Liz and Gianna are two of a dying breed--traveling sales reps for book publishers--who sell books in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and the Deep South. Since we're constantly on the road hawking books, we must find ways to amuse ourselves. So here we've decided to share our anecdotes, adventures, favorite books, and efforts in making the world (or at least these few states) a more literate place to inhabit.
It’s that dreaded time of year again when we list the best
books we claim to have read and loved. For me it tends to be an exercise in
humility. I try to come up with plausible reasons why this dumb dumb hasn’t
read more, or better, or hipper, or smarter, or you know…without having to
sound words out.
This year I am just going to immediately cop to the books I
haven’t read that everyone else is putting atop their lists. This way you don’t
have to wait until the end of my list to write me and tell me how disappointed
you are that I haven’t read the Sarah Waters novel, The Paying Guests. I have every intention of reading it, I swear. I
may as well admit I haven’t read The Bone
Clocks yet (I know!).
Station Elven by
Emily St. John Mandel. Yes, you loved it and can’t stop talking about it (oh
how I wish you’d try). Here’s the thing though, at this point I feel like I am
going to be so late to what has turned out to be the best party (well, dystopian
party) of the year and maybe I just won’t go. Is it just party anxiety?
Similarly I haven’t seen Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones. See, I’m the absolute
All the Light We Cannot
See by Anthony Doerr. Sigh. Frankly I don’t feel bad that I haven’t read
this; it keeps intact a record that I am pretty proud of. I haven’t read the
top NYT Notable book in over one hundred years (or some number close to that),
and I like the idea that year after year I blindly keep that record going. I dedicate this miss to my pal, Garland who tried in vain to get me to read this the same week it came out.
Rush Revere and the
Brave Pilgrims by Rush Limbaugh. I know, another year has gone by and I
have yet to read any books in this riveting young adult series. I picture
disappointed ten year-old after disappointed ten year-old being handed this
book by clueless grandparents all over the country. It really is the one time a
child would prefer underwear or a five-dollar check. Or nothing at all.
In no particular order, here are my first two picks:
This is the one book on my list that I purchased at least
partly (mostly) due to the title; Demon
Camp: A Soldier’s Exorcism by Jennifer Percy.The only words in a title that will make me
reach for a book more quickly than the word “exorcism” is “women’s prison”
(again, it’s little things like this admission that I really think make our
blog stand out among the other more literary blogs. They seem to have standards
and less cursing).
Percy’s book follows Caleb Daniels, a soldier returning from
Afghanistan. Caleb was the lone survivor of a helicopter crash, which also took
the life of his best friend. His PTSD is severe enough that he believes he is
harboring a demon (he names it "The Destroyer," which is absolutely
heartbreaking). His trauma brings him to the brink of suicide more than once,
but what ultimately saves Caleb is a Christian exorcism.
A couple of things set this book apart from other war books.
First, the writing is exquisite; Percy is absolutely gifted. Second, the book
is about more than war, as Percy examines faith in America. There are a hundred
different ways this book will break your heart. War, the way we as a country
are not equipped to help returning soldiers (and what would that look like
anyway), the helpless feeling Caleb’s family lives with (and by extension any
family of a returning soldier), and the exorcisms themselves can’t be ignored,
they too are heartbreaking.
Selected Stories 1995-2014 by Alice Munro was a must have for me this year.
As I constantly cull my bookshelves for titles I no longer wish to keep--something I want to pass on to a fellow reader, a book I didn’t care for, or
maybe less astute “impulse” purchases during one of my adorable drunk shopping
trips to Book People--there's always Alice. My point is, I try to be more mindful of what I keep and
Family Furnishings is a keeper.
We’ve written about Munro a bit on the blog so I won’t drone
on again why we love her, or the fact that she has been steadily turning out
stunning and important work for decades. And we won’t chastise you for not
reading Munro because you don’t “love” short stories (but definitely email us
if this is true, because it drives us nuts). I will tell you that she is arguably the best
living storywriter at this moment and these selected stories represent some of
her finest work from the past twenty years, and this collection deserves a spot
on your shelf next to Oates, Roth, Murakami, or Franzen. Listen: if you
continue down this path of ignoring Munro, your life will be empty, you’ll
never be happy! Trust me, you’ll find yourself intoxicated at a local bookstore
gripping a movie tie-in edition of Twilight
making your way to the register, gripping a twenty dollar bill while the
slightest bead of sweat builds on your brow with anticipation of what you think
is going to be the novel of the century. You will feel so foolish the next day because
everyone, everyone knows, New Moon is
the novel of the century.