Your Reading Life

Good for Book Clubs

We RIFers are voracious readers and we love to tell a good story. Your Reading Life features personal essays, reader reviews — anything that embraces our literary lifestyle. Pull up a mug of your favorite cozy beverage and join in on the conversation.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Julia Pierpont’s Favorite Places to Read in NYC

Julia Pierpont’s debut novel Among The Ten Thousand Things, set in New York City, tells of a family coming to grips with a newly-revealed secret that fractures and frays their bonds and changes them all in the process. Pierpont, a New York City native herself, tells Read It Forward her favorite places in the city to get lost in a book. If you happen to visit Manhattan, we highly suggest bringing a copy of Among The Ten Thousand Things to any of these locales and letting the book’s setting be your backdrop as you read Pierpont’s sharply observed and articulated work of fiction.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

When You Share a Name With a Literary Character

What’s in a name? Well, if you share one with a famous literary character…a lot! When you read a book where the protagonist shares your name, it’s easy to get invested in the character.

Most of my friends and family call me by my nickname, Nora. As a kid, I was thrilled when my parents gave me a picture book titled Nora and the Bear, about—you guessed it—a girl and a bear. Nora gets lost in the snowy woods, and the bear she was supposed to be hunting helps guide her back to her village. For my reading level at the time, it was an action-packed thriller. I felt a frission of excitement whenever I saw my name on the page, and it was like reading about an adventure I could have in the future. I’m sure the enjoyment of reading that book is one of the (many) reasons I became a bookworm.

I felt a similar sense of kinship when I read A Doll’s House in high school. Written in the late nineteenth century, the play was ahead of its time in its portrayal of an independent woman. Nora, the protagonist, challenges societal norms and leaves her husband so she can discover herself. I found myself feeling protective and proud of the character, as though we had a special connection.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

How to Make a Book Gift Still Special

We love books, but receiving one as a gift is an entirely different matter. Often it can seem like an impersonal gift, making the recipient believe that his/her friend, family member, or significant other expended no more effort than walking into a bookstore and snatching up the closest title on the New and Popular table. It takes a very special set of circumstances to make a book a truly exceptional present, superseding all other gift options. Here’s how:

Figure out his/her tastes. You wouldn’t buy an unathletic friend workout gear, or flashy jewelry or clothes for a significant other whose tastes run more minimal. Similarly, you have to consider what your recipient would actually like to read, not just what you want him/her to read. Is he your horror-movie buddy? Recreate that experience with a page-turning thriller. Does she work a drudging office job? That’s an entire subgenre!

Do your research! Did she love Gone Girl or Station Eleven? You’ve got resources like Read It Forward and GoodReads to find the new and classic books that will hit those same emotional and thematic beats. There are readers everywhere eager to share what they loved (and didn’t), so consider them a litmus test.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

I Said I Read This Book, But I Lied

A few years back, I bought a one-way ticket to a small Pacific island called Yap, packing only a few t-shirts and the hundred books I was most embarrassed not to have read. The books were the usual suspects: War and Peace, The Bible, and Dave Barry Turns 40. Since writing my own vaguely humorous book (A Beginner’s Guide to Paradise) about reading all those books, I’ve been asked on occasion, “Did you really read all hundred books?”

“Oh sure,” I usually say.

“All of them?” a few of the incredulous have asked.

“Well, yeah. Basically.” To me, basically, was a kind of hedge, a moat around the truth that few would want to cross. Because to get beyond “basically,” by definition means to get more complex and few people want that. I try not to start sentences with ‘to be honest,’ but to be honest, I didn’t read one book in its entirety: Moby-Dick. And I may have quickly skimmed a few parts of The Bible.

I know Moby-Dick is a pillar of literature, a pillar supporting the roof of…I don’t know…much easier-to-read literature. And at 208,773 words in length, it’s 40% shorter than The Brothers Karamazov. But still, to me, Moby-Dick feels at least several hundred words too long.

And this is coming from someone who has a high tolerance for plodding. Everyone has a hidden talent, and—not to brag—but I have two: the ability to make turkey sandwiches (including sliced tomato) with only my toes, and extreme patience when it comes to the less-than-zesty. How patient?

When I was a kid, I used to watch televised city council meetings for hours. Proposed changes to pension plan funding schedules for municipal workers? Tell me more! Street-repair bond packages? Bring it! So when I brought Moby-Dick to Yap, I thought; I got this. It turns out, however, I didn’t have this.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Best Thing I Ever Found Tucked in a Book

I worked in a bookshop between 1996 and 2002. What a brilliant job that was for a book nerd like me! To my mind, there is something almost sacred and spiritual about books, and walking into a beautiful bookshop is akin to entering a church. Books are my religion, I have to admit.

One of the best parts of my job was looking through the secondhand books (the shop sold both new and used books), cleaning and dusting them before placing them on the shelves for sale. I found many forgotten bookmarks tucked inside those fusty pages. Once I stumbled across a lock of Victorian hair, which was macabre, but so pretty and ethereal. I found numerous postcards, receipts, bank notes and newspaper and magazine clippings. My favorite finds were the letters, always fascinating, always giving away something of the writer. One in particular caught my eye and my imagination.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Books You Wish Would Never End

Is there a book you never wanted to end? As a reader with a long to-be-read list, I’m usually happy to finish a book and get started on the next one. Sometimes, though, I’ll delay finishing a new book that I adore. I’ll linger over each sentence or word choice. I’ll read a page or two, then put the book down and return to it later. I’ll re-read passages I enjoyed earlier, to refresh my memory.

That delayed gratification comes only with a new book. Don’t get me wrong—I love to re-read old favorites. There are some books I’ve revisited more than a dozen times, and reading them is like catching up with an old friend. Favorite series from when I was younger, such as Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass, are the equivalent of comfort food. Other books I have a completely different experience with, especially if I go a few years between re-reading. Whether it’s classics like Jane Eyre, or contemporary fiction like A Visit from the Goon Squad, I may have been drawn in by the storyline during the first read, but as the years go by and my own perspective changes, I love finding new layers of meaning I may have missed the first time around.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

An Exclusive Interview With Celebrity Author Lizzie Pepper

Lizzie Pepper, movie star and former wife of world-famous actor Rob Mars has written an explosive tell-all book, which details their whirlwind romance and ascent to “Hollywood It Couple,” and the public gaffes that made her tabloid fodder. Lizzie sits down with the one woman who knows all the juicy details inside the book—her ghostwriter Hilary Liftin—to tell us a little bit about what we can expect. Don’t miss picking this one up—that is, if you want to know the true story.

Hilary Liftin: I “ghostwrote” your new memoir, Movie Star, and you’ve been rather press-shy surrounding its publication. Thank you for agreeing to talk to me.

Lizzie Pepper: I’ve been lying low. My ex-husband was not thrilled to have our story put in print, understandably, and if I hoped telling my story would lessen the press attention focused on me and my boys, I was wrong.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Coolest Book-Themed Sculptures

Sometimes we get so engrossed in the stresses of daily life that we need reminders of the larger-than-life worlds contained in books. That’s where these amazing book-inspired sculptures come in!

This list contains only a fraction of the stunning pieces of art that exist around the world, from books wedged into the very building blocks of our societies to recreations of our favorite childhood stories. These sculptures welcome you to reading havens like libraries, or pop up in the most unexpected places (Lyme Park, anyone?) to inspire you to crack open a book once in a while.