Feb 04

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Retiring a few books. Finding more time to read. And recommendations for The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon and One More Thing by B. J. Novak.

We’re Retiring… a few things

It’s time to say goodbye to the three Books on the Nightstand books we published through Northshire Bookstore’s publishing program. But, you’ve got one more chance to order.

Because Northshire now outsources their printing, a minimum of 25 copies is needed to keep prices reasonable. Between now and March 15th, head on over to the Books on the Nightstand author page at Northshire.com, for your last chance to order Two Books I Can’t Wait for You to Read, Living in Booktopia, and Two Books I Can’t Wait for You to Read, Volume 2. Any book that has orders of at least 25 copies by March 15 will be printed, and ready for pick-up or shipping on Booktopia weekend, April 11-13. Money will be refunded to anyone who orders a book that does not get reprinted. I know of a few folks who gave some of these books as gifts last holiday season. Order now if you’d like to do the same!

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (05:19)

time machThe Time Machine by H. G. Wells, narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi, 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 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

Stealing Minutes to Read (08:12)

In “14 Books You Could Read in the Time it Takes to Watch the Super Bowl” NPR writer Kristin Miller discussed… well, the title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Ann took it a step further, and, using Forbes magazine’s statistics of an average reading speed of 300 words/minute, and an average 250 words/page, figured the following:

  • You can read 702 pages instead of watching a 13-hour season of a TV show
  • You can read 216 pages instead of going to the movies (travel, and refreshment purchasing time included)
  • If you’re the passenger on a 24-hour drive (factoring in sleeping and distractions from bickering kids in the back seat) you can read 1296 pages
  • If you take the day off from work you should be able to read a 432 page book.

This put me in mind of the blog post Ann wrote six years ago (!) called “10 Ways to Find More Time for Reading.” Those ten reasons are all still valid today so check that out as well.

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (18:56)

winterpeople     one more thing

I recommend The Winter People by Booktopia author Jennifer McMahon. It’s a creepy tale set in a small town in Vermont, where some people are unable to say goodbye to their loved ones who have died. You’ll never look at a snow-shrouded forest the same way.

Ann raves about One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B. J. Novak. You may know Novak best from his role as Ryan on the US version of The Office, but he also studied creative writing at Harvard, and is a real writer whose stories are funny and moving. This collection is earning him critical acclaim. You can read, and listen to, several of the stories via this NPR page.

Jan 28

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A listener asks if we find ourselves recommending our favorite books over and over. We talk about old things. And we tell you about an amazing memoir and a noirish novel of the Jazz Age that is based on a true story.

Recycling recommendations:

New listener Emma asks: “Do you have a section of your bookshelf that you find yourself recommending again and again? I think my friends must be sick of hearing me talk about Still Alice (by Lisa Genova), Unbearable Lightness (the Portia de Rossi autobiography), The World According to Garp (John Irving), We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver), and Haruki Murakami’s entire works. I have my staples I keep passing around, but I’m worried that the more I talk about them, the less-inclined others are to give them a go. How do you go about recommending books without putting people off with your enthusiasm? Which are the books you’re constantly lending out?”

We love this topic! Michael finds himself recommending:

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Ann’s usual recommendations:

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

We’d love to know: what are the books that you recommend over and over? Let us know in the show comments. Thanks!

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (07:16)

Don't Breathe a Word Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon, narrated by the Lily Rains, is my pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week. We’re excited that Jennifer will be joining us at Booktopia Vermont for her new novel, The Winter People.

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 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

A conversation about old things (09:53):

Michael recently re-read Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock, a book that was first published in the 1990s and slated to be a film. Ann received a gift membership to the Boston Athenaeum, a wonderful private subscription library. What do these two things have in common? We don’t really know, but it inspired a conversation about the preservation of old things and traditions. You can listen by clicking the link included in this blog post, or, (if you receive this post by email) downloading the file included in the email. Don’t forget that you can listen to every episode of Books on the Nightstand on your computer or smartphone by subscribing through iTunes, Stitcher, Instacast, or any other podcast listening program.

 

Two books we can’t wait for you to read (22:52):

 

The answer to the riddle is me    The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress

Michael recommends The Answer to the Riddle is Me, a memoir by David Stuart MacLean. When the author was on a fellowship in India, he woke up one day standing in the middle of a train platform with no idea where he was or who he was.

This week I chose The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon, a novel based on the 1930s disappearance of a New York City judge. Set in the jazz age and told from the perspective of three women, it’s delicious and mysterious.

Jan 21

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 The 2014 Tournament of Books contenders have been announced! Disliking a book that everyone else loves. Recommendations for Kids These Days and The Scar Boys.

The Rooster is Back!ToB-2013

Every year it seems that we talk about the Tournament of Books sometime late in March just as it’s ending. Not this year! The full list of titles has been announced, and we know that some of you are hoping to read along. We discussed several of the titles, so be sure the click the above link to see them all.

Who’s your favorite horse in this race?

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (07:21)

train dragon How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, narrated by the David Tennant, 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 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

When You’re the Only One (09:41)

An email from Sarah asked if there were ever times when we disliked a book that everyone else loved, and have we ever been judged to be an uncaring person for not liking a book everyone else loved. To the first part of that question, yes, of course. We’ve always said that we would only talk about books we loved here on the podcast, but, for the first time we each admit to a book we didn’t like and didn’t finish. For Ann, it was Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, and for me, it was The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.

Moving on the second part of Sarah’s question, Ann admits to not having liked The Bridges of Madison County, a book that swept the nation in the 90′s, and was loved by many for its romantic story. But she was never judged to be uncaring because of that (that she knows of). Sarah’s questioned stemmed from several people judging her for not liking the writing of Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, even though she thought the book covered an important message. Honestly, judging someone’s character based on what books the like or dislike is just not right.

This brings to mind a recent announcement from the new editor of Buzzfeed Books, who said they would not be running negative reviews. It caused a bit of controversy. In our opinion, it all comes down to a simple question: are you running book reviews, or book recommendations? For us, it’s the later. Because honestly, when’s the last time you asked a librarian or bookseller to tell you about the books they hated?

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (19:56)

kids these days     scar boys

Over the winter break, Ann read Kids These Days by Drew Perry, a book she describes as a cross between Jonathan Tropper and Carl Hiaasen. It’s the story of Walter and Alice (who have a baby on the way), who are forced to relocate to Florida for a free place to live, and a new, shady, job for Walter.

I wholeheartedly recommend The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos, a coming of age story starring Harbinger “Harry” Jones. Set in the 80s, The Scar Boys follows Harry’s life from a bullying incident at age 8 that leaves his face badly scarred, and him addicted to painkillers, through his last year in high school when he and his band-mates embark on a hastily-thrown-together tour that tests their loyalties to each other.

Jan 14

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This week, a special episode answering all of your questions about audiobooks! Thanks to all of our listeners who submitted questions. I hope our answers make sense!

We tackle such tough questions as:

  • Do audiobooks “count” as actually having read the book? (Michael and I disagree on abridged audios, though).
  • How do you decide what you’re going to read and what you’re going to listen to?
  • What do we think of “performed” accents in audiobooks?
  • Is it possible to like a book better on audio than in print?
  • How do the number of listening hours relate to the number of pages in a book?
  • Can we play snippets of audiobooks on the podcast when we talk about our Audiobooks.com audiobook of the week? (Short answer: no, but we always link to a sample in the show notes for each podcast episode).
  • Who are the best fiction audiobook readers?
  • How are footnotes included in audiobooks?
  • How do you listen to audiobooks when other people are around?

Specific audiobooks that we mention in this episode:

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (35:24)

The Swerve The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, read by Edoardo Ballerini,  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 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

Jan 07

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I was very honored to be able to interview Charles Duhigg on the publication day of The Power of Habit in paperback, out today, January 7.

habit

We discuss the genesis of the book, how to instill good habits in your children, the best habit for readers, “reward salience,” and the new afterword included in the paperback edition.

Thank you again to Mr. Duhigg for taking the time to speak with me!

 

full sea     keep

For our “Two Books” segment, Charles recommends On Such a Full Sea, by Chang-rae Lee, a novel set in a near-future America whose labor-class is Chinese people forcibly relocated from an environmentally ravaged China. He also recommends The Keep by Jennifer Egan (author of A Visit from the Goon Squad).

Lately, Charles has been reading feature length articles via Longreads.com. Two other sites that offer this kind of content  are Longform.org, and Byliner.com.

Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week (26:52)

habit auNot surprisingly, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, narrated by Mike Chamberlain is 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 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

Dec 24

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Our reading plans and goals for 2014, and some of the gifts that we put under our trees this Christmas.

 

Our 2014 reading plans:

Michael is not making any reading resolutions for 2014.  Instead, he’s given himself permission to read whatever he wants, because he’s felt too restricted with reading plans and resolutions.

My plan for 2014 is less intensive than 2013′s Project Short Story: I am going to focus on literature in translation this year. My goal is to read 10 books of literary fiction that have been translated from another language. I’m not going to put further restrictions on it than that. My first book in this category will be Jose Saramago’s Blindness.

My other goal this year is to read classics aloud together with my daughters. We’ve started with Great Expectations, and it’s been a lot of fun.

If you have any reading plans or challenges for 2014, let us know!

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (09:24)

Parasite Parasite by Mira Grant, narrated by Christine Lakin,  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 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

Books we wrapped: (12:12)

 

Jane, the Fox and Me, by Fanny Britt and illustrated by Jane Arsenault

Ann and Nan are Anagrams, the sequel to Mom and Dad are Palindromes, both by Mark Shulman

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2014

1001 Golf Holes You Must Play Before You Die by Jeff Barr

What Does the Fox Say? by Ylvis

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diana Muldrow

 

Michael and I are taking next week off, so there will be no episode next week. We hope you find time to read a book or two, and maybe listen to an audiobook. Thanks for all of your support this year. We’ll be back in January!

 

 

Dec 17

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 A look back at 2013, our reading goals and our favorite books of the year.

Reminder: The Books on the Nightstand 2013 Holiday Gift Guides are available for download here. We really do think there’s a gift for everyone on your list so please spread the word and share the link!

Our Year in Reading

In addition to Project Short Story, Ann committed to reading 52 books this year. With only 2 to go, she’s confident she’ll meet her goal. She also started a printed reading journal, noting everything she read, whether she finished or not.

My only goal was to try to read 78 books this year (13 more than last year), but one thing that has changed is that I’ve started reading many comics digitally, an experience I’m enjoying, but will still collect physical graphic novels of some of my favorites. Many comic publishers have their own apps. Comixology is an app and website that will allow to purchase digital comics from

Until August, Ann succeeded in reading a short story every day. It was an illuminating experience that taught her much about short stories. She explored more through the book Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. She even took several writing classes at Grub Street in Boston.

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (15:29)

tiny beautiful Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, narrated by the author,  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 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

Our Favorite Books of 2013 (17:55)

Michael’s Two Cheat books, read this year, but published long ago
The Stand by Stephen King (originally discussed here)
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Ann’s Favorite Short Story of the Year
“Anything Helps” by Jess Walter (from the collection We Live in Water)

Ann’s Top 5

marker claire goldf woman trees

A Marker to Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik (originally discussed here)
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat (originally discussed here)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (originally discussed here)
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud (originally discussed here)
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagahara (originally discussed here)

bonus, “happy” book: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (originally discussed here)

Michael’s Top 5

BS lex nightfilm Tenth of December by George Saunders vital

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (originally discussed here)
Lexicon by Max Barry (originally discussed here)
Night Film by Marisha Pessl (originally discussed here)
Tenth of December by George Saunders (originally discussed here)
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (originally discussed here)

Dec 10

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 This week we talk about reading plays, try the “page 69 test,” and tell you about 2 books we should have put in our Holiday Gift Guide.

 

The play is the thing

 

“DM loves Prufrock” asked if we had any favorite plays, classic or modern. Michael has been in a few plays and has read them for that purpose, and so he primarily sees it as a performance media. With the exception of Shakespeare, he has one play on his shelf: Noises Off by Michael Frayn.

On my reading list is the play “Lucky Guy,” which is included in The Most of Nora Ephron, and The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (07:02)

Frozen in Time Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff, narrated by the author 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 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

Judging a book by page 69 (10:50):

 

I first heard about the “page 69 test” on the blog of P.S. Duffy, author of The Cartographer of No Man’s Land. So I Googled, and found an article from The Guardian that explains: this is a theory put forth by Marshall McLuhan that says, to find out if you might like a particular book, open the book to page 69 and read the page. So Michael and I each tried it out. To varying degrees, Michael found that reading page 69 made him want to read all of the books he tried it on. For me, the page 69 test definitely gave me a sense of the writing style on its own, and a sense of the mood and pacing of the book.

Michael and I debate the merits of the page 69 test. What do you think?

Some of the books we used for the test:

 

 

Two books we should have put in the Holiday Gift Guide (25:40)

 

The Hole   Downton Tabby

 

 

It never fails — we hit “publish” on the Holiday Gift Guide and then find out about some new books that we wished we had known about earlier. So today, we each chose one book that we wished we had included.

Michael chose The Hole by Oyvind Torseter, which he found about from this article. It’s a children’s book about a man who finds a hole in his apartment and tries to find out more about it.

I chose Downton Tabby, A Parody by Chris Kelly. I’m not a cat person, but I found this “story of England’s first family of cats and their servants — their lives, loves, births, deaths, marriages, affairs, prides, prejudices, senses, sensibilities, mills, flosses, cakes, ales, high teas and funfairs, car accidents, scandals, bouts of Spanish influenza, and war with Germany” to be great fun. A must for any Downton Abbey fan, and who can resist that cover?

Dec 03

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Strategies for reading a trilogy; literary charities worth donation to; Princesses Behaving Badly and The Most of Nora Ephron.

Reminder: The Books on the Nightstand 2013 Holiday Gift Guides are available for download here. I really do think there’s a gift for everyone on your list so please spread the word and share the link!

Trilogy Troubles

Elizabeth A. from Massachusetts asked about reading trilogies; do we wait until all three books are out before we start or do we dive right in? Ann and I are both unlikely to wait, though that can lead to problems, like losing track of details from book to book, or losing momentum mid-series. Though trilogies seem to be the norm now, books are sometimes planned as a stand-alone, but prove so popular that more installments are added. Conversely, if the first book in a planned trilogy does not meet sales expectations, it’s possible future books will not be released. So, it’s not always easy to tell for sure whether a book is part of a trilogy or not. What are your thoughts on trilogy reading?

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (09:02)

hootHoot by Carl Hiaasen, narrated by Chad Lowe 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 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

 

Literary Giving (12:27)

The end of the year is a very popular time for charitable giving, both for philanthropic and tax reasons. Many people have favorite charities to support, but in case you’re looking for a new place to donate, we cover several literary organizations:

Toys for Tots – not a literary organization per se, but books are welcomed by this organization. Here’s a wonderful sheet they put together recommending titles in various categories and age groups.

Reading is Fundamental – through 12/31, donations to this wonderful organization will be matched. If your company also matches funds, that means your funds could be tripled. I also mention their link to an article called “15 Reading Materials That Aren’t Books.”

Reach Out and Read – a national organization that provides books at pediatrician well visits. Thanks to an anonymous benefactor, donations to Reach Out and Read are also being matched this holiday season.

I mention Literacy Volunteers of America, but it turns out they are now part of an organization called ProLiteracy which formed in 2002.

826National – with 8 locations in cities around the US, 826 teaches literacy by offering tutoring and teaching kids to write.

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (26:42)

princesses     nora ephron

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie is a fun, accessible walk through history’s most un-princess-like princesses. From sex parties, to Nazi spies, to nighttime masks of raw veal, these are the stories you did not hear about in history class.

The Most of Nora Ephron is a collection of writing that spans her career, and include the complete novel Heartburn, the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally, and many of her columns and essays. It’s perfect for longtime Ephron fans as well as for those who might have just discovered her with I Feel Bad About My Neck.

Nov 28

We are pleased to present the 2013 Holiday Gift Guides. As in previous years, we have a general gift guide organized by subject, filled with books for every person on your gift list. New this year is Geek Book, a gift guide filled with geeky gift suggestions. You can download either (or both) gift guide by clicking on the image below.

If you’d like to share the gift guide with friends, be sure to send them the link to this page!

2013 Gift Guide

 

Geek Book

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