Ah, New Year’s resolutions. For me, they’re more like a five-day resolution. But not for Mark Zuckerberg! The Facebook founder has announced his resolution: He will read one new book every other week for the year of 2015.
However, unlike the rest of us, Zuckerberg currently has 215,798 (and counting) people keeping him on task. Zuckerberg has invited the entirety of the Facebook community to join him in an online book discussion. (It’s a Facebook page, natch). Zuckerberg says his online book club’s selections will “emphasize learning about new cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.”
His first pick is The End of Power by Moisés Naím, and Zuckerberg’s chosen book might turn into a golden book as well—Perseus, The End of Power’s publisher, rushed into a new print run of the title after Amazon quickly sold out of available copies two days after Zuckerberg’s announcement. We look forward to seeing how this trend keeps up as the months roll by.
What do you think, readers? Will you be joining Zuckerberg in his Year of Books?
Scottish author Irvine Welsh turns his off-kilter worldview to his new home country: the United States. Luckily for fans of the Trainspotting author, there's plenty of weird and crazy antics on the streets of Miami Beach, where personal trainer Lucy discovers that the two men she rescued from a crazed attacker are actually pedophiles (oops). That's only the first of many wild twists taken in this story, whose narrator is something like Jillian Michaels, times 10—in other words, not very generous to her clients.
They want to believe that it's all easy from here on in. That it can literally be done in their sleep. Because heaven forbid that they interrupt sitting in front of the TV, rising only to refrigerator-raid and pack shit into their sneaky, blubbery mouths. They don't wanna get up before ten, eleven. Perish the thought that any diet and exercise regime should impinge on those basic American freedoms.
What are you reading this week?
BookPage was saddened to hear of the death of Edward Herrmann due to cancer on Dec. 31. He was 71. Not only was Herrmann an excellent actor, he was the voice behind many beloved books, and he won numerous Earphone and Audie awards for his narration. His voice can be heard on audiobooks such as The Greater Journey, The John Updike Audio Collection, Isaac’s Storm, Unbroken and many more. Our audio reviewer, Sukey Howard, has noted that Tony-award winner Herrmann was a “master narrator,” with a voice that could bring listeners to tears as he read books such as The Boys in the Boat.
Herrmann brought his talents to the stage and screen, appearing in Broadway productions, films such as The Wolf of Wall Street and television shows. He is perhaps best known as the lovable and kind—if a bit reserved—patriarch on “Gilmore Girls.” His son, Rory Herrmann, said, "He was full of knowledge and kindness and goodness . . . He always wanted to share the great and beautiful things in life.” Herrmann’s kind voice will be missed.
Best-selling author Jayne Ann Krentz's latest romantic-suspense novel, out today, is Trust No One. But you may know the author by one of the two other names she writes under, Jayne Castle or Amanda Quick. So why did she decide to write under three different names? Allow her to explain the allure of the pen name.
Yes, it’s weird but true—I write under three names. Why? It’s complicated.
I swear I did not set out to create three writing careers. I do not recommend this publishing path to aspiring writers. I mean, what kind of strategy is that? The drawback to having three names is obvious at every signing event that I do—about half the people who come through the line will say: “I didn’t know you were Jayne Ann Krentz,” or “I didn’t know you wrote as Amanda Quick” or “I didn’t realize you were Jayne Castle.”
The fact that I write under three names is in every bio on every one of my books. Hey, it’s not like I’m trying to keep it a secret. But evidently very few people actually read those author bios!
So, for what it’s worth, my advice to budding authors is choose one name and stick with it, because if you don’t you will spend the rest of your career trying to explain yourself to readers.
That said, the reason my path took three different names is not because I write three very different kinds of stories. I have always written romantic-suspense under each name. It is my core story—the book of my heart, as writers say—and I expect to spend the rest of my career exploring that story. Romance and danger is a perfect combo for me. It’s what I love to read and it’s what I love to write.
But I do like to shift fictional landscapes, so I decided to use a different pen name for each world. Turns out readers have strong preferences when it comes to settings. A lot of people won’t read my paranormal landscapes, even if they love me in my other worlds. Others only want my historical or contemporary backdrops.
So, the only big advantage of my three-name career? When readers pick up one of my books, they know exactly which fictional landscape they will enter.
In Trust No One, you will enter my Jayne Ann Krentz contemporary world. The setting is Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The heroine, Grace Elland, has a past that she had hoped would stay buried. Let’s just say that going home can be murder. . .
Thanks Jayne/Amanda/Jayne! You can find Trust No One online here: BAM | B & N | Indiebound | Amazon
(Author photo by Mark Von Borstel)
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Our Top Pick in Nonfiction for January is Elena Gorokhova's second memoir, Russian Tattoo. In it, Gorokhova explores her identity as a Russian immigrant to America and her often difficult relationships with her mother and daughter. Our reviewer writes, "If Elena Gorokhova’s splendid second memoir merely conveyed to readers a vivid, almost visceral understanding of the sometimes paralyzing sense of dislocation she experienced arriving in the United States in 1980 from the Soviet Union, that alone would be reason enough to read it." (Read the review here.)
We were curious about the books Gorokhova has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three favorites, which she graciously agreed to share.
It is difficult, at first glance, to connect the three books I would like to recommend. They belong to different genres and appeal to different audiences, yet they share common threads: these books don’t offer neat resolutions, and they are—in one way or another—about Russia, my insane and complicated Motherland.
Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel is a graphic novel by the Russian-born Anya Ulinich, a story of a 37-year-old divorced immigrant from St. Petersburg not unlike the author herself. It is a complex journey of searching for love, told in striking drawings and hand-written dialogue. Lena is a self-described “toddler of relationship experience,” and we read about her encounters with different men until she falls in love. Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel is both hilarious and heartbreaking. When a professor in St. Petersburg asks the protagonist why she paints such an unflattering portrait of Russia in her novel, Lena replies, “I paint unflattering portraits of everything.” She is self-doubting and self-effacing, and there is no happy ending to this story. “No one truly arrives. We just nudge each other along muddy ruts of suffering, occasionally peeking over the edges of our ruts in search of a better way.”
In Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? Karen Dawisha describes Putin’s rise to power. With the help of exhaustive evidence from multifarious sources, Dawisha argues that Putin and his KGB cronies, terrified by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, did everything in their power to restore the authoritarian state. The author painstakingly shows how Putin, using mafia and KGB methods, systematically destroyed the emerging democratic systems in post-communist Russia by politicizing the courts, fanning nationalism and xenophobia, and launching an unprecedentedly massive disinformation campaign. “… from the beginning Putin and his circle sought to create an authoritarian regime ruled by a close-knit cabal,” Dawisha writes. It is appalling and frightening to witness Russia being ruled by a gang of KGB thugs who have shamelessly and deliberately robbed my country of wealth, dignity and the world’s respect.
In The Master of Petersburg, J.M. Coetzee writes from the point of view of Fyodor Dostoevsky, whom the author immerses into the abyss of grief and despair after the death of his son. Having combined the plot line of Dostoevsky’s novel The Possessed (also translated as Demons) with the facts of Dostoevsky’s own life, Coetzee creates a multi-layered narrative that examines the process of writing. The Master of Petersburg is set in the Haymarket district of my hometown where Dostoevsky lived—only a few blocks from where I grew up—with its smells of “cabbage and boiled beef” and “evenings thick with the hum of mosquitoes.” In a classically Russian way, Coetzee travels “to the dark side of the soul,” capturing the relentless melancholy of Russian life. In this novel, as in all Coetzee’s work, there are no closures, no tidy endings. As the dark, tragic event of his son’s death becomes Dostoevsky’s material for creating art, the writer realizes in the end that he has “to give up his soul in return.”
Thank you, Elena! Readers, do you see anything you'd like to pick up?
Happy New Year, readers! Ready to kick off your healthy eating resolutions, but not sure where to start? Jump in with this recipe for Maple Balsamic Root Vegetable "Fries" from our January Top Pick in Cookbooks, The Pollan Family Table.
Maple-Balsamic Root Vegetable "Fries"
4 to 6 servings
FROM THE MARKET
FROM THE PANTRY*
*You will need two sheets of parchment paper.
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick sticks, 2 to 3 inches long
1 medium celery root, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick sticks, 2 to 3 inches long
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick sticks, 2 to 3 inches long
2 medium golden beets, peeled and each cut into 8 wedges
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the carrots, celery root, parsnips, beets and thyme sprigs. Add the oil and mix to thoroughly coat the vegetables.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the maple syrup, vinegar, ½ teaspoon of salt and ⅛ teaspoon of pepper; mix well. Pour the mixture on the vegetables and toss to coat.
Arrange the vegetables in single layers on the two baking sheets. Roast on separate racks for 20 minutes.
Remove them from the oven and, using a spatula, flip the vegetables. Return the sheets to the oven, switching their positions (upper rack and lower rack). Roast until the vegetables are light brown and caramelized, an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
Discard the thyme sprigs, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Filmmaker, artist and now debut novelist Miranda July is known for the singular, offbeat style of her popular films Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future. Following the success of her collection of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You (2007), July has crafted an eccentric, yet endearing story with The First Bad Man. Following 42-year-old Cheryl Glickman through the trials of living with her grumpy 20-year-old houseguest, securing the affections of Phillip (with whom she believes to have a centuries-spanning love affair) and seeking a cure for her globus hystericus. Been searching for an unapologetically quirky read with plenty of heart? Look no further.
I drove to the doctor's office as if I was starring in a move Phillip was watching—windows down, hair blowing, just one hand on the wheel. When I stopped at red lights, I kept my eyes mysteriously forward. Who is she? people might have been wondering. Who is that middle-aged woman in the blue Honda? I strolled through the parking garage and into the elevator, pressing 12 with a casual, fun-loving finger. The kind of finger that was up for anything. Once the doors had closed, I checked myself in the mirrored ceiling and practiced how my face would go if Phillip was in the waiting room. Surprised but not overly surprised, and he wouldn't be on the ceiling so my neck wouldn't be craning up like that. All the way down the hall I did the face. Oh! Oh, hi! There was the door.
DR. JENS BROYARD
I swung it open.
What are you reading today?
Merry Christmas, readers! Have a ton of family in town this weekend, but not sure how to feed them after the traditional Christmas feast? Try this delicious, quick and easy recipe from Margarita Carrillo Arronte's Mexico: The Cookbook. You can utilize some of that leftover ham and make a meal that feeds 8!
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Put the tomatoes into a food processor or blender and process to a puree. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Quarter the chickens and add the pieces, pureed tomatoes, garlic and parsley and cook over medium heat, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for 10–15 minutes.
Add the chorizo and ham and cook for an additional 5 minutes, then pour in the sherry and cook for a few minutes until the sherry has mostly evaporated. Add the sugar, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, raisins and almonds, and season. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the cooking liquid has thickened.
Remove the pan from the heat. Put a piece of chicken on each plate, spoon over the sauce and serve with rice or salad.