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.

Jan 05

Slimming down (our book collections) in the New year. Plus, we recommend Lum by Libby Ware and The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey.

Attention anyone planning on reading BOTNS Listener Faves during 2016: In addition to the list we collected, Mindy, from our Goodreads group, collected responses from commenters there and created a separate list which you can find here. Thanks again to everyone who shared their favorite books, and thanks to Mindy for compiling the list!

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (02:56)

Lightless, C. A. HigginsLightless
by C. A. Higgins, narrated by Fiona Hardingham, 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

 

Newer Year, Fewer Books (06:31)

During our holiday break, Ann and I each watched a bit of television. Ann binge-watched Making a Murderer, and I worked my way through Jessica Jones.

25614984In addition to watching TV, our families, coincidentally, each ended up doing some purging of clutter, moving some books, and culling some books. These processes put us in mind, of course, of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo’s recommendations on getting rid of books doesn’t sit well with most true book lovers. (She basically recommends only keeping a few beloved books, and none that you haven’t read yet.) Ann and I have each “Kondo-ed” our book collections, to varying degrees, and we discuss what that process has been like and how we feel about the books we did keep.

Marie Kondo’s new book Spark Joy, expands on her method somewhat and includes many illustrations on her folding methods and other organizational ideas.

 

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (29:53)

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One of the books Ann was able to find more easily after reorganizing her books was Lum by Libby Ware. The story follows Columbia who, at age eight, is diagnosed as intersex (physically both female and male). In her early thirties she moves among the houses of family members, helping out where she can. This outsider existence is thrown into turmoil when construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway threatens her family’s farm.

I recommend Chris Bailey’s The Productivity Project, a look a what he learned during the year he spent experimenting with multiple productivity methods, strategies, and apps. What I love about this book so far is how “hands on” it is: each chapter ends with a short exercise for the reader, exploring the topics and ideas just covered.

Dec 22

In which we discuss listener favorites, Michael’s favorite books of 2015, and books that I love even though I refuse to choose favorites.

 

This is our last episode of 2015, as we’re taking next week off to spend Christmas week with our families and our books.

We’ve closed out the poll of Books on the Nightstand listeners’ favorite books of all time, and favorite books published in 2015.

Favorite book of all time: tie between A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Favorite book published in 2015: There was a runaway winner — A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Second and third were Fates and Furies (Lauren Groff) and A God in Ruins (Kate Atkinson).

See the full results here (pdf) and consider using this to jumpstart your reading for 2016.

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (02:56)

Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week
This week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week is actually several audiobooks — those chosen by The Washington Post as the Best Audiobooks of 2015.

The list includes:

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

 

Our favorite books of 2015 (maybe)

In the past, we’ve usually focused the last BOTNS episode of the year on our favorite books of the year.

I’m going to stage a revolt, though. I read a lot of great books this year, but I’m not sure that I can actually make a “favorites” list. I had one definite favorite (no surprise, A Little Life). But I also read so many other books that I loved and it feels unfair to pit them against each other.

Michael did make a list:

If you do want “Best of” lists, check out Largehearted Boy, which compiles all of the lists that are published online every year. It’s a massive, massive list.

Another fun read was sent to us by a listener: Winners and Losers: Publishers pick the 2015 books they loved, missed, and envied.

Have fun!

Dec 15

Belated Bingo. Are books getting longer? And we recommend Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix, and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

 

BINGO! Ann finally completed a row on her BOTNS Summer Bingo card! She’s thinking about printing out a new card to use throughout 2016 (don’t worry, she’ll play a separate card just for the summer!). If any of you would like to do that also, you can download a new card here!

 

Don’t forget to download the Books on the Nightstand 2015 Holiday Gift Guide!

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (02:56)


Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Eric Schlosser
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, narrated by Rick Adamson, 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

 

Are Books Getting Bigger? (06:40)

An article in The Guardian – The Big Question: Are Books Getting Longer? – led to our discussion this week. Are books really getting longer or are we just buying and talking about the books with the biggest page counts? Some of the big and little books we mention:

 

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (23:02)

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I recommend Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix. It’s the first full-color Mark Bittman cookbook and its multiple takes on single ingredients and pick-and-choose recipes make it perfect for new home cooks as well as those who’ve been cooking along with Bittman for years.

Ann has known about We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for quite some time now. But, prompted by the news that every teenager in Sweden was given a copy of this book, she finally read it, and is making her daughters read it too. It’s a short book, but its size belies the important messages and discussions it contains.

Dec 08

Alternative book clubs, an “elevator pitch” to describe books we like, and new books about knights and gut microbes.

 

I was intrigued by this story, “The Rise of the Alternative Book Club,” including a “walking book club,” so I thought I’d share it with you. In the past we’ve talked about knitting book clubs and other interesting iterations of book discussion groups. Are you part of a reading group with a unique twist? Let us know in the comments.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (03:31)


Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, narrated by Simon Vance, 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

 

Why we like the books we do (09:50)

We received an email from Elaine in Maine, which reads in part: “What I rely on to pick books I might read are the short reviews, interviews and podcasts.  I try to pick fascinating characters likable or not, intriguing story plots.  In non-fiction prefer biographies over memoirs,  exploration of places and events.” This got us thinking: can we sum up our reading preferences as succinctly and directly as Elaine has? Please join us as Michael and I explore and try to express why we like the books we do. We don’t talk a lot about specific titles, but we do mention a few:

Stitches by David Small

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

Judge This by Chip Kidd

Books by Wally Lamb. I don’t know Wally Lamb was the example that jumped into my mind when we were discussing blurbs, but I do enjoy his books.

We completely failed to come up with a two-sentence “elevator pitch” about what we like to read, and we admire Elaine greatly for being able to pinpoint her preferences so well. What about you? Can you boil down your reading preferences into two sentences that will help others recommend books to you? Share them here, if you like. I’d love to read them.

 

Two books we can’t wait for you to read (31:13)

 

Rules for a Knight   Follow Your Gut

My recommendation this week is Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke (yes, that one). Written in the form of a letter to his children by a Medieval knight who is going off to war, it’s a wonderful book of parables and life lessons. This is perfect for ages 10 through adult, or you can have fun reading it to a younger child. I really love the design of the book and the way that it feels in the hand.

Michael recommends Follow Your Gut: The Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes by Rob Knight with Brendan Buhler, which is an accessible look at the importance of the microbes in our system, and how they impact things like antibiotics, probiotics, and antibacterial soap. It’s entertaining and informative that makes a very complicated topic very easy to understand.

 

Dec 01

The Holiday Gift Guide is here! We discuss a sort-of genre of books that we can’t quite put a name to. Plus, we recommend The Grownup by Gillian Flynn and Gratitude by Oliver Sacks.

 

Download the Books on the Nightstand 2015 Holiday Gift Guide!
This year, sharing the Gift Guide on social media could win you free signed books! Every time you share the guide on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, linking to this page and using the hashtag #BOTNS2015GG, you’ll be entered to win a complete set of our Booktopia Petoskey 2015 authors’ most recent books, signed by the authors! Runners-up will receive one signed book. Don’t forget that using the #GiveaBook means that Penguin Random House will donate a book to a child in need, so throw that hashtag on your post/tweet as well! We’ll randomly choose winners just after Christmas, and mail out the books in early January. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (03:24)


Hexed, Kevin Hearne  Hammered, Kevin Hearne

Hexed and Hammered by Kevin Hearne, narrated by Luke Daniels, are my picks for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook(s) 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

 

What Do We Call This? (06:14)

After reading What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas, a listener wrote in asking if, like young adult, there should be a category for older adults. We discuss what that category could include, what it should be called (we have no idea), and will categorizing books that way limit their audience?

 

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (23:36)

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The Grownup by Gillian Flynn, is a short story newly released in a special small hardcover. The story follows an unnamed narrator who, in her scam job as a medium, is called in to investigate the evil that’s pervading a family. But is that evil coming from the old Gothic house they recently moved to, or is it coming from the sullen teenage son full of anger and threats? In true Gillian Flynn fashion, you will be kept guessing!

Gratitude by Oliver Sacks, is a beautiful hardcover containing the four essays written for The New York Times by Dr. Sacks in the two years leading up to his death. These powerful and moving essays are filled with universal truths and should be read and re-read by everyone.

Nov 27

We’re very pleased to bring you the Books on the Nightstand 2015 Holiday Gift Guide, a collection of 38 books hand-selected by Ann and me. It was very hard to keep our lists reasonably-sized this year, but repeated culling has resulted in an extremely giftable list! You can download the Gift Guide by clicking on the above link, or the image below. The guide is sized for printing, and, if you only want to print out one page, the last page is a checklist.

 

BOTNS Holiday Gift Guide 2015 Cover Image

 

This year, sharing the Gift Guide on social media could win you free signed books! Every time you share the guide on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, linking to this page and using the hashtag #BOTNS2015GG, you’ll be entered to win a complete set of our Booktopia Petoskey 2015 authors’ most recent books, signed by the authors! Runners-up will receive one signed book. Don’t forget that using the #GiveaBook means that Penguin Random House will donate a book to a child in need, so throw that hashtag on your post/tweet as well! We’ll randomly choose winners just after Christmas, and mail out the books in early January. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Nov 24

A statement of disclosure; a cornucopia of links, and two books that we don’t want you to forget about.

 

We received a comment asking us to let listeners know when we talk about a book if we’ve gotten it for free, and to mention when it is discounted. Much of what we read is for work, usually before the book is available to the public. Other times, books are sent to us by publicists who hope that we will cover the book on the podcast. When we accept books from publicists, we are careful to let them know that we may not talk about it. Though we do purchase many books ourselves, for the purposes of this blog and podcast, it is easiest to assume that we have received the books for free. At no time does the cost (or lack of cost) of a book determine if we talk about it on the podcast. We only talk about books that we recommend, and our recommendations are not determined by the price that we pay.

We also don’t mention specific retailers or sales when recommending books. We encourage you to buy books from your preferred source. When we mention a price, we mention the publisher’s suggested retail price. Many booksellers, both online and bricks and mortar, discount some selection of books, be it bestsellers, books sold at an author event, staff picks, etc. The books discounted vary widely between retailers. It’s easier for us to just mention the retail price of the book, and let our listeners buy the book where they choose.”

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (07:47)


Dumplin'    Dumplin‘,
 written by Julie Murphy and narrated by Eileen Stevens, 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

 

Cornucopia Redux (11:30)

In what appears to be an annual tradition, today’s episode is a mishmash of topics: things that we found interesting but that don’t warrant an entire show. We hope you enjoy!

Thanks to Hypertext Magazine for interviewing us! If you haven’t yet explored Hypertext, please do — it’s a great online magazine featuring fiction, essays, and articles.

Margaret Atwood has lent her name to a line of Certified Bird-Friendly coffee that is available at Balzac Coffee in Canada. This topic is raised in Atwood’s novel The Year of the Flood, and I love the real-life way to help the cause.

After the horrible terrorist attacks in Paris, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast has seen a resurgence in sales. Many think that the book represents the best of the French way of life and is a way to celebrate freedom and not let the terrorists win.

The New Yorker has announced that it will periodically feature novellas on its online site, chosen by Fiction Editor Deborah Treisman. The first one, In Hindsight by Callan Wink, is up this week alongside an interview with the author. Some of our favorite novellas are those in Melville House’s “The Art of the Novella” series, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, and the forthcoming novella from Graham Swift, Mothering Sunday (which will be published in the US in April 2016).

We liked this Time Magazine article on the history of Young Adult as its own category. Did you know that the category developed through the efforts of librarians?

A listener emailed us this article from Inside Higher Ed: Station Eleven and an Idea for a Cross-Disciplinary Course on Collapse,” by Joshua Kim. It’s a fascinating discussion (continued in the comments) about using literature to explore the resilience of the human spirit in the face of societal collapse. Michael is reading a novel in this category called The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis (coming in July 2016) that would fit into this topic.

Author and BOTNS friend Matthew Dicks has launched a new podcast called Boy Vs. Girl, cohosted with sociologist Rachel Leventhal-Weiner, talking about gender and gender stereotypes. It’s fun, entertaining and informative, and I think many of our listeners will enjoy it.

And lastly, we tell you about Give A Book, a program sponsored by our employers, Penguin Random House. For every use of the hashtag #GiveABook on Twitter or Facebook between now and December 25th, Penguin Random House will donate one book (up to 35,000) to First Book, a literacy organization that puts books into the hands of children. In addition, if you want to find a place near you where you can donate a book that will go into your local community, please check out the Give A Book Giving Map, which will help you find a bookstore near you that is sponsoring a book drive or other charitable program to get books to those who need them.

NOTE: Our annual holiday BOTNS Gift Guide will go live on Friday morning November 27, 2015. We’ll post the link here when we have it, and it will also be featured on the sidebar at booksonthenightstand.com.

 

Don’t you forget about me (30:29)

 

The Virgin Suicides   Ella Minnow Pea

Michael recommends The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, which is in a new, small hardcover Picador Classics edition. It’s the story of five sisters in a suburb of Detroit and their demise, told from the point of view of the boys in the neighborhood.

My pick is Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, a novel told in letters. It’s set on the island of Nollop (off the coast of South Carolina) and it tells the story of what happens when, one by one, a society outlaws the use of specific letters of the alphabet. It’s a real treat for language lovers!

Nov 18

FullSizeRender

 

This week we’re very pleased to bring you the book discussions for two of The Readers/BOTNS Favorites held at Booktopia Petoskey. This episode features the discussions for The Sparrow and The Professor’s House, and over on the current episode of The Readers, you can hear us talking about Rebecca and Any Human Heart.

 

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Nov 10

Amazon’s new brick and mortar bookstore; our reading plans for 2016; an illustrated book about weather and a new book by Cheryl Strayed.

 

We got a lot of email requests to discuss Amazon’s new brick and mortar bookstore in Seattle, Amazon Books. Neither Michael nor I has been there, and we don’t really know very much. Several reporters have visited and reported back, and there have been other articles speculating about Amazon’s motivation for opening a brick and mortar bookstore. If any of you have visited, let us know what you think.

 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (09:26)


The Heart Goes Last    The Heart Goes Last
 written by Margaret Atwood and narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Mark Deakins, 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

 

Planning ahead for 2016 (15:24)

 

There’s a thread in our Goodreads group called 2016 Reading Plans, where listeners are discussing personal reading challenges and strategies for 2016. The idea arose to read one book a month from a list of BOTNS’s listener favorites. We’d love for you to include your favorites on the list: your favorite book of all time, and your favorite book published in 2015. You can enter your choices in this form, which we will post in the near future.

My plan is to spend some of 2016 focused on the personal essay. A few weeks back I talked about Sarah Bakewell’s How To Live and how much it made me interested in Montaigne, who is considered to be the first personal essayist. So now I want to read Montaigne, and I also want to explore other personal essays to discover for myself what I like and what I don’t about reading essays.

Michael started out by saying that he was going to just read whatever he wants whenever he wants, but stick to reading one book at a time. But then as our conversation continues, it turns out that he also wants to read from a list of short stories. Of course I couldn’t let that pass, so I recommended 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories, edited by Lorrie Moore with coeditor Heidi Pitlor.

The Complete Essays of Montaigne  100 Years of the Best American Short Stories

 

 

Two books we can’t wait for you to read (28:38)

 

Thunder and Lightning    Brave Enough

 

Michael recommends Thunder and Lightning: Weather Past, Present, and Future by Lauren Redniss, a graphic nonfiction book of science that it illustrated with incredible images that tell the story of weather in a very unique way. Redniss looks at weather throughout history, from the scientific aspects to the human interest stories behind weather events. It’s gorgeous and informative, and very visual, so please do go take a look at the finished book in your local bookstore. Redniss is the author of Radioactive, a book about Marie Curie that was the first illustrated nonfiction to be nominated for a National Book Award.

My pick for this week is Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed. This is a book of quotes from Cheryl Strayed’s work: Wild and Tiny, Beautiful Things are represented here, but there are also quotes from her interviews and other writings. Strayed’s words have inspired many, and people have enjoyed sharing quotes from her work via social media. This collection takes the words out of the context in which they originally appeared, which gives them a weight and power of their own. It’s a great gift, which Strayed describes as a “mini instruction manual for the soul.”

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