Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Club Night Tonight, Plus Julie Orringer, plus Lunch with Darin Strauss

Oops, I just lost control of time and missed a day.  Apologies to all.  We've had a busy week, and and it continues to be busy through the weekend.  We had a hole in the schedule, but fortunately we booked an offsite for Saturday evening. Hooray!

Hearing Chris Bohjalian's wonderful interview on Lake Effect this week puts me in the mood to talk about book clubs, and that's a good thing, as my book club talk is tonight at 7, featuring Julie Orringer and her novel, The Invisible Bridge.  Now I know big, fat books are not always perfect for every book club, but this is a long novel that reads quickly, if you know what I mean.  None of you are shying away from Cutting for Stone, right?

That wonderful luncheon with Chris Bohjalian for Secrets of Eden seems so long ago, but it was only late February.  We had such a wonderful time that I'm setting up another one, this time for Darin Strauss*, the author of three novels and the memoir, Half a Life, which was recently award the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography.  Location is to be determined, but the date is Tuesday, June 21.

Half a Life is just one of five nonfiction books I am recommending on our new book club brochure, which made it back from the printer yesterday.  Of late, I tend to be a just-in-time sort of guy.  I did get some blowback from a customer on recommending Patti Smith's Just Kids, but then another customer said her book club had a wonderful discussion with it.  So go figure.  I suppose you don't need to be convinced to use The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, do you?

I didn't theme it out as much as I have done on past round ups, but I thought it would be nice to suggest some shorter books that are nonetheless have some meat in them and make for good discussions.  Half a Life fits that bill too--it's on sale May 31, by the way. Tinkers was that sort of book, but I think it had already been in the last two brochures, and when I looked at the hundreds of copies we sold, it seemed like it was time to move on.  I still recommend it, with a caveat that not everyone will like it, but you know what I'll have a better discussion when some of you don't like the book.  Just don't take it personally.

So here are some of the new books on my list.  You won't be too surprised by the choices.

Day for Night, by Frederick Reiken.  Ten narrators, one story that looks at the lines between coincidence and fate, good and evil, stories and secrets. Shocking, right, being that it was my favorite book of last year. I ran into my friend Kevin at Beans and Barley last night and he told me how much he loved it.  I wasn't shocked (he loves Lorrie Moore best of all, but shared my love of Peter Cameron too) but I was happy.  I'm practicing my shtick on this one for tonight, and since Julie Orringer reviewed the book for The Washington Post, I hope she'll chime in.

The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall.  Another fat book that is nonetheless a relatively quick read.  I compare it a lot to Middlesex, not because it reads like it, but because it is trying to tell a broad history within the context of a very personal story.  They are also both funny, and also normalize the other.  But I hope Eugenides doesn't get too mad at me about the comparison, just in case I run into him.

Father of the Rain, by Lily King.  We wound up doing very well with the previous two books in paperback, but despite the wonderful reviews and features about King's book, as well as an appearance at Boswell, we didn't really hit the market on this book in hardcover.  It's a lovely story that captures the father-daughter relationship over three periods of the protagonist's life.  It really captures that certain kind of town in New England, a weird combination of privilege and working class packed rather tightly together.  And like several novels I've read in the past few years, it really looks at the role of substance abuse and how it affects relationships. 

Publishers don't tend to play addiction and recovery up in novels, but it is clear that there are many great writers tackling the subject.  And it's not the same story over and over.  If I was going to theme a year, here are some books I would include:
Father of the Rain, by Lily King
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow
I Thought You Were Dead, by Pete Nelson
Blame, by Michelle Huneven

Don't forget that we are hosting Nelson on Thursday, June 2, with Josh Wilker (Cardboard Gods) and David Anthony (Something for Nothing) at Sugar Maple.  Neither Pete nor I will be drinking.  There may be a band.  Stacie's working on it. More on this later.

I was also going to include an "oopsy" page, meaning they were books I hadn't read yet. You know I can't read everything--I've got piles of unread books I'm meaning to get to just like you (figurative or literal, if you are an ebook reader, I guess).  The best of those wind up being our in-store lit book group selections.  We're discussing People of the Book this Monday and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet on June 6.  But I may convince the group to meet an hour earlier, as we just booked the amazing short story writer, Alan Heathcock, author of Volt, for the same slot, Monday June 6 at 7.  We can do both simultaneously, as the book club meets in the front and events are in the back, but honestly, I want to hear him!

Want to hear me or had enough?  I promise not to go on long, but don't forget I'll be speaking tonight (4/29, 7 pm) about book club  selections, just before Julie Orringer.  Hope to see you there.  Oh, and I had trouble with my title links in this post, so I had to take them out.  HTML and I do not always get along well.  Our website is great for ordering books. You're too smart to need links, aren't you?

*Darin Strauss is the author you'd most want to have lunch with.  You just don't know it yet.  He is just wonderful.

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