way we’ve shaped the show, and it’s a nod to that process,” said Lindelof, who is also co-creator. “We pick the books with a great deal of meticulous thought and specificity and talk about what the thematic implications of picking a certain book are, why we’re using it in the scene and what we want the audience to deduce from that choice.”

  • Very sad news for the family of one of the best poet’s to ever live. Sylvia Plath’s son, Nicholas Hughes, has committed suicide at the age of 47.
  • I usually have a hard time deciding whether I should be excited or nervous for a movie adaptation of one of my favorite books, but I’ve been looking forward to seeing “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” since they started filming it. The trailer is finally up over at The Elegant Variation.
  • My friend Tim Horvath’s short story, Circulation, has just been published as a novella by the good folks at sunnyoutside Press. It’s the finest kind of fiction, and features a librarian as the main character. I’m a sucker for books with bookish characters. Tim is a fan of Italo Calvino (clearly he has impeccable taste!), and the influence is notable in his writing.  If you live around seacoast New Hampshire, come hear Tim read at RiverRun Bookstore this Wednesday night (March 25th) at 7:30 PM with novelist Tom Paine and writer Clark Knowles.
  • I’ve officially registered to go to Book Expo America for the first time.  Can’t contain my excitement! Who else is going? The highlight of the weekend will be the author luncheon with Pat Conroy, Lorrie Moore, and other authors.  Lorrie Moore= writing goddess.
  • I love these images taken mostly at the University of Michigan’s Hatcher Graduate Library, posted on the userslib blog.
  • I kind of want these felt Nerdy Glasses.
Posted in Articles, links, LOST | 5 Comments