Jul 19


Tumbling Books

We start this week inspired by a message on twitter: @jhaubs2 asked if we’d ever heard of Better Book Titles, which is a Tumblr site. We love this site, so we thought we’d talk about a few literary tumblr sites that we like. Thanks for the idea, Julianna!

First up is Better Book Titles, the brainchild of Dan Wilbur. Below are two of our favorites, which we borrowed to show you. Please go pay them a visit to see more.

The Toad from Better Book Titles The Very Hungry Caterpillar from Better Book Titles

Coverspy is a Tumblr blog where a team of self-described “publishing nerds” hit the streets of New York to see what people are reading.

Our friends at the Bookrageous host their show notes on Tumblr. Their recent episode, which Michael mentioned, is on “Underdog Books.”

And thank you to our anonymous caller who left a voicemail response to last week’s cover episode: one of his favorite book jackets is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffinegger.

Time Travelers Wife


Books about Books that we couldn’t resist

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai Tolstoy and the Purple Chair The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma A Jane Austen Education

There seem to be a lot of books in the stores right now that have to do with books.

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai, about a young children’s librarian and one of her patrons that is not allowed to read certain types of books.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch, a nonfiction book by a woman who, as a way of dealing with grief, decided to read a book a day and blog about it. (Readallday.org)

Michael wants to read The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma, about a father’s promise to read with his daughter at least 10 minutes every night for 100 nights. They kept going for 8 years, when Alice left for college.

One of our bookseller friends recommended A Jane Austen Education: How six novels taught me about love, friendship and the things that matter by William Deresiewicz.

Michael recently bought 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

What books about books do you love? Let us know in the comments.

Two books we can’t wait for you to read

Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba is Michael’s choice this week. A graphic novel that was originally published as an 8 or 9 volume set of comic books, it’s the story that begins with the tale of Bras, an aspiring novelist who is killed in a bar. Each chapter from there on is a look at a different point in Brass’s life.

I talk about The Devil All the Time, a first novel by Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff, one of my favorite collections of short stories. This is a brutal novel of family violence, madness, and religious extremism in a small Ohio town.

Daytripper The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

Our live chat with Steve Himmer, author of The Bee-Loud Glade is July 28th at 7:30pm Eastern Time. Steve will be joining us at 7:45. More details of how you can join us to come here on the blog.


  • Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman is the best love letter to a life of books I’ve ever read. I make it a habit to give it to all book lovers in my life.

  • Amy

    I can’t seem to find the podcast (here or on iTunes) for the Ellen Meeropol, House Arrest, discussion. Can anyone help me find it?

  • Jana Navratil

    Another great podcast you two! Here is my mishmash of thoughts:

    I really enjoyed Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life, especially his Tolstoy chapter. My respect for him has grown immensely since listening to this book (read by the author). Michael, you mentioned my all time favorite: 84 Charing Cross Road. Ann, agreed, the movie is equally as good as the book.

    Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is going on my list. But I can’t help wondering how “Tolstoy” and “read a book a day” can possibly go together?? Book a year is more my speed (War & Peace read-along is working for me.)

    Michael, I will read Daytripper. I’ve become a graphic novel/comic fan in the extreme of late and I blame you in part. Thank you!

    • Agreed! It’s getting on to a year that I’ve been reading War and Peace. Anna Karenina was much more of a page-turner, but even so, that one took me over a month. Sankovitch must have super-human speed-reading skills.

  • I loved this week’s show! Some of my favorite “books about books” are People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. I’m sure there are more I just can’t think of right now.

  • Janet

    Henry Miller’s The Books in My Life is one of my favorite books about books. It’s like sitting across the table with him chatting about the reading life.

  • Louise Trolle

    *beats michael over the head with a pink umbrella*
    Read Pride and Prejudice – it’s a great book 🙂

    Books on books: Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home
    and The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

  • I loved Daytripper! But I didn’t like this weeks show as much as last weeks. =\

  • Allyson

    I, too, am interested in “Howard’s End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home” by Susan Hill. I’m on the wait list for it at the library. In an excerpt I peeked at, the author said she would buy a paperback because it was better for her than a chocolate bar. (I buy both!) Now her house was full of books she has not read. (Ditto.) So for one year she determined to focus on reading the books in her house.

    I’m debating how to incorporate a personal challenge for 2012 of reading the books already in my collection. The drawback: I won’t be able to read as many of the wonderful new books I hear about on BOTNS each week. I like to read what others are talking about, plus I love the “rush” that comes from choosing a new title at the bookstore or library. How to balance the old and the new — that is my dilemma.

  • Reading Lolita in Tehran is a great one, too, though a little older than the ones you posted. (I didn’t listen to the whole podcast, so maybe you mentioned this one…) Anyway, LOVED A Jane Austen Education and thought The Reading Promise heartwarming.

  • Books about Books is a favorite topic of librarians. Our world-wide listserv, fiction_l has compiled titles of these at least a few times over the years. One called Books About Books “Compiled by the subscribers of the Fiction_L mailing list.” is located at http://www.webrary.org/rs/flbklists/booksabout.html

    Another, Books on Reading http://www.webrary.org/rs/flbklists/reading.html

    Of these I’d vote for Penelpe Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop about a widow in Suffolk, England who risks everything to open a bookshop. Strong characterization, tight, smart writing.

    And Ladies of the Club / Helen Hooven Santmyer – A tome at 1176, it’s a bestseller from the year 2000 about exploring yourself within the confines of a bookgroup. It’s warm, funny and depicts politics, culture, family life and the american way. A great long read for the summer!

  • Pamela

    Great topic … books about books! I recently bought “Tolstoy & the Purple Chair” by Nina Sankovitch. I hadn’t heard of it, but found it at a small independent bookstore at Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island, way out on Washington State’s Puget Sound; I thought that was pretty cool. I loved this book, recently finished it and was entranced with her writing and her philosophy of life.

    I could mention lots of books about books, but time is limited so I will only mention a few … first “Rereadings”, edited by Anne Fadiman; this is a series of essays from various people on what it’s like when you go back and read a favorite book many years later … it’s a lot of fun to read! (And I also loved “Ex Libris”, as mentioned by someone in an earlier post)

    A book I’ve owned for many years, and love to go back and flip through is “Where Books Fall Open”, it’s an anthology of short essays, quips, poems, paintings, etc., all about reading. Another excellent bookstore book is “The King’s English” by Betsy Burton about her shop in Salt Lake City.

    The only fiction book I’ll recommend here is “How to Encourage a Love of Reading” by Tanya . It’s about a wealthy family who hires a tutor/author to write a novel in which their teenage daughter is the primary characters, in an attempt to get her to enjoy reading. It’s quirky and I can’t say it was a great novel, but it was fun and interesting.

    Last but certainly not least, one of my non-fiction favorites is “The Yellow Lighted Bookshop”, a fascinating history of publishing & bookselling … by Louis Buzbee

    Clearly, I could go on and on … I’ve probably overdone it already, so I’ll stop there. Thanks for bringing up such a great topic!

  • Tania

    Oh, I love books about books, both non-fiction and (marvels of marvels!) fiction.

    I just read the first volume of a graphic novel called “Unwritten” by Mike Carey that would probably fit in well with this theme. It’s about a man called Tom Taylor, whose father (Wilson Taylor) wrote a best selling series about a boy wizard called Tommy Taylor. (Yes, there are lots of parallels with another boy wizard you may have heard of, called Harry Potter. That’s part of the fun of this book.) Wilson Taylor has since gone missing, and Tom Taylor ekes out a living attending conventions and signing books as Tommy Taylor. But then at one convention, a young woman accuses Tom of not being Wilson’s son, and then all hell breaks loose.

    This first volume also featured Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling (which reminds me, I must read Kipling one day!), and there are three volumes in all.

    And once cannot mention books about books without mentioning Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, a wonderfully riotous series set in an alternate world, where books are loved as much as sport is in our world. The first book is “The Eyre Affair”, and is just brilliantly fun.

    I should also mention John Dunning’s Bookman series, about Cliff Janeway, an ex-cop and rare book dealer. I didn’t find Janeway an appealing character, but I certainly loved the books he described!

    I also loved Anne Fadiman’s “Ex Libris”, which was just a wonderful book. And “A Gentle Madness” by Nicholas Basbanes was a fascinating look at book collecting.

  • Dunja Bonacci

    How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain De Botton. It will make you read Proust’s “In Search for a Lost Time”, maybe. But anyhow it is fun book to read. It is providing completely new view/ way of reading of Proust’s work.

  • Pingback: #Review: The Borrower, by @RebeccaMakkai | A Life Among The Pages()

  • Pingback: BOTNS #375: One other episode of “Stump Ann and Michael” | TiaMart Blog()

preload preload preload