Jan 26

We begin today’s podcast hearing from three of our listeners. Shannon, from Ohio, called our voice mail line to weigh in on some of Ann’s E-book comments from episode 60, and to share a favorite novel inspired by a classic. Nicky from Bicester, England wrote to tell us about a book group she started for people with fibromyalgia, a condition that can often make it hard to finish a book. And finally, Kerry told us about two things she’d like to hear more of on Books on the Nightstand: listener recommendations and listener stories (who you are, where you live, what you do, etc.). We’d love to be able to incorporate more of these things into the podcast or blog. Please send us your recommendations for books and tell us a little about yourself while you’re at it! You can use our voice mail line, contact us via e-mail or leave a message in the comments here.

Next up, we discuss books in translation. Through no plan of our own, we seem to have discussed several translated books over the last year, including The Unit, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, The Glass Room and The Patience Stone.  (Edited: Stuart Allen reminded me that in fact The Glass Room was not translated, but was instead written in English. I knew that, but for some reason think of it as a work in translation, perhaps because those have been my favorite reads of late. Mea culpa, and thank you Stuart.)

A recent article at The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the difficulties translators have being properly recognized in academia. (Unfortunately, the article is now only available online to subscribers.) Michael mentions A Void by Georges Perec, written in French without using the letter “e” and then translated into English also without that integral letter. Ann fondly remembers Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual which recently came out  in a new translation. Ann also mentions The Elegance of the Hedgehog, the hugely popular book originally written in French.  Other online resources mentioned, both from the University of Rochester: Open Letter, a publishing program that specializes in works in translation; and Three Percent, a resource for international literature.

It’s a very special segment three. Both Michael and Ann have been waiting months to talk about these books. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloottells the previously unknown true story of a poor, African-American woman in the 1950’s whose cells have been the basis for many of the scientific breakthroughs of the past 50 years. (Check out this graphic for a visual representation of their impact.) Ann tries to make sense while conveying her love of Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett, a novel that may well be one of the literary highlights of 2010 — consider yourself forewarned.

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We encourage you to write down or print out the title information and shop at your local bookstore. Titles link to LibraryThing, a social networking site that allows you to catalog your home library. LibraryThing also links to various online purchasing options. Here are the books from this post:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, Crown hardcover
Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett, Nan A. Talese hardcover
(all information is for the U.S. editions).
  • Hi Ann and Michael!

    Thanks for those two recommendations this week. They both sound like books that I’m bound to love so I’ll definitely look for them when they’re out. You can tell if a book is absolutely “fantastic” when Michael just stops mid-sentence as he describes a book, showing how he really just can’t find enough good words to use 🙂 I also have a strong preference for writers who have “a way with words”.

    I do love books in translation and have read a number of them last year. Ann, since you like stories that are rather dark and have a deep psychological atmosphere, I’d recommend Natsuo Kirino (though I assume you’ve already heard of her). I think she’s really great with characters and emotions. I read her book Real World last year, which disturbed me in a good way (yeah I know it’s ironic), and I’m now interested in reading her more popular work called Out. As I’ve already mentioned before, I also loved The Unit, and that Swedish cover you’ve posted above looks really great. I’m also interested in reading The Museum of Innocence (as I’m very curious about Orhan Pamuk, whom I’ve heard talk so brilliantly about Nabokov in another podcast) and I can’t wait to see it in our local bookstores.

    Now to say something about myself, I’m a new listener to your podcast, my name’s Mark David Gan and I’m blogger from the Philippines. I can say that I grew up with books but didn’t grow up reading them. Two years ago I decided I’d change all that and began reading literature. One of the first novels I’ve read was Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, a translation as you know, and it made me totally fall in love with the experience of reading. He’s one of my favorite authors, together with Ian McEwan. Last year I started a book blog and has since enjoyed talking about the books that I liked. As with many people, I often get the feeling that I just can’t say enough to give justice to a book. Sometimes I spend a week or ever more just trying to figure out how to do that. But ultimately, it feels great to have read a book and loved it and then talk about it and then hear people say that they’re also going to read it. It’s almost like sharing the love 🙂

    Before I forget again, I’d just like to say that I really really think the Random House book widget is great idea, and it’s certainly the best widget I’ve seen on blogs. I use it on my own blog when I post a review, since like many readers I like to take a peek inside a book (mostly to get taste of the the author’s writing style). Please let Random House know that they definitely should continue offering it and it simply has to stay available for all your books. Other publishing companies really should follow (it’d be great if it becomes a standard).

    Lastly, I just want to send thanks to you two and to everyone in the book industry for doing what you do for a living. I know it’s your job, but it’s a job that certainly results in good things. I’ve felt like a smarter person ever since I started reading.

    • Wow, thank ou so much, Mark. I’m happy to learn more about you, and I do want to thank you for being such a FANTASTIC commenter here on the blog! Since you are a book blogger yourself, you know how much it means to get that email that says that someone has commented on a post!

      I read Kirino’s OUT several years ago, but I confess I haven’t read her latest. I liked Out very much, and I’m not sure why I haven’t read the others.

      I will most definitely pass on your enthusiasm about Random House’s Look Inside the Book widget. I’m glad to know that it’s useful. Maybe we should take another look at using it here — I can’t quite remember why we decided not to — it’s possible that it didn’t work too well with blogger.

      Thank you again, Mark.

      • You’re most welcome Ann, and really it’s my pleasure 🙂 Yes I do know how great it feels when readers leave comments, and I must say that I’m quite impressed in your response time! It makes us appreciate the blog even more.

        By the way, I just checked this and it turns out that the translator for Real World is Philip Gabriel, the same translator that does many of Murakami’s stories. It’s certainly nice when translators get the credit they deserve.

        About the widget, it currently works on my blogger site right now. It’d be wonderful if you could also use it here on WordPress. I’ll be moving to WordPress soon myself.

  • Hi Ann and Michael!

    Thanks for those two recommendations this week. They both sound like books that I’m bound to love so I’ll definitely look for them when they’re out. You can tell if a book is absolutely “fantastic” when Michael just stops mid-sentence as he describes a book, showing how he really just can’t find enough good words to use 🙂 I also have a strong preference for writers who have “a way with words”.

    I do love books in translation and have read a number of them last year. Ann, since you like stories that are rather dark and have a deep psychological atmosphere, I’d recommend Natsuo Kirino (though I assume you’ve already heard of her). I think she’s really great with characters and emotions. I read her book Real World last year, which disturbed me in a good way (yeah I know it’s ironic), and I’m now interested in reading her more popular work called Out. As I’ve already mentioned before, I also loved The Unit, and that Swedish cover you’ve posted above looks really great. I’m also interested in reading The Museum of Innocence (as I’m very curious about Orhan Pamuk, whom I’ve heard talk so brilliantly about Nabokov in another podcast) and I can’t wait to see it in our local bookstores.

    Now to say something about myself, I’m a new listener to your podcast, my name’s Mark David Gan and I’m blogger from the Philippines. I can say that I grew up with books but didn’t grow up reading them. Two years ago I decided I’d change all that and began reading literature. One of the first novels I’ve read was Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, a translation as you know, and it made me totally fall in love with the experience of reading. He’s one of my favorite authors, together with Ian McEwan. Last year I started a book blog and has since enjoyed talking about the books that I liked. As with many people, I often get the feeling that I just can’t say enough to give justice to a book. Sometimes I spend a week or ever more just trying to figure out how to do that. But ultimately, it feels great to have read a book and loved it and then talk about it and then hear people say that they’re also going to read it. It’s almost like sharing the love 🙂

    Before I forget again, I’d just like to say that I really really think the Random House book widget is great idea, and it’s certainly the best widget I’ve seen on blogs. I use it on my own blog when I post a review, since like many readers I like to take a peek inside a book (mostly to get taste of the the author’s writing style). Please let Random House know that they definitely should continue offering it and it simply has to stay available for all your books. Other publishing companies really should follow (it’d be great if it becomes a standard).

    Lastly, I just want to send thanks to you two and to everyone in the book industry for doing what you do for a living. I know it’s your job, but it’s a job that certainly results in good things. I’ve felt like a smarter person ever since I started reading.

    • Wow, thank ou so much, Mark. I’m happy to learn more about you, and I do want to thank you for being such a FANTASTIC commenter here on the blog! Since you are a book blogger yourself, you know how much it means to get that email that says that someone has commented on a post!

      I read Kirino’s OUT several years ago, but I confess I haven’t read her latest. I liked Out very much, and I’m not sure why I haven’t read the others.

      I will most definitely pass on your enthusiasm about Random House’s Look Inside the Book widget. I’m glad to know that it’s useful. Maybe we should take another look at using it here — I can’t quite remember why we decided not to — it’s possible that it didn’t work too well with blogger.

      Thank you again, Mark.

      • You’re most welcome Ann, and really it’s my pleasure 🙂 Yes I do know how great it feels when readers leave comments, and I must say that I’m quite impressed in your response time! It makes us appreciate the blog even more.

        By the way, I just checked this and it turns out that the translator for Real World is Philip Gabriel, the same translator that does many of Murakami’s stories. It’s certainly nice when translators get the credit they deserve.

        About the widget, it currently works on my blogger site right now. It’d be wonderful if you could also use it here on WordPress. I’ll be moving to WordPress soon myself.

  • By the way, Michael, from the episodes I’ve listened to so far I gather that you like the fantasy genre as well as graphic novels?

    I rarely ever read fantasy books but I’d like to recommend The Engineer Trilogy by K. J. Parker, in case you haven’t heard of it. But it’s not new, and I think it was released in 2006. I haven’t reviewed it yet on my blog because I still don’t know how to go about it (I must have at least 20 pages of notes on my reading journal) but I think it’s such a brilliant story and the writing is so well made.

    As for graphic novels, I haven’t yet read one but I’ve heard about Kabuki: The Alchemy and the illustrations are absolutely wonderful. You might also like Flight comics, which is like an anthology. I have Vol. 6 at home and I still haven’t read it, but the images are really beautiful.

    • Thank you very much for the wonderful comments Mark! and thanks for understanding my inability to speak because I love the book so much!

      I haven’t read much fantasy, but used to read quite a bit of science fiction. But I’m intrigued by The Engineer Trilogy and will check it out next time I’m in a store. I also don’t know Kabuki… Like you I have some volumes of Flight on my shelf, but still haven’t read them.

      Thanks again for your comments and for telling us about your blog!

      • You’re most welcome too!

        Oh I do hope you enjoy The Engineer Trilogy. Now that I think about it, it’s categorized as fantasy but it doesn’t really have any supernatural elements like that in many fantasy novels so I think it’ll appeal even to readers who aren’t used to the genre (like myself). As the title suggests, it does have several references to technical stuff (which kept me Googling things as I read) but not as extensive as in Neal Stephenson’s novels (an author I think I have to start reading soon as well).

        By the way, it’s really cool that your last name is “Kindness” 🙂

        Looking forward to your next podcast!

  • By the way, Michael, from the episodes I’ve listened to so far I gather that you like the fantasy genre as well as graphic novels?

    I rarely ever read fantasy books but I’d like to recommend The Engineer Trilogy by K. J. Parker, in case you haven’t heard of it. But it’s not new, and I think it was released in 2006. I haven’t reviewed it yet on my blog because I still don’t know how to go about it (I must have at least 20 pages of notes on my reading journal) but I think it’s such a brilliant story and the writing is so well made.

    As for graphic novels, I haven’t yet read one but I’ve heard about Kabuki: The Alchemy and the illustrations are absolutely wonderful. You might also like Flight comics, which is like an anthology. I have Vol. 6 at home and I still haven’t read it, but the images are really beautiful.

    • Thank you very much for the wonderful comments Mark! and thanks for understanding my inability to speak because I love the book so much!

      I haven’t read much fantasy, but used to read quite a bit of science fiction. But I’m intrigued by The Engineer Trilogy and will check it out next time I’m in a store. I also don’t know Kabuki… Like you I have some volumes of Flight on my shelf, but still haven’t read them.

      Thanks again for your comments and for telling us about your blog!

      • You’re most welcome too!

        Oh I do hope you enjoy The Engineer Trilogy. Now that I think about it, it’s categorized as fantasy but it doesn’t really have any supernatural elements like that in many fantasy novels so I think it’ll appeal even to readers who aren’t used to the genre (like myself). As the title suggests, it does have several references to technical stuff (which kept me Googling things as I read) but not as extensive as in Neal Stephenson’s novels (an author I think I have to start reading soon as well).

        By the way, it’s really cool that your last name is “Kindness” 🙂

        Looking forward to your next podcast!

  • Chris

    I second the recommendation for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Firebrand. The Mists of Avalon is also a favorite of mine. I’ve read it at least four times and listened to it on audio twice. Recorded Books has a great version with Davina Porter narrating.

  • Chris

    I second the recommendation for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Firebrand. The Mists of Avalon is also a favorite of mine. I’ve read it at least four times and listened to it on audio twice. Recorded Books has a great version with Davina Porter narrating.

  • … two more books to add to the nightstand. *sigh*. My husband says that I will die before I get to all of my books, I just tell him that this means I will live that much longer 🙂

  • … two more books to add to the nightstand. *sigh*. My husband says that I will die before I get to all of my books, I just tell him that this means I will live that much longer 🙂

  • I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but I recently subscribed to your podcasts, and I’m enjoying them very much!

    Your topic, Lost in Translation, was perfectly timed for me as I just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for a book group and enjoyed it very much. I’ve read books before that were poor translations, so I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

    Most of all, though, I was very touched by the e-mail from Nicky in the UK who talked about her book group for people with fibromyalgia. I have a similar chronic illness, an immune system disorder known in the U.S. as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (a silly-sounding name that doesn’t reflect the severity of the illness). My social life is greatly restricted because of my physical limitations and much of my social contact is online, but my book groups are the exception! I belong to two book groups, and they bring me so much joy. Even though a book group evening is often followed by a day or two of feeling terrible, it’s worth the sacrifice. It’s so much fun to talk to other people about great books! I hope Nicky enjoys her new group.

    Thanks for the wonderful podcasts – I look forward to hearing more!

    Sue Jackson

    http://www.bookbybook.blogspot.com

    http://www.greatbooksforkidsandteens.com

    • Sue, thanks so much for your note. (I apologize for the delay in getting the comment posted; it got caught up in the approval process). I’m glad you were as taken by Nicky’s story as I was. I think it’s wonderful that books can make us live a better life, and sharing them with friends in a book group type setting makes it even better. I’m glad you found us, Sue, and that we’ve found you!

  • I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but I recently subscribed to your podcasts, and I’m enjoying them very much!

    Your topic, Lost in Translation, was perfectly timed for me as I just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for a book group and enjoyed it very much. I’ve read books before that were poor translations, so I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

    Most of all, though, I was very touched by the e-mail from Nicky in the UK who talked about her book group for people with fibromyalgia. I have a similar chronic illness, an immune system disorder known in the U.S. as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (a silly-sounding name that doesn’t reflect the severity of the illness). My social life is greatly restricted because of my physical limitations and much of my social contact is online, but my book groups are the exception! I belong to two book groups, and they bring me so much joy. Even though a book group evening is often followed by a day or two of feeling terrible, it’s worth the sacrifice. It’s so much fun to talk to other people about great books! I hope Nicky enjoys her new group.

    Thanks for the wonderful podcasts – I look forward to hearing more!

    Sue Jackson

    http://www.bookbybook.blogspot.com

    http://www.greatbooksforkidsandteens.com

    • Sue, thanks so much for your note. (I apologize for the delay in getting the comment posted; it got caught up in the approval process). I’m glad you were as taken by Nicky’s story as I was. I think it’s wonderful that books can make us live a better life, and sharing them with friends in a book group type setting makes it even better. I’m glad you found us, Sue, and that we’ve found you!

  • I haven’t really read books that have been translated, but did read I Am David by Anne Holm, which was translated from Danish, and The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy, which was translated from the French, Bonheur d’occasion, which means Secondhand Happiness.

    I want to thank you two for encouraging me to read a more broader range of books; ever since I have started to listen to the podcast, I have never been more busier looking for books online and requesting them. And yes, I did purchase Beowulf on the Beach and have only thumbed through it, but from what I have read of some of the books, I am considering reading the book from cover to cover.

    Now a bit about myself. My name is Melissa and have been blogging on and off about reading for about 3 and half years through a couple of sites. I haven’t been without a book since I was a young child when my mom taught me how to read and I have loved it ever since. The first novel that I read that I fell in love with was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and has been one of my favourites ever since. I even managed to read half of Les Miserables when I was about 13. I really don’t know how many books I have read over the years since I was about in grade 3, when I started to read novels (my first was Ramona the Pest), but I would say that I have probably read close to the 10,000 page mark or maybe much above that.

    Thank you for the great suggestions and keep up the great work.

  • I haven’t really read books that have been translated, but did read I Am David by Anne Holm, which was translated from Danish, and The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy, which was translated from the French, Bonheur d’occasion, which means Secondhand Happiness.

    I want to thank you two for encouraging me to read a more broader range of books; ever since I have started to listen to the podcast, I have never been more busier looking for books online and requesting them. And yes, I did purchase Beowulf on the Beach and have only thumbed through it, but from what I have read of some of the books, I am considering reading the book from cover to cover.

    Now a bit about myself. My name is Melissa and have been blogging on and off about reading for about 3 and half years through a couple of sites. I haven’t been without a book since I was a young child when my mom taught me how to read and I have loved it ever since. The first novel that I read that I fell in love with was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and has been one of my favourites ever since. I even managed to read half of Les Miserables when I was about 13. I really don’t know how many books I have read over the years since I was about in grade 3, when I started to read novels (my first was Ramona the Pest), but I would say that I have probably read close to the 10,000 page mark or maybe much above that.

    Thank you for the great suggestions and keep up the great work.

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