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.

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.

 

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