May 26

In this episode, we look at a new-ish book genre called cli-fi, and revisit two of our favorite backlist titles, A Stranger in the Kingdom and A Handmaid’s Tale

 

BOTNS Summer Reading Bingo cards are live, and since Memorial Day has passed in the US, it is officially Bingo time! Michael is waiting to start a new book from William Boyd that he just received.

I briefly talk about a newish sitcom that is set in the world of publishing, Younger. I have some mixed feelings about it, but it’s kind of fun in a non-realistic, mindless-tv kind of way.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (08:12)


Boys in the BoatThe Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, narrated by Edward Hermann, 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 60,000 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

 

 

What the heck is cli-fi? (13:35):

 

Michael ran across the term “cli-fi” not too long ago, and a quick web search showed that it’s shorthand for “climate fiction”: fiction set in a world affected by climate change, or where climate takes center stage. We thought we’d talk about it and take a look at some titles that might be considered to be cli-fi.

The Water Knife

Titles we talk about:

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi, who is known for The Wind-Up Girl and Shipbreaker, is set in a world where water is the resource that is valued above all else.

The Massive, a series of graphic novels by Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson, and Garry Brown.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan.

Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam series, starting with Oryx and Crake

On Such a Full Sea Change-Rae Lee

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison

and one nonfiction book that could be a great companion read: Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction

 

Don’t you forget about me (25:45):

 

A STranger in the Kingdom   The Handmaid's Tale

 

Michael’s backlist recommendation for this month is A Stranger in the Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher, which will see a sequel published this fall. It’s set in Northern Vermont in 1952, where a young girl has been murdered and the town comes to suspect the newcomer to the town, a black man who is the new town minister.

My recommendation is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, one of my top five books of all time. It’s considered speculative fiction, set in the Republic of Gilead (current day Massachusetts) in the future, which is a community where women are forced into specific roles that are deemed to be for the good of society.

 

May 19

Download your BOTNS Summer Bingo card. Michael commits to reading 13 short stories this summer. And we recommend The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza, and Girl at War by Sara Novic.

Memorial Day is this weekend, so it’s time to get your BOTNS Summer Bingo card, which can be downloaded here. The Bingo game will run Memorial Day (May 25) – Labor Day (September 7), and, as in the past, the rules are pretty much up to you (five-in-a-row, four corners, how to use the Free Space, etc.). We’ve set up a folder on our Goodreads group where you can share ideas and ask for book suggestions for specific squares. We’ve gotten some discussion threads started, but if you don’t see the square you need help with, start a new discussion thread in that folder, with the square topic as the title.

Happy summer reading, and have fun!

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (11:42)


Mapmaker's Children: A Novel, Sarah McCoyThe Mapmaker’s Children
by Sarah McCoy, told by multiple narrators, 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 60,000 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

 

Michael Actually Commits to a Reading Challenge (16:47)

Despite loving my recent freedom from reading challenges, I have found a list of 13 short stories that I plan to read this summer. They are billed as stories with shocking twists, but I’m primarily drawn to the list because it will fill in some embarrassing gaps in my short story reading: I’ve never read “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, or anything by James Thurber or Alice Munro, or any of J.D. Salinger’s short stories. Clearly, I’ve got some catching up to do, and I intend to do it this summer. Check the list out and see if there are any (or all?) on here that you’d like to read as well!

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (22:44)

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Ann recommends something that is not dark and depressing! The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza is a smart, snarky, and funny novel about the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine who returns from six months of medical leave to find that her former assistant, a digital and social media-savvy twenty-something, is now in charge.

Girl at War by Sara Nović is the beautiful and heartbreaking tale of a 10-year-old girl witnessing the start of the Croatian War of Independence, as well as the story of her life as an adult in America, still haunted by what she saw and did, and who she lost.

 

May 12

When TV shows diverge from books; new novels from Mary Doria Russell and Jim Shepard.

 

We’ve closed out our survey for Summer Book Bingo square ideas, and we’ll be announcing the new link for your 2015 BOTNS Summer Book Bingo card. That should give you a chance to plan your reading in time for our official start, May 25th. Be sure to tune in next week to hear more!

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (02:30)

SpinsterSpinster, by Kate Bolick is my pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week, and it’s read by the author.

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

 

It Doesn’t Say That in My TV Guide (08:16)

This week we discuss books that have become movies or TV shows, and where the story arcs in the media diverge significantly from the books. The topic was inspired by an article that Michael read about Game of Thrones season 5, which speculates that characters from the book may be killed off in the television series.

Other articles, books and shows discussed:

“Game of Thrones actor explains his surprisingly early exit” by James Hibberd in Entertainment Weekly (warning, spoilers for TV show)

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

“The Book Was Better”: Why Readers of TV Adaptations Need to Let Go by James Poniewozik in Time

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

“Book Series vs. TV Series: Rizzoli and Isles”

The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli and Isles #1)

 

Two Books We Can’t Wait for You to Read (19:38)

 

epitaph   The Book of Aron

 

Michael talks about Epitaph, the new novel by Mary Doria Russell that takes a fresh look at Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the shootout at the O.K. Corral. You don’t have to have read Mary’s earlier book, Doc, to enjoy Epitaph, but they go together wonderfully.

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard was called “A Masterpiece” by Washington Post Book Reviewer Ron Charles. It’s a story set in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi Occupation, told through the eyes of Aron, a young boy who wants only to protect his family. This is as much a coming of age story as it is a Holocaust story, though of course we know what’s coming.

 

May 05

This week we bring you the first three author talks from Booktopia Asheville, recorded at Malaprop’s Bookstore:

 

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Apr 28

Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day! And, don’t forget about Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, and The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown.

 

Summer is just around the corner, and that means the return of BOTNS Beach Blanket Book Bingo. Full deatils will be announced before Memorial Day, but in the meantime, we’d love your ideas for categories for the Bingo squares. We’ve set up a survey where you can suggest topics for squares, so let us know your ideas.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (04:15)

Book of Unknown Americans: A novel, Cristina HenriquezThe Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez, told by multiple narrators, 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

 

Independent Bookstore Day (07:42)

 

This Saturday, May 2, is Independent Bookstore Day. Four hundred bookstores across the country are planning special events, and many will be selling special items only available on May 2 (not all items available at all stores).

May 2 is also Free Comic Book Day, so head out to your local book stores and comic book stores to celebrate the written word, and the folks in your community that bring it to you!

 

Don’t You Forget About Me (12:40)

 

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Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton is a 25-year-old thriller that is still scary and fun today. If you haven’t read it yet, this should be one of your Summer vacation reads!

Ann recommends The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown, a book she nearly forgot about until a colleague mentioned it the morning we recorded. It tells the story of Alice, and a summer she spent exploring the woods of Vermont with two friends who are newcomers to her small town.

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.

 

 

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