Category Archives: General

Independent Bookstore Day

Tomorrow, Saturday April 28, is Independent Bookstore Day, a celebration of and at independent bookstores around the country. I love independent bookstores (duh). I especially love visiting bookstores when I travel. I drag my family into bookstores and tell them I need 20 minutes of uninterrupted browsing – and then I go up and down aisles, admiring bow the books are organized and checking out staff picks. Even though the last thing I need is more books, I always walk out with at least one.

In honor of Independent Bookstore Day, here are some of my favorite indies from around the country. If you’re near one of them, go check it out! And please comment and tell me about your favorite independent bookstores and why you love them.

1. Island Bookstore, Corolla NC. This outpost of the Outer Banks indie chain is so lovely that I bought a watercolor print that someone painted of it to frame and hang in my library. I go here whenever we’re in the Outer Banks. I want their bookshelves to be my bookshelves.

2. Politics & Prose, Washington DC. This is my home bookstore, my default bookstore, and the most dangerous place in the city for me. The selection is broad, the events calendar is robust, the staff is amazing… need I go on? There is a reason why P&P’s reputation stretches far beyond DC.

3. Powell’s Bookstore, Portland OR. New books living side-by-side on shelves with used books? Yes, sign me up. I’ve only been to this store once, but it’s a book lover’s dream. (Its tagline is “City of Books”).

4. Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle WA. This place has everything – a great kids section, tons of fiction, lots of recommendation hangtags – in a spacious, airy setting. Plus it’s in a cool part of town.

5. Strand Bookstore, New York NY. The Strand has lost some of its book-treasures-in-a-musty-basement feel, but it’s still enormous and full of books I want to read. Most of the books are discounted, even new ones, so it’s easy to walk out with a big bag of books even when you promised yourself you wouldn’t.

6. The Brewster Book Store, Brewster MA. There are a lot of indie bookstores on Cape Cod, but I happened to stop at this one and fell in love with it. There is a great selection packed into a small space, and it’s a perfect vacation book source.

7. Books & Books, Key West, FL. I stopped in at this store, which was founded by Judy Blume, while on vacation a few weeks ago. It’s small but has an excellent curated selection of new fiction. I walked around the store thinking, “I’ve wanted to read THAT book… and THAT book… and THAT book… and THAT book…”.

Happy Independent Bookstore Day! Learn more about it here.

Giveaway: EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL by Mira T. Lee

First, thanks for the great response to the 2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge! I am excited that so many of you will be joining me to read 12 books in 2019 across the categories on the list. If you would like to join, please search for the 2019 Everyday I Write The Book Reading Challenge group on Facebook or email me – gweiswasser@gmail.com – so that I can add you. We have a Google doc going where people can add their name and book selections over the course of the year.

I am currently reading a memoir – From The Corner Of The Oval by Beck Dorey Stein – which counts as one of my books for the challenge. See? This is easy.

Second, exciting news: Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee is coming out in paperback next week, and Penguin has given me three copies to give away. I read and reviewed it last year, and it’s definitely a book that has stayed with me over the months. I recommend Everything Here Is Beautiful on print over audio, so here is a great chance to get your hands on the book if you don’t have it already. It’s about two sisters and how mental illness strains their relationship over the years. Thank you to Penguin for providing the books for the giveaway.

To enter to win, leave me a comment here and I’ll pick three winners on Friday, January 18. Good luck!

2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge

UPDATE: Here is the link to the EDIWTB Reading Challenge Facebook Group and here is the Google doc where we are sharing our progress.

On a recent Readerly Report podcast episode, Nicole and I talked about some popular reading challenges, including the 2019 PopSugar Reading Challenge and the 2019 Around The Year In 52 Books Challenge. Nicole was intrigued by them. I checked them out but in the end I am not tempted to join either of them. They include too many books that are outside my interest zone (“A book featuring an amateur detective”, “A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature”), and I don’t like the idea of choosing books based on words in their titles (“A book with a plant in the title or on the cover”). I don’t read much more than 52 books in a year, and I don’t want to feel pressure to pick those books from a list of narrow categories just to complete a challenge.

But I do like the idea of putting a little structure to my reading for the year and forcing myself to broaden my horizons a bit. My friend Stephanie posted her own 2019 reading challenge in the Readerly Report Readers Facebook Group last week, and it sounded much more manageable and appealing. Here is the challenge: over the next 12 months, read at least one book in the following categories:

Short stories
Book being made into a movie this year
A Pulitzer Prize winner
Classic I’ve never read
True survival story
Memoir
Self-help/awareness book
Debut novel
Book set on a campus
Nonfiction book
Book published the year I was born
Humor book

I asked Stephanie if I could do her challenge with her, and she said yes! I am very excited and am officially adopting it as the 2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge. It will get me to read some genres that I don’t usually read – self-help and humor, for example – and will force me out of the contemporary literary fiction category I so often go to. Thank you Stephanie for sharing this challenge!

A few rules I am making for myself:

  1. Even if a book fits into two categories, it can only count for one.
  2. Books do not have to be read in any particular order and can be spread out or concentrated throughout the year.

Would you like to join this challenge? Please leave a comment here, and then we can create a text or Facebook group to share ideas for books to meet the challenge and discuss what we’ve read.

Happy reading in 2019!

2018 Reading Year In Review

This is the first year I easily surpassed my reading goal of 52 books. I ended at 56, with lots of time to spare. So I am happy about that. I took two longish international trips this year that really helped boost my book count. I’m not sure how I am going to repeat that performance next year, but I am giving myself a goal of 60 books for 2019. I’ll have to find other ways to increase my reading, especially since we don’t have any big trips planned.

Last December, I pledged to read 10 non-fiction books this year, and I read 11. I only read 8 male authors this year, so my goal next year is to read more than that.

Here are my overall goals for 2019:

  • 60 books
  • At least 2 classics
  • 12 male authors
  • 12 non-fiction books
  • More #bookstagram posts
  • More author readings (those have fallen by the wayside and I miss them)

When I look back on 2018, I read a lot of pretty mediocre stuff, which makes me sad. I spend so much time reading about and researching books – how am I ending up with so many books on the list that I don’t love? I think I need to be less impulsive in my reading choices. Rather than choosing my next read based on the mood I’m in, I need to be more deliberate and plan my books based on what others I trust have said about them.

Here are my standout reads from 2017:

Best audiobooks were Born To Run (read by Bruce Springsteen), I Am I Am I Am (read by Daisy Donovan) and Kitchens Of The Great Midwest (read by Amy Ryan and Michael Struhlbarg).

Most disappointing books: The Submission by Amy Waldman, Vox by Christine Dalcher.

Books that made me feel stupid: Bobcat And Other Stories by Rebecca Lee, Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday.

Books that should be required reading for all Americans: The Leavers by Lisa Ko, Waiting For Eden by Elliot Ackerman, Nomadland by Jessica Bruder, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

Books I could not put down: One Day In December by Josie Silver, One True Loves, Taylor Jenkins Reid.

For the last several years, I have tracked the Depressing Themes of the books I read. Here are some of the depressing subjects covered by the books I read in 2018: Iraq war casualties, psychopathic husbands/boyfriends/neighbors (way too many of these!), death, cancer, addiction, divorce, dystopian America with no reproductive freedom, car accidents, family estrangement, brushes with death, dystopian America where women aren’t allowed to speak, infidelity, child illness, the Depression, mental illness, 9/11, plane crash, school shooting, suicide, false imprisonment, accidental death, the economy, illegal immigration and deportation, death, death, death.

The year by the numbers:

  • 45 fiction, 11 non-fiction
  • 11 repeat authors during 2018: Taylor Jenkins Reid, Jean Thompson, Maggie O’Farrell, Katherine Center, J. Ryan Stradal, JoJo Moyes, Meg Wolitzer, Tayari Jones, Laurie Frankel, Caroline Preston, Roz Chast
  • 2 rereads: Kitchens Of The Great Midwest; The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
  • 18 audiobooks
  • 8 male authors

How was your 2018 in reading? What were the highlights and what do you have planned for 2019?

Best Books of 2018

In past years, I’ve done a Reading Year In Review as my last post of the year, including my standout reads from the last 12 months. This year, I’m adding a Best Books of 2018 post, because everyone else is doing one. (It’s always important to do what everyone else is doing, right?) 

Ok, here goes: my favorite 8 books of 2018 and why I liked them. These weren’t necessarily my favorites as I was reading them, but with time to reflect, they are the ones that I found the most moving and beautifully written, and which have stayed with me over the months. I’ve linked to my original reviews for each title.

A Cloud In The Shape Of A Girl by Jean Thompson is my #1 read of the year. Poignant, with spare writing and insights about being a woman, family and parenting, this book was a recent read and well worth it.

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’ll read anything she writes, but every page of this collection of stories was enjoyable. Memorable characters, believable situations. I want to re-read this one. 

Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen. If the purpose of a memoir is to let the world know who you really are, then this one succeeded in spades. It’s long and sometimes meandering but hey, it’s Bruce, so it’s ok.

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. The first 3/4 of this book was very slow, but the final quarter made up for it. Heartbreaking, deeply moving and a story that has stayed with me for months.

Waiting For Eden by Elliot Ackerman. Don’t let the subject matter – a severely wounded soldier lying in a coma while his conflicted wife waits for his condition to change – drive you away. This short novel raises a number of ethical questions and is a good reminder of the constant danger our soldiers face.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Theres’s a reason this book is all over everyone else’s top 2018 reads. It’s a small story about a love triangle that says big things about the state of race in America. So well written and beautifully constructed.

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman. This one was a sleeper. I liked it fine when I read it, but the main character has really stayed with me and in retrospect I think this was a pretty good book. It’s sad and lonely and atmospheric, and at the same time it’s totally believable.

Kitchens Of The Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. I re-read my favorite book from 2017 and loved it just as much. I’ll shut up now.

2018 Holiday Gift Guide For The Readers On Your List

Do you have readers on your holiday shopping list this year? Are you at a loss for what to get them? I’ve pulled together some a holiday gift guide for different types of readers. Hopefully this will keep you from aimlessly wandering the aisles at the bookstore or resorting to the dreaded gift card.

Also, Nicole Bonia and I recorded a 2018 Gift Guide episode for our podcast, The Readerly Report, in which we discuss her recommendations as well as mine. I’ll post the episode here when it’s up.

2018 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE FOR READERS

Books for your best friend, so that you can discuss together. (You’ll need to buy two of these: one for you and one for your friend)

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld (reviewed here). These short stories are so honest and realistic that they are crying out to be discussed and affirmed.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (reviewed here). A breathtaking, yet depressing, look at urban marriage and parenthood. I couldn’t get enough of this one – and I know my best friend couldn’t either. You will laugh and commiserate together. Bonus: it’s short.

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve (reviewed here). I read this one with Nicole, and thankfully I had her to share the tension and suspense with. I absolutely needed to talk about it with someone! Shreve is an expert storyteller and this book did not disappoint.

Books for your friend who needs to take her mind off of something

One Day In December by Josie Silver (reviewed here). It’s romantic and schmaltzy but damn if I couldn’t put this book down for the three days I was reading it. Will Laurie and Jack, who meet one December day when they lock eyes through a bus window, end up together? Ten years after they meet, you’ll get your answer.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (reviewed here).  Another addictive read. Emma and Jesse are soul mates… until his plane goes down in Alaska and he’s never heard from again. Emma grieves and moves on… until Jesse reappears in her life a few years later, after she’s gotten engaged to someone else. Who will she choose?

 

Books for your friend who is always posting alarming stuff 

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (reviewed here). Imagine a world in which abortion and IVF are illegal and adoption is only permitted by heterosexual couples. Zumas takes four women in different stages of life and explores what it is like to be female in such a world. Bleak indeed.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (reviewed here). This dystopian novel may not take on the things we’re worrying about today – climate change, racial violence, women’s rights – but it’s dark and stressful, and a post-apocalyptic world is a post-apocalyptic world, no matter how we got there. This is an imaginative and moving book.

Books for your friend who only reads literary fiction

Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (reviewed here): A moving look at the relationship between two sisters, one with mental illness, and how the thread connecting them is strained but never severed.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko (reviewed here): A novel about the tragic consequences of our draconian immigration policies.

A Cloud In The Shape Of A Girl by Jean Thompson (review to come): My personal weakness: the story of three generations of women in the Midwest and their inner hopes, loves and disappointments. One of my favorite books of the year.

Books for the non-fiction reader

The Four by Scott Galloway: A look at how Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple became essential to our daily lives. (Warning: I haven’t read this yet but I really want to.)

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou: This story of high stakes fraud and deception by the high-flying startup Theranos has to be the second-most highly reviewed book of 2018! I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it and have bought it for two people already. (Again, I haven’t read this one.)

 

Audiobooks for Anglophiles

For some reason the majority of the audiobooks I’ve listened to this year were set in England with British narrators. Don’t be a knob – get these clever recordings for your friend who couldn’t turn off the last two royal weddings:

One Day In December by Josie Silver (reviewed here)

Mary B. by Katherine Chen (reviewed here)

Still Me by Jojo Moyes (reviewed here)

 

 

Books For Anyone

Becoming by Michelle Obama: OK, I haven’t read this one yet, but I plan to soon, and how could it be anything other than amazing? It is the fastest-selling book of 2018.

Kitchens Of The Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (reviewed here and here): Yes, I know. I’m annoying about this book. Just buy it – whoever it is for will love it.

A Good Audiobook Speaks Volumes Holiday Blog Tour And Giveaway

I am happy to be joining the Audio Publishers Association’s A Good Audiobook Speaks Volumes Holiday Blog Tour and Giveaway! As I have written often on this blog, I am a huge fan of audiobooks and have listened to 15 so far this year. I listen in my car during my short commute, and when I am really into a book, I’ll listen while walking the dog, making dinner, even in the shower sometimes. Listening to audio is a great way to squeeze in more books, and the experience of listening can enrich a book, lending emotional depth and immediacy.

I also love audiobook narrators! They are the coolest group of people. I try not to pepper them with questions whenever I am with them, but it’s hard for me to resist. I am fascinated by the whole narration process and I always want to learn more about it.

This holiday season, for some reason I’ve been in a British mood. The last three audiobooks I’ve listened to were all narrated by British performers – One Day In December, The Adults and The Other Woman (still listening). British accents make characters seem smarter (more clever, as they would say) and more articulate, and I really enjoy them.

This time of year is a great time for audiobooks! Many people take long road trips for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and audiobooks are a perfect way to pass the time. I get ones that my 6 year-old son will enjoy for when he’s in the car too, and he really likes them. Audiobooks are also good for trains and planes, long waits in airports, etc. Don’t leave home without a loaded phone!

If you need audiobook gift ideas, here are a few of my favorite 2018 listens:

One Day In December by Josie Silver

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen

Do you like audiobooks too? The APA is letting me give away a fantastic selection of 8 audiobooks that have been donated by the following publishers: Beacon Press, High Bridge Audio, LA Theatre Works, Macmillan Audio, Penguin Random House Audio, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster Audio, and Tantor Audio. The books will be available for free download on Libro.fm. If you want to win these books, leave me a comment below with the name of a book that you’re hoping someone buys as a gift for you this year. I’ll pick a winner on December 8.

The giveaway books:

  • BRIDGE OF CLAY by Markus Zusak (Penguin Random House Audio)
  • SPILL by Leigh Fondakowski (LA Theatre Works)
  • HOW TO BE LESS STUPID ABOUT RACE by Crystal Fleming (Beacon Press)
  • AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones (HighBridge Audio)
  • SALVATION by Peter F. Hamilton (Tantor Audio)
  • THE HUNGER GAMES: Special Edition by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
  • THE LIBRARY BOOK by Susan Orlean (Simon Audio)
  • NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Liane Moriarty (Macmillan Audio)

And check out the rest of the blog tour! 29 other bloggers have written about why they love audiobooks – find out what they had to say.