Saturday, September 29, 2012

More Bookish Trivia and Trash Talking--Round 2

Liz again.  So in a surprise move that has surprised no one, Gianna began trash talking my fondness for trivial pursuits on her Facebook page today.  Gianna has never bothered to actually accept my trivia challenges (which occur as frequently as my requests that she deliver ice cream to my house, and to rub my feet); Gianna is a huge coward.  And then my pal Michele, the fellow Random House rep who created the trivia game at the Mountains & Plains trade show, admitted that she was rooting against me.  She's on my list.  Here are some of the other rounds of literary trivia from the trade show.

ROUND 2 – Kids

SIDEKICKS! Who could live without them? They help solve mysteries, they help run student council campaigns, they stand up to bullies. Can you match the sidekicks with the series or main character?

A. HARRY POTTER SERIES _______                                          1. Annabeth & Grover
B. EMILY OF NEW MOON SERIES _____                                  2. Butler
C. ARTEMIS FOWL SERIES _________                                      3. Rudy
D. THE BOOK THIEF_______                                                      4. Janie & Sport
E. CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY ___                    5. Hermione & Ron
F. HARRIET THE SPY _______                                                    6. ILSA
G. HENRY HUGGINS SERIES ____                                             7. Grandpa Joe
H. INKSPELL _____                                                                      8. Diana Barry
J. ANNE OF GREEN GABLES SERIES _____                            10. Farid

Put the number of the sidekick on the line after the series or character. 

Suffice it to say that children's books aren't my area of expertise, and as far as actually reading any of these books, Anne of Green Gables is the only one I knew from the texts.  I knew Charlie & the Chocolate Factory from the movies, and Harry Potter because one cannot escape Potter in bookstores.  Members of the Texas team, though, were familiar with the kiddie lit, and we did pretty well this round. 

Answers: 5, 6, 2, 3, 7, 4, 9, 10, 1, 8


Friday, September 28, 2012

The Book Nerd's Version of a Roaring Good Time

Liz here.  Last weekend I worked the Random House booth at the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association annual trade show, held in Denver.  On the one hand, aspects of trade shows make me a little crazy.  There's the standing around, the being polite (no, really, I have to be nicer than my usual self), the speaking in public, the constant and unending chatter.  On the other, these are fellow book nerds I'm talking to, from booksellers to other sales reps to authors.  It's a whole conference of socially awkward individuals, but without the need to dress like storm troopers and Spider-Man that you get with the truly freakish comic book conventions.  I can crack a joke about an author fabricating the premise behind his bestselling book and this group of nerds chuckle knowingly without the need for further elaboration.  Good times.

Loot from MPIBA
Here's the list of my highlights from the MPIBA trade show, listed in countdown form:

5. The hotel where the convention was held is across the street from a Planned Parenthood clinic, and you're absolutely correct if you wondered if I asked for a room that faced the clinic.  Protesters are fascinating creatures, even when they are torturing women who are already having bad days.

4. Books!  I came home with a stack of books from my pals at other publishing houses.

3. More books!  If I have to talk to people all day, I want to talk about my favorite reads for the fall, and I want to offer a sneak peek at the absolutely amazing looking graphic novel-in-a-box, Building Stories by Chris Ware.

(Part of) the Random House booth
2. I met two incredible authors--Kent Haruf, who wrote Plainsong and the upcoming Benediction, and Anthony Marra, who wrote the upcoming A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.  Kent and his wife Cathy and possibly the two kindest people I've ever met, and I love his books.  They are full of human characters (no saints here, but no demons either) for whom he shows incredible empathy.  Tony Marra is the kind of guy I want in my circle of friends.  He's super smart and talented, and he gets the joke, and he is a Russophile (you know I love Russia).  Both of these writers understand the worth of independent bookstores, too, be they in rural Colorado or urban Oakland.
Kent Haruf

1. How do book nerds unwind at the end of the day?  Literary trivia!  The trade show hosted a trivia contest and divided participating booksellers and reps up by state.  I played with the Texas team that included booksellers from Katy Budget Books, Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, and my Random House boss Valerie Walley.  Um...we weren't going to lose, 'kay?  I am a little crazy about trivia and I don't like to lose.  So while I appreciate the teams from the other states who played, I wasn't planning on losing.  I was planning on gloating. To the victors go the spoils.  What did we win?  iPhone covers that say "Read or Die" and a ribbon on our conference badges that says "Literary Trivia Champions."  I was hoping for cash.  Oh, and my teammates and I may have suggested that next year the conference should just go ahead and print "Two Time Literary Trivia Champs" ribbons next year, as we plan to repeat.  Hear that Colorado?  You will be losing next year too!
Anthony Marra

I bugged my pal Michele, who put together the trivia competition, for the questions.  There were five rounds, each with a sheet of questions based on book knowledge.  I'll post each separately.  Enjoy.

Round 1


Give the name of the author who created each of the following characters:

1. Sam Spade
2. Easy Rawlins
3. Goldy Schulz
4. Bernie Rhodenbarr
5. Commissario Guido Brunetti
6. Philip Marlowe
7. Kurt Wallander
8. Adam Dalgliesh
9. Tommy Lynley
10. Mr. Moto

Answers (the ones in black we answered correctly, the ones in red we missed): Dashiell Hammett, Walter Moseley, Diane Mott Davidson, Lawrence Block, Donna Leon, Raymond Chandler, Henning Mankell, P.D. James, Elizabeth George, John P. Marquand.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Liz and Gianna's Bad Ass Book Fall Preview, Part 2

For part two, I, Liz, am highlighting the titles from the portion of Random House that I sell.  To say that there are some great books this fall is an understatement.  I love these books.  These are books that I'm adding to my collection so that years from now I can look back and recall how much I love them.  Or, you know, in the post-apocalyptic future, it will be helpful to have reading material to pass the time until the virus claims me too.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (out now)
This first novel is one of the most buzzed about books among the booksellers I call upon, and for good reason.  This is not just another post-apocalyptic novel.  It's the story of Hig, a pilot in Colorado, his dog Jasper, and his gun-toting neighbor who lacks social graces.  It's the story of a desperate man listening for signs of life over the radio and hoping for more than just the reality he sees out his window.  But two things really distinguish The Dog Stars. 1. The writing.  Peter Heller's prose is poetic, and there are some truly beautifully written sentences here, even though you could view this book as an adventure story. 2. The nature.  Heller has previously written two non-fiction books, and has worked for the likes of National Geographic.  The Dog Stars captures the beauty of the woods and mountains and animals in a way that makes you want to go fishing (not that I fish), or hiking through the woods with your pooch (not that Zorro is a dog or is allowed outside).  One of my colleagues at Random House described The Dog Stars as "The Road meets A River Runs Through It."  That sums it up nicely.

In Between Days by Andrew Porter (out now)
Andrew Porter was foolish enough to answer our generally horrible questions, but in spite of the author's poor judgment, I'm still a crazy fan of his work and this book.  Set in Houston (how often can you say that about literary fiction?), Porter's novel is the story of a family imploding.  Long married parents have split, the older son--a recent college graduate who wants to be a poet--is working food service and attending reckless parties at night, and the younger daughter, Chloe, has been asked to leave her college under mysterious circumstances.  The story gets rolling with Chloe coming home and refusing to discuss why she's no longer welcome at school.  Here is a classically told, great novel along the lines of a Raymond Carver or John Cheever, and I'm willing to state it here: one day Andrew Porter will win a Pulitzer or National Book Award.

The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin (September)
The third branch of government is a source of constant fascination for me, and as far as I'm concerned, no one writes about the Supreme Court better than Jeffrey Toobin.  Toobin would be on the shortlist of authors with whom I'd like to dine.  Or kidnap.  The Nine chronicled the Supreme Court during the Rehnquist years, and to an extent The Oath picks up where it left off, following the ascent of John Roberts as Chief Justice and the changes that came to the Court when the political slant of the Court turned right.  Here, also, is the story of Barack Obama's ascent to the Presidency, and the relationship between Democratic White House led by a pragmatist politician and, to borrow a phrase, the legislation from the bench that has occurred since the balance of power in the Supreme Court fell under Roberts's control.  What I like about Toobin is that he treats his readers like intelligent, curious people, and makes complex court cases accessible and fascinating. I consider both The Nine and The Oath required reading.  Consider these books your continuing education in American civics, taught by the type of professor whose classes are standing room only. I love this book so much that I wore Yankees attire for a week just to glimpse the early manuscript.

The Phantom by Jo Nesbo (October)
Harry Hole!  My favorite detective is back!  Yes, I love Nesbo's detective in part because he's named Harry Hole and I like to say "Harry Hole," but I'm sure that Harry Hole doesn't sound so dirty in Nesbo's native Norway.  Nesbo's character is a guy to root for, and his mysteries are well-paced police procedurals of the first order.  If you read last year's The Snowman, you'll recall that Harry finally was happy, in a committed relationship with a woman and learning to love her son, Oleg.  If you read The Snowman, though, you'll know that Frosty drove them apart.  In The Phantom, Oleg is back, and in trouble.  Fans of Stieg Larsson will love Jo Nesbo, and dive right in.  This series doesn't have to be read in order.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (October)
This memoir is incredible.  Will Schwalbe is a veteran in the publishing biz, the former Editor in Chief at Hyperion.  He is possibly the nicest guy in the world.  I'm not kidding.  This book is the story of Will's mother, an incredible woman who was, among other things, the first female head of admissions at Harvard and a lifelong advocate for education.  She made Will into the nicest person in the world, and a wonderful book nerd.  And then she is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Will begins to accompany his mother to the endless treatments and doctors' visits, and anyone who's ever faced cancer as either a patient or loved one of a patient knows this experience.  The treatment of cancer is a whole hell of a lot of hurry up and wait, and wait, and wait.  Instead of watching TV, or bemoaning the situation, or wallowing, Will and his mother form a two person book group and read together.  They read books they've always intended to read, and then in the doctors' offices and cancer wards they discuss the books they are reading.  Those books become entry points for bigger conversations about life, and the relationship between mother and son, and the fears that we all will face at the end of our lives.  Yes, this is a book about death, but it's also a book about love and life.  And it's a book for lovers of books, from The Hobbit to Crossing to Safety to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  This memoir is incredible.

Building Stories by Chris Ware (October)
If you like cool, structural, graphic, and intricate, you like Chris Ware.  The top dog in the world of graphic literary fiction, this newest "book" is a collection of artifacts and bookish lore inside a box the size of a board game.  Here Ware weaves together the lives of the residents in a three story apartment building in Chicago to create a masterpiece.  I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on this book.

The News from Spain by Joan Wickersham (October)
I consider one of my Random House colleagues to be a literary soul mate, so when he calls me and recommends a book, I pay attention.  That's exactly what he did with The News from Spain, a collection of short stories that left me moved and spellbound.  Who is Joan Wickersham?  Why haven't I been reading her work before now?  Because I love this book.  Every story is titled "The News from Spain," and that phrase links them together and serves as catalyst (though none are, you know, actually set in Spain).  These stories explore love as a theme, the need for people to relate to others, and they are straight-forward, beautiful, and moving.  The one that sticks in my mind involves a paralyzed woman longing for her husband but in the care of a home health worker.  To deal with her loneliness, they together compose stories around the life of her cat, and in the end it is the home health worker who provides her the care she needs emotionally.  These stories--definitely something special.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (November)
Holy crap, it's a new Ian McEwan novel!  It's terrific too!  In Sweet Tooth, McEwan is playing with the spy novel genre, and it's a book where you just trust that you're in the hands of a genius and go with it.  "Sweet Tooth" is the code name for a project at MI-6, and we're in the early 70's, the middle of the Cold War.  Serena Frome has a short affair in college that leads her down the path to becoming an intelligence officer, and when she joins Sweet Tooth her mission is to recruit novelists to combat communism on a cultural level. Why not?  The communists are writing propaganda, right?  Serena finds Tom, an up-and-coming writer whose stories she loves, and she convinces Tom that he has won a literary grant that will allow him to write full time.  Serena and Tom fall in love.  This being Ian McEwan, though, there are twists and there are half-truths and their are the repercussions of those lies.

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks (November)
I have semi-regular hallucinations.  For real.  As a migraine sufferer, I know a headache is coming when I suddenly get this visual aura; my vision blurs into a bright, crystalline world that jiggles back and forth.  Imagine standing behind one of those clouded glass shower doors, then having someone shine a giant floodlight through it while you shake back and forth like a metronome.  That's sort of what I see.  In his new book, Oliver Sacks explores the world of hallucinations, from the insane to the ill, the sensory deprived, the intoxicated, the sleepy, the drugged.  Sacks is the legend of brain science who wrote Musicophilia and Awakenings, among his many books, and this one promises to be fascinating.

Dear Life by Alice Munro (November)
Every time Gianna and I talk about favorite writers, Alice Munro's name will come up.  Is there anyone else writing today who merits such praise and has become a literary giant by strictly sticking to the short story format?  Alice is the master.  Period.  Allow me to quote from the publisher's description of Dear Life: "Suffused with Munro's clarity of vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, these stories (set in the world Munro has made her own: the countryside and towns around Lake Huron) about departures and beginnings, accidents, dangers, and homecomings both virtual and real, paint a vivid and lasting portrait of how strange, dangerous, and extraordinary the ordinary life can be."  Gianna and I ate breakfast together this morning (migas, Diet Coke for me, ice tea for her), and the conversation of course turned to books.  And I knew before she even said the words that she would ask for a copy of this book.  Every Alice Munro book is a collection to savor and cherish.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Generally Horrible Questions: Andrew Porter

A couple of years ago, I (Liz) discovered a short story collection called A Theory of Light and Matter by Andrew Porter.  I was hooked.  In Theory, I discovered an incredible writer, an old school writer in the best sense.  It didn't hurt at all when I learned that the author lived in Texas, and that one of my publishers, Vintage, picked up the paperback rights to Theory.  Jump forward a year, to sales conference and a dinner with editors at which I sat beside Andrew Porter's editor.  She began to tell me about the novel Knopf would be publishing, and I was bouncing around giddily (if internally).  That novel, In Between Days, lived up to my expectations.  Set in Houston and centered on a family in crisis, it's a marvel of a classic, literary novel--wonderful prose, well-written characters, and a gripping plot.  The parents have split after years of marriage, and their older child has just graduated from college and is searching for himself and his voice as a writer.  His younger sister, Chloe, has been in college in the Northeast, but she is sent home from school and isn't talking about the reasons.  Her arrival sets the novel in motion.  In Between Days went on sale this week, so now seemed like the perfect time to submit Andrew Porter to our horrible questions (might as well harass 'em before they are too big for us and they realize they can say no, right?).

Here you go--generally horrible questions for Andrew Porter:

1. You won the Flannery O’Connor Prize for Short Fiction for your short story collection, The Theory of Light and Matter. What exactly is the prize? Did you win a peacock? What’d you name your peacock?
Skippy is a lovely name for a peacock.
No, I didn’t get a peacock, but I got the next best thing. After winning the award, the University of Georgia Press (who sponsor the contest) flew me to Flannery O’Connor’s hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia to give a reading and visit her farm. The property itself is enormous and pretty amazing. You can see the barn where that famous scene in “Good Country People” takes place, the small house where the immigrant couple in “The Displaced Person” lived, and, of course, you can also see a bunch of peacocks! [ stole the peacock?  That's excellent.]

2. Describe your literary odyssey—how did you become a writer?
Well, that’s probably too long a story to tell in detail here, so I’ll give you the short version. Like a lot of writers, I caught the writing bug in a college fiction workshop. Soon after, I abandoned my dreams of becoming a filmmaker, pursued an MFA at the University of Iowa, and then spent the next eight years or so looking for ways to support myself financially (mostly through teaching) while I finished my first book. It’s not an uncommon path these days, and it certainly wasn’t an easy path, but that’s the one I took.

3. I’ve never read _____________ and I’m so ashamed.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. My students reference this book constantly in class, and I always feel embarrassed that I haven’t read it. I know it’s a short book, and having read a lot of his other novels, there’s really no excuse other than the fact that I have an eleventh-month-old daughter now and not nearly enough time to read.
For shame!

4. I’ve read ________________ and I’m so ashamed.
I’m going to plead the fifth here! [New rule in Book Land: "the fifth" is code for Fifty Shades of Grey.]

5. Your new novel, In Between Days, is set in the Houston neighborhood of Montrose. What is your connection to Houston and this neighborhood?
I lived in the Montrose area of Houston for one year on two separate occasions in the late ‘90s. I have a deep affinity for that area of Houston, in particular, and still think of my time there, and the city in general, very fondly.

6. On a sales call, we heard from your editor something to the effect that you actually lost your work and gave up writing for awhile (sorry I’m fuzzy on the details—it’s been months since I heard the story). Tell us about it?
During my second year in Houston, my apartment was robbed, my computer and back-up disks were stolen, and I lost the vast majority of everything I’d written up until that point in my life, including a nearly completed manuscript of my first book. I came very close to throwing in the towel at that point, but fortunately stuck with it and (eight years later) finally published my first book. [Recently my house was burgled and the thief/thieves ignored everything except my TV and Wii.  Did you have a note on your computer case that said "the good stuff's in here?"  I'm insulted that my thieves ignored my books and such.]

Andrew Porter
7. You teach at Trinity University in San Antonio. Liz attended Southwestern University in Georgetown. The two schools are rivals to the extent that Division III schools can be rivals. Why does Trinity suck so much?
Well, for Liz’s sake, I wish I could say that it does, but the truth is I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent at Trinity. Sorry, Liz! [I'm reworking my best book of the year list based entirely on this answer.]

8. The action in In Between Days is set in motion when the daughter of a family is sent home from college under mysterious circumstances. Did you start writing knowing what the issue would be, or did it come to you while in the process of developing the characters?
I actually made a conscious decision not to decide why Chloe was sent home from college until I was about ¾ of the way through the novel. I figured that if I knew the answer to this question I’d inadvertently give it away to the reader, so, the truth is, the moment the reader finds out what happened at her college is the same moment I found out myself.

Wrong Grail.
Prepare to age horribly.
9. Liz or Gianna? (This is a question we ask everyone, and the catch is that there is a correct answer. Choose wisely. Imagine you’re Indiana Jones and one of us is your Holy Grail.)
That’s like asking me to choose Lennon or McCartney, Gilbert or Sullivan, Bogie or Bacall. Can we call it a tie? [No.  The correct answer is always "Liz."  You have chosen poorly.]

10. What book(s) changed your life?
Where I’m Calling From (the collected stories of Raymond Carver), The Collected Stories of John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Crime and Punishment, Drown by Junot Diaz, The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek, and, most recently, all of Maile Meloy’s books. [We love everything about this list!]

11. What book do you think is woefully under-read, and why?
Great pick!
One of my all-time favorite short story collections is Sweet Talk by Stephanie Vaughn. For over a decade it was out of print, but fortunately it was republished last February by Other Press. Everyone who loves short stories should read that book! [And this is a great pick.  Are you trying to make up for liking Trinity?]

12. What do you think distinguishes Houston as a setting for stories?
Personally, I’ve always been fascinated with the history of Houston, in particular the oil boom of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and of course the subsequent crash. I think the prosperity and tragedy of those years really defined the city in certain ways and also greatly affected many of the people who lived through them. So, as a backdrop for fiction, Houston (and that period of time in particular) has always appealed to me. On top of that, I think the city, in general, is incredibly diverse, and as a fiction writer that gives you a lot of freedom to explore a lot of different types of characters from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds living in pretty close proximity to each other. Of course, there are many other reasons, but those are just a few.

13. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “I don’t follow baseball and therefore don’t understand the question” and 10 being “I’m so outraged that I’m in the midst of a hunger strike,” how upset are you about the Astros’ switch to the American League next year? (We’re big baseball fans, so we often ask baseball related questions. Gianna roots for the Cubs and therefore will be in therapy for many, many years trying to come to terms with her unending disappoint, and Liz is a lifelong Astros fan.)
Though I’m a lifelong Pirates fan, and therefore (like Gianna) constantly heartbroken, I do have a fondness for the Astros and strongly believe they should stay in the National League. So I’ll say an “8.” [According to our scale, 8 equates to "Bud Selig is the Anti-Christ."  That's acceptable.]

14. What are you working on presently? Care to give us a sneak peak? I (Liz) am your number one fan! Misery references are deliberate, Mr. Man.
I’d love to give you a sneak peak, but everything I’m working on right now is pretty rough. To be more specific, though, I have the beginnings of a new novel project and also a couple of new short stories in the works.
Don't be surprised if you meet Liz and she looks
like this!  

Thanks so much for the questions and your interest in my work. This has been a lot of fun!

Thank you!  Texas people--Andrew Porter is going to be reading and signing at BookPeople in Austin on Monday, September 10, at Brazos Bookstore in Houston on September 12, and at The Twig Bookshop in San Antonio on September 22.  We don't think it would be inappropriate to dust off the VW van and follow him around like he's the Grateful Dead.  I'm sure he likes tie-dye.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Liz and Gianna's Bad Ass Book Fall Preview! Part 1

It's September, so it's time for the publishers to whip out the big books in our industry's version of Oscar season.  Big awards (National Book Award, Man Booker Prize) and big sales (Ho Ho Ho) make the fall the make it or break it season of the publishing year.  I, Liz, suggested to Gianna that we highlight our top picks for the fall.  Gianna replied that I should send her another copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.  "No," I said, "Our reader(s) know about that book.  The other books".  Gianna said, "Like Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed?"  And then I contemplated self-immolation.  Before I whipped out my Zippo, though, Gianna sent me part one for our preview of big fall titles.  First up, the books from Gianna's publisher, The University of Texas Press.

Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards by Jan Reid (October). This biography is the most anticipated book on our list this fall. Richards was a liberal democrat elected to office in a conservative Republican state…not done since, by the way. She was one of a kind, and she is so missed. And as we prepare for Ann’s daughter Cecile Richards (President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund) speech at the DNC this week, let's all repeat Ann’s 1980 DNC quote: “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” Now that was a moment. In fact, give yourself a treat and watch her speech here.

All American Boy by Lazer Ziff (October)
A little something for all the nerdy book lovers, an exploration of the history of the American boy as told through literature. They are all here; Little Lord Fauntleroy, Penrod, Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, and of course, Holden Caulfield. A literary ride through American history.

Founding Finance by William Hogeland (October) The Tea Party will more often than not invoke the founding fathers in its calls for limited government and fiscal responsibility. Hogeland (author of the acclaimed book Whiskey Rebellion) offers a new perspective on America’s economic infancy…and can it be that the Tea Party has it wrong?

A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove by Bill Wittliff and John Spong (October). This is the book on our list that Liz is most looking forward to. [True!] A really cool follow-up to The Making of Lonesome Dove, it includes interviews with about forty key people, including Larry McMurtry, Robert Duvall, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones. Also included are photographs of iconic props, set designs costumes, shooting scripts. My favorite part of the book are the candid polaroids that Wittliff took behind the scenes during the film shoot. [Liz: In college, I took horseback riding as a PE elective, and halfway through the semester I discovered that my horse, named Lonesome, played the Hell Bitch in the mini-series.]

The Plain in Flames by Juan Rulfo (September) I am very late to the Rulfo game, but I have to say these stories are the best I have read in years. This collection restores two stories that were left out of the previous translation and have not in fact been published in English prior to this edition ("The Legacy of Matilde Arcangel" and "The Day of the Collapse"). Populated with characters living on the fringes of society, these stories are haunting, beautiful, and darkly funny.

DKR: The Royal Scrapbook by Jenna Hays McEachern with Edith Royal (September). This is an extraordinary collection of never before published photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, and football ephemera, perfect for any Texan or football fan. I think of this book as a new look at the private man behind the iconic football coach.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Polling the Masses: What to Read After Gone Girl

I've been noticing a trend over the last few months when perusing the search queries that led to our little blog.  Among things like "hot lesbians" (oh, the joys of sharing a blog with Gianna) and "cover of Old Yeller," there are a huge number of people out there in Book Land looking for books similar to Gillian Flynn's breakout psychological thriller Gone Girl.  We, of course, love Gillian Flynn and her books.  If you're looking for Gone Girl-esque reads, don't overlook Flynn's other novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places.  I decided to ask our group of experts--some of the booksellers across our territories--for some other options.  I'm sure they've been fielding this question for months now, so we're going to steal their ideas and smear them all over the web (or at least to the web surfers looking for "Liesl Von Trapp" and "cute naked girls"...not necessarily together).  A friendly reminder: shopping at these bookstores keep these booksellers employed and keep the expert recommendations coming.  Say thank you by shopping at your local bookstore.  It makes a difference.

Ashanti (via fellow bookseller Stephanie), Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colorado 

One of our booksellers, Ashanti, read and loved Gone Girl, and I asked her what she'd recommend to someone who enjoyed that book.  She said that she thinks she may love it for different reasons than most people, but she did say she was reading I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan at the same time as she read Gone Girl, and felt that the two books complimented each other nicely. She said she would also recommend Gillian Flynn's other books, or something by Stephen King - she feels The Shining has a similar tone.

Cathy, Tattered Cover, Denver, Colorado
How about Robert Goddard's Into the Blue or Borrowed Time? Page turners about missing/dead women with a sketchy anti-hero. Plot AND character driven.

McKenna, Murder By the Book, Houston, Texas

Megan Abbott -- The End of Everything and Dare Me
Tana French -- anything [Tana French pops up a lot when I've informally asked booksellers this question.  I've heard nothing but praise for her books.]

Danielle, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Texas
I recommend John Fowles The Collector. It has a similar format and tone to Gone Girl - it's half told from the point of view of a kidnapper & half from entries in the kidnapped woman's diary. You hear the same story from two dramatically different points of view, and they're both fascinating to follow. It's Fowles' first novel that he wrote relatively young in the mid-sixties. Amazing writing - reads like a thriller but is obviously a literary novel. [I love this book.  It's the stuff of nightmares and refers back to Shakespeare's The Tempest.  Great read.]

Scott, BookPeople, Austin, Texas
The End Of Everything by Megan Abbott- Abbott takes noir to new areas with the story of a 13 year-old girl in 80's suburban Detroit looking into the disapearance of her friend and learning more secrets than she should. A strong, complex, beautifully disturbing look at people ruled by thier desires and emotions.
Valerie and the staff at Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Texas
I'd love to share but we can't think of anything like that hot mess. We'd love to know what other booksellers think!