Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Are People Judging You By Your Book’s Cover?

When my mother and father met—early in their respective college careers—my father had established a gimmick for picking up girls, or at least for projecting a cool, intellectual image (which, to be fair, he owned): He carried around a copy of Martin Buber’s “I And Thou.” (His method proved effective, if my parents’ long marriage is any indicator.)

Years later, when I was in college, I was intrigued by my eventual boyfriend’s passion for Albert Camus’ “The Stranger.” (That may have been a red flag, come to think of it.) And, still later, my now husband captivated me by dissecting “The Iliad” (which he still does from time to time).

These days, perhaps a Philip Roth book, rare graphic novel or Jonathan Safran Foer haggadah would serve the same purpose. (So might the right esoteric concert t-shirt and limited-edition sneakers.) Clearly, regardless of the decade, a book has the power to endow its readers with qualities of intellectual rigor and even sense of humor. When we expose a book on our desk at work, throughout our subway commute or even during dinner discussions, we are conscious of its power to define and categorize us in other peoples’ eyes. For better or worse.

It’s not that we pretend to appreciate books that, in fact, we have not. Rather, there are books we are proud to have read and absorbed (don’t get me started on Italo Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler”), and books we only buy while wearing sunglasses and read under the cover of night or on an innocuous e-reader (see: my Jude Deveraux stash).

I, for one, am a hi-lo reader, for lack of a better term. Just as my wardrobe is equal parts Isabel Marant and TopShop (well, I wish), and my TV viewing ranges from “The Good Wife” to “Survivor,” I tend to alternate between genre fiction like mysteries and more critically-acclaimed “highbrow” reads. Even the books I write seem to straddle the commercial and literary. It makes sense: Juxtaposition is the nature of our entire culture these days. And I’m not sure one has more merit than another.

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Thriller Giveaway: Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

From #1 bestselling author Dean Koontz—the must-read thriller of the year, for readers of dark psychological suspense and modern classics of mystery and adventure.

Ashley Bell is the must-read thriller of the year, for readers of dark psychological suspense and modern classics of mystery and adventure.

The girl who said no to death.

Bibi Blair is a fierce, funny, dauntless young woman—whose doctor says she has one year to live. She replies, “We’ll see.”

Her sudden recovery astonishes medical science. An enigmatic woman convinces Bibi that she escaped death so that she can save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. But save her from what, from whom? And who is Ashley Bell? Where is she? Bibi’s obsession with finding Ashley sends her on the run from threats both mystical and worldly, including a rich and charismatic cult leader with terrifying ambitions. Here is an eloquent, riveting, brilliantly paced story with an exhilarating heroine and a twisting, ingenious plot filled with staggering surprises. Ashley Bell is a new milestone in literary suspense from the long-acclaimed master.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Ink on Books: A Few of Our Favorite Literary Tattoos

Books tattoo themselves on our hearts—but these special tributes are inked into the skin, lasting reminders of their hold on us.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Pete Townshend’s “Tattoo,” a sweet, goofy song about self-definition from “The Who Sell Out” (1967). The chorus is especially fun:

“Welcome to my life, tattoo!
We’ve a long time together, me and you.
I expect I’ll regret you, but the skin graft man won’t get you;
You’ll be there when I die.

I also have a soft spot (probably the back of my neck, where I expect to get something David-Foster-Wallace-related someday) for literary tattoos; nothing says “that story stuck with me” quite like sticking yourself with a story. Meet 10 folks who have done just that—and tell us in the comments what your ideal ink about ink would be!

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Moment I Went From Adolescent Reader to Adult Reader

If I had to pinpoint the moment in which I transitioned from an adolescent reader to a more adult one, it would be summer of 2008, the first summer after my freshmen year of college. I was home in California from NYU, working at a magazine internship in San Francisco. My meager paycheck mostly went into commuting from Marin County to the city via ferry—standing out on the prow with the water whipping into your face makes for a great wake-up—and buying lunch. Every few days, before catching the evening ferry, I would take a detour to the San Francisco Public Library and pick up a new book.

What made this my summer of “adult” reading wasn’t just the fact that I was self-sufficient in pay and navigating the city, but the content of my reading; this was the summer that I discovered Kathryn Harrison’s body of work.

I wish I remember exactly how I first heard of Harrison, but it was through her most controversial book: The Kiss, a memoir about her affair with her father. Nowadays, you hear more stories about adult incest, or Genetic Sexual Attraction, but part of the appeal of Harrison’s book—which must have popped up on a message board or listserv somewhere—was that such a topic was alluringly taboo, the kind of thing you just didn’t see being published. I decided that I had to read it.

Enter to Win a Box of Books That Make Great Holiday Gifts + a Gift from Pop Chart Lab!

With this giveaway, we’re doing the holiday shopping for you.

We’ve selected a wide variety of genres so there’s something in this box of books for everyone on your list.

In addition to a wide variety of 15 titles, we’ll also be including a little extra holiday cheer: A very cool poster from our friends at Pop Chart Lab that diagrams famous first sentences in literature. It’s a very cool addition to any bookworm’s home decor! Good luck!

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Why I Broke Up With My e-Reader

I hate clutter. I often throw away items I know I should keep, but just don’t care enough to store. And I hardly regret it afterwards.

When I was given an e-reader as a gift in 2010, I started dreaming of all the space I’d reclaim in my apartment when I no longer had to store books that I’d purchased and read. The thought of replacing them with their compact and convenient digital versions was exciting, and I couldn’t wait to modernize my library. The task of de-cluttering is easy when it comes to old shoes, and broken jewelry, but as I dove in, I quickly learned that purging my life of once-loved books was a much more daunting task.

To begin the clean-out, I carry a box to the bookshelf and pick up my “Little House on the Prairie” box set of novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is a large, clunky, yellow eyesore and should easily be the first to go. But as I clutch the old cardboard box, filled with worn-in books, deep creases grooved into the binding from years of repeated openings and closings, I immediately get re-attached to them, remembering past afternoons I’d spent in the backyard reading and imagining I was living in Walnut Grove with Ma and Pa.

So I move on. Laura Ingalls and the bright yellow box set aren’t so bad to look at when you consider the precious years we’ve spent together.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Shakespeare: The Mix Tape 

In Shakespeare’s day, music was integral to the theater-going experience. Whether it was a Fool entertaining his masters, a fairy making mischief, or an ingénue committing herself to a lover, songs were—and are—a vital part of any Shakespeare production. So it’s fitting that the Bard would find his way into the music we know and love best today. Here are our favorite nods to Shakespeare in popular music. Some of them may surprise you.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

My Husband and I Tried Reading To Each Other

Apparently some couples out there read to one another.

And it’s not because one of them is blind.

My friend Aaron told my husband and me this factoid one night over dinner. He swears he’s heard of at least three couples he knows who are doing this—maybe even more.

It should be known that Aaron and his husband are much cooler than my husband and me. They still live in the city instead of the suburbs. They are childless and do fun, interesting things like eat dinner in restaurants and see live theater. By comparison, my husband and I watch TV while eating frozen Trader Joe’s and fall asleep by 9:30 p.m. every night. I trust in their trend-setting.

After that fateful conversation with Aaron, I stumbled upon this story and now I’m pretty sure that reading in bed to one another is a bonafide trend.

And although my husband and I do live in the suburbs and fall asleep at 9:30 p.m. every night, I am not so dead inside that I don’t want to participate in the zeitgeist. This was a trend that takes minimal effort. I wouldn’t even have to talk to new people or shop. Showering was optional.

It is everything I ever wanted in a trend.