What to do? What to do? How about try a blogger's challenge? Here are some I thought worth checking out:
The Read Your Own Books Challenge - this one is really simple. Pick a number of books you want to read in a year. Pick said number of books off your shelf. Go. Really! The only rule is that you have to read books you already own.
The TwentyTen Challange - Requires one to read twenty books, two in each of ten categories. Only one of these categories is the "new" book category, meaning it has to be acquired in 2010 (but you can count gifts or giveaways). The rest can be found on your shelf, which I think could also prove an interesting way to explore what you have on your shelf that you may have forgotten about.
The New Authors' Challenge - Read books by new authors - that is, authors that are new to you. Therein lies the charm in this one: I guarantee there are authors on your shelf that you've never read before. Maybe it was a gift, maybe you always wanted to read something by Graham Greene, or Edgar Allen Poe, or Nora Roberts... now's the time. The only added challenge to this is seeing if you have 15-50 (those are the margins) books by new-to-you authors on your shelf. If not, it might be time to expand your reading horizons (hint, hint) and this could be a good challenge for you anyway.
Library Challenge - If you're looking to participate in any of the above challenges, or just have a laundry-list of titles to read (like me) and are trying to limit the number of books you're adding to your collection (also like me) this one might be for you. It won't help you explore the books you already own, but it will hopefully limit the number coming in. Simply read a set number of books from your local library. You never know what you might find in there - try asking a librarian for recommendations (a dangerous suggestion, I know).
Ok, that's all for now. If I see any more, I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I'm off to dig through my own stack of books...
From yesterday's Shelf Awareness: Christmas Trees made of books at Chicklet Books' store window in Princeton, NJ. The store owner says, "Books are made from trees... and now trees are made from books!"
See the full holiday book-buying guide here, and look for an independent bookseller near you at IndieBound.
The Art of the Bookstore: The Bookstore Paintings of Gibbs M. Smith ($30, Hardcover, 9781423606437)
From yesterday's Shelf Awareness:
This lavish, slip-cased book commemorates the 40th anniversary of Gibbs Smith's publishing house and celebrates 58 bookstores and booksellers around the country, plus Paris's Shakespeare & Co. and Buenos Aires's El Ateneo Grand Splendid. The paintings are bright and joyous, accompanied by each bookstore's story. Dennis Wills, owner of D.G. Wills Books in La Jolla, Calif., was asked by Smith to characterize the feeling of his store: a "sort of nineteenth-century cracker barrel hardware store from a John Ford film, with Pabst Blue Ribbon in the refrigerator." Looking at these paintings, reading the text, one has to agree with Lewis Buzbee, who wrote in The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, "When I walk into a bookstore, any bookstore, first thing in the morning, I'm flooded with a sense of hushed excitement."
At Home With Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries ($60, Hardcover, 9780517595008)
From the publisher:
At Home with Books is a visual delight, a helpful resource, and an inspiration for every bibliophile with a growing home library. Includes professional advice on editing and categorizing your library; caring for your books; preserving, restoring, and storing rare books; finding out-of-print books; and choosing furniture, lighting, and shelving. Full-color photographs.
From the publisher:
A visual tribute to the printed word, this delicious ode to the book will be irresistible to anyone who treasures the feel of fine paper and the special allure of a clothbound volume.Abelardo Morell's elegant photographs of books are presented induotone reproductions, highlighting the grace and sensuality of theprinted page. Morell has selected unusual books, like a leather-bound volume that is smaller than a paper clip, an impossibly large dictionary and illustrated books whose characters appear to leap off the page.He has photographed the endless ocean of books in a library and thestrikingly beautiful way in which weathered and water-damaged bookstake on sculptural form.
From the publisher:
"If you wish to keep books, you must guard them against young dogs as well as against borrowers and furniture removers. It was a collie six months old that ate my first copy of Pride and Prejudice." -Robert Lynd
"The top of a book is the place where every bluebottle prefers to die." -George Orwell
"Those things that look like blocks but come apart on one side." -F. Scott Fitzgerald'"
The ideal gift for any book obsessive, A Book Addict's Treasury is an extensively researched anthology of more than 350 quotations and excerpts from a wide selection of writers and thinkers--all on the subject of books.
On Reading ($29.95, Hardcover, 9780393066562)
Andre Kertesz (1894-1985) was one of the most inventive, influential, and prolific photographers in the medium's history. This small volume, first published in 1971, became one of his signature works. Taken between 1920 and 1970, these photographs capture people reading in many parts of the world. Readers in every conceivable place-on rooftops, in public parks, on crowded streets, waiting in the wings of the school play-are caught in a deeply personal, yet universal, moment. Kertesz's images celebrate the absorptive power and pleasure of this solitary activity and speak to readers everywhere. Fans of photography and literature alike will welcome this reissue of this classic work that has long been out of print.
And two titles that have received a lot of press in 2009...
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective and a World of Literary Obsession ($24.95, Hardcover, 9781594488917)
From Publisher's Weekly (September 17th):
Bartlett delves into the world of rare books and those who collect—and steal—them with mixed results. On one end of the spectrum is Salt Lake City book dealer Ken Sanders, whose friends refer to him as a book detective, or Bibliodick. On the other end is John Gilkey, who has stolen over $100,000 worth of rare volumes, mostly in California. A lifelong book lover, Gilkey's passion for rare texts always exceeded his income, and he began using stolen credit card numbers to purchase, among others, first editions of Beatrix Potter and Mark Twain from reputable dealers. Sanders, the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association's security chair, began compiling complaints from ripped-off dealers and became obsessed with bringing Gilkey to justice. Bartlett's journalistic position is enviable: both men provided her almost unfettered access to their respective worlds. Gilkey recounted his past triumphs in great detail, while Bartlett's interactions with the unrepentant, selfish but oddly charming Gilkey are revealing (her original article about himself appeared in The Best Crime Reporting 2007). Here, however, she struggles to weave it all into a cohesive narrative.
Homer and Langley: A Novel ($26, Hardcover, 9781400064946)
From Publisher's Weekly (September 17th):
Starred Review. Doctorow, whose literary trophy shelf has got to be overflowing by now, delivers a small but sweeping masterpiece about the infamous New York hermits, the Collyer brothers. When WWI hits and the Spanish flu pandemic kills Homer and Langley's parents, Langley, the elder, goes to war, with his Columbia education and his godlike immunity to such an ordinary fate as death in a war. Homer, alone and going blind, faces a world considerably dimmed though more deliciously felt by his other senses. When Langley returns, real darkness descends on the eccentric orphans: inside their shuttered Fifth Avenue mansion, Langley hoards newspaper clippings and starts innumerable science projects, each eventually abandoned, though he continues to imagine them in increasingly bizarre ways, which he then recites to Homer. Occasionally, outsiders wander through the house, exposing it as a living museum of artifacts, Americana, obscurity and simmering madness. Doctorow's achievement is in not undermining the dignity of two brothers who share a lush landscape built on imagination and incapacities. It's a feat of distillation, vision and sympathy.
Also recommended: Dewey the Library Cat. Read my review.
NOT recommended: Books: A Memoir. Read my review.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Other options include Hester Prynne, Moby Dick, Bartleby, Walt Whitman, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Thoreau. Available in sizes for men and women.
1. We have not yet started playing Christmas music.
2. That feeling of self-righteousness over starting so early translates into treating yourself to something as well.
3. You can make a list of all the things you want, so that you can hint liberally at Thanksgiving.
4. If there’s a hardcover you’ve been eyeing, you have time to read the whole thing before giving it away.
5. We have free gift wrapping. By Christmas, you’ll forget what it was you bought. Aren’t surprises great?
6. It’s much easier to stick to your budget when we aren’t serving you eggnog like we do the week before Christmas.
7. All versions of The Night Before Christmas are still in stock. You won’t have to settle for that one weird one left over on Christmas Eve.
8. You’ll bring smiles and joy and a twinkle to the eye of your favorite local, indie bookseller.
Love Stories in This Town (with a great title, and a great cover) is a collection of short stories, new from Amanda Eyre Ward. Ward's stories all focus on love, but not in the way you might expect: she takes her readers on a tour of heartbreak and loneliness, offering a surprisingly insightful - though depressing - take on love, life, and happiness. From the widow of a Sept 11th victim to a pregnant ballerina, a young librarian in the Midwest to the crazed housewife living in Saudi Arabia, Ward's stories draw on small, seemingly insignificant details of life to present the emotions behind every decision we make and relationship upon which we embark.
The first half of the book is a collection of unrelated short stories, while Part II turns to Lola, a heartbroken college student attending her ex-boyfriend's wedding to Miss Montana. Each subsequent story provides a snapshot of another moment in Lola's life, from her stint in Saudi Arabia with her husband on a compound to the visit of her mother-in-law and her first grandchild. The balance between the two halves is superb, and the skill with which Ward weaves the themes of the first half of the book into the Lola stories impressive.
Ward's writing is crisp, clear, and perfectly adapted in each story to the moment and character being portrayed. She alternates between the short choppy voice of a struggling widow, the youthful voice of a young librarian and the long poetic sentences of a ballerina without missing a beat, and manages to maintain her own voice and strong writing style throughout.
Bottom line: The blurb on the front of the book claims that Love Stories in This Town is impossible to put down, but I couldn't disagree more. No, this is a book to be digested in small bits, one story at a time. To rush through it would be to sacrifice the raw emotion in each page, carefully contained by the first and last pages of each story, like bookends precariously balanced on either end of wobbling tomes. Ward's collection is sharp, insightful, witty, but most of all poignant, resulting in a book that leaves the reader wanting more while simultaneously knowing that that is all there is. Bring your tissues and schedule lots of reading breaks, and you're sure to enjoy it.
But not everything is smooth going in the world of "top lists." Publisher's Weekly announced their top 10 books of 2009 last week to much criticism: all ten authors were male. (View the list here.)
PW claims that they judged the books without taking author gender into consideration, but opposing parties claim that this is just their way of covering up their blatant bias. Quite frankly, I think the whole argument makes us miss the point.
Regardless of whether or not PW took gender into consideration (and really, one would hope that as such a beacon of the industry they would review on merit, and nothing else), the real problem posed by this situation is the lack of women on the list. Not because PW is biased, however, or chauvinistic, or anything else feminist critics might have you believe, but because there are either no books qualified, or not enough books qualified that they stood out to the reviewers.
After all, we know that no "top 10" list can be comprehensive, and we know that these lists are subjective. We should be disappointed by the lack of candidates, or lack of dearth of candidates, instead of bickering about the bias of the reviewers.
The organization of Women in Letters and Literary Arts has released a response, with a list of top books by females in 2009.
In Tongues of the Dead is based on the myth of the Nephilim, children of angel and woman, who have been forsaken by God. Their secrets are supposedly recorded in the Voynich manuscript, written in a language that no one can decipher... except Matthew (annoying called "Little Matthew" throughout the story), an autistic elementary school foster kid. The only catch is that the Vatican wants the kid, and the manuscript. But then, so do a bunch of other people. And therein lies the bulk of the plot.
Though Kelln's book is a page-turner, no doubt, it falls short of its goal with flat writing and even flatter characters. Transparent in every way, Kelln's writing constantly tells instead of shows, that Creative Writing 101 faux-pas we've all spent our writing lives trying to avoid. The characters do not develop as the story unfolds; what is more, they are introduced and then left to disappear for chapters on end, making a miraculous re-appearance later on in the story. Even worse than flat characters, though, is that all of the characters-even the children-speak in the same voice. Presumably this is how the author speaks ("Little Matthew" and "Little Wyatt" invokes images of resentful nieces and nephews politely tolerating cheek-pinching to the age of 16); this is not how children, priests, cardinals, assassins, psychologists and nurses speak.
Sadly, what could have been an entertaing story is seemingly lost in the author's mind: the story is inconsistent, often confusing and there are several bits left unexplained or forgotten about. The ending almost-kind-of-sort-of wraps up all of the various strings of the one plot line, but even there it falls short: relationships are left undefined, characters have disappeared and relics start magically appearing in unexplained places.
Bottom line: Overall, if you are a fan of Church-cult fiction such as The Da Vinci Code, et al, In Tongues of the Dead might be of interest to you. To be sure, it is a quick read, and not a particularly challenging one, so it could be a great distraction for an evening lost in a book. But if you're looking for believable characters, a comprehensive plotline or something a bit more substantial, I'd take a pass.
Thanks to ECW Press' Shelf Monkey program for supplying a review copy of this title.
The challenge: Booking Mama's Shelf Discovery Challenge
From the contents of Shelf Discovery (see below), choose 6 books to read between now and April. Then read them. Then write about them.
The book - Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading
Based on a column from Jezebel.com, author Lizzie Skurnick revisits our favorite middle- and high- school reads, from Ramona Quimby to the daring Judy Blume. These are more than mere stories, she urges us to consider, bringing into light the life lessons learned in each.
My picks - 3 re-reads, 4 new reads (yeah, yeah, that's more than 6)
1) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (first read)
2) The Secret Garden and/or A Little Princess (re-reads)
3) Flowers in the Attic (seen the movie, but first read)
4) Jacob Have I Loved (first read)
5) Little House on the Prairie (re-read)
6) Forever (first read)
Beginning the book with a lamentation regarding the number of mentors available to women in the workplace, it almost feels as though Guiliano is reaching through the book to provide this much needed mentorship to her readers in lieu. Although her advice can seem a tad obvious at times (make eye contact and remember to smile, e.g.), it is enlightening to have such a gentle reminder of the more obvious things and fresh look at the less obvious (how to entertain your boss at a dinner table, for example).
My only true grievance with the text (besides the fact that I finished it without ever being told what "savoir faire" actually means) is the gender bias confronted in each chapter. This happens in two ways: first, although the front flap copy and first chapter suggest that a few men may enjoy the book as well, I found this not to be true. As a woman in a workplace environment, I gleaned many useful lessons, but the majority of these were particularly geared toward women, and only women. No man is going to be told to store a classic, A-line black dress in his business wardrobe, after all.
But slightly more irritating than this are the sweeping stereotypes made of both male and female workers: men are loud, and interrupt more often, and need to feel powerful, whereas women are more emotional, more likely to let others speak over them, etc. Luckily, Guiliano keeps the text from becoming too stereotypical by presenting these stereotypes with a form of apology (although this is something she cautions women never to do; apologizing too much and pointing out mistakes is apparently in our nature).
Perhaps the highlight of the book is Guiliano's mentor-like tendency to remind her readers to consider themselves, to weigh their options, to determine what success means to them, etc. Although we hear this frequently, it is both reassuring and helpful to be reminded of what is good for us from time to time. And, like urging smaller portion sizes, Guiliano is correct in reminding us in the importance of balance. I suppose this is why she feels so much like an author-mentor, and in the end, that is the charm of the book.
Bottom line: Guilano's text is engaging (especially given the potentially dry subject matter) and entertaining, and, as she had hoped, her stories and anecdotes give new meaning to each of her workplace lessons. Well-written (especially as English, we learn, is not her native language), informative, and at times thought-provoking, Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire is an easy read for any woman in the workplace, and would make a valuable gift for any young woman starting her career (or more experienced woman needing a bit of subtle guidance). Gentlemen, though, should probably take a pass (the title pretty much guarantees this though, no?)
Added points to the design team on this one for the mono-color images at the heading of each chapter and the overall paper and feel of the book: it is classy, sophisticated, and perfectly matches both the author and the tone of the book.
Thank you to Atria Books, part of Simon & Schuster, for the review copy of this title, via Goodreads.
In short, the Nook is BN's response to the so-far widely successful Amazon Kindle. The $259 Nook has WiFi and 3G capabilities, allows readers to share books (oh, DRM, how we love you) across devices (although as far as I can tell, not the Kindle or Sony reader). The WiFi will only be in stores for now, but there are talks of opening it up later.
From what I can tell, it seems that BN has addressed many of the complaints that users have had with the Kindle and the Sony e-reader. It allows the sharing of books (which the Kindle does not), has WiFi access (available in stores, which is creating a brick-and-digital bundle many have been hoping for; this will also be seen in hardcover/e-book bundled sales), has a large, easy-to-read screen, can be used as a USB device... the list goes on.
Teleread, devoted to e-book developments, has more information on all of this -- here's a round-up of their coverage from the week.
As a side note, there are still theories that Apple will outdo the lot of the book retailers (look at the success of the book apps on iPhones and iPods...). Check out more details in Newsweek.
I feel that it's less cumbersome than "printed book" or "bound book," etc, making the discussions of printed vs electronic books slightly easier (and ensuring that the p-book stays a part of the e-book discussion).
In this line, journalist David Rothman calls for a National Digital Library in yesterday's Huffington Post. Happy Friday reading!
- highlight the remarkable variety of writing we engage in today;
- provide a collection for research on whether writing today has risen to new highs or sunk to new lows; and
- help us help others to write better.
For more information check out the day's official website. And then go write something!
Now, I'm not much of a Twitter fan (I just don't get it, although if you do, you can follow me @ofabookworm... did I do the @ right?), but I do think this is an impressive use of new technologies to create a new work of fiction.
The final product will be available for download on the project's website for free; I will keep you posted if I hear it's completed!
Two (and by a married couple, no less) to start: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer, and A History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Jonathan Safran Foer's second novel is one of the few of September 11th that I have read that succeeds in being tragic without being didactic, heartbreaking without really having to try, and beautiful without describing anything beautiful. Innovative, creative and unique, Foer's writing style - combined with the overall design and layout of the book - make the book hard to put down, harder still to forget.
A History of Love
Kraus' writing style closely mirrors that of Foer's, but it is hard to say if one is necessarily copying the other, or if they have just grown together as writers. Regardless, it works, and Kraus is able to use her impressive grasp of the clipped sentence to convey great things in few words. The story of a man missing both his true love and his novel, and now left to grow old and uncertain of his own existence, meets that of a troubled teenager trying to piece together the meaning of pretty much everything.
Both authors write novels that verge on poetry, and both stories are haunting, impressive (in every sense of the word) and full of beauty and tender care for the quirky characters involved. Neither should be missed - although I'm not sure I would recommend reading the two back-to-back, as I did.
Basically, the FTC requires that any product review or endorsement for which compensation is provided must include a full disclosure of said compensation. So, for example, if a publishing company paid me $50 to write a review of their book, I would have to disclose that information within my review. Or as a footnote/sidenote/more info note. I'm a bit fuzzy on the details.
This is a) not new (the laws regulating this were passed in 1980) and b) perfectly logical. Where it starts to get hairy is in recent FTC regulations declaring that receiving a book counts as payment for a blogger - so if a publishing company pays me no cash, but sends me a review copy of a book, that must be disclosed. If it isn't, a blogger can face up to $11,000 in fines.
Needless to say, there's been a bit of an uproar about this. I'm not very good at brief summaries, so read for yourself some of the varying opinions, objections, etc:
Another Open Letter to the FTC on Media Bistro
The First Open Letter to the FTC on Media Bistro
From the bestselling author of The Time Traveler's Wife comes a second novel that promises not to disappoint any fan of ghost stories, romances, or well-written literary fiction. With Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger presents the story of two twin sisters who inherit their aunt's flat in London upon her death. Bordering the walls of Highgate Cemetery, one of the most famous Victorian cemeteries in London, they know that something is strange about the place as soon as they arrive... but no, it's not that much of a cookie-cutter ghost story.
Instead, this is a story of love, romance, siblings, family, secrets an betrayal. With her haunting prose - no pun intended - Niffenegger weaves together a cast of truly unique characters, from the OCD agoraphobic crossword writer upstairs, to the lonely bachelor downstairs, from the ancient keeper of the cemetery to those typical Victorian figures buried within it, and, perhaps most importantly, from one twin to the next, and from one set of twins to the next.
Sadly, Niffenegger's character development is a bit uneven, with some sudden and unexpected actions scattered throughout otherwise rather linear characters. Rather than seeming intentional, it feels to the reader as though the author knew her characters almost too well; I'm sure in her head, there was an explanation for every action at every given time, but this reasoning does not always carry through to the reader, causing a few confusing pages here and there.
Overall, though, the plot and writing carry the story through this flaw, and the series of unexpected events promises to keep any reader turning the page to the very end, and wishing for more when you get there.
Bottom line: A haunting novel of love, family and betrayal, Her Fearful Symmetry is worth the time it will take to read it - and trust me, that won't be long, as you won't be able to put it down.
[I received an advance copy of Her Fearful Symmetry in the mail - not sure what mailing list I got on for that, but no complaints here! But, in the interest of full FTC-disclosure, I did get a free copy of this one.]
The Guardian, reporting on collected Amazon reports, noted that sales of And Tango Makes Three, the most challenged book of 2006, 2007 and 2008 (according to the ALA), peaked during Banned Books Week and the days immediately after. The book is challenged frequently on grounds of "homosexual undertones," which critics claim are thinly veiled under cute penguin cartoons. The story, based on true events, tell the tale of two male penguins raising an orphan penguin in the zoo. Clearly, this is threatening the morality of our nation's children.
But, as I predicted, challenging the book has only increased its popularity. I'd call that books 1, censors 0, if we were keeping track.
Because there's never been a better time or place. People who think books are dying don't understand the power of ideas to inspire. And people who think books will die at the hands of the Internet, don't understand the power of what happens when an engaged reader -- of both web and print content -- discovers new ideas, new thoughts, new thinkers, or remembers the impact of a classic. Word spreads faster than ever, and the ensuing debate helps refine ideas for the future.
No, instead of the usual doom-and-gloom that comes with my posts on readers' choices or ebooks, I am today going to focus on the positive outcomes of Dan Brown's books. As predicted, sales of related titles have started to trickle in - see today's PW article for more details. Personally, I have had enough of hating Dan Brown and what his books have done to our impression of reading (see previous post). Let's look on the bright side this Tuesday: a) people are reading and b) people are, we can see, interested in learning more about Brown's subjects. Isn't that what books are all about?
Despite incredible Googling skills, I haven't been able to dig up much more on the outcome of the project other than the fact that it was completed within the allotted time frame, and the launch party for the book was this evening in London. Hopefully there will be more information on the book post-launch (some publishers like to keep things hush-hush until after the release, even if that is only for a period of 12 hours or so...).
As to seeing a project like this on our side of the pond, thanks for the reminder! There was actually something similar conducted during Book Expo this year: Book: The Sequel. This was slightly different as it was not actually a novel, as in the 24-hour book, but it was created in the same vein. Perseus dedicated part of their booth at BEA to Book: The Sequel, with a workstation equipped for editing, design and layout, and promotion. Members of the book world were polled at BEA (what better place to pick the brains of book nerds galore?), and submissions were taken online as well. The whole process began Friday morning, and the book had a launch party on Saturday afternoon. You can see some samples of sequels on the book's webpage, and the schedule of publication is available here.
Here's to creative thinkers!
Wow. I was really, really looking forward to reading this one. After all, what could be better than a memoir about a guy who loves books so much that he dedicates his life to them: writing them, editing them, adapting them for screenplays, collecting them, dealing them. This is so right up any book-nerd's alley, and it doesn't take much to know I am just that book-nerd-type.
Thanks to Jay Franco, I once again find myself feeding my Fables addiction; this time, it's Peter & Max, the first Fables novel by Bill Willingham.
In the meantime, here's a little non-book-related reading and a bit of a plug for a friend:
From a baby-eating sculpture in Switzerland to Mongolia’s giant statue of Genghis Khan, the world’s weirdest monuments display local quirks.Lyndsey just had her first feature article published on the Travel and Leisure website. Of course I'm biased because she's a friend, but it's a great article on some unexpected monuments across the globe. I admire her dedication to travel writing - she's had a thing for Rick Steves since I first met her, back when she still had blue hair. I also admire the little statue of the peeing boy, appropriately titled "Mannekin Pis." I'm not sure what that says about my admirations, but there it is.
Review of Her Fearful Symmetry to come soon...
The plot is relatively uncomplicated: Frank and April Wheeler get married young, have children, move to the suburbs of New York City to raise their family, and spend every spare minute they have disdainful of suburban life. The typical, normal family lifestyle is so... beneath them. You can see where this is going -- the two find themselves unhappy, trapped in a lifestyle they never chose and never truly wanted. But how does one break out of this? And perhaps more importantly, if you do break out of it, how do you maintain your identity? Do you have one to begin with, or is it all pretend?
I don't need to elaborate on these questions much more than to say that Yates does not paint a happy picture of married suburban life, at least not for the Wheelers. But despite the absolute melancholy that settles upon the reader, clinging on us like a mink stole in August, Yates' prose is sharp, clear and insightful. He captures the essence of relationships, the difference between love and mere admiration, the intricacies of motherhood and marriage - all in the minute details of every day life.
What is more, Yates has a firm grasp on the inner monologues of his characters. They are ever present, but never bulky. They lend only further insight into each character, furthering our understanding of their absolute failure to communicate their inner selves to anyone (what a happy thought). His dialogue, like his characters' thoughts, is natural and graceful.
Bottom line: Revolutionary Road offers what one can only hope is an unrealistic portrayal of the lives we choose - or do not choose - to lead, and the impacts of these choices. An excellent read, but only if you are in the mood for a downer.
As a side note, the movie is actually a decent adaptation of the book, although the many friends I've spoken to have not been fans.
Did you know The Lost Symbol broke Barnes & Noble's record for highest number of sales in one day? It is also the number one ebook selling on BN's digital book sales. (Read the full story here.) It is also one of the bestselling titles on Amazon, with digital sales surpassing hard copy sales (with the exception of pre-orders).
But despite this wild success, Dan Brown is quite literally a reviled figure in the literary world. Sure, we're all snobs in our own right, loving to hate the James Pattersons and Nicholas Sparks of the world. And Nora Roberts - don't get me started. But these authors are so formulaic, publishing so many titles in one year, that it seems reasonable to despise them; they undermine everything we believe about writing and the writing process.
Dan Brown is a different story: he writes one book every few years. Sure, some of this is probably for the publicity hype that builds up around his work, but he is also a writer in a way that Patterson has long ago abandoned. It seems harsh to dismiss this effort with so little thought, and paints an image of the literary world as a bitter, jealous lover who has been spurned in favor of fame and money.
Literary world - let's get one thing straight: there is nothing wrong with being successful as an author. We are not starving artists, competing for whose loft has the least heating and who eats more vegan chicken soup out of the can. I hated the Dan Brown books as much as the next literary snob, but maybe we should lighten up on Dan Brown the author. After all, he has managed to create a living-and a solid one, at that-doing what he loves. Sure, we're all a little jealous, but let's cut the man a break and be happy for the money and sales he is pumping into the industry, despite what we may think of his ever-so-poorly crafted sentences.
It's a little-discussed fact that every time a new word such as "bootylicious" or "bagillion" is 'officially' adopted into the English lexicon, some other seemingly out-of-date or out-of-touch word rides off into what Shelf Awareness calls the "lexigraphical sunset." Sure, I'm proud of Beyonce and all that, but I really would rather use the word "advesperate" (to approach evening) than "bootylicious." Seriously, no contest.
So off to Save the Words, all of you, let's bring the English language back to its righteous past. Myself, I'm off to watch Kevin coquinate (this is the word I've just adopted).
Here's my best answer: it's an alternative to Amazon for book searching, recommendations and links. When I want to link to a book - and we all know that is quite often - I can link to the book on Indiebound rather than Amazon, and because Indiebound has this nifty feature that allows you to type in your zip code to local an independent bookseller near you that carries the book, I am supporting local, independent bookshops instead of the Monsterzon. Phew, that was a long-winded, one-sentence answer to that question.
But wait, there's more. Indiebound allows bookstores to register themselves, and book buyers and bookshop owners can input their book recommendations for new and exciting reads, which in turn are compiled into the Indie Next List. There is also a Children's Next List, because, as in all publishing, adult books and children's books are considered separate markets (some, such as myself, might claim that the children's book market is missing out on parents, as well as kids that like to read above their 'level' and adults that like to read below it, but that's another story, really).
Next Chapter's blog post on the question explains better than I could how the site is viewed from a bookseller's point of view - give it a glance over, at least. They also add that you can use the site to find independent bookstores just about anywhere, so we all know what I'll be doing before my next vacation.
I'm off to peruse the Next List myself, to see if there's anything on there I just have to read. Wait, damn. I promised I'd read what I already own...