Bonus Book Content

Good for Book Clubs

You know that feeling when you finish a book and you’re desperately wanting more? We’ve collected Author Essays, Author Q&As, and Reader Guides from many of our featured books to continue your reading journey — and to start a lively book club discussion!

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

The Muse of Music

Bestselling author Taylor Stevens on the music she listens to while writing.

There have been times that music didn’t feature heavily in my creative process, but those have been rare and far between. For the most part, music has been both a muse and a signal to my brain that playtime is over. Flip that music switch and the psyche knows it’s time to go to work.

Unfortunately, music has also been a double-edged sword because, while it has been integral to getting the writing done, it can also be very distracting. When I first started writing, I learned quickly that almost anything I loved to listen to throughout the day was disastrous when putting words on the page. For example, with a few exceptions, songs with lyrics had to get cut from the playlists. Movie soundtracks and classical music—which both seem like plausible alternatives—got the ax, too.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Why Bradstreet Gate?

Author Robin Kirman reveals the meaning of the title of her crime mystery novel.

A gate is a passage: it takes people from one place and lets them out, in an orderly fashion, in another; in some cases it also serves as a means of selection. The gates of heaven only open for the virtuous, the saved, and permit them into eternal paradise; the gates of our elite universities – and we can think of the whole college admission process as a metaphorical gate — select our nation’s most talented and hardworking youth for positions at the highest levels of society. So we like to think, at least, and the frenzy that accompanies that admission process suggests this is an idea we Americans take very seriously. If our faith in heaven’s gates has wavered, our faith in Harvard’s remains strong — maybe because we need to believe in some sort of system in a time when the path to prosperity feels especially uncertain.

Bradstreet Gate, the title of my debut novel, is also the actual name for the newest gate on Harvard Yard. Commemorated in ‘97, it was named after America’s first published female poet in honor of twenty-five years of women living on the old yard.

Bonus Book Content Good for Book Clubs

Reading Guide for The Gracekeepers

For readers of The Night Circus and Station Eleven, a lyrical and absorbing debut set in a world covered by water.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives–offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Reader's Guide Good for Book Clubs

Reader’s Guide for The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

“A fierce, page-turning, exposé of a would-be/could-be bright star. –Marie Claire

Told in a chorus of voices belonging to those who knew Sophie best, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an intimate portrait of an elusive woman whose monumental talent and relentless pursuit of truth reveal the cost of producing great art. It is “not only a dissection of genius and the havoc it can wreak, but also a thunderously good story” (Emma Donoghue, author of Room).

It’s a perfect book for book groups, and we’ve gathered some questions that will inspire a lively conversation. We’ve also asked the author to answer some of the questions we had after reading this wonderful novel.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

When a Book Becomes a Calling

Forty years after the Fall of Saigon, and fifty years since our nation’s involvement in a conflict that became a long and bloody war in Vietnam, I began to reflect on the journey that has led me to tell the stories of those who serve.

“I ultimately located the parents of Jefferson Donald Davis in Tennessee and Daniel H. Petithory in Massachusetts,” writes bestselling author Eric Blehm. “They invited me to their homes. I spent a weekend sleeping in the bedroom where Dan had grown up, surrounded by the sad but proud memorabilia that honored his death in the line of duty, including the Silver Star and Purple Heart that had been presented posthumously. We sat at the kitchen table for hours. There were tears throughout days that began with coffee, shifted to beer, and ended with good whiskey.”

Perfect for Book Clubs Good for Book Clubs

Conversation with Chris Beckett, author of Mother of Eden

Why do you think it’s so important to debunk stereotypes about literary fiction and science fiction?

“As I’ve said many times before,” says Chris Beckett, author of Dark Eden and Mother of Eden, “all fiction involves making stuff up—making up characters, making up situations—in order to be able to explore aspects of life that might otherwise be impossible to reach. Science fiction’s one defining feature is that, as well as inventing characters and situations, it also invents worlds that are in some way different from the one we actually know.

SF can be brilliant, good, bad, and terrible, but then so can love stories, or war stories, or stories set in the past.”

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Why I Love Bookstores (It’s Not What You Think)

Bookstores. One of my favorite places. Right up there with bars, restaurants, nightclubs, the gym, the doctor’s office, dry cleaners, and the DMV.

Can I tell you something? I love bookstores. I do. Not just because I’m a big reader—I loved Flowers in the Attic, Bonjour Tristesse, Anaïs Nin (all), Colette (again: all), Madame Bovary, Dangerous Liaisons . . . you get the idea. (Merci, France! You’ve taught me so much.) No, I love bookstores because they’re full of hot guys. You know what I’m talking about: the kind of guy who’s all scruffy and bespectacled and underfed, wearing corduroy pants and a dorky concert T-shirt, getting all excited over some Swedish poetry or six-hundred-page treatise on the nature of parks in urban landscapes? I love that guy.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Erik Larson is Bringing History to Life on Twitter, and It’s Amazing

Starting today (or rather late last night) one of our favorite authors Erik Larson is recreating history . . . on Twitter!

We love it when authors bring their books to life in cool ways, and this is a fantastic example. Erik Larson – author of the New York Times bestseller Dead Wake will be live-tweeting the last voyage of the Lusitania through the ship’s final moments on May 7th. He’ll be using images and video to bring the story to life.

We can’t wait to watch the story unfold. We’ve captured a feed here on RIF which organizes the tweets in chronological order for easy perusing.