Mar 15

Defining literary and commercial fiction. We recommend Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg and All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage.

 

I’ve just gotten over a reading slump. For a few weeks, I couldn’t get into any books or audios. All I wanted to do was watch TV (I binged the first season of Netflix’s Daredevil. Dark and violent, but oh so good!). I eventually broke the slump by continuing to try things, and I didn’t feel bad about not reading.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (03:06)


Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel GilbertStumbling on Happiness
by Daniel Gilbert, narrated by the author, 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

 

Commercial vs. Literary Fiction (07:34)

We tackle the difficult task of trying to define literary fiction and commercial fiction. Before getting into those subjects, we define genre fiction which is the term used to describe romance, mystery, and science fiction & fantasy.
Throughout our discussion we mention several times that the defining characteristics of these fiction types are generalizations and they can easily apply to both fiction categories. Also, none of these properties are meant to imply that one of these categories is better than the other.

Commercial Fiction
  • A heavy reliance on plot
  • Less interior character development
  • Page-turner
Literary Fiction
  • Much of the action comes from internal character development (“Nothing happens.”)
  • More ups and downs from emotions than events
  • More complex writing needed to imply emotional states

 

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (27:32)

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Smarter Faster Better is the newest book by Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, which I loved. Diving into the research surrounding productivity, Duhigg presents things that were discovered by telling the stories of people and teams encountering problems and solving them. The book’s appendix shows how to put the research and finding to work for you.

Ann recommends All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage, which she says is both literary and commercial (!). A farm in upstate New York is the setting for a murder in the present, and an apparent suicide in the past. How are these events connected and what led to murder?

Mar 08

Authors Steve Himmer and Mary Doria Russell, speaking at Booktopia Vermont 2015.

Fram   Epitaph

Michael and I are at Sales Conference this week, learning about books that Penguin Random House will publish in the fall of 2016. In place of our usual episode, we’re thrilled to share with you two author talks from Booktopia Vermont in May, 2015. Please do listen to these very entertaining talks. Fram and Epitaph are two books we can’t wait for you to read.

We’ll be back next week with a regular episode.

Mar 01

Diverse books for a diverse reading population. We recommend What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, and Evicted by Matthew Desmond.

 

I recently discovered The Setup Wizard, a Tumblr-based fan fiction about a Muggle who is the first ever IT person at Hogwarts. It’s hilarious, and you should definitely read it from the very beginning! And, coming on July 30, you’ll be able to read, in book form, the forthcoming play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (05:07)

Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel, Neil GaimanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, narrated by the author, 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

 

We Need Diverse Books (08:31)

After the lack of diversity in this past weekend’s Academy Awards, this seemed like a good time to examine publishing’s similar problem. In 2014, author Ellen Oh and 21 other children’s book authors and industry professionals began using the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks in response to an all-white, all-male panel of children’s book authors at a major book convention. The social media campaign has gone worldwide and has grown into the We Need Diverse Books movement that’s bringing this issue to the attention of publishers and readers.

Lee & Low Books, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States, recently released the results of a survey they conducted, which shows that the lack of diversity in books and authors published might be exacerbated by the lack of diversity among publishing employees and book reviewers.

Thankfully, the discussion of these issues is leading to some small changes, such as more diverse participants on author panels, and even the creation of Salaam Reads, a new Simon & Schuster imprint that will publish children’s books featuring Muslim characters and stories.

Ann mentioned an article about the difficulty of getting an agent in Hollywood if you’re a person of color, and wondered if that’s an issue with literary agents as well.

Then, there’s the story of Marley Dias, an 11-year-old girl from New Jersey who was sick of reading books about “white boys and dogs.” Where were the books starring black girls like her? She set out to collect 1,000 books with black girls as the main characters. She quickly blew past that goal, thanks to the help of Twitter, and others. Her quest is serving to educate people, including teachers and librarians. Way to go Marley!

 

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (29:16)

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Ann recommends What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, which is getting much critical praise lately. The unnamed main character, an American teacher, meets Mitko in a Bulgarain public bathroom and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again in this gorgeous, uncomfortable novel that Ann said felt like a literary masterpiece from the first page.

In the vein of Just Mercy, Ghettoside, and Between the World and Me, I recommend Evicted by Matthew Desmond. A difficult, but vital look at the eviction process and how, once caught in it, it can be so hard to escape. This is one the most important books you’ll read this year.

Feb 23

Hi all, Ann here.

Episode 371 was accidentally published with the incorrect audio file (episode 317 — you can see how it happened).

I’ve fixed the file so that if you received it via email or find it through the website, you’ll have the correct file. But if you’ve already updated your iTunes/podcatcher file, you may have received the wrong file. So this is a fix. The correct file is attached to this post, and here is a link to the show notes in the original episode.

Sorry for the inconvenience!

Feb 23

Fairy tales, the deaths of Harper Lee and Umberto Eco, and two rediscoveries that we can’t wait for you to read.

 

We start the episode with a brief discussion of an article on io9.com had an interesting article entitled “10 Books that Will Change How You Think About Fairytales” by Charlie Jane Anders, author of All The Birds in the Sky, which Michael talked about in BOTNS #366.

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (03:30)

 The Widow by Fiona Barton, narrated by Hannah Curtis, Nicholas Guy Smith, Mandy Williams, Jayne Entwistle, and Steve West, 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

 

A sad day for readers (07:49)

On Friday, February 19th, 2016, the world lost two literary luminaries, Harper Lee and Umberto Eco. Coverage of these authors’ deaths went beyond the book community into the national news. We were pleased to see the outpouring of stories and postings about how these authors influenced many of today’s readers and writers. Lee, of course, is best known for To Kill a Mockingbird, and Eco was best known for his historical mystery The Name of the Rose.

A few articles about Harper Lee and Umberto Eco:

The authors’ books we mention in this episode:

Don’t you forget about me (22:05)

 

Motherless Brooklyn   Kindred

 

Michael tells us about Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, a literary take on the noir detective novel, featuring a main character detective with Tourette’s Syndrome.

My “rediscovery” of the month is Kindred by Octavia Butler. Butler is now posthumously becoming very well recognized and respected for her work as a science fiction author. Kindred was written in 1979, and is a novel that features time travel. The main character, Dana, is transported from 1976 California to a slave plantation in 1815 Maryland. This is a novel that is both entertaining and important.

Feb 16

Finding time to read while distracted by life. We recommend Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon, and Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.

 

Two people Ann spoke to recently, one a teenage boy, and one an older man, each seemed to show pride at not reading. She then caught part of an On Point interview with David Denby, whose new book, Lit Up, is about turning teens into readers.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (06:04)

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir), Jenny LawsonLet’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, narrated by the author, 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

Reading While Distracted (08:45)

Two questions submitted via our Q&A feature:

“DMluvsPrufrock” told us that, now that she’s a relatively new mom, she’s been trying to listen to audiobooks, but finds her mind wandering. Perhaps she hasn’t found the right, riveting book yet. Maybe she could try listening to smaller pieces, including short story podcasts like Selected Shorts. It could be the activities she’s been doing while listening are too distracting, or maybe she’s just not a person who enjoys listening to audios!

Anna from Ohio has just started working on a master’s degree in human genetics (wow!) and realizes that she’ll have less time to read for fun (her usual fun reading includes fiction, historical fiction, graphic novels, and science writing). She’s hoping for recommendations of shorter things to read. Other than collections of short stories, we mention and recommend:

 

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (23:51)

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Ann recommends Flight of Dreams (on sale 2/23/16) by Booktopia alumna Ariel Lawhon. Her new book explores the tragedy of the Hindenburg, telling the story from the point of view of several passengers and crew. Based on fact and using real-life people as characters, the book also includes a fictional locked-room type mystery at its heart.

I recommend Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, also on sale 2/23/16. Nearly two decades ago, Matt Haig nearly took his own life. This book recounts his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts in a way that depressives will recognize—whether or not they’ve contemplated suicide themselves—and every one else can understand.

Feb 09

The Tournament of Books brackets have been announced, and we couldn’t be more excited! 

 

Rumors:

The book world was abuzz last week with rumors that Amazon was going to open 300-400 new brick and mortar bookstores. We’re sure you saw the headlines. Though we have zero inside information, we don’t believe it. And as the week went on, the rest of the media started to question it as well and the original source of the story walked back his statements.  The real story? We’ll just have to wait and see.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (03:49)

In Between the Sheets In Between the Sheets by Ian McEwan, narrated by Steven Crossley, 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

 

Brackets! We love brackets! (07:03)

It’s our favorite time of year! The time to get ready for the Tournament of Books. In this segment, we tell you all about The Tournament of Books, for which we will be the guest commentators during one matchup. The shortlist and matchup schedule have just been announced, so it’s time to fill out your brackets (PDF) and predict who will take home the Rooster. We’re thrilled that some of the books we’ve discussed here on BOTNS have made the shortlist, including:

 

Two books we can’t wait for you to read (27:47)

 

   The Unfinished World

I had a fun time reading Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling, in which Bryson revisits the England he first discovered in Notes From a Small Island. Bryson is now looking at England through the eyes of a long-time resident, and it is both humorous and also a lament to the changing times and landscapes of Great Britain.

Michael recommends The Unfinished World by Amber Sparks, a collection of stories that I love as much as he does. Amber Sparks is a true literary talent, and you should read this and her earlier collection, May We Shed These Human Bodies.

 

 

Feb 02

This week we bring you three more author talks from Booktopia Vermont 2015, recorded at Northshire Bookstore:

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Jan 26

We answer listener questions, recommend a historical mystery and a book of poetry.

 

Thanks to all for your well-wishes. As you’ll hear from the audio, I’m not completely recovered (and I apologize for my voice), but I am feeling better. Thanks to all, and thank to Michael for pitching in and going solo last week.

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (01:49)

 The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian, narrated by Mozhan Marno and Grace Experience, 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

 

Questions from abroad (05:30)

It was purely coincidence that the three listener questions that Michael picked out of our virtual mailbag all came from non-US listeners, but we enjoyed the international flavor nonetheless. Have a question for us to answer on a future (maybe far in the future) show? Submit it here.

Rose from Australia was looking for a book that we recommended on an earlier show that was a collection of stories. It was One More Thing: Stories and other stories by BJ Novak, which was our Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week in BOTNS #267.

Monika from Melbourne asks why books with reading group guides in the back of the book make her want to throw the books across the room.

Joanne in Canada issues a listener phone-in challenge:

“I’d like to make a suggestion for a listener phone-in. I’m looking for recommendations for my husband as I “curate” his reading. He likes “hard” science fiction, or books based on current science but extended into the future or an alternative reality. He has read lots of the “masters” and has particularly enjoyed William Gibson, Vernor Vinge, Gregory Benford, L.E. Modesitt Jr., John Scalzi, Ramez Naam, Neal Stephenson, Oryx and Crake. Not a fan of Robert Sawyer, books with “Mars” in the title, space operas, or anything bordering on fantasy. Ideas more critical than style, but good writing appreciated. I’m looking for contemporary writers, preferably writing standalone books rather than series.”

Michael recommends a book that is coming out in May called Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, and The Fold by Peter Clines (available now).

Have additional ideas for Mr. Joanne in Canada? Please call our voicemail line (209-867-7323) with a short (2-3 minute) message letting us know what book(s) you’d recommend. Thanks!

 

Don’t you forget about me (17:56)

 

   

Michael talks about Barry Unsworth’s Morality Play, a historical novel set in the 14th century with a mystery at the center. A traveling theater troupe acts out a local murder, and in the process discovers that the person accused may not be the one responsible.

A Mind of Winter: Poems for a Snowy Season, selected by Robert Atwan is a small, beautiful book of winter poems in a lovely paperback edition. This volume features poems by Wallace Stevens, Amy Lowell, Charles Simic, Mary Oliver, Sylvia Plath, James Merrill, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and more.

 

Jan 19

Ann’s under the weather, so Michael shares one book he can’t wait for you to read.

A reminder to check out the discussion boards on our Goodreads group, if you aren’t already. I especially love browsing the monthly thread of what people are reading. You can find the discussion for January 2016 here

One Book I Can’t Wait For You to Read (03:36)

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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders is already on the list of my favorite books of 2016. Here’s the review I wrote on Goodreads: “An utterly unique book. Parts of it bear resemblance to things I’ve read before, but as a whole, it’s completely original. And heartbreaking, and confounding, and joy-inducing, and terrifying. I won’t soon forget [the characters of] Patricia and Laurence. Nor do I ever want to.”
It goes on sale January 26.

Correction: I refer to All the Birds in the Sky as Charlie Jane Anders’ first novel. In fact, Choir Boy, published in 2005, was her first novel.

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