Last night, I should have been at home packing for the Romance Writers of America conference. Instead, I went straight from work to the main branch of the Nashville Public Library to see Ann Patchett read from State of Wonder and get my book signed. (I read a review copy to prep for my interview with Ann, yet I still bought a hardcover. Is that dedication, or what?)
When I got to the lobby of the library, the first thing I noticed was the sheer number of people milling around. I thought I was doing pretty good to get there at 6 o’clock when the reading started at 6:45 . . . but by the time I showed up, the library’s auditorium was packed and there weren’t any seats left in the overflow room.
In the end, the library generously set up three overflow rooms, so nobody had to sit on the floor or stand during the reading. I’m not good at judging crowd size, but I heard one estimate that there were 800 people at the event! It was completely heartening to see so many people come out to support a novel in a city without an independent bookstore. (Thanks to Ann, that’s about to change.)
Ann was both hilarious and moving during her talk. For this hometown audience, she spoke about how Nashville is a city that needs a bookstore, how she wanted to strangle Michael Feldman after he gave away the ending to State of Wonder on Whad'Ya Know and how she does not have a “secret author answer” to interpreting her books. She also recommended The All of It by Jeannette Haien, a slim book she discovered, loved then insisted HarperCollins re-print. (Ann wrote the introduction.)
All in all, it was a fun and exciting event (orchestrated beautifully by the library staff) filled with hundreds of booklovers and one very gracious author.
Have you been to any great author events lately?
Our Father's Day Feature includes four books that would all be great gifts for dads, and Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures for Fathers Who Cook for Their Families gives a huge pat on the back to dad-chefs and kings-of-the-grill. Author John Donohue has collected advice, testimonies and recipes from writers, editors and journalists and compiled it into a great book.
The trailer from Algonquin (which stars the author himself!) is pretty funny, and the 50's style nails it on the head: no longer are the days of women-dominated kitchens. Dudes, it's your time!
BookPage contributor Martin Brady writes, "A must-have for kitchen-friendly dads, this volume should reap rewards down the road for family appetites everywhere."
Just in time for Father's Day! Whose dad is king of his kitchen?
We know a lot of you are Lisa See fans—this makes today a big day since her fourth novel, Dreams of Joy, is hitting bookstore shelves. And it sounds like a novel worth waiting for. In her review, contributor Stephenie Harrison says, "Ever the consummate historian, See brings to life the realities of China during Mao’s Great Leap Forward, providing a fascinating and frightening new world for her readers to immerse themselves in."
See tells us how the book came about in a revealing Q&A. "I didn’t plan to write a sequel. I thought the end of Shanghai Girls was a new beginning. Readers thought otherwise. Absolutely everyone, including my publisher, asked for a sequel."
I heard Lisa See speak at the BEA author breakfast a couple of years ago, and she was wonderful. Though I haven't read Dreams yet, I'm thinking I'll pick it up soon. How about you?
As I mentioned on the blog a couple weeks ago, I recently went on vacation to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was an amazing trip of both sight-seeing and relaxing . . . but that's not what I want to write about here.
I want to write about books! One thing that really stuck with me—especially after Nashville's been hit with so many bookstore closings—is how many librerías there are in the streets of BA. I felt like I could hardly walk two blocks without running into a store window packed with books.
Of course, my favorite of all was El Ateneo, the grand store that's housed in an old theater. It was packed to the brim when I visited, and I loved that the former private boxes had been turned into cozy reading areas. As you can see from this photo, I saw some familiar bestsellers on the shelves!
The biggest surprise of all for this book-lover was learning that Buenos Aires is the Capital Mundial del Libro for 2011. I learned this when I stumbled upon the "Tower of Babel" in the Plaza San Martin—a huge temporary tower made from 30,000 books and designed by Argentine conceptual artist Marta Minujin.
It's pretty stunning, no? For scale, just know that I'm 5'10.
The tower includes books from many different languages—I spotted Isabel Allende, John Updike, John Knowles . . . The books are supposed to create a "multilingual library," according to Minujin's website. "The tower structure is a helical structure of seven stories high covered with 30,000 books in different languages and dialects that reminds us of the mythical Tower of Babel." Here's a close-up:
As you might imagine, it was a bummer to come back to the "real world" at the end of my vacation. Happily, though, on my second day back at work I came across a very appropriate new book: The Foreigners by Maxine Swann. This novel comes out from Riverhead on August 18, and it's about three women who experience an awakening in Buenos Aires. According to Penguin's publicity materials, it's set against "the throbbing backdrop of this shimmering and decadent city—almost a character in itself."
I have big plans to spend my long weekend seeking out an Argentine Malbec and diving into the story. I'll let you know what I think, but I have high hopes.
Have any of you experienced any book-related adventures in a new city? What's the coolest book art you've ever seen?
Are any books currently helping you get over the post-vacation blues?
One of my favorite books in high school was Daisy Miller -- perhaps a strange choice for a 16-year-old girl -- but there was something fascinating and tragic about the 19th-century ex-pats seeking solace in European society. While Winterbourne toured Rome and Geneva, so many of the great artists and creative minds (such as Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent and Ralph Waldo Emerson) set sail for France, and this is the topic of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough's The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, which goes on sale today!
Check out the preview in McCullough's own words to give you an even better feel for the revolutionary and "medieval" metropolis of Paris in the 19th century in this trailer from Simon and Schuster:
Our reviewer Martin Brady writes, "Unlike the more recent, disputatious era of U.S.-Franco relations (remember 'freedom fries'?), McCullough's France is where the American flag was flown as a symbol of proud friendship [...] and where the rich heritage of America's revolutionary debt to Lafayette was continuously honored."
It sounds like a wonderful time to be in Paris! Are you looking forward to grabbing a copy of McCullough's new book?
James Frey and Oprah met again earlier this week, as part of her "most memorable guests" series—and the talk show host offered an apology for her "lack of compassion" to the memoirist when he appeared on her show in 2006.
Frey opened up about the difficult times in the years since, including the tragic death of his infant son, but perhaps the most interesting revelation for book people like us was the glimpse into Full Fathom Five, the (controversial) company Frey started after his return to the U.S. There, young writers (and in the video they all looked quite young) work to develop Frey's ideas into books, video games and movies, in the style of Alloy Entertainment. I Am Number Four, their first release, hit the bestseller list and became a modestly successful film. Frey has already sold 10 projects from Full Fathom Five to HarperCollins.
Alas, the Full Fathom Five footage is not available online, but you can see other snippets from the shows on Oprah's site.
Did you watch James Frey on Oprah? Do you think that his two hours with Oprah made for good TV?
It has been 50 years since James crawled inside a giant peach to escape his heinous aunts Sponge and Spiker; 50 years since he went on a truly extraordinary adventure and added James and the Giant Peach to Roald Dahl's list of unforgettable stories.
In honor of Dahl, the world's greatest storyteller (and his humongous peach), Penguin Young Readers Group has launched Follow That Peach, where you can send a virtual Peach-gram to a friend anywhere in the world! Senders can then follow their peach on an interactive map as it travels the globe from one friend to another. The goal is for every peach to reach 50 people, in honor of 50 years of James and the Giant Peach. You can also print off Peach-grams and send them snail-mail style.
I love the idea of continuing the peach adventures! Who will get a peach from you?
What is your favorite Roald Dahl book? Mine is Matilda, but my favorite Dahl character will always be Miss Spider from James and the Giant Peach!
Erik Larson has a truly dark gift for turning nonfiction into pure entertainment. His sixth book, In the Garden of the Beasts, continues his reputation of capturing that which we wish were untrue by detailing the first year of Nazi rule with unflinching depth.
In his interview with contributor Alden Mudge, Larson discusses his struggle to cover the topic, saying, "When you get immersed in this era there’s something so repulsive about it that it can really drag you down ... No one really studies the very first year of Hitler’s rule. This is about the first dark warnings on the horizon."
With historical accuracy down to the weather and a uniquely personal and American take on the topic, In the Garden of the Beasts is something to get excited about.
I'm definitely picking it up today -- who's with me?
Happy National Library Week!
This probably qualifies as "preaching to the choir," but who cares—it's always a good idea to praise libraries, especially as the American Library Association encourages us to "Create your own story @ your library" during this special week.
So please tell us: Why do you love libraries? What will you check out next from the library? Why are you grateful for librarians?
Here you can watch John Grisham, Honorary Chair of National Library Week, weigh in on why he loves libraries.
What do you have to add?
I've been a devoted library goer my entire life (thanks, Mom!), and now I try to pass on the passion. Just last week, the 10-year-old girl I mentor told me she wanted to do some science experiments. Not being very "science-y" myself, I went to the source I knew would give us a hand: the local library. We checked out books that gave us plenty of ideas and all the information we needed.
Last night, BookPage's Associate Publisher Julia Steele and Contributing Editor Sukey Howard attended the Books for a Better Life Awards in New York City.
The awards benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and recognize self-improvement authors. Here's an impressive stat from the awards' website:
Since its inception in 1996, Books for a Better Life has honored more than 500 authors and has now raised more than $1.7 million to speed our progress toward achieving a world free of MS thanks to the support of the publishing industry.
Childcare/Parenting: Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown (HarperCollins)
First Book: The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)
Green: Eaarth by Bill McKibben (Times Books)
Inspirational Memoir: Breaking Night by Liz Murray (Hyperion Books)
Motivational: Life Unlocked by Srinivasan S. Pillay, MD (Rodale)
Personal Finance: The New Good Life by John Robbins (Ballantine)
Psychology: Composing a Further Life by Mary Catherine Bateson (Knopf)
Relationships: Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell (Random House)
Spiritual: The Ten Things to Do When Life Falls Apart by Daphne Rose Kingma (New World Library)
Wellness: Back to Life after a Heart Crisis by Marc Wallack, MD and Jamie Colby (Avery Books)
Books for a Better Life also has a Hall of Fame, and this year Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the chief medical editor of NBC News, and Jamie Raab, executive vice president of Hachette Book Group and publisher of Grand Central Publishing, were inducted. Above, you can see a photo of David Baldacci introducing Raab.
Congratulations to the winners! In BookPage's self-help roundup of January 2011, we wrote that guidebooks can give readers "a renewed sense of purpose and effective new strategies for dealing with life’s challenges." As the Books for a Better Life website states, there is a clear connection between self-help books and MS: "Living with a chronic, unpredictable illness and overcoming life’s challenges go hand-in-hand with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis."
Have any self-help books helped you overcome challenges?