Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

My Year in Books: 2011

Saturday, December 31st, 2011
There are about 185 books on this list; I need to add a few more. I’ll continue to format/update through tomorrow, but I wanted to at least put the list up today. At the request of several friends and colleagues, I’ll also try to give brief annotations for each book, but if my fingers seize up from typing you’ll know why…

A few caveats:
–These are not in chronological or ranked order; I simply drew on my memory, notes, bookshelves, tweets, blog entries, and more. However, it is accurate to the point that I read each and every book on this list–some with better attention and/or comprehension than others.
–I read a lot of galleys and ARCs. Some of these books won’t be available for sale until early-to-mid 2012. This is also why I often forget that I’ve read something. If you know I’ve read something (we’ve discussed it, etc.) and I’ve left it off of this list, let me know.
–As possible, I’ve used Indiebound links. However, for a few titles this wasn’t possible even after numerous tries and configurations of search terms. In those cases, I’ve reverted to publisher pages.
–I have pretty “catholic-with-a-small-c” reading taste, as I believe is evident from this list. However, there are areas in which I’d love to improve. If you have suggestions for me, please send them! Since I’m gently retiring my moniker of The Book Maven, the best email address to use is bethannekellypatrick at gmail dot com.

An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler -- Foodies, locavores, read this book. You’ll learn how to turn every kitchen move into choreography.
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz – A surprisingly delightful Holmesian romp that will satisfy Irregulars as well as readers of steampunk.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – Childhood demons return and eke revenge in this elegant examination of how our pasts haunt us.
The Next One to Fall by Hilary Davidson — A thriller set in Peru; great travel deets, as well as believable and readable dialogue between protagonist Lily and her BFF Jack.
The Outermost House by Henry Beston — A classic of naturalism, set on Cape Cod. Although Beston’s tiny two-room Fo’castle was destroyed in 1974, his vista remains.
Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore Belle Epoque hijinks from the author of Fool. This one is all about the color blue; will be released in April 2012.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson — An imperfect but powerful bio of man who was same. I’ve said before that it reads like several books in one: biography, corporate history, and even business how to.
Cleopatra by Stacey Schiff — A perfect and powerful bio of a woman who was the latter. Schiff brings Cleopatra’s world to life, rather than simply detailing her chronology.
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt — So good you may forget you learned anything. Subtitle is “How the World Became Modern,” and guess what? It all starts with…a book.
Exley by Brock Clarke — A boy works through family dysfunction via A Fan’s Notes.
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan — Dystopian inversion of The Scarlet Letter.
Other People We Married by Emma Straub — Freshly brewed short stories.
Zone One by Colson Whitehead — Zombies, yes, but the real action is emotional.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern — Steampunkish big-top nostalgia–and evil.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan — Three generations of women, one summer house.
Room by Emma Donahue — Conceit so clever people overlooked second half’s power.
Dirty Minds by Kayt Sukel — Early 2012 nonfic about the brain and desire.
Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George — Thomas Lynley is back, and so is Sgt. Havers.
The Astral by Kate Christensen — A man takes a Brooklyn walk–that’s all? Yes.  A+
Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson — Lost upstate NY kids in 80s NYC.
The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell — Read Winter’s Bone. then this. SHIVER.
Open City by Teju Cole — So amazing, such a feat, just read it right now, mkay?
The Corn Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates Worth it just for “A Hole in the Head.”
So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman – You’ll never look at NY dairy farms the same…
The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore – Grrrrl authorrrr power, and fun.
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch – Wholly different. Lovely.
420 Characters by Lou Beach – What’s in a Facebook status update? Author Beach knows each one could be an entire story, so he’s written them. Unforgettable, whimsical.
The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure – I’ve wearied of stunt memoirs, but McClure’s heartfelt and book wise attempts to recreate experiences Laura Ingalls Wilder had during her life slew me.
A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards – Edwards was one of my favorite author interviews of 2011, and her Booker Prize-short-listed novel of domestic violence and its legacy will show you why.
Vaclav and Lena by Hilary Tanner – Deceptively adorable at first, this debut novel sweeps you in to Russian-emigre Brooklyn and doesn’t let you out until you’ve finished riding an emotional roller coaster.
Bright’s Passage by Josh Ritter
11/22/63 by Stephen King
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Dominance by Will Lavender
Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
Enjoy Every Sandwich by Lee Lipsenthal
The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje
Aging as a Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
We the Animals by Justin Torres
Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
The Lovers’ Dictionary by David Levitan
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman
Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta
The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt
Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean
Love at First Bark by Julie Klam
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
Making Babies by Anne Engirt
Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber
Queen of America by Luis Urrea
The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
The Foreigners by Maxine Swann
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
Odd Bits by Jennifer McIagan
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano
The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell
Tigerlily’s Orchids by Ruth Rendell
The Vault by Ruth Rendell
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsson
2222 by Anne Holt
The Leopard by Jo Nesbo
The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg
The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler
Habibi by Craig Thompson
Townie by Andre Dubus III
West of Here by Jonathan Evans
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
Galore by Michael Crummey
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
As Always, Julia by Joan Reardon
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan
The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard
The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
My American Unhappiness by Dean Bakopoulos
A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant
The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Tides of War by Stella Tilyard
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penney
There But for The by Ali Smith
I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie,
Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron
Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
The Mistress Contract by She
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
The Last Werewolf by Glenn Duncan
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
Swim Back to Me by Ann Packer
Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy
Life by Keith Richards
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Irma Voth by Miriam Toews
Swing Low by Miriam Toews
Satori by Don Winslow
The Sentimentalists by Joanna Skibsrud
The Maid by Kimberly Cutter
The Diviner’s Tale by Bradford Morrow
Leeches by David Albahari
The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Poetsch
Wait for Me by Deborah Devonshire
American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
Lola, California by Edie Meidav
The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman
Untold Story by Monica Ali
The Inverted Forest by John Dalton
In Caddis Wood by Mary F. Rockcastle
The Good and the Ghastly by James Boice
Children of Fire by Ursula Hegi
The Little Bride by Anna Solomon
Snuff by Terry Pratchett
The Mistress’s Revenge by Tamar Cohen
Daughters in Law by Joanna Trollope
After the Party by Lisa Jewell
How to Live by Sarah Bakewell
Enough about Love by Herve Le Tellier
Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam
The Glitter Scene by Monica Fagerholm
The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert
You Believers by Jane Bradley
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Doc by Mary Doria Russell
Lucky Break by Esther Freud
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell
Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier
Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale
Paris to the Past by Ina Caro
Beijing Welcomes You by Tom Scocca
Clover Adams by Natalie Dykstra
The Taker by Alma Katsu
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese
Canada by Richard Ford
2030 by Albert Brooks
The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
Heidegger’s Glasses by Thaisa Frank
The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen
Deliriously Happy: And Other Bad Thoughts  by Larry Doyle
Ali in Wonderland by Ali Wentworth
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones – I was sorry not to see this book on more year-end lists, because it’s breakout material in content: about the “secret children” of bigamists, and what happens when families collide.
Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp – A quiet novel that I believe should have a much wider readership due to its pitch-perfect handling of working-class New Englanders.
The Curfew by Jesse Ball – A spare and scary fable set in a dystopian Euro-scape in which a father’s attempts to protect his daughter cannot surmount Fascist society.
The Year of the Gadlfy by Jennifer Miller
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths
A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths
Marriage Confidential by Pamela Haag
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

FridayReads: Full Disclosure from @TheBookMaven

Monday, November 21st, 2011
UPDATE: As most of you will have seen by now, I’ve been trying to approve all comments on this post as quickly as I’ve been able to get to them.
I have two comments that were negative that I’m holding because they come from Twitter followers who wrote particularly thoughtful responses, and I’d like to write back to them for some clarification before posting their words.
However, one particularly snarky comment from a person I don’t know said “It’s adorable that your first paragraph is an ad.” I guess that it could be read that way. My intent was to make sure that I got the info people wanted up front.
Thank you all for your comments and feedback. I’m going to get this post up on FridayReads.com and out via our Twitter feed today (as another person suggested), and continue to think about how best to move forward with this business–a business that I hope brings joy to some.
—–
It’s been a difficult few days, and I’m not sure how to begin this post, but the main point I want to make is: I do not have “squirrelly ethics,” as one blogger wrote about me. I don’t believe in calling anyone names, or attaching judgmental tags to anyone’s behaviors. That’s why the kerfuffle last week about FridayReads and its monetization  is so disheartening to me. Here is the FridayReads web site, and here is the FridayReads email address: FridayReads1 at gmail dot com. If you’d like more information about our rates or about how we do business with publishers, please drop us a line.

Over the years I’ve worked in publishing, I’ve bounced around a lot. I started out at a print magazine, and later was hired by AOL to launch their Books channel.  Like many others, I was eventually laid off, and I moved on to blogging for Publishers Weekly. I I spent time at BN.com and left when the message board I hosted was heading for extinction. WETA-PBS and I tried an internet series, and while it got some great guests, it never got a great audience.

You get the picture. These days–the 21st century–publishing is like Whack-a-Mole. Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss, and you never really know exactly why or how.

Last Friday, when people who hadn’t been aware that I accept money from publishers to promote books via the #fridayreads hashtag on Twitter (and Facebook, and tumblr) learned that I do, some were disheartened. I understand why. It sometimes seems as if everything good in this world has some sort of business angle attached to it, and nothing is “free.”

Here is why I call #fridayreads “a hashtag and a business.” If you participate in the meme, there is no collecting of your information. Yes, we archive tweets–but your Twitter name can lead everywhere (as mine does) or nowhere (spambots, anyone?). We’re not trying to find you  when you participate in the meme. We’re just growing a community and sharing our love of reading. At times while I’ve worked on this–before and after turning it into a small business–I’ve tweeted too much about it, and when I’ve become aware of that fact, I’ve tried to change the amount of tweeting that I do.

Publishers realize the value of having access to the #fridayreads community, as well as to my large group of Twitter followers. They want to be sure avid readers know about certain titles they are releasing. The original #fridayreads giveaways were done with books from my shelves (not even galleys or ARCs I received, but books I’d bought and paid for myself). After a few months, publishers and authors and agents began approaching me and asking to get their books promoted. My then-business team (read: my agent and my husband) encouraged me to ask for a fee to do so.

The main thought behind asking for a fee was not so that I could become rich or so that I could manipulate unknowing readers. It was because if I didn’t start asking for a fee, I was opening myself to a different kind of blame, the “Why isn’t my book good enough for YOU?” game. At the time I began accepting fees for #fridayreads promotions (in March 2011), the hashtag had already grown to more than 5,000 regular participants.

I spent nearly two years building #fridayreads for free, counting each week’s participants by hand, and loving every second of it.

I was so excited earlier this year when publishers responded positively when my agent (acting as my sales lead) and I approached them with #fridayreads packages. I thought that the regular offer of interesting books sent directly to readers (many of you know that I am not particularly good about getting things into the mail) would be welcomed. This expanded to the other services Fridayreads offers:  Twitter Book Tours (those live chats I host from time to time with authors), Twitter Book Clubs (which are mostly for fiction), and last week, the first (hopefully not the only) FridayReads Live event, in which a book titled Enjoy Every Sandwich: How to Live Each Day as if It Were Your Last was discussed around a table at Housing Works Bookstore as well as online at the #everysandwich hashtag.

When the money started coming in, I realized I needed to disclose this somewhere, and began working on a web site that would have a fully loaded FAQ (many thanks, Intern Leslie!) so that anyone–tweeters, bloggers, publishers, authors–could understand how my small business operated.

What I did not choose to do was to label each and every promotional post as an “ad,” because those posts are not written by the publishers. Were they “advertorial?” Technically, yes. Should I have labeled them as “promo?” Perhaps (I’m still turning this around in my head). Did I mean to deceive anyone into believing that #fridayreads was just a big happy group of readers? Of course not.

Here’s the thing: I have some decisions to make about how #fridayreads is perceived, labeled, and promoted–and I welcome your input,. The #fridayreads book-loving community will decide whether and how to participate. I may have made some mistakes–but there’s no mistaking the real passion about reading that we share.

UPDATED: A FridayReads LIVE Twitter Book Tour Event: “Enjoy Every Sandwich” by Lee Lipsenthal, MD

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

On Thursday, November 17th at 7:30 p.m. ET, Rebecca Joines Schinsky and I will be hosting the first-ever FridayReads Live event. We will be discussing a new title from Crown Publishing: Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day As If It Were Your Lastby Lee Lipsenthal, MD.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve read the book, or not–come join us!

If you’re able to join us in person, come to Housing Works Bookstore at 126 Crosby Street (just south of Houston) between 7pm and 9pm, where Rebecca and I will be on our computers to host a Twitter Book Tour chat. Thanks to the good folks at Crown Publishing, we will have wine, beer, and sandwiches available. Meet me, Rebecca Schinsky, Iris Blasi, Erin Cox, and others as we chat, quaff, nibble…and tweet.

If you’re able to join us online, please connect with us online via Twitter by using the hashtag #EverySandwich. The easiest way to do this is to go to Tweetchat.com and log in using your Twitter name. Then enter the hashtag in the empty field at the top of the page and start reading and/or tweeting. (Tweetchat automatically adds the hashtag for you, so there’s no need to worry about watching the length of your tweets. If you “go over,” it will tell you “Too Long.”) If you don’t have a Twitter account, you should be able to track the #EverySandwich via Twitter’s search function here: https://twitter.com/?lang=en&logged_out=1#!/search/%23everysandwich

Before the chat, we encourage you to view the trailer for the book http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UIFbOfWwYE. We’ll be publishing a new blog post tomorrow with some suggested questions about the book/things to consider/bits of inspiration, so please watch for that, too.

If you have any questions at all, please email me: TheBookMaven at gmail dot com.

FridayReads EXTRA Giveaways

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Desperate times call for desperate measures, they say.

I really want FridayReads to hit 8K this week.

IF WE HIT 8K–and only if we do–I will give away three extra prizes.

Here they are:

1. A set of three slipcased, signed Indiespensables titles: Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

2. One $150 gift certificate to One More Page bookstore, my local indie. Don’t worry, they’ll be happy to take your online or phone order, wherever you live. They will special order anything you like.

3. A mega-set of Boots the Chemist bath goodies from Target, all full-size products, including three bath milks, three body butters, three body washes, and three hand lotions, plus an assortment of sponges, scrubbers, and other treats.

Interested in winning one of these prizes? Share YOUR FridayReads on Twitter or Facebook or tumblr–and tell a friend or three! Everyone who shares is eligible. For more information about FridayReads, check out our web site.

Thanks for your time and help, readers!

Club Read 2011 Book Blogger Challenge

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Club Read 2011 is brought to you by the fine folks at SIBA/NAIBA and Book Club Girl, and it’s a 24-hour readers’ wonderland being held on October 15-16 in Huddleston, Virginia at The Mariner’s Landing Resort and Conference Center. A dozen authors (Adriana Trigiani! Gretchen Rubin! Greg Olear! MORE!) will join a few more dozen readers of all sorts to talk about books, reading, and other passionate pursuits (think cooking, crafts, games, and fitness, to mention a few).

NOTA BENE: FridayReads is a proud sponsor of Club Read 2011–which is why I am providing this blog entry for all.

THE CLUB READ 2011 BOOK BLOGGER CHALLENGE

ONE free ticket (a $499 value that covers ALL meals and lodging and events on the program! The only things you have to pay for are your travel expenses, and any shopping crimes you commit) will be awarded to the blogger who accumulates the most over 5,000 points by 9.30.11.

Time period of this challenge is September 15-September 30, 2011

  • One tweet about #ClubRead = 50 points
  • One Facebook post about #ClubRead = 200 points (cannot be same as a tweet; has to have more substance)
  • One blog post about Club Read (WITH TAG) = 500 points
  • One verified recommendation that results in ticket sale = 2,000 points

For more about Club Read, click here.

For more about the Club Read schedule, click here.

For a list of authors attending, click here.

Drop a link to your blog post in the linky below!

What I Did on My Summer Vacation (Hint: Books Were Involved)

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Yes, summer technically ends on September 21st, but we all know it really is officially over when the sun sets on Labor Day each year. Instead of “Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome,” it’s all “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, did you remember to pack the towels from the outdoor shower?”

OK, well at least that’s what I heard from Mr. Bethanne yesterday as we untangled dog leads from tote bags and vacuumed sand out of the car after a week on Cape Cod.

All good things, like summer and vacations, must come to an end. For the past few months I’ve been busy helping Shelf Awareness—our wonderful industry information source—to launch a version of its bookseller email newsletter for readers. It’s been a lot of fun, and in particular, I’ve loved getting the chance to work alongside my colleagues Robin Lenz and John Mutter.

I’m moving on, now, although not so very far. I’ll still be contributing the feature I developed, “Further Reading,” to each issue, and I’ll also continue to write author interviews and book reviews in Shelf Awareness for Readers. If you have any questions about this new publication, you can direct them to editor in chief John Mutter: john@shelf-awareness.com.

My own dance card is happily filling up with new projects. Next week I’ll be at the 2011 Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA) Conference, talking with some of the country’s best booksellers about social media with my partner in business and crime, Rebecca Joines Schinsky of The Book Lady’s Blog. We’ll also be talking up October’s Club Read retreat (can’t wait to be there with Book Club Girl Jennifer Hart!).

Of course, one of the things we’ll also discuss at both places is FridayReads, a burgeoning community of passionate readers that is also a business supported by the publishing industry (for more information on that business and on how you can take part, contact business development director Erin Cox). If you’re reading this and don’t know anything about FridayReads, check out the Twitter hashtag #fridayreads, the Facebook page (#1 on Technorati’s Best Facebook Pages for Readers!), or the FridayReads web site.

Should you be interested in talking with me for an interview about social media (here’s an example) or books (here’s an example), or to discuss a project with me, you can reach me here: thebookmaven@gmail.com.

Trade Publication Launches New Book Review For Consumers (via paidContent)

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

paidContent recently posted an article explaining the newest venture for Bethanne, ShelfAwareness’s Enlightenment for Readers, the new newsletter offered by the popular trade publication. You can read the full article from paidContent here.

The word “discoverability,” when used in the book publishing context, tends to focus on how readers can find authors and books that are new to them. But another part of the discoverability challenge is how readers can find authors and books that are new to the world, as in recently or soon-to-be published. As brick-and-mortar bookstores close and newspaper book review sections fold, it’s harder to stumble across publishers’ latest offerings.

A new, free online newsletter for consumers, titled Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers—from the editors ofShelf Awareness—aims to introduce everyday readers to the best new books. And while that sounds like an obvious goal, the fact is that it is much easier for consumers to learn about upcoming movies and music than it is for them to learn about new books. “Movie houses put up their trailers many months in advance and show previews every time you’re at the movies,” says Jenn Risko, Publisher of Shelf Awareness. “You start seeing ads on iTunes for upcoming albums in advance and they usually release the hit song before the whole album….I’ve wished for a long time that I knew what was cool and new [in books]. This is our answer to that.”

[...]

“The reviews will be honest, but they’ll be positively honest,” says Bethanne Patrick, consumer editor of the new publication, “not because we’re against running critical or negative reviews but because we’re trying to set up the 25 best books for people to pay attention to in their local bookstore. That’s the goal behind it. We’re not reviewing everything and we’re not trying to do critical analysis.” However, reviews of exceptional books will be starred, “in recognition that it often takes a starred review for a library or bookstore to stock a title.”

Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers also aims to differentiate itself from Kirkus and PW by the backgrounds of its over 60 freelance reviewers, who include booksellers, critics, book bloggers, and librarians with “great street cred” in a variety of genres. The reviewers are paid more than the reviewers forKirkus or PW. Patrick and book review editor Marilyn Dahl will select the books to be included each week.

Further Reading – Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Where She Went by Gayle Forman is one of the most highly anticipated Young Adult publications this year. The sequel to the acclaimed If I Stay was never supposed to happen, but author Gayle Forman couldn’t get the characters Mia and Adam out of her head. The first book, narrated by Mia after she is in a fatal car accident with her family, deals with the emotional and psychological trauma of losing her family. In Where She Went, Adam must come to terms with his own grief.

When Forman writes, she perfectly embodies her characters. Their voices are wholly unique and so well-written you feel as if you know them personally. The best part is, they act and sound just like real teenagers and young adults do. There are a lot of YA books published recently that also feature narrators that will remind you of the teenagers you know in the real world.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman – It would be impossible to write a list about well-written teenage protagonists without including the prequel to Where She Went, If I Stay. Mia’s story is tragic, but Mia herself is never a tragic character. The story is really about Mia and her relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King – Has there ever been a teen narrator as candid and realistic as Vera Dietz? What I loved best about this novel though was the relationship between Vera and her father. Parents often get a bad rap in Young Adult relationships, or they’re perfect, or they’re disturbingly absent. The father-daughter relationship in Please Ignore Vera Dietz is the most realistic one I’ve come across recently.

All You Get is Me by Yvonne Printz – Young Adult novels often tackle “Issues”, but not all of them do it well. All You Get is Me is one that succeeds, by tackling young love and undocumented workers in the same breath.

Further Reading – The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

In The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little  House on the Prairie by Wendly McClure, McClure tries to find what is left of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life in the modern world. What results is a trip through butter churning, road trips and various Laura Ingalls Wilder memorials, museums and festivals across the Midwest.

The Wilder Life is part memoir, part biography, part history, part review of all Ingalls-Wilder historical sites, McClure gives a fresh perspective (and extensive bibliography) on the life of the Ingalls Wilder families and what they have left behind in our modern world.

The Wilder Life is not about rejecting the modern world, but finding some remnants of the past in our fast-paced life. The following memoirs all do a variation of just that, some to different extremes and different ends, but all with the same goal: to slow down life and recapture the simplicity, real or imagined, of the past.

And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road by Margaret Roach – When Margaret Roach leaves her position at Martha Stewart Living and decides to move out to her vacation home in the country permanently, it’s not exactly as peaceful as she thought. And I Shall Have Some Peace There is a candid memoir about what country living is actually like.

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende – This is probably the most extreme book on this list. Eric Brende, after attending MIT and becoming increasingly frustrated with his reliance on technology, decides to live an entire year without any electronics at all. He and his wife join a Mennonite-like community that relies on the most basic forms of technology to thrive.

Confessions of a Counterfeit Country Girl by Susan McCorkindale – Like Margaret Roach, Susan McCorkindale leaves her stressful Manhattan job to move to the Virginia countryside and become cattle farmers. Though McCorkindale seems to spend a lot of time bemoaning the lack of Starbucks, her memoir is an exploration of culture shock.

Further Reading – Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Sarah Vowell has long been making us think about history and how we learn it. Often there are opposing perspectives that don’t always put the winners in such a positive light. In her latest, Unfamiliar Fishes, Vowell tackles the topic of the year of 1898, when the United States “acquired” much of its territory that lasted into the 20th century, such as Cuba, Guam, the Phillipines, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Suddenly, the US was a super power, taking that role, many would argue, from Spain. Vowell focuses on “the Americanization of Hawaii”.

We love Sarah Vowell for her perspective and you should definitely be reading her back list, but what other books show history from a new and exciting perspective that you hadn’t thought of before? This Further Reading explores the history books that you wished you had read in high school.

The Basque History of the World by Mark KurlanskyMuch of the world knows of the Basque people because of ETA, the terrorist organization that has been committing terrorist attacks in Spain since after WWII. However, that is a very small number of extremists speaking for a very rich and beautiful culture in northern Spain and southern France.  Mark Kurlansky takes a look at the Basque people and how their history relates to world history. The Basque culture is one of the oldest remaining cultures in the world. Their language is an anomaly. This book takes parts of world history and puts a very plausible Basque spin on them.

Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon WinchesterIf The Basque History of the World takes world history and defines it through the eyes of the Basque culture, Winchester does the same thing but with the Atlantic Ocean. Described as a “biography” of the Atlantic Ocean, this book posits that the Atlantic Ocean is the new Mediterranean Sea, or the new center of civilization.

Wicked River: The Mississippi When it Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin – The Mississippi River is a tamed river, for now. But, as Sandlin’s book shows, the great river was once wild and its history is thoroughly intertwined with the United States’s.

Palestine by Joe SaccoFinally, we have a comic to add to the list. Joe Sacco is an international journalist who, rather than write articles for newspapers, collects his findings in non-fiction comics, often with himself as a character. Part memoir, part wartime journalism, Sacco’s comics are unique. In Palestine, Sacco finds himself facing his own beliefs and prejudices when he interviews and interacts with Palestinian people and ends up rethinking what he knows about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.