Jan 12

War and Peace comes alive; a bookstore with just one book; When Breath Becomes Air, and American Housewife.


The last week of December, I saw a production of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812which a a musical based on 70 pages of War and Peace. I thought the show did a brilliant job of explaining the characters by way of song, particular in the opener, “Prologue,” which points out that indeed, is a “complicated Russian novel/Everyone’s got nine different names” And that made me want to read (or try again to read) War and Peace. Then I learned that there is a War and Peace TV mini-series from the BBC that will start in the US on January 18th (it’s already airing in the UK). So now I’m regretting giving away that copy of War and Peace in my cleaning frenzy.

Listen to “Prologue” from Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, on Spotify.

Lyrics to “Prologue,” from Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, as they appear in Harpers.


audiobooksAudiobook of the week (08:43)

 H is for Hawk, written and narrated by Helen MacDonald, 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

Well, that makes browsing easier! (11:43)

One of the hot stories going around publishing is about the Japanese bookstore Morioka Shoten, which stocks only one book per week, featuring art and programming related to the book over the course of the week. Read more: This Japanese Bookstore Stocks Just One Book Per Week, from the CBC.

Michael and I briefly discuss what books we’d want to see as the featured book. We both chose books that will be published in June 2016. Michael chose The Girls by Emma Cline, and I chose Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. You’ll be hearing a lot more about these books from us (and others) in the coming months, but we couldn’t resist the chance to give you a little preview about books that we’re excited about.

We also talk about what our “odd” bookstore would look like if we were to open one. We’d love to hear your ideas — please share them in the comments.

Two books we can’t wait for you to read (26:25)




This week Michael recommends When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, the memoir of a young doctor who at age 36 is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer just as he’s finishing his residency and about to become a neurosurgeon. This one’s for readers of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal or Oliver Sacks’ Gratitude.

And I rave (again) about American Housewife by Helen Ellis , which is a subversive, twisted, funny collection of short stories that I just can’t stop telling everybody about. These stories include tales of housewives, feuding neighbors, dangerous bookclubs, and male bra-fitters. You can find Helen Ellis on Twitter at @WhatIDoAllDay.

  • Karen Hecht Brown

    Just dusted off my copy of War and Peace – reached page 588 before putting it down a few years ago. You’ve inspired me to pick it up again in 2016.

    • Yay!

    • tcheer4life

      I started on January 1 (again!) and have been reading one chapter a day! I am determined to make it this year. BTW, I have picked a different translation this time and am finding it a much better fit for me.

  • Georgie Silvarole

    I like the idea of a brick-and-mortar little free library. A life-sized version of those tiny house-shaped boxes you see on the side of the road. It would be filled with books you’re welcome to take home—except they’d be books people actually want to read. It’s disappointing to stumble across a little free library, thrilled it even exists, and find it’s filled with drab romance novels and tattered copies of books someone didn’t have the heart to throw away. I’d love a bookstore where I have to bring in a copy of a favorite book, one I don’t necessarily want to lose, but can pick up another that elicited the same feeling in another reader. I’m not sure how it would be profitable, memberships and a cafe maybe?

  • KilianMetcalf

    You needn’t spend any money on War and Peace. You can find a free copy for Kindle.

    • When I have a choice, I prefer physical books. I seem to retain the content better.

  • Scientific Housewife

    I’ve always wanted to have bookstore/cupcake shop/wine bar. I feel like all three would be a great combo.

    • I’d be drunk and fat, but very well-read!

      • Scientific Housewife

        Haha there’s the title: “Drunk, Fat, and Well-Read Bookstore”

  • @hollandsays

    Mine would look like The Novel Neighbor in St. Louis with its’ own Books on the Nightstand shelf. 🙂 http://www.thenovelneighbor.com

    • <3
      Will you share a photo of the shelf, pretty please?

      • @hollandsays

        We just took down the holiday gift guide that included printouts of your descriptions and was the entire front bookshelf in the store for the holidays and we are putting back staff favorites and your ‘regular’ shelf this weekend so yes, I’ll take a photo and send you. Hope you are having a great new year!

        • Wow! I had no idea. Scheming about how I can come visit someday…

  • Tina

    I want to open a store called the “Gourmet Reader”. Half the store would be spices, cooking utensils and foodstuff, etc. The other half would be books. The idea came to me when I was shopping for a shower gift and wanted to put a themed gift together.

  • Pam

    I have a question for you. Have you ever listened to an audio book and been turned off by the narrator who used an offensive accent?

    • I have been turned off by narrators’ voices or pronunciation, but I’m not really sure what you mean by “offensive.”

      • Pam

        OK, I listened to Kitchens of the Great Midwest. I have lived in Minnesota all of my life (64 years) and have never heard anyone talk in the “Fargo” accent that they used, especially the male narrator at the beginning of the book. It made the characters in the book appear dumb and slow to me. The narration was so slow that I had to speed it up. It offended me as a native Minnesotan. I guess I have thin skin. But it also turned me off to listening to other audio books in the future.

        • I wouldn’t let one audiobook sway you from listening to others. I’m sure there are others that you would enjoy more.

          • Pam

            Thanks, Ann. When I finished the audio and read the book, I didn’t get that impression at all of the characters. I wonder who decided to do the accents because it doesn’t read that way to me. Does the publisher choose the people who will read the book and maybe even how they will read it, or does the author do this?

  • Maria

    I’d actually done some thinking about this prior to listening to this episode. I’d love to open a bookstore/yarn shop/cafe… a place where people can sit and read or knit while enjoying a nice beverage. I’d make is open for book clubs and knitting clubs to use the facilities, to encourage social mingling.

    It’s a bit of a pipe dream of mine… if I ever win the lotto…

    • Sounds lovely. Good luck with the lottery tickets! 🙂

    • Georgie Silvarole

      I love the yarn aspect! Knitting, coffee, books and maybe a shop kitty or two and it would be perfect 🙂

      • Maria

        Thanks! I’d really love to do this, but winning the lotto is kind of necessary. I’m not in a mental space where I could worry about it actually paying off.

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  • Stephanie Flynn

    Thank you Michael for recommending When Breath Becomes Air. As a physician I enjoyed the first half of the book as sort of a walk down memory lane. The path we chose is not an easy one and it is most definitely a calling not a career. The second half of the book called to me as a grieving daughter that just lost her mother to cancer. I wish I could have read this while she was alive as I think it may have helped me to make those last months better. I also felt so strongly that pull between being the patient (or in my case the daughter of the patient) and being the doctor. There is nothing harder than letting the doctor do their job. There is always the question what about this and what about this. I’ll never forget a specialist bring at a loss and just point blank asking me what do you think and is there anything you want me to order. Such an incredible burden to carry. I do not read quickly as I tend to want to absorb each word. This book however I finished in one sitting making great use of my day off. So once again….thank you

    • mkindness

      Thank you for taking the time to write Stephanie. I’m so pleased that you found the book as important and moving as I did.

  • Allyson

    Has any one watched the first episode of the Lifetime/History channel War & Peace miniseries Ann mentioned? Let me know if I should tune in.
    I got 1/3 of the way through W&P about three years ago. I liked the book, but other things which had to be read by a deadline crept in. Then, inertia took over . . .

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