Apr 4, 2012
Today's topics include parents footing the bill for self-publishing, fiction making us want to learn more, and two books we can't wait for you to read: I am an Executioner, a short story collection from Rajesh Parameswarn, and a "big idea" book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhig.
In segment one, we analyze this front page article from The New York Times, about parents who pay to have their children's books self-published. It's not a completely black and white issue, but Michael and I definitely have our opinions.
As you all know, I loved Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son, and it made me incredibly intrigued about North Korea. This obsession caused me to buy Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden, about a man who was born in a North Korean labor camp and managed to escape to South Korea. I love when fiction makes me want to learn more about a specific topic. The Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer Bradley led me down a path of Arthurian literature, both legend and criticism. Michael felt this with The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen, which made him want to pick up Flu by Gina Kolata. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer made him Google about Guernsey. Nonfiction can have this effect, too, as in Blind Descent by James Tabor, or The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.
Is it this curiosity that makes the difference between avid readers and those who don't read much for pleasure?
Whatever it is, I am planning on soon learning more about Joan of Arc, inspired by The Maid by Kimberly Cutter, a novel of Joan of Arc, and The Maid and the Queen by Nancy Goldstone, a nonfiction account of Joan of Arc and Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Sicily.
Tell us your experience: has there been a novel (or work of nonfiction) that has caused you to want to learn more about a particular topic?
I am an Executioner by Rajesh Parmeswaran, is a book that I always describe as "a book where the writing makes my brain tingle." It's a very dark collection of stories that are simply brilliant. One story is told from the perspective of a tiger in a zoo who is in love with his zookeeper. My favorite story is the title story, mainly because of how Parameswaran plays with language. I can't really compare the collection to other story collections, but I love it as much as Aimee Bender's The Girl int he Flammable Skirt or Karen Russell's St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.
Michael tells us about The Power of Habit by Charles Duhig, which he is listening to on audio. It's a "big idea" book, like Quiet, or The Tipping Point, or Made to Stick. It explains how we form habits, how habits are perpetuated, and how to change habits.