This might sound strange, but after finishing the just-released memoir My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff, I realized I’m guilty of incorrectly judging a book by its cover color. Although an advance copy had been sitting on my nightstand for quite some time now, I kept pushing it lower and lower in the pile for the simple reason that the predominantly brown cover didn’t appeal to me. I never even bothered to read the jacket copy, so I wasn’t even avoiding the premise or description. It was just that the cover made it seem like anforgive meoverly masculine book.

It’s not the first time I initially passed on a brown cover that held treasure between the pages. The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer was an almost completely brown cover, and oh did I resist reading that one, even though it was the talk of the publishing house I worked for at the time. It was Moehringer’s memoir of growing up fatherless in the local bar in Manhasset, New York. Instead of romanticizing a booze-filled past, this coming-of-age portrait has something for everyone, from father-son story to first love to adjusting to college to finding his way as a journalist. And all of it is recounted with the knack of someone who spent hours telling stories to a colorful cast of characters in a bar; the kind of person who could make you down his writing faster than a good drinker could chug a beer....Read More

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Are you the type to fall in love at first sight? I’m not, but I do it sometimes anyway. Mostly with books. What makes it happen? Well, shapely plots and well-fleshed characters can draw me in slowly, but it’s playful, expressive language that forges an instant connection.

Like when I picked up a copy of Brian Doyle’s The Plover in the store the other day. I started leafing through it to see what it was about, read the first two paragraphs, and then stopped. Not to put it back, but to go find anything else I could that he had written. That brief exposure alone was enough to tell me that he and I were going to be spending an awful lot of time together. I brought home my pile of books, ran through the rest of The Plover, and kept going with the rest of his work. The spark we had most definitely turned into a flame....Read More

The stellar box office performance for The Fault In Our Stars is only one piece of evidence that the young adult genre is heading in a new direction. For years YA has been overrun by dystopia, thanks to the success of Twilight and The Hunger Games. But now, thanks to John Green and perhaps Rainbow Rowell (who wrote the bestseller Eleanor and Park) we’re getting back in touch with the side of teenagers that fell in love with Judy Blume.

Could it be that teens are ready to look at—gulp—real life? This summer we have some strong candidates for bestsellers about teens who live in the same universe we do. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (see our review here), The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Matheieu, and of course the upcoming film If I Stay, based on the bestseller by Gayle Forman....Read More

The din of South African vuvuzelas has barely died away, yet here it is again—the World Cup. For the next month the finest soccer teams in the world will meet on Brazilian pitches, eliminating each other one by one until a final champion is crowned. As always, it promises to be a fascinating pageant, whether or not you’re a follower of the Beautiful Game. Whenever the whole globe decides to take part in something, it’s worth paying attention.

imageimageTrue soccer fans can fill the downtime between matches with some excellent new books, including the sumptuously illustrated 1000 Football Shirts and Eight World Cups, George Vecsey’s personal history of a lifetime covering the sport. But even those not athletically inclined have a way to to show their international spirit and get in on the action.

The crafty folks at Three Percent, an online resource built to promote translated literature, have cooked up a World Cup of their own. They’ve chosen a representative book from each one of the 32 nations taking the field in Brazil and matched them against each other. As the real teams do battle, judges will read the books and determine winners, passing the best along to the following rounds. By the time the national squads have booted, tackled, and sweated their way down to a single victor, the judges of the World Cup of Literature will have also chosen the best book on the planet....Read More

There were a number of us on staff that read advance copies of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and the result was plenty of behind-the-counter discussion. When you read it (because you’d be missing out if you don’t), swing by the front desk or get in touch online and let us know your reaction.  We’re curious to hear what our customers think, especially since we continue to discuss the ending.

Here’s what Nancy, Miriam, and Marni had to say about it. Consider this a starting point for further discussion....Read More

The tides were right, but weather on the evening of the 4th was poor—winds and seas were high, and clouds were low—so elaborate plans that had been readied for the morning of the 5th were scotched. A lengthy postponement seemed inevitable, but meteorologists predicted that conditions would clear at least partially on the following day. So the go-ahead was given and operations began in the pre-dawn hours on the 6th. By the end of that June day in 1944, nearly 160,000 men had crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of Normandy in what is still the largest seaborne invasion ever mounted.

It’s the 70th anniversary of D-Day, one of those moments on which history hinges....Read More

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Maya Angelou’s passing last week felt like the end of an era. I vividly recall her appearance at Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993. She read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” which emphasized themes of responsibility and coming together despite our differences. Critics praised her performance but disliked the poem itself. Angelou was only the second poet (and first female and African American) to read an inaugural poem since Robert Frost recited “The Gift Outright” at President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration. It wasn’t necessary to like the “On the Pulse of Morning” to feel the impact of Maya Angelou. She was the perfect example of her own oft-repeated quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” All I remember of that poem was the sheer force of her presence.

Was there any significant part of African-American history in the last 80-some years that Maya Angelou didn’t touch on? There are some authors who are known for their works, but Angelou was known for her life and her very being. Her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, remains the biggest part of her legacy and a seminal piece of American literature....Read More

As I sit in the wood-paneled study atop my ivory tower, hemmed in on all sides by esoteric works of fiction, I begin to wonder how I came to this place. On one wall are slim volumes that refract and reflect each other like a Borgesian hall of mirrors, and on another are fat epics of Pynchonian complexity overstuffed with arcane and useless learning. In between are multi-authored novels in verse that make myth out of the Golden Age of Hollywood; plays that shift their characters achronologically through times past, present, and future; histories that masquerade as novels masquerading as histories; unfinished fragments by sickly Latin American geniuses; and futuristic stories told by narrators so unreliable that they call into question my existence as well as theirs.

Why must everything I read be so damn tricksy, and why am I not satisfied with simple tales straightforwardly told? After much self-examination I’ve come to realize that the foundation of the baroque structure that is my literary taste was laid quite early, and not by my own hands. The reader I am today is built entirely on two books given to me when I was barely out of the crib. It’s not my fault, in other words. I blame my parents....Read More

A recent article by Shane Parrish in The Week posed this intriguing argument: that serious readers should avoid bestselling books. The reason being that most bestsellers are forgotten in a few years, and offer minimal help educating us on long-term issues. They also encourage us to think like the masses, potentially smothering our creativity.

I have mixed feelings about his argument. On the one hand, I strongly believe that people should read for pleasure as much as for education. If reading is a chore, it can take on a negative association and feel like one more thing on our endless to-do lists. There’s a great deal of joy to be found in reading what others are reading. A good book can be the seed of meaningful conversation; the kind of conversation that builds relationships and brings people together. It can also help us understand multiple viewpoints and know each other in a way that just living daily life along side someone doesn’t always reveal....Read More

True crime is one of those genres that either repels or fascinates readers. I don’t seek these books out, but two that have stayed vividly in my mind for years are In Cold Blood (not because of the Philip Seymour Hoffman movie, although that was excellent) and Helter Skelter (the Manson murders). Those two are the gold standard of investigative nonfiction in that arena, and downright chilling.

This past week, news broke of a surprising and bizarre new true crime account. The book comes from HarperCollins, a respected but sometimes exploitative publisher that was originally supposed to publish O.J. Simpson’s offensive pseudo-confession, If I Did It. Although not quite at the same shock level as that monstrosity, HarperCollins brings us a puzzling premise that was successfully embargoed. No one knew this book was coming until it hit the shelves. In The Most Dangerous Animal of All by Gary L. Stewart, the author lays out twelve years of research that led him to the conclusion that his biological father was the infamous Zodiac killer.

The Zodiac killer was known for five murders in Northern California in the 1960s. He taunted police by sending coded messages to the local media. No one ever cracked the case, despite thousands of tips. The film Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood, was loosely based on the case. In 2007, Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. starred in Zodiac, which chronicled the investigation. For more than 40 years the identity of the Zodiac killer has remained a mystery....Read More

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