On Monday a writer friend of mine was in town, visiting from West Virgina. We were in the Masters program at USC together, and she has since moved and found herself a pretty kick ass job as a magazine editor. When she called to say she was coming to town, we both agreed it was a great excuse to have lunch and waste a few hours wondering the isles of our favorite books store.
We are both in love with Skylight Books
I learned that one the hard way. I went there once with the little guy in tow, just as he was learning to walk, and I got sucked into the new fiction section. It was ugly. I was that mom – the one who lets her kid wander around pulling books off shelves. At one point, in a half-hearted attempt to keep him under control, I was holding the back of his pants with one hand and reading the back of new novel with the other, as he slid and whined on the floor, trying to get away. So yeah, since then, I go with a mission, and don’t allow myself to get distracted.
Except on Monday, I went in the middle of the day, sans kiddos, and just dove right in. I find the entire shop exceptional, but left to meander, I always end up in the new fiction section. And since I’m nearing the end of this draft of the novel, I took some time focus in on debut fiction. I found three different titles, all by first time novelists, that seem like they have the same sensibilities as my book. In the acknowledgements I culled the names of their agents and have added them to my list of people to investigate. I managed to buy just one, a book called “Wild Girls
The whole afternoon just reminded me why I write.
I love books. I just love them.
Did you know there’s a whole book on salt? It’s called “Salt: A World History
It was a wonderful afternoon. I have to remember, the next time I’m feeling frustrated or tired, that an hour at Skylight can change my whole perspective and remind me why I do what I do.
Congratulations to my father-in-law, who just published his first book.
It’s titled “Las Gracias de Dona Diabla.” There was a huge launch party in Quito, Ecuador, last weekend. I couldn’t make it, but I hear it was a big success.
My Spanish, as of yet, isn’t quite good enough that I can actually read the book, but if yours is, I suggest you track down a copy. He’s a great story teller.
I‘ve been reading this book, “Pillars of the Earth,” for what feels like forever. It’s quite long, and even though the author (Follett) can sometimes digress extensively into the details of church construction, it is a damn good story.
At this point (and I still have several hundred pages to go), I don’t even really need to know any of the events that happened in the first half of the book. I seem to be reading a whole other story.
So I wonder, will he bring it back to the opening scene at the end? Or was there some other reason that he decided not to make this into a trilogy? It would seem, from a marketing perspective, that selling the story as a trilogy would have made both Follet and his publishers a lot of money.
Take the Hunger Games for example. Trilogy. Delicious. Totally could have been one long book. I assume that the reason it’s not a trilogy is because the publisher knew I’d fork over the dough for each one, after loving the first installment so much.
As an author, it’s got me thinking. How does one know if they have a trilogy on their hands, or just one really long book? Is it an artistic choice? Or a marketing thing? Anyone out there have any perspective on this one?
I read a lot. I believe it’s part of a writer’s job, so much so that I consider sitting around reading a legitimate day of work (when I don’t have actual deadlines pending).
At the end of 2011 I was swamped in a lot of ways and looking for some good, light reading fare, so I picked up “Fun and Games.” It’s a mystery/thriller/hollywood story, and it was just what I was looking for. But then I went and bought book 2 in the series and frankly, it sucks. I tore through the Hunger Games trilogy, mostly because all the cool kids are doing it, and I actually thought they were great. Again, not historically brilliant prose, but a damn good story.
So then I was stumped. On a recommendation from a semi-nerdy friend I picked up “How to survive in a science fiction universe.” I totally respect it for the ingenuity and creativity, but when I was half way through and couldn’t tell what it was really about, I gave up. Same with “Let the great world spin,” which I’ve been told I should give another shot, because it’s amazing. I loved the writing, but the story just didn’t grab me.
Right now I’m reading “The Wedding Gift,” which also frankly sucks, but it was $1 on my kindle. You get what you pay for I guess.
Anyhow, I could go on, but if you want to know what I’ve been reading you can just scroll down and check out the little book shelf in the right hand column there. I generally keep it well updated.
What I really want now is advice on what to read next. I got 2 Amazon gift cards for Christmas (big thanks to my favorite client and my wonderful in-laws), and they are burning a hole in my pocket. I’m done with the delicious junk for the time being. Instead I’m looking for something really engrossing. Something stunning. Something that will make me sit up way too late tonight reading because I simply cannot put it down.
I trolled a few Best Of lists from 2011 and here are my top contenders.
The Sense of An Ending
Salvage the Bones
A Visit From the Goon Squad (I want to hope that this is Princess Bride reference…?)
The Tiger’s Wife
The Marriage Plot
I’m thinking about just working my way down the list, but I’d love to hear from anyone out there who has actually read one or more of them.
Or what was your favorite book of 2011, and why will I love it? Seduce me.
My official new headshot is now in full effect (many thanks to Paul Giunta
While I was at it, I finally transferred my shelfari bookshelf to this new site. You can see it at the bottom of the sidebar over there on the right. This is one of my favorite widgets. It not only helps me keep track of what I’ve read, but lets me share the list with friends.
Which leads me to the most recent addition to my bookshelf, “The Writer’s Portable Mentor
If you are serious about writing, this book is a great way to remind yourself of the finer details of the craft. You should add it to your Christmas list.
If you follow my social media feeds, you know that I couldn’t put “Room” down. It was riveting fiction. Absolutely amazing. But last night I was reading “A Stolen Life,” which is basically the non-fiction version of the story, and I have to say it is so much more compelling.
This girl (now a woman) was kidnapped at the age of 11 and spent 18 years (!!!!) being held captive by this man and his wife. Her account of her life over those eighteen years is stunning. I feel stunned. She writes each chapter in first person present, then, at the end of each chapter, writes a short section from the perspective of the grown woman she is now, talking about the trials of re-entering her life.
Last night, after reading the chapter where she first calls her mom after 18 years of being gone without a trace, I had tears streaming down my face. I had to put the book down to call my mom and just tell her that I love her.I don’t want to tell you too much, because I think it’s absolutely fascinating how the story unfolds, but I will say this – this woman’s strength is amazing. She talks in one of the sections about her girls starting school (opps, I guess that does give away that she has two girls while being held captive (!!!!)) and how she is afraid at first to let them go because she’s never really been apart from them, and what if something bad happens? Then she talks about letting go and knowing that what happened to her is really rare, and she has to let them live their lives. I was afraid to read this book because I thought it might make me never let my daughter go any where by herself ever, but if Jaycee Dugard can take a breath and trust that everything will be okay, then certainly I can too.
If this book isn’t on your reading list yet. It should be. And actually, if you haven’t read “Room” yet, you should read that first. Would love to hear peoples thoughts on how they compare.