Apr 21

Earlier this week, I was honored to be a guest on the Covered podcast, hosted by Harry Marks. Harry and I talked about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I had a great time, and I hope you give it a listen … and check out the other episodes of Covered, too!

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (02:49):

SweetlandSweetland by Michael Crummey, narrated by John Lee, is Michael’s pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.

Audiobooks.com allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

The Writer on the Page (07:58):

Michael and I were recently interviewed by Julia Pistell (of the great Literary Disco podcast), for the opening event of the 4th Annual Writers Weekend at the Mark Twain House and Museum. One of the questions that Julia asked us inspired this episode. Julia asked if, as readers, we think about the author as we read.

Michael loves to notice beautiful sentences, while I prefer to get lost in a story and sometimes feel pulled out of a book if the author’s hand is too visible. But in the end, I feel that Michael and I are probably more similar in the way we read than we we are different. Writers and readers, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment hear, or call our voicemail line (209/867-7323) and leave us a (short) message.

Books mentioned in our discussion:

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offil

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Painter by Peter Heller

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

Atonement by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Defending Jacob by William Landay

 

Two books we can’t wait for you to read (29:05):

 

El Deafo   The Folded Clock

 

In this episode, Michael recommends El Deafo, a graphic memoir by Cece Bell. The author, who lost hear hearing at the age of four, tells about growing up deaf in a hearing world, and being helped by a Phonic Ear that allows her to hear. It’s smart and funny, and deserving of its status as a Newbery Honor Book.

My pick this week is The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits, which is a diary of sorts — it’s a series of entries that the author put together from a few years of her own diary entries, combined in a non-chronological way to tell the story of Heidi Julavits, wife, mother, writer, traveler. I really loved this book, which read to me like a very cohesive collection of essays. Each entry starts with “Today I…” and it made me want to start a diary of my own. Check out Heidi’s tumblr for the book, too — it’s really wonderful.

 

Apr 14

A National Poetry Month discussion with poet Jynne Martin, author of We Mammals in Hospitable Times.

 

Note: One of the poems Jynne reads has some four-letter words, so if you usually listen around children, you may want to wait until they’re out of earshot.

 

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Jynne Martin

Some of you will remember Ann’s National Readathon Day discussion with Jynne Martin, Associate Publisher and Director of Publicity at Riverhead Books. We invited her back for National Poetry Month, to discuss her book We Mammals in Hospitable Times.

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We Mammals in Hospitable Times grew out of Jynne’s time as 2013 Antarctica Artist-in-Residence. I was very eager to hear about this experience, from the exciting (breathing 800,000 year old air) to the mundane (contraband yogurt). We also discussed how living in Antarctica for six weeks informed her poetry and she read for us “What Breaks First” from her collection.

Next, I tasked Jynne with undoing the poetic damage inflicted by one of my high school English teachers. Being told to analyze a poem–and then being told I was “wrong”–turned me off of poetry. It’s a tale that, according to Jynne, is all too common, and it’s even the subject of her favorite poem about reading poems, Billy Collins’ “Introduction to Poetry.”

Jynne describes poems as “…beautiful ways to dwell in mystery,” and says people need to find the poems that are right for them. She recommends some funny poets (Frank O’Hara, Mary Ruefle, Lydia Davis, and Philip Larkin whose “This Be The Verse” she reads). She also describes the three main styles of poetry (Narrative, Lyric, and Associative). For Narrative poetry she recommends Larry Levis, and reads to us “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” by James Wright.

Jynne was kind enough to put together some Poetry Notes for listeners of Books on the Nightstand, which you can download here. They contain some of her favorite poets and poems, and have me eager to read more poetry!

Apr 07

We answer many listener questions, and we recommend The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, and The Room by Jonas Karlsson.

 

Ann and I are thrilled and honored to have been invited to speak at the Mark Twain House’s Fourth Annual Writers’ Weekend. Details and information on tickets can be found here.

Tim Huggins, a friend and big name in the Boston bookstore scene has started Bound & Dedicated, a new site devoted the joy of signed books and connections with authors. Anyone can submit photos of title pages signed by the author along with a few sentences about the experience of meeting the author.

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (04:34)

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy TooleA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, narrated by Barrett Whitener, is Ann’s pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.

Audiobooks.com allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

April Showers Bring More Questions (08:55)

We’re answering a bunch of listener questions. Remember, you too can submit your own question!

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  • Sue asks about reading Batman graphic novels and wonders where to start. I recommend these graphic novels, in this order: Batman: Year One, Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: The Killing Joke, and Batman: Hush.
  • Spancho asks about a “rating system” for books. Something that would allow her to avoid foul language and explicit sex. For kids’ books, we recommend Common Sense Media, mostly known for movies, video games, etc. but does sometimes review books. Our best suggestion is to befriend a librarian or bookseller, so they can guide you.
  • Cathy asks for recommendations for her 15 year old son who has read and enjoyed The Stand and some books by Michael Crichton, but hasn’t enjoyed other things. We recommend Fragment, The Passage, The Road, The Alienist, and, of course, other books by Stephen King.
  • Peggy is worrying that if people move to reading electronically, her organizations used book sale will suffer. We assure her that she doesn’t need to worry. The growth of digital books has plateaued, and people will be culling personal libraries for years to come!
  • Trucker Michael is hoping to find a way to replicate, online, the act of browsing in a bookstore or library. Unfortunately for Michael, who doesn’t get into physical book spaces, this doesn’t seem to be something that can be replicated digitally. Many companies have tried, but none have succeeded.
  • Marchelle wonders when Maggie Shipstead’s next book will be out. We don’t know yet, but Ann, who loved both of Maggie’s books – Seating Arrangements and Astonish Me – will definitely talk about it on the podcast when the new book is published.
  • Christi asked if it’s okay, when talking to authors through social media, to say that she’s getting their books through the library. Will they be offended that she’s not buying them? Ultimately, we believe most authors will be thrilled that their books are being read whether they’re checked out of the library or purchased.
  • Liz R. wonders if we’ve ever felt betrayed by the actions of a fictional character. We both love when that happens because it means the author has really done their job and surprised us. I mention the ending of Gone Girl… I didn’t feel betrayed, but, while it wasn’t the ending I wanted, it was the ending that the book and and the characters were leading to.
  • Rich asks how to make himself a faster reader. Speed reading may work for some, but I think speed reading tends to work more for reading for information than pleasure. Spritz, a new technology, quickly displays words for you and you don’t have to move your eyes, which is what accounts for much of your reading time. Keep in mind, reading more quickly can often lead loss of details.
  • Lea asks for graphic novel recommendations for both herself and her six-year-old. Two websites to check out are No Flying, No Tights and Good Comics for Kids. Two publishers who put out graphic novels for kids (and some for adults too) are Toon Books and First Second.

 

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (33:28)

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Ann recommends The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, an author who seems to write a different book every time. This new novel follows an older couple, Axl and Beatrice, in post-Arthurian England. Though it’s set in the past, it shines a light on how the elderly are treated even today.

Bjorn, the main character in The Room by Jonas Karlsson, is probably best compared to characters like Bartleby the Scrivener, and Dwight Schrute from The Office. He doesn’t fit in among his co-workers, especially after he starts to spend most of his time in a room that no one else can see. This is a book you will absolutely need to talk about when you finish it!

Mar 31

Why are some of us drawn to dark, disturbing works of fiction? Don’t you forget about Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand and Arthur and George by Julian Barnes.

 

Ann discovered a wonderful time-suck of a website: What’s That Book? It’s a site where anyone can post details of a book that they remember but for which they can’t recall the title or author, and other users can try to help.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (04:18)

Smek for President!, Adam RexSmek for President! by Adam Rex, narrated by Bahni Turpin, is my pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.

Audiobooks.com allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

Why Read Dark? (07:58)

After discussing A Little Life, Ann got several comments asking why people like dark, upsetting, and sad books. We have a long – sometimes convoluted – discussion about what dark books might do differently than lighter books, like provoke a strong emotional response. But, you have to be a reader who is willing to feel those feelings (as evidenced by the reaction of one of the Tournament of Books’ judges to the books he read). Is there a need among some people to vicariously feel the fear, horror, or disgust that can be experienced by things like reading a dark book or seeing a horror movie? Is encountering emotions that way as powerful as experiencing them in real life? Stanford scientists took MRIs of people reading Jane Austen, to see what their brain did. From the article about this study: “After reviewing early scans, neuroscientist Bob Dougherty… said he was impressed by ‘how the right patterns of ink on a page can create vivid mental imagery and instill powerful emotions.’ ”

What do all of you think about reading dark, disturbing books? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below! We’re very eager to hear what you all think!

 

Don’t You Forget About Me (27:15)

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Unbroken has been a huge hit, and many people have likely gone back to read Laura Hillenbrand’s first book Seabiscuit, but if you haven’t you really must. If you’re like I was, you might wonder why you’d ever want to read a book about horse racing, but Hillenbrand makes the tale of a horse and three men, each damaged in their own way, truly unforgettable.

Ann recommends Arthur & George, Julian Barnes’ fictional account of a real-life crime and the correspondence between the accused and the creator of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a case that has recently had new evidence come to light. (That new evidence is a bit of a spoiler to the story, so don’t click through if you’re planning on reading the book!)

Mar 24

Tournament of Books Upsets!

We’re almost into the final rounds of the Morning News Tournament of Books, and it’s been a season of upsets. My favorite part of the competition is the commentary, so I’m not even that sad that my favorite books have been knocked out of the competition (though I’m rooting for Station Eleven and Dept. of Speculation to come back in the Zombie round).

 

audiobooks Audiobook of the week (07:01)

Hausfrau 
Hausfrau, written by Jill Alexander Essbaum and narrated by Mozhan Marno is my pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.
Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.
Audiobooks.com allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

Technology in fiction (11:40)

Our conversation this week is inspired by “Reader, I Muted Him, an article written by Steve Himmer, author of Fram.

Technology in fiction can be tricky — dilemmas become easily solved with a cellphone and access to the internet. Missed connections are no longer missed, thanks to text messages and phone calls. But there also some books that put technology at the center. Himmer’s Fram is one, as is Jonathan Coe’s The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim. How would your favorite novel be changed if modern technology had a walk-on role? How ubiquitous does a technology have to be to add meaning a novel? We talk about these and other questions for which there are no answers.

 

Two books we can’t wait for you to read (22:54)

 

The Tusk That Did the Damage    Better than Before

The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James is a novel that multi-layered novel that is told from the point of view of three characters: a young filmmaker, an elephant poacher, and the elephant himself. Yes, part of the novel is told from the perspective of the elephant. Believe me, it totally works, and was my favorite part of the novel.

Michael really enjoyed Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin, which gave him insight into his “habit tendencies.” Filled with personal stories and case studies, Michael found himself marking sections and pages, and learned a lot about himself.

 

 

Mar 17

This week we bring you the final two author talks from Booktopia Boulder, recorded at Boulder Book Store. Please enjoy these talks from TaraShea Nesbit, author of The Wives of Los Alamos, and Peter Heller, author of The Painter.

(There’s also a sneak peek mention of my selection for next week’s Book I Can’t Wait For You to Read: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin, on sale today)

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Mar 10

This week, a very special episode focusing on just one book, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (04:30)Doc by Mary Doria Russell

Doc, written by Mary Doria Russell and narrated by Mark Bramhall is my pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.
Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.

Audiobooks.com allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

A Little Life

This week, Michael and I talk about A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

I wanted to dedicate this episode to a single book, because it’s a book that I feel intensely passionate about. It’s brilliant, accomplished, should win awards — and it’s emotionally devastating. It’s not a book that I can sum up easily. And it’s not a book that is for everyone.  It’s dark, and sometimes difficult to read about the horrors that one man experiences in his little life. But in the end, it is more than worth the uncomfortable moments that make you want to look away from the page.

Because it’s not easy for me to write about this book, you can hear me talk about it (if you are receiving this via email, there should be a download link at the bottom of the email. Just download the file, open it and listen).

It’s an incredibly important book. I think you’ll be hearing a lot about it.

I hope you’ll read it, and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

Mar 03

Books coming to theaters this year. We recommend Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey and On Hurricane Island by Ellen Meeropol.

 

A few “books within books” that didn’t make it into last week’s podcast:

  • The seven novels featured in The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
  • The Deity Next Door for which an afterword was written in The Afterword by Mike Bryan

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (04:30)

Last Policeman, Ben H. WintersThe Last Policeman (the first book in a trilogy) by Ben H. Winters, narrated by Peter Berkrot, is my pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.

Audiobooks.com allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

On Shelves Now, In Theaters Soon (08:14)

The Huffington Post compiled a list of 10 Books That Will Vie for the 2016 Oscars:

Many of these won’t be out until later in the year, giving you plenty of time to read them before you see the movie!

 

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (22:22)

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Ann recommends Girl in the Dark, a memoir by Anna Lyndsey, which is a pseudonym. As a young woman, Anna was diagnosed with an extremely rare light sensitivity, and in this book she details what that diagnosis and its aftermath have done to her daily life, her relationships, and her existence.

On Hurricane Island, the new novel from our bookselling friend Ellen Meeropol, is both a look at the abuses of governmental powers as well as a page-turner of a thriller. Ellen deftly tells the story of a mathematics professor wrongly detained by Homeland security, and she tells it from the points of view of an array of very different characters.

Feb 24

What books within novels do you most want to read? Don’t you forget about Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and A Simple Plan by Scott Smith.

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In a New York Times Op-ed, Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote beautifully and poignantly about his terminal cancer diagnosis. It is an extremely touching piece that everyone should read. Dr. Sacks’s memoir, On the Move, will be published April 28.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (04:50)

Big Little Lies, Liane MoriartyBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, narrated by Caroline Lee, is Ann’s pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.

Audiobooks.com allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

Fictional Books in Fiction Books (08:58)

Over at our Goodreads group, Keith asked which fictional books – books within other books – we would most like to read. We mention quite a few books that don’t really exist (and some that were eventually published in the real world), and then discuss which we’d most like to read ourselves.

What are some of your favorite fictional books? Which would you most like to read? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Don’t You Forget About Me (22:09)

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Ann recommends Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, published way back in 2005. It’s set in a boarding school, and we know how Ann loves those. It’s very different from Ishiguro’s other books, and it’s very hard to describe without giving anything away. Ishiguro has a new book coming out soon and Ann will be telling you about that as soon as it’s out.

Scott Smith’s A Simple Plan is a propulsive page turner. This dark, and often disturbing, debut novel shows just how quickly an ordinary man can turn violent when money and family are on the line. Plus, it’s filled with lots of scenes in snow, and can’t we all use a little more snow these days? (no.)

Feb 17

The many jobs you can have around books. We recommend The Half Brother by Holly LeCraw, and The Sculptor by Scott McCloud.

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (02:34)

Hounded, Kevin HearneHounded (Book One of the Iron Druid Chronicles) by Kevin Hearne, narrated by Luke Daniels, is my pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.

Audiobooks.com allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

Our Most Frequently Asked Question (07:10)

Listener Corey asked two questions: How did Ann and I get our jobs? and What are some possible jobs involving books? For the first question, the short answers are: Ann graduated with three majors including magazine journalism, had trouble finding a job, and was placed at Dell Publishing where she saw a poster celebrating 25 years of Yearling Books. After seeing so many of her childhood favorites on there, she knew she wanted to stick around. I’ve worked in bookstores since I was 15, eventually ending up as a buyer for a bookstore where I worked with and got to know publishers’ sales reps. When one of the Random House reps left, the other one recommended me for the job.

Corey’s second question is a big one. A recent post on the Reading Rainbow blog describes jobs and hobbies that will surround you with books. They list many options. One of the jobs they list is “Publisher,” and Ann and I are able to expand on that one listing quite a bit. There are countless jobs within publishing itself, and as the industry and technologies evolve, there are new types of jobs being created all the time.

There are also many publishing courses (some Master’s degree and some Summer class) available from colleges and universities: The ones we mention are:

 

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (30:28)

 

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Holly LeCraw’s The Half Brother follows Charlie Garrett, a teacher at a New England prep school, who falls in love with the headmaster’s daughter. They end their relationship, but things come to a head ten years later when she returns to campus just as Charlie’s magnetic half-brother begins teaching.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud is a new addition to my all-time favorite graphic novels, and will surely be one of my favorite books of 2015. Struggling sculptor David Smith makes a deal with Death: in exchange for unfettered control over materials, David will die in 200 days. What happens when inspiration still doesn’t strike, but love does?

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