Monday, October 6, 2008

Author Interviews, Book Review Sites, and a Used Books Cache

►Now that the household is healthy once again, it's going to be a busy month here. I have four author interviews lined up, so look for one each week, starting in a few days. I'm always thrilled when writer friends have new books coming out, and especially when it's a first book. Yes, I'm jealous too. Sue me.

►I recently discovered One Minute Book Reviews and if I hadn't also recently met the blog author, I'd have thought she was really ten people, otherwise how could she possibly read all of those books and make all of those smart observations? But she's the real deal and what I like most is that she takes a look at all kinds of books, not just a narrow sampling of personal favorites, as is often the case with book blogs.

►This weekend was the annual used book sale held at the apple-pumpkin market on the grounds of an historic site here in our little town. I got there just as the barn doors opened for first crack at the stacks (and piles, boxes, rows and milk crates full) of books. I wasn't looking for anything in particular (why risk disappointment?) which I find is the best way to approach these things.

The haul: 34 books. Total: $14. A very random sampling:

The Slate Diaries. Pre-2000 postings from a hugely divergent group of 71 essayists, journalists, novelists and others from the site's early days, and a how-Slate-started introduction by Micheal Kinsley that now reads as both social media commentary and quaintly wide-eyed history.
The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger). 'Cause my teenager is going to have to read it sometime soon and since it's his habit to first read the school-issued copy and then re-read and re-read, and this was a never-been-cracked open recent issue. And hey, I can barely remember most of it myself. Maybe I'll read along with him.
Blue Shoes and Happiness (Alexander McCall Smith). Never had a desire to read anything from the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, but a visitor recently remarked that I had a lot of "blue books" on my shelf – Blue Suburbia (Laurie Lico Albanese, a memoir in poetry); Born on a Blue Day (Daniel Tammet's memoir of growing up with Asperger's Syndrome); and Blue Peninsula (Madge McKeithen's memoir of how poetry got her through a son's illness). [Anyone else see a symmetry there?] So I grabbed it. And you know, anything with "shoes" in the title might be OK.
Paris to the Moon (Adam Gopnik). I snagged this even though it was the only one in my stash with that musty been-sitting-in-the-basement-too-long odor, because I love Gopnik's New Yorker essays and articles and since I'll never move to Paris (or anywhere!) with my spouse and kids for a few years and bathe in culture and food and all things foreign, I may as well read about it.
The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros). A chapter from this novel-in-vignettes was assigned during grad school and I was happy to find the slim book. Lately, I love anything written in short sections like this (some as short as a half-page). Is it my ever-shortening attention span in the face of too much to do, or my love of writers who can condense and condense and yet say so much more?
Three by Annie Dillard: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, An American Childhood, The Writing Life. This is a strange thing to say for someone who just finished an MFA in creative nonfiction: I'm not a huge Dillard fan; and yet I've learned an awful lot from studying her writing, so I figured this belongs on my shelf. If I read only a page at a time, from time to time, I'm guessing it will be worth at least 50 times what I paid for it. Probably more.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves (Lynne Truss). Had this on my Christmas list a few times but Santa apparently isn't into grammar and punctuation and all that.
It Happened in New Jersey (Fran Capo). I plead guilty. I live here.
• And finally, Shiloh Season (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor). Because Mom has to come home with something for her favorite young reader.

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