Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You've Got to Read This...Adventures in the Modern World of Book Recs

(Mr. Blogger seems to be having trouble with images today. Perhaps he'll be in a better mood after a nap.)

Confession! I realized that soon after we started selling books at Demetri Martin's Pabst Theater performance that I didn't have quite enough copies of This is a Book. The sales pace was about double what we had done at our last few Pabst/Riverside events. During the show, I wound up running to a competitor to buy books*. This was not that unusual; what was interesting was the slip that popped out after our receipt, recommending:
--Sleepweek with Me, by Mike Birbiglia
--The Daily Show Presents Earth the Book, by Jon Stewart
--Sh*t my Dad Says, by Justin Halpern
--A**holes Finish First, by Tucker Max

Why not? Our mutual competitor's website has this advantage of being able to spew out automated recs like nobody's business. I had read enough to know that I thought the Birbiglia was a good match. The Max, not so much. Then I heard from one of my booksellers that both Max and Martin have a good following with the frat boy college crowd. So perhaps a computer program does better than me at this stuff.

It certainly doesn't get all crushed when a match doesn't work. I recently had my first negative feedback about The Invisible Bridge. "Boring and predicatable" was X's opinion, with a bit more detailed info on what she didn't like. This was somewhat helpful for me, as I knew what not to recommend to her in the future. It was a good thing that Orringer's novel had gotten so much love from so many customers before I got the anti-love. When I get that from an early reader, I tend to shut down.

When Darin Strauss browsed Boswell, having just done a few events for Half a Life, he wandered all over, asking me what I thought of this or that. I wanted to know what he was excited about, but in a lot of cases, his wife (who is a reviewer) had read far widely than either of us and was particularly excited about two books:
--To Be Sung Underwater, by Tom McNeal
--Vaclav and Lena, by Haley Tanner.

Darn! I was going to read both of those. Now it reminds me how late I am on reading books. We booksellers are supposed to be in the forefront of these things. And that NPR interview on Weekend Edition with Tanner left me smitten. OK, I'll just knock off a few books from my pile and add those.

But what did I start instead? I decided to read a new collection of short stories by Stuart Nadler called The Book of Life that was recommended by none other than Strauss:“Stuart Nadler addresses tradition, but he captures the right-now as well as anybody.” Et cetera. Oh, plus there’s a quote from Frederick Reiken on the back. If that book is doesn't for me, I don't know what is.

Ann Patchett’s been recommending up a storm lately. First she got behind Eleanor Henderson’s Ten Thousand Saints. While up at Next Chapter, Sandy, one of their regulars, told me the novel was indeed stupendous. And Patchett’s also been cheering on the reissue of Jeanette Haien’s The All of It.

And many of us are talking up Ann Patchett’s novel too. Here’s Maureen Corrigan, reviewing State of Wonder on Fresh Air:

“It's not often that a novel leaves me (temporarily) speechless. But Ann Patchett's new novel isn't called State of Wonder for nothing, because that's exactly the state I've been in ever since I first opened it. The numbness has worn off by now, but for days, all I could say to friends who asked me about it was the one-word review ‘Wow.’”

Read or listen to the complete review here.

Yikes, everybody is recommending books but me. I better get cracking.

*With the additional books, we wound up not selling out and everyone was happy. Martin is one of the nicest folks ever, spending quality time with just about every person on line. I don’t think I got home until midnight.

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