I had a great blog idea when I worked at the pub – track the names of books and the people who read them while they drank or waited for friends in the pub.  I met one of my dearest friends at the pub because she was reading The Life of Pi and I had loved that book so much that I sat down to talk to her about it.  Lots of people came into the pub and read and in fact that’s why Justin started the book club.

Coverspy tracks books seen on the MTA in New York City.  Sometimes I wish I could use public transportation again just so I would have that extra time to read quietly.

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Literary Sandwiches

From the New Yorker

The Balzac: a hundred Ostend oysters, twelve Pre-Sale mutton cutlets, a duckling with turnips, a brace of roast partridges, a sole Normand, without counting hors d’oeuvres, entremets, fifteen kinds of fish, and a pyramid of fruit, served on French bread with a side of black coffee.

The Catcher in the Rye: meatloaf and ketchup on rye bread.

S’more and Peace: marshmallow, melted chocolate, and an olive branch between graham crackers.

The Miss Lonelyhearts: one slice of plain white bread with heart of palm.

The George Perec: ham on a roll with mustard: hold the cheese, pickle, ketchup or anything else with an “e” in it.

Webster’s Dictionary: two or more slices of bread or the like with a layer of meat, fish, cheese, etc., between each pair.

The Nora Roberts: all cheese.

The Dave Eggers: a broken, runny egg on staggeringly thick bread; served with a guide to its enjoyment.

The Thomas Pynchon: no one really knows.

Lady Cheddarley’s Lover: a controversial abundance of melted cheddar and several unprintable ingredients.

Henry James-wiches:
“The Wings of the Dove”: dove meat, Grey Poupon
“The Spoils of Poynton”: spoiled ham, Grey Poupon
“The Golden Bowl”: french fries and Grey Poupon, served in a bowl.

The Animal Farm: supposed to include a variety of meats in equal parts; in practice, though, mostly ham.


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Banned Book Quiz

How well do you know your banned books?

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November Book Selection

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Monday, November 8, 2010
6:30 pm @ TBD

Set in an exotic Eastern landscape peopled by magicians and fantastic talking animals, Salman Rushdie’s classic children’s novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories inhabits the same imaginative space as Gulliver’s Travels, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz. In this captivating adaptation for the stage, Haroun sets out on an adventure to restore the poisoned source of the sea of stories. On the way, he encounters many foes, all intent on draining the sea of all its storytelling powers.

The author of The Satanic Verses returns with his most humorous and accessible novel yet. This is the story of Haroun, a 12-year-old boy whose father Rashid is the greatest storyteller in a city so sad that it has forgotten its name. When the gift of gab suddenly deserts Rashid, Haroun sets out on an adventure to rescue his print.

About the Book

About Salman Rushdie

A Study Guide


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October Book Selection

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro
Monday, October 11, 2010
6:30 pm @ TBD

One of the most celebrated writers of our time gives us his first cycle of short fiction: five brilliantly etched, interconnected stories in which music is a vivid and essential character.

A once-popular singer, desperate to make a comeback, turning from the one certainty in his life . . . A man whose unerring taste in music is the only thing his closest friends value in him . . . A struggling singer-songwriter unwittingly involved in the failing marriage of a couple hes only just met . . . A gifted, underappreciated jazz musician who lets himself believe that plastic surgery will help his career . . . A young cellist whose tutor promises to “unwrap” his talent . . .

Passion or necessityor the often uneasy combination of the twodetermines the place of music in each of these lives. And, in one way or another, music delivers each of them to a moment of reckoning: sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, sometimes just eluding their grasp.

An exploration of love, need, and the ineluctable force of the past, Nocturnes reveals these individuals to us with extraordinary precision and subtlety, and with the arresting psychological and emotional detail that has marked all of Kazuo Ishiguros acclaimed works of fiction.

Read the Complete Book Online

About Kazuo Ishiguro Review

LA Times Review

The Times Review

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Product Placement in Novels

I always notice in movies when the character shares a Coke with a girl or texts her on his brand new Verizon phone or diffuses the bomb using his slender MacBook Pro.  But I’ve never noticed it used in literature (unless it’s obvious name dropping a la Brett Easton Ellis).  Apparently, this has been going on for years!

Product Placement Discovered in 19th Century British Novels

Dickens peddles Dr. Locock’s Pulmonic Wafers and Vigor’s Horse-Action Saddle!  Even Jane Austen plied her readers with W.&J. Sangster Alpaca Umbrellas.

I feel so used.

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Become an Instant Expert

The good people over at Five Books know it’s much more fun to be a quasi-expert in a lot of things.  At Five Books, a prominent expert or thinker will deliver you a mini-syllabus of five books to read on a topic each day, with a the aim of arming you with the indispensable knowledge of Elizabeth I or China in the world economy or cakes.  Need to impress your classical music loving boss?  Read five suggestions from Igor Toronyi-Lalic, Classical Music Editor of  Your mother-in-law just returned from a trip to Dubai?  Historian Margot Badran suggests five books on Islam and Feminism. Five Books revives the fun of reading – tuition not required.

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September Book Selection

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Monday, September 13, 2010
6:00 pm @ Firkin & Phoenix on Westheimer

Mitchell’s virtuosic novel presents six narratives that evoke an array of genres, from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy. There is a naïve clerk on a nineteenth-century Polynesian voyage; an aspiring composer who insinuates himself into the home of a syphilitic genius; a journalist investigating a nuclear plant; a publisher with a dangerous best-seller on his hands; and a cloned human being created for slave labor. These five stories are bisected and arranged around a sixth, the oral history of a post-apocalyptic island, which forms the heart of the novel. Only after this do the second halves of the stories fall into place, pulling the novel’s themes into focus: the ease with which one group enslaves another, and the constant rewriting of the past by those who control the present. Against such forces, Mitchell’s characters reveal a quiet tenacity. When the clerk is told that his life amounts to “no more than one drop in a limitless ocean,” he asks, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

About the Book

Guardian Book Club review

A.V. Club Book Discussion

Book Addicts Discussion

Discussion Questions

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Longlist announced for Man Booker Prize 2010

See the longlist

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber and Faber)

Emma Donoghue Room (Pan MacMillan – Picador)

Helen Dunmore The Betrayal (Penguin – Fig Tree)

Damon Galgut In a Strange Room (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Books)

Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)

Andrea Levy The Long Song
(Headline Publishing Group – Headline Review)

Tom McCarthy C (Random House – Jonathan Cape)

David Mitchell The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Hodder & Stoughton – Sceptre)

Lisa Moore February (Random House – Chatto & Windus)

Paul Murray Skippy Dies (Penguin – Hamish Hamilton)

Rose Tremain Trespass (Random House – Chatto & Windus)

Christos Tsiolkas The Slap (Grove Atlantic – Tuskar Rock)

Alan Warner The Stars in the Bright Sky
(Random House – Jonathan Cape)

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The Fine Art of Recommending Books

Recently I recommended The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson to my mother – I knew she would love it because it’s a mystery, a thriller and love story all in one.  My mother is a champion reader – she reads everything and she reads it FAST.  Sometimes she likes my suggestions, sometimes they’re too esoteric for her, which she thought Dragon Tattoo might be.  She started it but because it is translated from Swedish and because the names and locations are Swedish, she said she was confused from the start and put it down.  One week she couldn’t get her Half-Price fix so she had to resort to reading this book.  She called me right after she finished and said she LOVED it!  She couldn’t put it down!  She’s already read the second book in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and we are waiting for the The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest to come out in paperback so we can read it together.

In this case it was easy to recommend a book to my mom because I know her taste and I know her history with books.  But what if a stranger asks you to recommend a book to them?  What if you have to recommend a book to a book club?  It’s not easy to make everyone happy and satisfy their needs.  Lately, we have used length of book as a criteria.  I think the point of a book club is to read new books, books you might not have picked up, books you may hate or may change your life.  We have read several such books – we hated Eat, Pray, Love and The Road changed some of our lives.

Laura Miller reviews books for and is constantly asked to recommend books.  She discusses this in her latest article:

As Pearl sees it, four “doorways” allow readers to enter into any work of fiction or narrative nonfiction: story, characters, setting and language. “The difference between books is often a difference in the size of those doorways,” she explained. Someone who agrees with statements like “I stayed up late to finish the book,” is drawn to story, while someone who picks “I am in awe of the way the author could put words together,” cares more about the beauty of the prose.

On The Morning News, the Bibiloracle will recommend books to you if you let him know the last five books you’ve read.  He says he has “something like an 85 percent success rate”  and “If your chosen book fails to please you, the Biblioracle will refund you the cost of your free recommendation.”

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