Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Finds- A Few Cool Things

Some fun stuff this week.

Atiq Rahimi's novel Earth and Ashes, new from Other Press, arrived unexpectedly this week. Thank you!!!

Ghita Schwarz's book Displaced Persons came courtesy of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. Thank you LT!

Hereville:How Mirka Got Her Sword is a graphic novel about a troll-fighting, 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl, by Barry Deutsch. It comes out soon but an ARC arrived this week!

I picked up Susan Getgood's Professional Blogging for Dummies because I'm in it- I'm profiled on page 20. Thank you Susan for this honor!

I spent the rest of my bookstore credit this week and among my new treasures are Paul Scott's Booker Prize winner, Staying On, and Millard Kaufman's second and final novel, Misadventure. I read Scott's Raj Quartet in high school and can't wait to read this novel, a coda to that series. I read Kaufman's first novel, A Bowl of Cherries, last year and look forward to the follow-up. Sadly Kaufman passed away recently so this will be the last from him.

What are you reading this weekend?

More Friday Finds at

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Artist's Bookmaking Week 5

Last week in my bookmaking class we started to learn about hand sewn binding techniques- basic signature sewing. Signatures are the little folded units of pages in a book; we made some for practice and then practiced sewing them into paper books.

I enjoyed the hand sewing a lot; I like to do hand sewing generally so this was a fun skill to learn. We learned a basic three-hole technique and then a second that resulted in a cross-hatched stitch on the outside but used five holes on the signature. I didn't get a good picture of that unfortunately but here is the booklet I made:I experimented with signature sewing over the weekend and wrote about it here on my craft blog. Tonight we'll be doing books that mix folded and sewn structures. Should be interesting!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

REVIEW: Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith. Published 2008 by Grand Central Publishing. Fiction. Crime Fiction.

I pounced on a hardcover copy of Child 44 as soon as I laid eyes on it; between my interest in books about Russia and the fact that it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, it seemed like a great fit. And it's a thriller, and I love a good thriller.

I was half right.

Long on plot and style, Child 44 is a great pageturner about a series of murders in the 1950s Soviet Union. The setting is richly detailed and immersing, and the hero, Leo Demidov, is a Stalinist true believer who finds his faith in the system in which he's deeply invested shaken after the bizarre murders of several children. He's a respected security officer with a beautiful wife, but no one is ever secure in this world, and today's favorite is tomorrow's traitor. His deputy is gunning for him, fellow officers mistrust him and soon everything depends on his ability to prove that these murders are related and compel his superiors to act.

The emphasis here is definitely on the story and the setting. I enjoyed the fast pace of the plot and the twists and turns, and I love how much research Smith did on the Soviet criminal system and political and social culture. His writing is top-notch and he creates a riveting, scary and fascinatingly foreign world where losing favor with the boss means affecting the fate of one's whole family, and where rumors and innuendo can snuff out a life as easily as flicking a light switch. I liked the characters, especially Leo and his wife Raisa, but I wish that Smith had developed them more and given them a little more room to breathe. I didn't really buy the big transition in their relationship that occurs about three quarters of the way through, probably because I wasn't really sold on their relationship in the first place.

The one thing that really disappointed me, and what keeps me from recommending it without reservation, is the ending, which was far too convenient and dependent on coincidence. Of all the gin joints in all the world... yeah. And the backstory that explains it all didn't work for me, either. But you know what? Other than that, it's a fabulous read and I'd recommend it for thriller readers, for literary readers looking for something compelling for the beach bag and for readers interested in Russia for the cultural side of the story. That should cover a lot of readers!


FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Essentials for a Home Library

Note: This is the first in a series of posts on home libraries.

What do you think is essential for a home library?

I posed this question on Twitter on Sunday and now I'd like to know what you think. The responses that came in included everything from dictionaries ("multiple," "unabridged"), to "loads of reference books," selections of short stories, poetry, essays, "classics through NY Times bestsellers," and more. One fellow Twitter friend confessed to trying to assemble a reference collection of such quality and depth that he could answer any question without using the computer- and to succeeding! Suggestions about cookbooks, childrens' classics (Harry Potter in particular) and more pored in all evening.

What do you think?

Lately I've been doing some serious weeding of my book collection; a couple of week ago, my husband and I sold six bags of books to local used bookstores, and I have more ready to go. I spent some credit, but there's more left, and I've been thinking that rather than buy a bunch of books I may never get around to reading, I should treat at least some of my bookstore credit as an opportunity to improve the overall quality of my home library with some essentials.

To start, I want to buy some Everyman's Library editions of some of my favorite classic fiction; beyond that, I think I need to take a hard look at what I have, and what I don't, and try to fill in some gaps.

I like this idea a lot. I like the idea of upgrading some of my classics and creating space in the collection for nice books. But then I starting thinking about what it actually would take to build a home library I could be proud of- not just a bunch of random flotsam that happened to find its way into my house, but a really nice collection.

Maybe it comes from being a librarian; when I ran a library, I couldn't just buy whatever crossed my path. I had to have a mission and a strategy, and buy according to how I wanted to shape the library's collection. Children's services was important, as was supporting the religious mission of the temple, so I had to buy with that in mind. I also wanted to build a good leisure-reading collection for the adults who used the library, so I made sure to pick good-quality fiction. Other libraries have different priorities but the point is that they buy selectively and with an end in mind.

What end do you have in mind? This issue is important to keep in mind when building a home library, too. If you're not just picking up whatever crosses your path, it makes a difference to think about it. What books are essential for a home library- what would you want to have if it was all you had? Reference books? Poetry? Do you need the complete works of Shakespeare or a set of A la recherche du temps perdu?

If you have children, your needs and collection are likely to change and grow over time. Maybe right now it's important to collect classic picture books or that hot middle-reader series but in just a couple of years you might want to think about young-adult classics or seminal adult books that are YA friendly. You might consider the library or cheap editions for those trendy, flavor-of-the-month books but maybe it might make a difference to invest in a good-quality set of Harry Potter books or The Wizard of Oz or something else that's going to last a long time.

Do you ever think about creating a literary legacy? If you're thinking about leaving your books to someone else, what you select is going to say something about what's important to you. How do your books reflect what you value, what your beliefs are? I'm just at the beginning of this process, trying to figure it out as I go, but I want to have some big picture in mind so that when I do go to the bookstore, credit slip in hand, I make choices that are going to make me happy for a long time and add up to something special. Books are special; our collections deserve to be something special, too.

Come back next Tuesday for my views on what's essential in a home library and my library mission statement. Keep track of the series with the Home Libraries tag and comment and link to your own posts on the subject!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Graphic Novel Monday: Forget Sorrow, by Belle Yang

Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale, by Belle Yang. Published 2010 by W.W. Norton & Company. Graphica. Memoir.

Forget Sorrow is the story of how author Belle Yang's father's family, well-off farmers headed by a traditional patriarch, weathers the many changes and upsets in China during the early part of the 20th century. It's also the story of how she got her name and found her voice as a writer and artist following a devastating abusive relationship.

There are fascinating individual stories that make up the whole- the tragic, short life of a beloved aunt, her father's prodigal Third Uncle, and more. Her great-grandfather's harrowing final journey following the collapse of his farm, family and home could be a separate book. Their stories are beautifully, lovingly illustrated in pen and ink.

But despite the lovely illustration style and complex narrative, Forget Sorrow didn't really work for me. My difficulties with the book are mostly structural. First of all, at around 250 pages, Forget Sorrow is long by graphic novel standards and there are no chapters or section breaks to give the reader natural stopping points, while the complexity of the narrative makes it difficult to put down and pick up- and it's too long to read in one sitting.

Secondly, after about the engaging first third of the book, the presentation becomes static. Almost every page is divided into the same six panels with a text block occupying the same 1/4 or so of space at the top, filled with narration in a very monotonous style. The pictures, which are lovely, don't so much tell the story as illustrate the narration, with the overall effect being tiring on the eyes and the attention. I had to remind myself to actually look at the pictures sometimes, because I could move from panel to panel along the straight visual line of the narration. Pictures and text should work together and panels should be varied and engaging and keep the reader's eye moving all over the page. I shouldn't have to remind myself to look at the pictures.

On balance, Forget Sorrow is a moving family story integrating history and culture, as well as the story of a Chinese-American woman trying to reconnect with her heritage, and suitable for teens and adults alike. That final story gets a little lost in the hurried up ending, and in the final analysis I think the book may just have been trying to do too much. Having said that, I'd rather read an ambitious book that falls a little short than read a simplistic book that doesn't try hard enough. I'd still be interested to read her next graphic work and for readers with a particular interest in Chinese history, there's still a lot to recommend Forget Sorrow.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the author/publisher.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Salon - This'n'That

It's one of those Sundays when I'm having a hard time coming up with a Sunday Salon topic!

It's been another busy week; I attended a launch party for Alix Strauss's new novel Based Upon Availability at the swanky Liberty Hotel in Boston and ran into the delightful Dawn of She is Too Fond of Books; this was the second Wednesday-night event in a row for us. The week before, we went to the Harvard Book Store's To Kill a Mockingbird movie night at Cambridge's Brattle Theater. The party was fun; Alix is charming and the place, as I said, was quite fancy. Hotel-themed swag bags, with hotel slippers, snacks and a copy of the book, were given out after the party. Nice!

Friday I visited my alma mater, Wellesley College, with a friend; we spent some time exploring the recently-renovated library- gorgeous! And yes, it still has books.

Yesterday I went to that unusual beast, the not-so-good bookstore. I won't name it; it smells like cat pee. Eww. There was a vintage Jane Eyre there that I kind of wanted, but I passed!

Today I have some errands and a family party tonight so there won't be a lot of time for reading. What I do have will be spent with Avi Steinberg's firecracker of a memoir, Running the Books, about his time as a prison librarian, and finishing up Steve Stern's The Frozen Rabbi. Both are terrific; Steinberg's book is absolutely compulsively readable and he's an amazing writer. I hope I get a few minutes to spend on it today!

What are you looking forward to this Sunday?

More Sunday Salon here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Finds - What I Did with my Store Credit

A few weeks ago my husband and I brought several bags of unwanted books to the local used book store, and racked up a significant amount of store credit. This week, I went to spend some of it!

Love Burns, by Edna Mazya, is an Israeli novel about a cuckolded husband, from Europa Editions. This was in the basement used-book section and I really can't resist Europa these days.

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English is a new hardcover and I bought it on the strength of a recommendation from Lorri of the Jew Wishes blog and Dawn of She is Too Fond of Books.

Ivan Shcheglov's The Dacha Husband just appealed to me based on my interest in Russian books. And it's short.

Jeff bought me Philip Jose Farmer's To Your Scattered Bodies Go in an effort to introduce me to quality science fiction. I'll let you know how that goes!

Finally, I treated myself to a used (but in perfect condition) copy of the newish Penguin translation of Swann's Way, more properly Du Côté de chez Swann, the first volume in Proust's masterpiece.

What did you get this week?

More Friday Finds at

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Artist's Bookmaking Week 4: Decorative Papers

Last week in my Artist's Bookmaking class, we practiced making decorative papers for our books using two techniques- paste paper and marbling.

For the paste paper experiments, we used a recipe of flour, water and cornstarch mixed with acrylics and applied to wet, plain paper. We then used different implements such as brushes, combs, rubber stamps, and even bubble wrap to make patterns on the paper.

My class project is to make a scrapbook for my upcoming trip to Florida in August, so I concentrated on making papers in tropical patterns and colors. I'm going to cut palm trees and flamingos out of some of them, and use others for text and photo backdrops.

I liked using the rubber stamps because I thought it gave the paper the look of batik fabric, and the combs and scrapers allowed for interesting textures as well.

After I'd made whole bunch of paste papers, I had the chance to do a little marbling.

We used a technique employing shaving cream on top of a cookie sheet that was then covered with diluted watercolor paints and swirled.

I had fun experimenting with it; it was pretty messy though and I'm just hoping the paint will come out of the pants I wore to class!

It was a fun night and I love my new paper.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bookish Romance

Browsing Twitter this morning, I saw a link to this post about a dating site that matches singles based on the books they read. Apparently, you can search for a date by talking about the books you like and searching for people who like specific titles and authors.

First of all, let me just state for the record that I'm a happily married woman and won't be using the site myself, but for obvious reasons it caught my eye. I don't think I could deal with a guy who wasn't a reader, and every guy I've ever dated (or wanted to date) has been an avid reader of one kind or another. Most of them- my husband included- don't read the kinds of books I read though, and I don't think my husband and I would ever have found each other by matching our libraries. Opposites attract; I read AS Byatt, he reads David Eddings.

All of this lead me to wonder how important is it to have the same interests as your partner. Certainly it's important to me that my husband is an avid reader; I couldn't live with someone who thought I was weird for reading, or who would be irritated by my books, or to whom I couldn't talk about my books. On the other hand, it's never been crucial to me to only date lit fic snobs. I'm not sure I'd even want to date (or marry) someone with identical interests- how boring would that be? I like being married to a science fiction/fantasy nerd because we have more to offer each other. Now because of me, he's read AS Byatt and Iain Banks, and because of him I've read China Mieville and Ursula Le Guin. And he's learned to like my kind of books, and I've learned to like his.

I'm reminded of the movie "The Jane Austen Book Club", an otherwise unremarkable chick flick about a group of suburban women, and one man, engaged in a year-long project to read their way through Austen's novels. An attractive, blonde 40-something woman who loves literary fiction is dating the man in the group, a 30-ish startup millionaire who loves science fiction and fantasy. He tries to convince her to read some scifi; she demurs until he takes her to a bookstore and hand-picks some of his favorites and explains what they have in common with the books she loves. Eventually she gives in and finds that-surprise!- some of "his" books aren't so bad. They might not give each other the time of day on a dating site that "matched" people based on their reading interests alone. I mean, where does that approach leave the girl who likes science fiction nerds but is herself a nerd of the lit fic type?

Has our marriage changed our respective reading habits? No, but I think our differences, along with our shared respect and love for books, has broadened us both a bit. That wouldn't happen if we both read the same things, had the same interests and couldn't teach each other anything new. I know couples with identical interests and it's like they never learn anything- they spend all their time watching the same Trek reruns and reading each other the same kinds of books. They're happy, and that's great, but that's not for me. Granted, it doesn't always work; I'll never see what he sees in Terry Pratchett, and he'll never pick up Alice Munro. But we both love books, even if they're not the same books, and we love each other, and that's enough.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

REVIEW: The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight, by Gina Ochsner

The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight, by Gina Ochsner. Published 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Literary Fiction.

The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight is a delightful, sad, bittersweet and ultimately winning book about three families living in a grim apartment building in a desolate corner of the former Soviet Union- one Jewish, one Russian Orthodox and one Muslim.

The narrative goes back and forth between this varied cast of characters but centers on Tanya, a mousy and introverted artist working as a coat-check girl at a dilapidated museum. She lives with her shrewish grandmother and pines after her neighbor Yuri, who lives with his mother Olga, a translator, and his prickly girlfriend Zoya. Their neighbor Azade is recently widowed and her late husband Mircha just refuses to go quietly, while her son Vitek asserts himself as a petty gangster.

From all this drama emerges an engaging story mixing both grim and magical realism, politics and culture, scatology and high art. Tanya makes most of the museum's exhibits herself, and is tasked with entertaining a group of Americans considering making a large donation. Word of the Americans and their money spreads through this community and their arrival precipitates a comedic fallout that no one expects.

I thought The Russian Dreambook was a charming and wonderful book about people, and a country, trying to find its way in the wake of collapse. Most things about day to day life haven't changed for these characters but somehow they're unmoored and searching, for love, for meaning, for resolution. At the heart of the book is Tanya's sweet and unlikely love for Yuri, who maybe knows, and maybe just needs a little persuasion, that she's really the girl for him. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to root for her dreams to come true.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Musing Mondays - What Do Your Bookshelves Say About You?

This week’s musing asks…

What does your bookshelf (or, what do your bookshelves) say about you to the people who come into your home?

My bookshelves say I have a lot of books, and that I don't have enough bookshelves. They say I like to read a lot of fiction and that once in a while I'm lucky enough to get an advance copy of something cool like the new Mieville of Shteyngart book, but that I like to read older fiction as well. I separate my unread books from those I've read, so I guess my bookshelves also say that I have a lot of interests and that sometimes it's hard for me to keep up with them all. I also separate out my signed books and 1st editions of Booker Prize winners along with my collection of Jane Eyre editions, so my bookshelves also say I'm a collector.

What about you?

Musing Mondays is hosted by MizB at

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Salon - Life Quiets Back Down

No conferences, no business trips, no running around today- just me and a cup of tea and a book, the way Sunday should be!

I'm reading Steve Stern's The Frozen Rabbi, which I'm enjoying quite a bit. I'm a little behind on new releases; this book came out in April. I'm also reading Michelle Hoover's The Quickening, which I'm not enjoying as much. I'm going to give it a few more chapters for some kind of plot to develop, but after that we'll have to see. The reviews on LibraryThing have been uniformly positive so this may be another instance of me being a literary contrarian. We'll see. I'm also working my way through Belle Yang's incredible graphic novel Forget Sorrow, about family stories from China. I love her visual style and the way the stories weave together; I won't have finished it to write about it tomorrow but hopefully I'll have a review in a week or so.

I'm also hugely behind on writing reviews, so I may try to punch out a few of those today. But mostly I think I just want to take it easy as much as possible, and maybe work on my "personal accordion" book project for my Artist's Bookmaking class. It's going to be a scrapbook for my upcoming trip to Florida; I've already covered the bookboards for the cover and last week when we did paste paper and marbling, I tried to make papers I could use in the project, papers in tropical colors and patterns. I'll have the photos to show you on Thursday.

Speaking of crafts, I changed the look on my craft blog and I'm using it to document side projects and exercises in the bookmaking class. I love all the new customization options Blogger is offering. I can't change this blog but it was fun to experiment on the other one. Pop over there if you're interested.

For now, I'm going back to my cup of tea! Have a great Sunday.

More Sunday Salon here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

ReaderCon, Friday Finds and What I Found at ReaderCon

Last weekend I attended Readercon 21, a three-day-long fan-produced conference on the subject of science fiction and fantasy literature. But Marie, I hear you say, you are a literary fiction snob. What were you doing at a sff con? Well, last year I went because my husband asked me to, but I had such a good time I actually wanted to go this year. I even went so far as to volunteer at the con! It was a different experience than last year, but still worthwhile. I learned a lot, saw some friends and made some new ones. And I always say a good con is any one where you hug at least one pal.

The con spanned Friday through Sunday. I spent most of Friday (six hours or so) volunteering in the green room- the room where the authors go to relax between sessions. Readercon runs their authors ragged- one author can have a half dozen or more panels in the course of the weekend- so they need their downtime. No photos or autographs are allowed; my job was to keep the snacks and beverages stocked, and provide a welcoming atmosphere. The bonus is that volunteers do get to chat with authors sometimes, and I was lucky enough to say hi to one of the guests of honor, author Charles Stross, who confided that his new novel was going to be "Charlie's big gay detective show," in other words something different from what his fans might expect. That made me laugh.

Afterwards, I attended a session called "The Best of the Small Press," about interesting books coming from smaller publishers. Unfortunately the acoustics were not great and I didn't get many titles written down but some of what I did write down included
  • What I Didn't See, stories from Karen Joy Fowler coming in September from Small Beer Press,
  • Mirror Kingdom, by Peter S. Beagle from Subterranean, and
  • Sympathy for the Devil, a collection including Michael Chabon, Kelly Link and Stephen King, from Nightshade Books.
Later I attended a very good session on digital publishing by Cecilia Tan. She talked about different options available to authors now and those coming up and quoted some statistics on consumer attitudes towards e-books. My favorite session of Friday is the same as last year- Biblioholics Anonymous. It's the last session of the day and it's basically a chance for booknuts like me to bond and share stories. British author Robert Shearman talked about traveling to places like Russia and Greece and finding impossible-to-duplicate treasures in little bookstores, then claimed to have amassed a library of over 14,000 books. It sort of made me feel better about my own book-hoarding!

The highlight of Saturday was the "Year in Novels" presentation. This is the session I always hope will give me some ideas for science fiction that I might want to read, and I was not disappointed. I picked up The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi in the dealer's room afterwards based on a recommendation at this session; other titles mentioned include Julian Comstock, by Robert Charles Wilson and Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. Unfortunately no handout was available and the acoustics were poor so it was hard to get it all on paper.
But I did get my copy of The Windup Girl signed by author Bacigalupi.

Saturday evening we attended a screening of "Get Lamp," an independent film about text adventures such as Zork, hosted by director Jason Scott. My husband is a huge Zork fan and has already pre-ordered this entertaining movie.

Sunday was a shorter day as the con ended around 3:00pm. The highlight of the day for me was definitely the presentation of the Shirley Jackson Awards, given every year for works of "horror, psychological suspense and the dark fantastic," emceed by convention guest of honor Nalo Hopkinson. Victor Lavalle's book Big Machine won for Best Novel, which made me happy because I had picked it up on Saturday in the dealer's room. Robert Shearman of Biblioholics fame shared the award for Single Author Collection for his book, Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical.

I got a third book as well- Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's collection of short stories, There Once Was a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales. Petrushevskaya was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award for this book. You can find a full list of Shirley Jackson winners here.

Last year I came home with three books from ReaderCon and even managed to read two of them; I hope to continue that trend and maybe even exceed it this year!

More Friday Finds at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Artist's Bookmaking- Week 3

This week, we made two miniature hardcover books using book cloth and board. The first was this orange book, a very basic model made a little more challenging with the addition of a ribbon using a chisel and hammer.

The second book we made was similar, but this time we attempted a flag book- another style of accordion book with small folds to which you can attach pieces of paper:

I can see so much potential for this kind of book. The teacher brought in an example using fortunes from Chinese fortune cookies; I can see using the flag structure as part of a scrapbook for tickets or other mementos, and other things too.

I stopped by the local hardware store this week and picked up some hand tools so I can continue this hobby on my own- an awl, a chisel and a good knife. I even got my craft notebook out and starting jotting down ideas for the "personal accordion" project, one of our assignments. I think I want to make a scrapbook for my and my husband's upcoming trip to Florida in August. I already have this great floral paper for the cover- which means I only have everything else to figure out. Fun!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day!

One of my lifelong interests is everything French; my background is French, I majored in French language and literature in college and I still hear or read or speak French at least once every day.

So of course I love French books!

A while ago I received a review copy of One Hundred Great French Books, by Lance Donaldson-Evans; it's a neat book, a list of one man's essentials of French literature that reads very much like a college survey of French literature. Considering that Donaldson-Evans is a professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania, that makes a certain amount of sense! The essays are interesting and fun to read, but it's also fun to just page through the list at the beginning of the book, checking off the books one has read. Me? While copyright considerations prevent me from reproducing the whole list, here's a selection- just the books I've read.

The Song of Roland/La chanson de Roland

Tristan and Iseult/Tristan et Iseult

The Book of the City of Ladies/Le livre de la cité des dames, by Christine de Pizan

Pantagruel, by François Rabelais

Fables, by Jean de la Fontaine

The Princess of Clèves/La princesse des Clèves, by Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne

Manon Lescaut, by Antoine-François Prévost

Letters of a Peruvian Woman/Lettres d'une Péruvienne, by Françoise de Graffigny

Candide, by Voltaire

Dangerous Liaisons/Les liaisons dangereuses, by Choderlos de Laclos (my favorite classic French novel)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame/Notre Dame de Paris, by Victor Hugo (my favorite 19th century French novel)

Old Goriot/Père Goriot, by Balzac

Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert

The Flowers of Evil/Les fleurs du mal, by Charles Baudelaire

Short Stories, by Guy de Maupassant

In Search of Lost Time: "Combray"/ À la recherche du temps perdus "Combray", by Marcel Proust

Chéri, by Colette

The Little Prince/Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Mythologies, by Roland Barthes

Moderato Cantabile, by Marguerite Duras

What about you? What are your favorite French books? There are a lot more books to this list, and these aren't necessarily my personal favorites. See last year's Bastille Day post for those.

In the mean time, have a wonderful Bastille Day and read something French!

Click here to buy One Hundred Great French Books via I'm an IndieBound affiliate and receive a small commission on sales.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Boston's North Shore- A Used Bookstore Tour

Just about the only thing I enjoy more than fried seafood in summertime is finding a new bookstore.

Last week, my husband and I decided to take a day and do some book shopping. Big surprise, right? Well, instead of hitting our favorite indies or checking out the new big-box chain, we decided to drive up to Cape Ann, on Boston's north shore, to visit four new-to-us used bookstores.

After a delicious lunch of fried clams at the magnificent Clam Box (246 High St., Ipswich, Mass.), we headed to nearby Rowley and the fun Broken In Books (317 Haverhill St., Rowley, Mass.).

Broken In Books stocks a great mix of used paperbacks and hardcovers in most genres; you can find neatly organized shelves and piles of new arrivals and random things, as well as glass-cased collectibles and rarities. I browsed the craft section while Jeff got a first edition of a David Eddings book, The Demon Lord of Karanda.

After a pleasant time at Broken In Books, we headed off to Middleton and Hand It Back Book Smyth (240 S. Main St., Middleton, Mass.), a smaller strip-mall bookstore. But don't let the size fool you. Hand It Back Book Smyth is stocked wall-to-wall with all the books you could want. The plentiful and well-organized sections for romance novels and science fiction got my attention at first, but a little wander lead me to their nice selection of general fiction. You can spend a good long time among their generous offerings.

Once you're done here, head over to Richardson's Ice Cream (156 S. Main St., Rte 114, Middleton, Mass.) for one of their legendary cones.

Once we had enjoyed one cone of pineapple coconut ice cream (me) and one of German chocolate cake (Jeff), it was time to head up to Manchester-by-the-Sea for what turned out to be my favorite bookstore of the day, Manchester By the Book (27 Union St., Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.).

All I can say is, wow. Lately I've found myself collecting Margaret Atwood first editions and this remarkable store full to the brim with rare and collectible volumes had an entire shelf of them. And they had a beautiful Folio Society edition of Jane Eyre, and all very reasonable. I came home with the Jane Eyre, two Canadian Atwood firsts (Wilderness Tips and Bodily Harm), one British first (The Robber Bride) and a British first edition of A.S. Byatt's Angels and Insects. It wasn't the cheapest bookstore run ever, but it wasn't that bad, all told, and I found some real treasures without even getting past the B section.

We went out to the picturesque seaside town of Gloucester for our final bookstore of the day, the Dogtown Book Shop (132 Main St., Gloucester, Mass.) Dogtown has a respectable collection of used fiction but it seemed to me that its real strength is in nonfiction, especially nautical and local history. Dogtown also has a lot of really rare and valuable old books, cased in of course, as well as an interesting collection of old cookbooks and art history. I spent all my money in Manchester by the Book so while I did enjoy a nice browse, I didn't end up buying anything here.

But I did discover four great new bookstores, all of which I'm sure I'll be visiting again!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Salon - ReaderCon

Today is the last day of ReaderCon, an annual science fiction and fantasy literature convention held every year in Burlington, Mass., a suburb of Boston. This year is my second attending the con; even though I'm not a science fiction or fantasy reader myself, I love going because I always learn a lot, and because I always discover great new books. Since I have a full day left today, I'll save my summary for later this week but trust me- it's a great event.

I brought my e-reader along to the con and managed to read the entirety of Dan Chaon's brilliant Await Your Reply during conference breaks and downtime; truthfully, I could hardly stand to put the book down anytime. What a nailbiter! Someone told me that when I finished it I would want to start all over again- and I do! I'd had my eye on it when it came out but just never got around to it; as something I was interested in but unsure about, it seemed like a good candidate for e-reading. All I can say is, what a book!

Today I'll work on making some progress in Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, another nailbiter I'm enjoying a lot. It's keeping me going but it doesn't quite have the wild, I-have-to-know-right-now-what's-going-on quality of Await Your Reply. What I really need to start reading, though, is The Frozen Rabbi, Steve Stern's book that got such a great write-up in the New York Times Book Review last Sunday. Who says no one reads newspaper reviews anymore?

What are you up to today? I hope you're having a great Sunday.
More Sunday Salon here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Finds - Seattle Edition

So earlier this week I wrote about my quick trip to Seattle last weekend, and the bookstores I visited. Here are the books! Turns out Seattle is a Russophile's dream when it comes to books- don't ask me why or how, but I ended up with a handful of Russian stuff.

Moscow Noir, the Russian entry in Akashic's Noir series, looks very good to me.

So does Ruts & Gullies: Nine Days in St. Petersburg, a graphic novel out of Canada by Philippe Gerard.

The Stalin Epigram, by Robert Littell, looks like a good page-turning thriller.

Finally, The Russian Lover, by Jana Martin, is a collection of short stories I found intriguing.

For non-Russian books, I picked up Ergo, by Jakov Lind, a comic novel, and Pretty is Hard: Poems about Shoes, Chocolate and Best Friends, a little bit of girly semi-serious fun, by Veronica Markey. I already love that book!

Lest you think the only books that came to me this week were from Seattle, I had two arrive by mail as well. Last Orders, Graham Swift's Booker Prize winner, came via Bookmooch, and Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry came courtesy of Regal Literary. These are the folks who hooked me up with Broken Glass Park, Alina Bronsky's book that I loved so much, so I have high hopes for the Niffenegger as well. I know that's been out for a while; anyone read it? What did you think?

More Friday Finds at