In Born on the Bayou, Blaine Lourd looks back on a childhood spent deep in the humid marshes of Louisiana. Our reviewer writes, "A dazzling storyteller, Lourd so skillfully describes the hazards of growing up in the bayou with a larger-than-life father that we can’t help but read with wonder that he survived his upbringing and lived to tell these tales." (Read the full review.)
We asked Lourd to share three of his favorite books with us.
Many great books kept me company during the several years I worked on my new memoir, Born on the Bayou. Southern writers—Faulkner, Welty, Warren and Harper Lee—provided inspiration in the strong sense of place they evoked. Entering a writer’s world is such a gift, made possible only by one’s true talent of moving mountains on a page—and the writers above demonstrate that talent again and again. But I also read and would recommend a few other books that have moved me over the years . . .
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
A Moveable Feast is a book that I, perhaps like many writers, re-read from time to time. Hemingway, nearing death, reached deep one last time into his well of incomparable artistry to deliver this memoir of a time long lost to him—his youth in Paris. The intimately conversational quality of this work is the kind of tone a writer working on a memoir should read again and again, I think.
In God’s House by Ray Mouton
In God’s House is a life-like fictionalization of an important historical event—the worldwide clergy sex abuse scandal. Writing a fast-paced, character-driven narrative, Mouton’s authentic Southern voice delivers a suspenseful tale of tragically flawed characters unfolding in a twisting, dark plot that ultimately shatters the great institutions of Rome.
Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Self-Reliance is one of the books I keep on my desk in Lake Bruin, Louisiana, and in my office in Beverly Hills. Although aspects of Emerson’s style might seem archaic or outdated to some modern readers, upon closer inspection it’s also evident that no word is ever wasted, and that he had a measured elegance that remains unmatched. "But the soul that ascends is plain and true; has no rose color, no fine friends, no chivalry, no adventures, does not want admiration; dwells in the hour that now is, in the earnest experience of the common day,—by reason of the present moment and the mere trifle having become porous to thought, and bibulous of the sea of light. "
Emerson always said, “Insist on yourself, never imitate”—some of the best advice a writer, or any person, can ever follow.
Thank you, Blaine! See any favorites on the list, readers?
(Author photo Gene Fama)
This week's debut is Joe Schreiber's heart-pounding Chasing the Dead, a horror-filled road trip that goes from 0-60 on the first page and doesn't let up until the final one.
Joe Schreiber's brilliantly creepy debut novel will have discerning horror connoisseurs everywhere comparing it to terror-inducing classics like Stephen King's Pet Sematary and Peter Straub's Ghost Story. Equal parts supernatural horror and psychological thriller, the majority of Chasing the Dead takes place during one nightmarish 14-hour period.
Scared yet? Read the rest of our review here.
Looking to spice up your weeknight dinner routine? Try this recipe for Moroccan Chicken with Apricot and Pistachio Couscous from grilling gurus Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, and check out their new French-infused cookbook, BBQ Bistro.
Moroccan Chicken with Apricot and Pistachio Couscous
We have the French Foreign Legion to thank for the Moroccan influence in bistro cuisine. Honey-sweet and savory with spice, this chicken dish is a meal in minutes. Just add a Green Salad (page 70). The marinade is multifunctional: One half flavors the chicken; the other half dresses the couscous. Here’s looking at you, kid. It’s always good to oil the grill rack well before heating up the grill, but it’s especially important when you’re grilling foods that have been marinated in a sweet mixture, so they don’t stick.
Apricot and Pistachio Couscous
For the marinade, whisk together garlic, green onions, wine, honey, olive oil, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside.
Place the chicken in a large sealable plastic bag and pour in half the marinade. Seal, toss to coat, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours, tossing occasionally. Cover and refrigerate the remaining marinade until ready to use. Prepare a medium-hot fire in your grill.
For the Apricot and Pistachio Couscous, place the apricots in a small bowl, pour in hot water, and let soften for about 5 minutes. Prepare the couscous according to package directions. Drain the apricots. Toss the couscous with the reserved marinade, apricots, and pistachios. Set aside.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the marinade. Grill the chicken for
18 to 20 minutes, turning every 3 to 4 minutes, until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of thigh registers 160°F (75°C). Serve the chicken on a bed of Apricot and Pistachio Couscous.
Only an idiot would scoff at romance. The women who write romance novels are some of the savviest, most successful authors out there, and they've got the credentials to back it up.
The next time someone looks down at your romance novel, tell them about some of these best-selling authors and their remarkable accomplishments.
So there you have it; romance is a genius genre.
Looking for more romance? Sign up for our monthly romance newsletter, Smitten!
New York City's crowded Lower East Side tenements come to life in Alkemade's first novel, which opens in 1919. After tragedy strikes Rachel Rabinowitz's family, she's separated from her brother, Sam, and sent to a Jewish orphanage. Decades later, her past comes back to haunt her in surprising way, and her ability to forgive will be tested.
Alkemade's descriptions of Rachel's life in the orphanage are heartreading, although that won't come as a surprise to readers of books like The Orphan Train.
"You see?" Nurse Shapiro said. "They all cry themselves to sleep eventually if you leave them alone long enough."
In the secret darkness under the blanket, Rachel intertwined her fingers and pretended she was holding her brother's hand. It seemed like only a second later that she was jolted awake by a dream of a baby doll come to life, black buttons sewn on with coarse thread where its eyes should have been.
What are you reading this week?
Hilary Liftin is the author of more than 15 fiction and nonfiction bestsellers—but she's just released her first novel. How? Well, Liftin's previous works bore the name of other people: She's been working as a ghostwriter for more than a decade. In a guest post, Liftin talks about what it's like to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
My first novel, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, was published in July. It’s been strange for me to see this book into the world. I should feel like a pro. After all, I worked in publishing for 10 years, published two nonfiction books under my own name, and, as a professional ghostwriter, have so far collaborated on more than 15 books with a wonderful collection of celebrities and experts. But I never considered myself a fiction writer. For all the writing I had done, I’d never made anything up! In fact, that’s what I’ve always said I like most about ghostwriting. The raw material is pretty much handed to me.
Then I had the idea for Movie Star. Like any ghostwriter, I have to wait, sometimes impatiently, for the right projects to come along. I read gossip magazines and fantasize that various stars will want my services. So one day I decided I would take the bull by the horns and write a fictional celebrity memoir—the tell-all of my dreams.
Because the form was familiar to me, this was a baby step into fiction. I knew I wanted to delve into my Hollywood heroine’s struggle in her marriage to a megastar, and I wanted to let readers experience what it might be like if a tabloid darling held nothing back. I’ve written enough memoirs to have a sense of pace and scope. But actually plotting out the story was completely new to me. So I did something that may be unusual for novelists but felt perfectly natural to me as a collaborator—I called upon two of my writer friends to help me do what screenwriters call “breaking the story.” At least with an outline in hand I felt more confident facing the blank screen. Nonetheless, along the way I took some wrong turns, wrote myself into corners, and had to throw out hours of work. But in this process I was bolstered by another attribute acquired through ghostwriting—I had a sense of what I might call caring detachment. I knew exactly what the book wanted to be, and I was willing to scrap anything that didn’t serve it.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this process for me was not the writing, but the publication itself. Once my ghostwritten projects make it through the editorial process, I’m out. I have zero to do with publicizing the book. I just watch from the sidelines, like a proud relative at a graduation ceremony. When Movie Star came out, there was so much to do! The publisher had questions for me. Features and reviews had my name in them. The full spotlight was on me. To be honest, I would have loved to hire a ghost-self-promoter to pull it off with more finesse than I. I still love ghostwriting—the collaboration, the form, and not least the freedom to hide in the shadows—but Movie Star is my baby, and it’s proven fun to nurture it along.
Getting your kids back to school in the fall just isn’t as simple as it used to be. Gone are the days when buying a new backpack, shoes and notebook would be enough. Now, in addition to understanding macro-educational policies, standards and testing requirements, parents must also make sense of ever-changing acronyms, such as STEM, STEAM—and now STREAM. What’s behind these terms and what can a parent do to help support a child’s learning?
The acronym STEM has been around for awhile; it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM education refers to teaching and learning in these fields, from preschool to post-doctorate, in both classroom and informal settings. STEM education initiatives are designed to ensure that young people have opportunities in these fields, and to make the U.S. more competitive internationally.
Several years ago, STEM was expanded to STEAM, an effort to incorporate art into the mix. STREAM wasn’t far behind—a reminder that reading and writing are essential. As Rob Furman wrote in his 2014 Huffington Post article, “Without the ability to read and write, there is not a job to be found for which STEM or STEAM education is going to be enough preparation.”
What’s a parent to do? Fortunately, reading great books at home—and seeing reading as a jumping off point for the exploration of the world, is the best place to start. Sometimes just following your child’s lead is all it takes. Examples abound: Gardening books for preschoolers can lead to explorations of how plants get energy, and young children are naturally curious: a fictional story about a bear can lead to nonfiction books about mammals and hibernation.
Here are some tried-and-true tips:
Deborah Hopkinson is the author of titles such as The Great Trouble (about the history of cholera), Sky Boys, How They Built the Empire State Building (construction and engineering) and Who Was Charles Darwin? Her newest book is Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in WWII Denmark, out August 25. She's also a regular contributor to BookPage.
Debbie Macomber's novels have inspired countless readers (and a television series and a few movies!), and in this guest post, Macomber tells us what inspires her. Her latest novel, Silver Linings, returns to her beloved Cedar Cove as part of the Rose Harbor Inn series.
When people ask me what inspired my Cedar Cove series, I generally joke and answer, "My house payment." While that's true, the real answer is a bit more complicated. The inspiration for the Cedar Cove series and the Rose Harbor Inn spin-off came directly from my readers.
I read every piece of mail that comes into my office. My readers have directed the course of my career from my first published book to this very day. Their notes and emails have steered my writing. The Cedar Cove series is a good example.
Dedicated readers were the ones who led me to create my first six-book series, and by the time the last book was published, my office was flooded with mail asking for more. That was when the light bulb went off in my brain. Why not create a series and continue writing until all the stories are told? The Cedar Cove series was born and ended up being 11 full-length novels, two Christmas books and a novella before it was laid to rest.
By now, I'd caught on, and I knew my fan base wasn't ready to leave Cedar Cove—even though I was. As a compromise, I set the Rose Harbor Inn series in the town my readers and I had grown to love.
Silver Linings is the fourth book in the Rose Harbor Inn series. The overarching theme of these books is emotional healing. The idea for Silver Linings came from a notice that my own high school reunion is coming up soon. And frankly, who among us can't do with a bit of healing from the angst of our teenage years? This reunion is a biggie for me. You know the ones—they have zeros in them. I'm still in touch with several of my high school friends, and we see each other often. These friendships are important to me and have blessed my life. My hope is that when you read Silver Linings and come to know the stories of Katie Gilroy and Coco Crenshaw and their class reunion, plus the ongoing story of inn owner Jo Marie Rose and Mark Taylor, you will be blessed—for you, my readers, are the ones who inspired it.
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A best-selling novel that’s sure to appeal to book clubs and two short story collections by Southern masters of the form top the list of new paperbacks on sale today:
Big Little Lies
By Liane Moriarty
Berkley • $16 • ISBN 9780425274866
Attention, book clubs: The latest novel from the author of The Husband's Secret is out in paperback, with a page-turning plot and a juicy satire of suburban scandal. Book clubs will find plenty to talk about, from cliques and bullying to parenting and infidelity. The paperback includes a list of discussion questions worthy of an AP English exam.
By Tony Earley
Back Bay • $14.99 • ISBN 9780316246149
In his first collection in 20 years, the author of the lluminous novel Jim the Boy offers a novella and six short stories that showcase his talent for capturing the rhythms and characters of Southern life. Many of the stories explore the poignant complexities of relationships, including the moving title story in which a newly married mountain woman has a fateful encounter with a grieving neighbor. The paperback includes a reading group guide.
Something Rich and Strange
By Ron Rash
Ecco • $16.99 • ISBN 9780062349354
If I had to choose one word to describe Rash's stories, it would be "powerful." Set mostly in the mountains of western North Carolina, the 34 stories here constitute a "best of" collection drawn from his four previous volumes of stories. (Rash is also the author of five novels, including Serena and The Cove). Spare, poetic and compelling, many of these stories will take your breath away. As evidence, we refer you to "The Trusty," first published in The New Yorker in 2011.