Yesterday, the New York Times
selected its 10 Best Books of 2013, adding fuel to the fire of year-end lists. With only 3 full weeks left in the year, there are several more lists left to come.
Herewith, the latest:
Also, if you voted for the Best Books of 2013 at Goodreads, the results are in
It seems every media outlet is going to be compiling some sort of year end "Best Of" list in the next few weeks. Below are some of the latest, many featuring a variety of works from established authors as well as new ones. It's been an incredible year for books so narrowing it down to a top few can be intimidating to say the least. In looking at these lists, I see lots of titles that are still on my "to read" list. No matter how fast I read, there's always something a new book to devour as soon as I finish the current one. But who's complaining?
Also, there's time to vote in the final round of Goodreads'
Best Books 2013, which puts the vote to those who know best: the readers. Check out the final ballot here
Gurganus '72 and Parra '94
Last night I attended a special event at the 92nd Street Y here in New York. On tap were two authors who have built impressive bodies of work over the past three decades, Allan Gurganus
and Donna Tartt
. Considered Southern writers, each has a new book out this season. Gurganus has a collection of three novellas, Local Souls
, set in the fictional town of Falls, N.C. which is populated by many eccentric characters. Tartt's latest, The Goldfinch
, tells the story of a 13 year-old boy whose mother dies unexpectedly and follows his path to adulthood over a ten year period.
Both authors read from their current books and answered a few questions. Neither author is very prolific, sometimes taking up to a decade in between books. When asked why, they both agreed that their works have greater resonance for taking a longer time to write and that inhabiting characters over a longer period of time helps create richer work. Gurganus compared it to creating sheets with a higher thread count. Tartt said that The Goldfinch
took ten years to write and in those ten years, she changed as a person herself and that the authenticity of works that take so long to gestate can't be faked.
As I make advances on my new book, I took this advice to heart. Rich, high-quality works take time to craft. Gurganus said he'd rather leave behind a few endearing works that were written over long period of time than countless "disposable" works that would quickly be forgotten. As Gurganus would say, "Amen, to that, brothers and sisters!"
While Tartt, who is quite media shy, wasn't receptive to photos, Guganus, who's a fellow Sarah Lawrence College
grad, was kind enough to pose for a photo with me. Both authors were incredibly gracious and sweet. Thank you both!
I thought I'd share this map from Business Insider. I'm in agreement with a lot of these but maybe not Texas, where I think Lonesome Dove might have an edge over No Country for Old Men. I'd also choose Richard Ford's Bascombe books for New Jersey instead of Drown. What do you think?
This week I'm the featured author at A Blue Million Books
. Amy Metz asks me questions about my writing habits and my favorite authors. If you want to know where I write and what I do when I'm not
writing, check it out. A big thank you to Amy
for some great questions!
Halloween is right around the corner. Here's a fun chart with instructions on selecting the best literary costume that works for you. This year I'm torn between Loki and Jon Snow. Many thanks to Bookish
for the chart!
Will Schwalbe has learned that, "reading isn't the opposite of doing . It's the opposite of dying." In his bestselling memoir, The End of Your Life Book Club
, Will chronicles the time he spent taking care of his mother during her struggle with cancer. He and his mother explored their mutual love of reading, sharing a variety of books, and forming a special book club that served to bring them closer together during her last days. Below, Will, who's had much success as an editor and journalist, and also as the founder of the popular website cookstr.com
, gives us an insight into his work day, offers up advice for unpublished authors, and --what else?--recommends a book or two!
1. What are you reading right now?How the Light Gets In
by Louise Penny. Awesome. Glad that your rules say that I can only spend five minutes on these questions because I'm itching to get back to it.
2. You're big on social media and blogging. What impact did these have on the success of The End of Your Life Book Club?
I don't know what effect Twitter and Facebook have had -- but I like being on them and I've met wonderful people in through both. I do think GoodReads had a huge effect. It's a phenomenal community of passionate readers. And I loved writing a series of blog posts for Powell's, one of the great Indie booksellers. I think that helped a lot, too. I've also been delighted to receive (and have answered) hundreds emails from readers. 3. Early bird/night owl, print/type, strict word count/spontaneous: What's your typical writing day like?
I'm an incredibly procrastinator -- so I need to make sure I've scheduled absolutely nothing else to do on any day I've set aside for writing. If I have anything else to do, anything at all, I'll dawdle until the time I have to do it, and then goof off afterward. I like to have 24 uninterrupted hours to do nothing but sleep, eat, and write -- regardless of the clock. I use a laptop. And I try never to focus on word-count. But because I also have a job, I really need to schedule writing days. I put them in my calendar far in advance.
4. Advice for an unpublished author?
Read Bird By Bird
by Anne Lamott. Not just great advice about writing -- great advice about life. And also read The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice for Writers
by Betsy Lerner. Another great book with tremendous advice. 5. What's next for you?
I'm working on a new book (too early to talk about it) and still having a great time with Cookstr.com
, the recipe website I founded six years ago.
Those of you who frequent this site know that I've been particularly taken by Elizabeth Gilbert's
pre-launch publicity for her new novel, The Signature of All Things
. She has done a wonderful job of engaging followers through social media, even getting their opinion before selecting the book cover
The book is released tomorrow and already it's generating great acclaim, including a very positive front-page review
in the New York Times
from Barbara Kingsolver. Publicity and buzz are one thing, but it's so rewarding when the writing justifies all the attention. Below is my spoiler-free review.
If you're in the New York area, she'll be at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square
tomorrow night kicking off her book tour. Here
are the other details on her tour.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s engrossing new novel, The Signature of All Things, Beatrix Whittaker tells her daughter, Alma, “Nothing is so essential as dignity…Time will reveal who has it and who has it not.” Readers will want to remember this as Alma’s story and the nineteenth century unfurl, carrying Alma Whitaker on a journey of discovery, growth, heartache, and love.
In telling Alma’s story, Gilbert, best know for her memoirs, Eat, Pray, Love and Committed, confidently reaches back in time to tell the story of a woman whose thirst for information and knowledge knows no bounds, a heroine who would be at home in the a novel by Dickens or Eliot. “She wished to live within humanity’s most recent moment, at the cusp of invention and progress,” Gilbert tells us. Born the daughter of a wealthy trader, Alma is privileged not only by wealth, but also by the freedom to explore nature and all its wonders in a large estate outside of Philadelphia named White Acre.
path to publication is truly unique. This former professional hockey player whose path to the NHL was cut short by an injury took up writing as he recovered and--to his surprise--fell in love with the craft. Below, learn what books influenced Luke, how he pursued his dream of being published, how he balances fatherhood (He has 3 daughters!) with writing, and more about his debut thriller, Dead Man's Hand
. Follow Luke on Twitter
1. What authors influenced you the most growing up?
My first chapter books were the Hardy Boys titles, so they are the reason I love mysteries. As an adult, some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, and Greg Iles, so naturally I write what I love to read – mystery/suspense novels. My first crime book as an adult was Kiss the Girls by James Patterson. Actually Dead Man's Hand has been compared to James Patterson books, which to me is an honour. Maybe in style (short chapters, a quick read), as I have read many of his books.
2. From nearing the NHL to published author. How did that happen?
Actually my writing happened by accident. Growing up I never thought much about writing, but I was an avid reader. The only time I ever wrote was when my teachers at school made me. I wanted to be an NHL superstar…period. It was the winter of 2000, my second year of professional hockey, and I was playing in Oklahoma City. After sustaining a season-ending eye injury (one of the scariest moments of my life), I found myself with time on his hands.
My girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, was attending a French college in Montreal. She received an English assignment to write a short story, and asked me for some help. I loved the experience—creating vivid characters and generating a wire-taut plot. So, I sat down at my roommate’s computer and began typing. I wrote a little every day, around my intense rehabilitation schedule and before I knew it I had completed my first manuscript.
I didn’t write with the intention of being published. I wrote for the love of writing. Twelve years later, I still write for pleasure—and I still love it! The fact that I am being published is a bonus.
I made the decision to write a book with the intention of publication in 2005. I enjoyed writing so much as a hobby, I decided I wanted to take my interest one step further – write a story with the intention of being published and making it available for friends, family, and readers around the world to enjoy.
I`m not one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft. I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. I continually researched on the internet, reading up on the industry and process. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.
Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2006, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write Dead Man's Hand. It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of the novel.
I then worked with editors and joined a critique group, doing anything I could to learn, to improve my writing and my novel to point where I could create the best possible work. My years of hard work finally paid off. With my dream still in mind and my manuscript ready, I hired the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency to represent Dead Man's Hand. I signed a publishing deal with Imajin Books in May, 2012.
You might not have heard the name Jim Brodie before, but that's going to change. Jim Brodie is the intrepid art dealer-cum-streetwise investigator at the center of Barry Lancet's debut thriller, Japantown
. With over 25 spent in Japan, and armed with a vast knowledge of cultural insider experience, Barry writes about the clash of East/West values as well as business and art from both realms.
Not surprisingly, Hollywood has already taken notice and the TV rights for Japantown
have just been optioned by none other than J.J. Abrams' production company, Bad Robot. Expect to hear a lot more from Barry, who's already writing subsequent Jim Brodie volumes. So for now, get to know more about Barry below and grab a copy of Japantown
, which, last I checked, was already in its 4th printing!
You can learn more about Barry and Japantown on
and can contact him there, on Facebook
, or Twitter
1. What are you reading right now?
I’m usually reading three or four books at once. Close at hand is The Lineup,
edited by Otto Penzler. It’s a collection of pieces by well-known mystery and thriller writers discussing their main characters. Also on the non-fiction side is People Who Eat Darkness
, an extremely well written account of the unfortunate murder of a British woman in Tokyo. I’ve finally found time to start in on James Lee Burke’s Tin Roof Blowdown
. It tackles Hurricane Katrina and the devastation in New Orleans. After the earthquake/tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, this has additional resonance for me. Casting a wider net, I’m eyeballing a couple of books under the radar, including a Southern mystery with a great first line, The Hand of God
by Tony Acree. 2. What caused you to move to Japan and how did you assimilate?
I went to Japan out of curiosity, and knowing absolutely nothing about the place. Not even how to say hello. I’d planned a trip to London and Paris to search for a publishing job. When a new Japanese acquaintance suggested I visit Tokyo, I said, “Why not? I’ll go the long way around to Europe.” I meant it as a joke, but in the end that’s exactly what happened.
How did I assimilate? By paying attention to detail. After one too many embarrassing faux pas, I thought, Enough!
I dove into the language and the culture. I never “turned Japanese,” as some people are prone to do, but I appreciate the finer points of the country and the people, as well as the aesthetics. 3. How does the publishing world in Asia differ from the publishing world in the West?
I can’t speak to the rest of Asia, but in Japan the major difference is that publishers make books without announcing the schedule, so there is none of the pre-selling to bookstores and other outlets. They publish the books and simply pass them over to the distributors, who set them in the stores. The struggle then is how much clout the publisher has with the distributors. 4. Any advice for an unpublished or struggling author?
More than you have space for! As a former editor, I advised authors for years. Two things to start: keep plugging away and do something on your book every single day
. This last is the most important of all. For what it’s worth, in the Writers’ Corner
on my website, I wrote a piece about how to do just that, and a second article on finding an agent. Time permitting, I’ll add to this section. 5. What's next for you?
The second and third Jim Brodie books, after Japantown
. I’m putting the final touches on Book 2 and starting to map out Book 3. All of which pushes me creatively. It’s a tremendous amount of fun. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.