Gifts for Literary Friends

Xmas-tree-of-booksStumped on what to give your book-ish friends? At first, it seems simple to choose books for that special someone, but when it comes down to it, knowing what they want to read can be fraught with peril. Exactly how well do you know their reading tastes? Should you give them something from the literary best books list such as Tommy Orange’s There, There or Tara Westover’s Educated (both mentioned in my last LibraryReads blog)? Or perhaps the new Michelle Obama memoir, Becoming, might be more to their literary taste, or maybe Tina Turner’s terrific and amazing memoir, My Love Story, or Roger Daltrey’s Thank You Mr. Kibblewhite, might be appreciated. But then maybe they would prefer some good thrillers, but as we know different genres and authors abound. Or do you throw up your hands and get a gift card for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or even your local Indie bookshop? A gift card is an easy way out and probably the most practical but think about personalizing it by including a “suggested” list of purchases. Following are a few surefire ideas for gift giving or feel free to print this post and include it with the card.

Books About Books

The ultimate gift for any book lover is James Mustich’s 1000 Books To Read Before You Die. The author has compiled a varied collection of books with annotations, and as you can see from the photos, has also created an attractive and appealing layout. Any book group member or anyone looking to create a list of “must-read” titles, or even those participating in reading challenges, will want to make it a permanent part of their library.

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More books to consider for book nerds include Anne Bogel’s short book of essays, I’d Rather Be Reading, which gave me a bit of a sprained neck from enthusiastically nodding in agreement to all of her thoughts on what us avid readers suffer through–sure, most of our angst could be considered first world problems but most will understand the struggle is real.

Another fun book is Book Love by Debbie Tung, a book of comics catering to every bookworm’s love of anything literary. It’s not due to be published until after Christmas but it’s worth the wait.

For those of us who are familiar with horror books starting in the late 60s and continuing through the 70s and 80s (Stephen King!), Paperbacks from Hell is absolutely absorbing and hilarious. Read my GoodReads review here for more.

 

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Those who love libraries (and isn’t that most everyone we know?) will want to own a copy of The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Covering both the history of libraries and the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library, this is a book sure to not only entertain but it is also fun to admire the design. I got fooled when I tried to remove the signature card in the pocket inside the back cover. Remember those?

If the one receiving a gift is a traveler and has a hankering to visit the cats at Hemingway’s house on Key West or wants to visit everything Bronte in one trip, or is simply an armchair traveler, consider giving them the updated edition of Novel Destinations by Shannon McKenna Schmidt & Joni Rendon. To continue the fun, Writers Between the Covers, a compendium of stories from the lit world describing scandals, affairs, and just plain kinky goings-on between authors is a fun romp.

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For Non-Reading Fans

Even if that special someone doesn’t care to sit and read an entire book cover-to-cover ipiccy dying(I’m married to one), the following may be just the ticket as they are perfect to have on hand for occasional perusing or, dare I say, bathroom reading?

Am I Dying is a great book for the hypochondriac in your life, or perhaps keep it on the shelf to check as a reference if a pain doesn’t disappear.

Bear Grylls’ How to Stay Alive is chock-full of advice on how not to die if any of the outlined scenarios happen to you. Hopefully, one will never have to land a plane or try to escape from quicksand but it’s always a good idea to know where to get quick information if needed. Me, I’m keeping mine in the car, just in case I have a brake failure.

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I’m not sure if having “coffee table” books is still a thing, but even if it isn’t, it would be fun to have Charles Phoenix’s Addicted to Americana on displayI don’t own this but I really would love to have a copy for my table (hint hint). It’s a hoot to peruse and part of the entertainment is thinking about a road trip to visit any of the architecture and signs still standing.

 

Non-Book Book Gifts

Or, you could just get your loved ones socks such as these sweet little numbers I bought for myself. You can find them (along with other book-ish clothing) at Out of Print.

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For a more comprehensive list of literary non-book gifts, check out Anne Bogel’s gift guide.

Happy Holidays everyone! Next up is the much-anticipated list of my favorite books of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need a Good Book? Time for LibraryReads’ Yearly Favorites

library_reads_logo_websiteIt’s the time of the year when “best of” lists start sprouting early like crocuses in February, and one of the many I look forward to is the LibraryReads “Favorites of Favorites.” You can find the entire list here and below are a few comments and recommendations. And who knows, you may see of these on my Best of 2018 list that will arrive around Christmas.

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Educated by Tara Westover, a memoir I touted in my May post, was the number one choice and it is also at the top of my list for book group recommendations. If your reading heart can take it, pair it with Ruth Wariner’s Sound of Gravel or Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle. Educated has also been named on other best of the year lists, including landing at the top of Amazon’s 2018 list.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones [link is to a colleague’s excellent review] has been popular with most readers and it was also an Oprah choice–if that matters.  [I would love to discuss the frenzy Oprah’s choices used to generate in the library but that’s a topic for another time.]

Circe by Madeline Miller, a novel based on mythology, has been mentioned by many of my librarian colleagues and while I haven’t read it, it’s at the top of my pile as I loved the author’s first book, The Song of Achilles. I understand this is excellent in audio so think about listening to it if you need a book for your commute, auto trip, or exercise routine.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is a terrific psychological suspense novel in the age-old gothic tradition. You can read my long-winded review here.

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For the rest of the list, Hannah’s The Great Alone is perfect for fans of family dynamics and this one takes place in the fascinating setting of Alaska during the 1970s.

For book groups, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin will generate lots of discussion just by asking, “What would you do if you were foretold the date of your death?” And perhaps followed by, “Do you think such prophecies can be self-fulfilling?”

The Kiss Quotient, a steamy romance that even non-romance readers have enjoyed, was mentioned in an earlier post, and another in the series, The Bride Test, is due to be published May 2019.

In late August I predicted Tommy Orange’s There There was destined for “best of the year” lists and naturally, I was right (heh). It’s also been noted on Publisher’s Weekly top fiction list and was long-listed for the National Book Award. So you don’t have to look up my post, here is what I said, “There There by Tommy Orange, a novel about urban Native Americans, is destined for the best of 2019 lists and book groups will be clamoring for this.”

Another romance not pictured is the light and frothy The Wedding Date. Words in reviews such as “corny” and “predictable” haven’t stopped readers from woman in the window“getting away from it all” by indulging in this book.

And last, but certainly not least, is one of my personal favorite psychological suspense novels of the year, The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn. You can read my full review here, and I will also add that I had the good fortune to meet the author last May and he is absolutely delightful and charming. It is also slated to be made into a movie starring Amy Adams and Gary Oldham.

Coming Soon

Next up is a post on what I’ve been reading along with my library stacks and also a guide to books for the literary lover in your life–or for yourself.

I’m starting to compile my favorite books of the year which now numbers 24, with it possibly climbing to 27, which will require me going through the angst of whittling the number down to 20. Watch this space.

The best books of the year you never got around to reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reality To Fiction: Carrie Strahorn & Jane Kirkpatrick

For years, one of my favorite reading exercises was to pair fiction and nonfiction ipiccy vanderbilttitles. By that I mean if there is a novel written about a particular incident or person, read more about it by delving into a nonfiction account or biography of the incident or person. For example, Arthur Vanderbilt’s absorbing story of the rise and fall of the Vanderbilt wealth in Fortune’s Children could be paired with Theresa Fowler’s latest novel, A Well-Behaved Woman.

Or read more about Hitler’s concentration camp for women featured in Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, by picking up Sarah Helm’s Ravensbrück; or after reading Beatriz Williams’ The Glass Ocean, find out more about the sinking of the Lusitania in Erik Larson’s Dead Wake. And pairing movies can also be fun such as reading the spooky novel Help for the Haunted by John Searles, which was based on a real-life haunting featured in The Conjuring.

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That brings me to two books I’m excited to share, one really old (like published in 1911 old) and the other published 107 years later (this year for the math-challenged).

When I started working at the library waaaay back in 1974, despite its re-bound plain blue cover, Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage by Carrie Strahorn (the subtitle “A Woman’s Unique Experience during Thirty Years of Path Finding and Pioneering from the Missouri to the Pacific and from Alaska to Mexico,” pretty much covers the topic), caught my 15000 miles outsideeye every time I passed the travel shelf (it was later re-cataloged into the history category).  I loved the idea of this woman traveling all over the west in the late 1800s by stagecoach and was fascinated with the photos and drawings by C. M. Russell. I never read the book cover to cover but would periodically check it out and read parts of it (probably one reason it’s never been weeded from the collection!). What I got from the book is that Carrie Strahorn’s travels alongside her husband, Robert, as they scouted our various locations for railroads and founded a few towns along the way (such as Caldwell, Idaho, and Ontario, Oregon), was an amazing adventure and a story of resilience to not only travel under challenging conditions, but to also keep her marriage intact. So I was thrilled to see the new novel by Jane Kirkpatrick, Everything She Didn’t Say, a novel based on Carrie Strahorn’s life.

15000 miles inside

Much to Carrie’s annoyance, she was very curvy and robust, which she called “fluffy.”

A little background on Jane Kirkpatrick, a writer from eastern and central Oregon.  I’ve been recommending her historical novels for 23 years (especially Gathering of Finches, set at Shore Acres near Coos Bay) as her novels based on real women of the west are “clean” and well received by readers. The novels have always been described as “faith-based” or “inspirational” but I found that while they were based on Christian beliefs, the messages weren’t at all heavy-handed. You can find a complete list of her books here.

everything coverWhen I started reading Everything She Didn’t Say, I was a little turned off by the clunky title and the fact that Carrie’s story seemed a little remote. It wasn’t long, though, before I couldn’t put this down and having her memoir alongside to check certain passages greatly enhanced the experience.  And the reason for the title is that Kirkpatrick did a lot of in-depth research and reading-between-the-lines to expand Carrie’s story of what wasn’t said in the memoir and what could have happened in her personal life. Especially enjoyable was the epilogue where Kirkpatrick explains how she came to write the book and gives information about her research.

One of my favorite parts of the novel is when Carrie is talking about working with C. M. Russell about the drawings and she said about one sketch: “…he made me look as lithe as my niece instead of the ‘fluffy woman” I always was.”

Bottom line is I loved Kirkpatrick’s book and believe anyone interested in Oregon and northwest history, along with true travel adventures during a tumultuous historical period, will enjoy both books.

 

 

The Horror…The Horror: 11 Scary Books, Depending on Your Phobia

I was cleaning out some old work ephemera and ran across this column I wrote for Salem Weekly years ago. Enjoy this reprise while waiting for my next blog on what I’ve been reading.

ipiccy scary 1October may be the official month to be frightened, but scary stuff is around all year. Fiction and nonfiction writers alike have offered up some terrifying tales found on the list below. We recommend you keep your personal phobia in mind when considering these reads. If you do choose to read any of these wet-your-pants scary books, be forewarned—you could be reduced to a quivering mass of jelly hiding under the bed.

Medusa’s Child by John Nance. If the idea of hurtling above the earth in a metal tube gives you the shakes, then do not read this book of air flight gone wrong.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. If you suffer from fear of the boogeyman, this prequel to Silence of the Lambs that introduces Hannibal the Cannibal will have you installing double locks … no … quadruple locks on your doors.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. If you worry about someone murdering you while you sleep, it would be best not to read this true story of Charles Manson and his gang.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute and Fail-Safe by Eugene Burdick. If you hate the thought of life ending in a flash of a mushroom cloud, don’t read these books about the possible end of the world as we know it. [For the record, the final scene in On the Beach still haunts me.]

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. If you are worried about the avian (or swine, or whatever nasty virus is forecast to hit the U.S.) flu, do not read this true story of a ghastly virus that was almost released in the U.S.

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Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. If you worry about your dream home killing you with psychological terror, don’t read this book about a house that kills by playing with your mind. [I am looking forward to watching the Netflix series.]

Hell House by Richard Matheson. If you have a morbid fear of malevolent spirits in a haunted house scaring you to death, this is not the book for you.

The Shining by Stephen King. If you worry about a rotting corpse coming alive in a bathtub and chasing you down a deserted hallway, or of topiary coming to life, don’t even think about picking up this book. [I will never ever forget the image of the decaying woman rising out of the bathtub.]

It by Stephen King. If you suffer from coulrophobia, do not read this book about the biggest and baddest red-nosed, big-footed entertainer ever to appear in fiction (or nonfiction for that matter).

Last but not least, the number 1 scary book of all time (at least to librarians) is: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. How can we stand the thought of books being burned? The horror … the horror, indeed!

I’ve read numerous scary books since I wrote this list but some of these remain at the top of my list.

So let’s discuss: What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

 

 

 

ghostwriter

More Good Reading: LibraryReads for October

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The LibraryReads list for books published in October was just released with plenty of good titles to add to your toppling pile.  You can find the entire list here, and while you can’t go wrong with rushing to the library catalog to place holds on anything listed, here are my top picks.

ipiccy Oct

I read November Road by Lou Berney about two months ago and couldn’t stop turning pages. With the JFK assassination front and foremost, this fast-paced and suspenseful novel takes us on a road trip across the Southwestern U.S. with bad guys chasing bad guy (and that includes Frank, the main character), a woman and her young daughters looking to get away from a bad marriage, and lots of nonstop action and suspense. It was terrific and the crystal ball that my librarian colleagues and I view daily predicts it will be big so watch for it in October.

Susan Orlean writes absorbing nonfiction, and while I haven’t read it, early reports are positive for The Library Book, a chronicle of the 1986 fire at Los Angeles Public Library with a history of public libraries in the U.S.

Kate Morton weaves involving gothic-toned sagas and The Clockmaker’s Daughter with its whiff of supernatural has been well-liked by advance readers. If you haven’t read anything by this author, try the intriguing historical The Secret Keeper.

 

ipiccy oct 2Barbara Kingsolver’s last few books have been bestsellers but some readers have found them a little “preachy.” However, her next book, Unsheltered, is receiving mostly rave reviews. I found her last two books rather tough going but read part of the new title and it appears to be a bit more accessible–if that makes sense.

 

I read Leif Enger’s first book, Peace Like a River, and adored it, as did most of the library’s book group members. His second book, So Brave, Young and Handsome, also received great reviews and was on the Salem Library’s best books list of that year. Readers of Virgil Wander are already saying this is a great book for discussion groups.

Diane Chamberlain has always been one of my favorite “go-to” authors for “women’s fiction” and Dream Daughter is a wonderful weave of past and present involving time travel. My favorite book is difficult to get but if you can find it, try Secret Lives. The Kiss River trilogy is also an absorbing tale of family dynamics. Start with Keeper of the Light.

 

That’s it for today. I’ll return in a few days with a post featuring my latest library stacks. I can’t wait to tell you about a new historical novel by an Oregon author. 

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True Library Stack Confessions

OK, it’s time to fess-up.

You know all of those books you see in my library stack photos? I don’t really read all of them. In fact, I rarely get through 2-3, but what I love to do (and always have) is sit down with the stack and spend time perusing and “getting to know” them. I do this for a couple of reasons. The first is to determine if it’s a book I want to add to my “to-be-read-at-some-future-date” list, and perhaps even purchase for my e-reader should a deal come up on Bookbub. And the second is to get an idea of the book’s appeal for any future readers’ advisory interactions. Either way, I usually spend 10-15 minutes per book reading the book description, checking out the author’s bio, reading a few pages or the first chapter to get the tone of the book, and, if I’m not going to read the book, I’ll read the ending. (I know! :-0 ) Also, I often do a quick check of Goodreads reviews to get a general overview from readers. When I worked at the library, this was how I often spent my lunch and breaks, a method my co-worker appropriately called “book-snacking.”

So you can stop being impressed.

And with that in mind, here are my last three stacks of books I checked out of the Salem Public Library with comments on a few of the titles.

img_20180821_1557058231Cluttered Mess to Organized Success – I’m always searching for new ways to tame clutter and this is an interesting entry into the topic mainly because, in addition to practical advice, it offers lots of lists and labels for personalized use. If you are serious about decluttering, I recommend this as a purchase.

Soul Survivor by G. M. Ford is the latest in the series featuring one of my favorite detectives, Leo Waterman. It was good but Leo suffered horribly and it was tough to read so I ended up skimming most of it. However, I hope I’m not right in thinking it could be the end of the series.

Fiona Davis’ The Masterpiece is a historical novel based on the revitalization of Grand Central Station and I hear it’s terrific. I love these kinds of historical novels based on real events or people. The Hazards of Good Fortune by Seth Greenland is being hailed as the next Bonfire of the Vanities, only with a bit of a kinder heart. It’s long but I hear very compelling. There There by Tommy Orange, a novel about urban Native Americans, is destined for the best of 2019 lists and book groups will be clamoring for this.

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In this stack is a book called Fatal Thronea teen book a friend recommended saying it was an easy-to-read and interesting novel about Henry VIII told from the perspective of each of his wives. Smothered is another aimed at older teens that a well-read acquaintance said was worth reading. And Food Pharmacy is yet another entry into the topic of trying to tame my stomach woes.

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Betty Rosenberg, an expert on book genres, said: “Never apologize for your reading tastes.” [By the way, if I were ever to get a tattoo, it would be this quote.] So I offer this stack and assume you will not judge me on one particular title in the pile–yes, that’s right, I’m finally going gray, hence, the handbook on silver hair. 😉

Lapena’s An Unwanted Guest is one I want to read as I enjoyed her first domestic suspense novel, The Couple Next Door.  After reading a few essays in David Sedaris’ Calypso, I want to finish but a friend recommends this is best listened to as it’s narrated by the author.

Advice for Future Corpses is by the Portland author, Sallie Tisdale, and while it could be a bit of a difficult read, promises to be an interesting look at how to handle our deaths. It appears to be a good readalike to the excellent look by Caitlin Doughty on how other cultures handle their dead, From Here to Eternity.

The other two books that very much appeal to me are Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris, a true adventure story of biking the Silk Road, and Phantom Tree by Nicole Cornick, featuring time travel in the 1500’s and present day.

And last but not least, I loved The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Karen White & Lauren Willig, a novel set on the Lusitania (click on the title to see my review) so I now want to read Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, the true history of the ship’s sinking.

I hope this helps alleviate your envy at my perceived skill to read all of these books, although you are welcome to marvel at my ability in knowing what books to put on hold.

 

And Even More Catching Up…

[Note: Remember clicking on a bold title will take you either to the general entry on GoodReads or to my review.]

Sometimes I feel like I’m always trying to catch up on my reading reports and today is no exception. In my defense, we have been going somewhere every week this summer, trying various ways of traveling, which plays havoc with my computer time.

So anyhoo, here are titles I’ve recently read, the September LibraryReads list, and a photo of my latest topping stack of library books.

Recent Reads

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Oregonian Karen Thompson Walker’s The Dreamers isn’t due to be published until January 2019, but add this to your list of discussion-worthy titles for book groups. It’s pensive atmosphere, various moral dilemmas, and the topic of dreaming will have everyone talking for hours. If you haven’t read Thompson’s first book, Age of Miracles, give it a try while waiting.

If you’re looking for a twisty psychological suspense with two of the most unreliable narrators you’ll ever run across, try Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Trust Me. It has been compared to the often mentioned Gone Girl but this stands alone in its intensity. In my review, I mention it took all of my willpower not to read ahead. And Ryan also writes a mystery series but Trust Me is a “stand-alone” and will be available in late August.

Another terrific crime novel is Tahoe Skydrop by Todd Borg, the 16th title in the Owen McKenna series set in my favorite place for vacationing, Lake Tahoe. Even if you’ve never been you’ll enjoy the escapades of Owen and his wonder dog, Spot. And as usual, if you haven’t read them, start with the first, although they can be read out of order since the relationships never seem to change.

 

Library Readslibrary_reads_logo_website

Here is a link to the favorite titles due to be published in September as selected by librarians. While I haven’t read any of them, I can report what colleagues are saying about a few of the titles.

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The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle has been popular with those who like a very twisty literary mystery. Think the movie “Groundhog Day” with a gothic tone.

T. M. Logan’s Lies has been receiving tons of advance praise for it’s breakneck pace and sheer WTF twists. It’s been on my list for a while and I need to get busy and read it.

A librarian friend raved about The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle, saying it had “charm.”

I love Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody literary mystery series but have never gotten around to reading her other novels; however, her latest, Transcription, is receiving kudos from other librarians. If you liked her earlier novel, Life After Life, watch for this in September.

Recent Toppling Library Stack

Naturally, as it tends to happen, many of my library holds came in at the same time. Now lest you think I’m going to read all of these, chances are most will be perused and placed on a “future-reading” list. That being said, I immediately started reading the latest Marcia Muller mystery featuring Sharon McCone as she one of my favorites.

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And Finally…

There is a Twitter feed called “Fake Library Statistics,” and while most are tongue-in-cheek, some really ring true, like this one:

“Librarians when someone announces cake in the break room.”

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