Enter to Win the Ultimate Foodie Library + $200 Giftcard to Chef’d

What goes together better than great books and great food? Pretty much nothing.

That’s why we’ve partnered with our friends over at Tastebook to giveaway this AMAZING prize. A selection of our favorite cookbooks and novels/memoirs related to food. The cookbooks are filled with thousands of recipes from baked goods to asian cuisine from our favorite chefs. The novels and non-fiction books all tell stories related to food that will make you laugh, cry, and see food in a whole new light. As an extra special treat, we partnered with our friends at Chef’d to give one lucky grand prize winner a $200 gift card for Chef’d! Chef’d provides chef-curated recipe kits that are delivered right to your door, no grocery shopping necessary! Good luck, and bon appétit!

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

The Music I Listen To While Writing

I love all kinds of music. I’m kind of a music nerd. I began my writing career, if that’s what you’d call it, as a music journalist, albeit a half-assed one. But I never used to listen to music while writing. That is, until a few years ago.

Chalk that change up to loosening up a bit, unbuttoning my proverbial collar. My regular go-to stuff, like The Fall and Spoon, is off the table, since I can’t listen to versus-chorus-verse songs with lyrics while writing. Too distracting. The rhythms have to be more freeform and organic.

Classical and jazz…I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t listen to too much classical or jazz. They leave me cold. I’m a philistine, I guess. Specific bands and artists I can listen to? Aphex Twin. Boards of Canada. Can. Fela Kuti. Emeralds. The Field. Kolsch. Stars of the Lid. Angelo Badalamenti’s work with David Lynch. The Bladerunner soundtrack. Some of the soundtracky records from the Italians Do It Better label.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

A Writer’s Journey

All my life, I’ve wanted to live and work as a writer, and now as I prepare for the publication of my fourth novel, White Collar Girl, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to see my dream realized. Like most authors I know, my road to publication was a pretty bumpy ride. I did just about everything wrong before I learned to do a few things right. I’m writing this today in hopes that someone out there will benefit from my experience.

But before I delve into that, let me back up and come clean on a few things: 1) I’m a painfully slow reader. 2) I seriously can’t spell my way out of a paper bag. 3) I believe I’m an undiagnosed dyslexic. 4) On top of all that, as a young girl and even as a teenager, I didn’t like to read. As you can see, these are all exceptional criteria for someone who wants to be a writer. And yet, from as far back as I can remember, that’s what I knew I wanted to be when I grew up.

So even though I wasn’t reading Dr. Seuss and Nancy Drew, I was playing on my grandfather’s typewriter—an old 1930s model that I still have today. And in first or second grade, I had mastered four cursive letters—Es and Ls, Ms and Ns—and I wrote them over and over again on a chalkboard in our basement. Turns out that’s not sufficient training for a wannabe writer. But that didn’t stop me from diving in.

Excerpt Good for Book Clubs

The Grownup

Read It Forward is thrilled to share this sneak preview of The Grownup, a chilling new short story by Gillian Flynn, the bestselling author of Gone Girl, Dark Places and Sharp Objects.

But then I spotted Susan’s house. I actually stopped and stared. Then I shivered.

It was different from the rest.

It lurked. It was the only remaining Victorian house in a long row of boxy new construction, and maybe that’s why it seemed alive, calculating. The mansion’s front was all elaborate, carved stonework, dizzying in its detail: flowers and filigrees, dainty rods and swooping ribbons. Two life-sized angels framed the doorway, their arms reaching upward, their faces fascinated by something I couldn’t see.

I watched the house. It watched me back through long, baleful windows so tall a child could stand in the sill. And one was. I could see the length of his thin body: gray trousers, black sweater, a maroon tie perfectly knotted at the neck. A thicket of dark hair covering his eyes. Then, a sudden blur, and he’d hopped down and disappeared behind the heavy brocade drapes.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Why Co-Reading is the Greatest Gift You Can Give A Friend

In 2013, author Rainbow Rowell wrote a sweet piece about “geeking out in a vacuum” before the rise of Internet fandom—how, before you could open a browser and find a stranger who was into the same movie/TV show/book you were, you had to rely on your IRL friends. It’s a prevalent theme in her work: Her runaway YA hit “Eleanor & Park” sees the titular characters bond over an X-Men comic he reads on the bus, while “Fangirl” depicts the bond between twin sisters who grow up writing fanfiction together.

In many cases, however, finding a kindred spirit wasn’t so happenstance. In fact, the real test of a friendship was whether your BFF would be willing to give a TV series or book that s/he may never have picked up a fighting chance—all because you liked it so much that you were dying for someone to talk to about it.

I’m part of the subset of Millennials who first started going online around the age of 12, during middle school, in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s. But for years before that, my best friend and partner-in-crime Heather and I were each other’s dependable reading buddies. At that age, I spent my lunch periods playing Star Wars with Heather, reading, or writing my fantasy novel, so I clearly had a very one-track mind. When I started the Young Jedi Knights series, I begged Heather to read along so that I had someone with whom I could create wild theories about Han and Leia’s twins. It was only fair, then, that Heather ask me to dive into Tamora Pierce’s world.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

RIF’s Favorite Reads of October

We know the drill. You want to stay current, but with so many books being published every month, it’s hard to know which titles are worth purchasing from your local bookstore, downloading on your eReader, or waiting for at the library. Read It Forward to the rescue! We here at Team RIF have been spending these crisp October days with our noses buried in books: We’ve collected sixteen of our favorite books—a healthy mix of fiction, non-fiction, young adult and memoir—all of which came out in the past month.

So, if you’re stumped about what to read next, check here to see what we’ve been loving this month—and click on the images to shop our picks. Then let us know in the comments what you’ve been reading and why you’re enjoying it!

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies…What’s Next in Genre Fiction?

Genre fiction has always included a variety of creatures: creepy, crawly, alien, ethereal, benevolent, dangerous. Since the Harry Potter series, where the millennial generation first saw sexy werewolves (I dare anyone not to love Lupin and Bill), there has been an explosion of young adult fiction focused around humanoid creatures that woo or are wooed by humans.

Twilight and its sequels are the biggest example to include both vampires and werewolves, of course, but there have been plenty of other examples. The Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris that sparked “True Blood” were full of vampires, of course, but also a werewolf. We can’t forget the Vampire Academy series. “Warm Bodies,” the novel by Isaac Marion that inspired a film with the same name, and “World War Z” both featured zombies, traditional or otherwise. We’ve even had our fair share of ghosts, as seen in Meg Cabot’s The Mediator series, and fairies, as seen in Melissa Marr’s “Wicked Lovely” and its sequels.

While these trends are still around, new creatures to fall in love with have been cropping up in recent years, which raises the question: what’s next? We can’t love sparkly vampires, broody werewolves, or animated corpses forever. We need something new!

Meet the Author Good for Book Clubs

Reading With Anthony Marra

Anthony Marra’s new book, The Tsar of Love and Techno is, without a doubt, one of our favorite reads of 2015. Marra’s latest is an interwoven collection of short stories that reads like a novel; as each seemingly disparate chapter unfurls, you find its relation to the last through interlocking people, objects, and places.

Spanning decades in tumultuous Russia, the book tells stories of the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability to create and appreciate art, even in the most dire circumstances. Anthony Marra paints a picture of humanity with honesty, grace, and humor (you’ll definitely laugh out loud in parts). We might love this book even more than his smash-hit debut, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, but it’s a close call.

You can imagine how excited we were to sit down with Anthony Marra, talk to him about his book, and ultimately convince him to read us a passage from the title story, “The Tsar of Love and Techno.” (If you’d like to read along, it’s on page 193.) Here’s Marra’s introduction to the passage:

“This describes the first date that a character named Kolya has with Galina. Both of them are main characters that weave through some of these stories. It describes their first date and I love it because they’re walking around this place called Lake Mercury. This lake is in a town that is big on nickel mining, and Lake Mercury is so polluted with exotic chemicals that it doesn’t freeze, even in the middle of February. It’s surrounded by smokestacks called the twelve apostles. It seems like one of the grimmer places on earth. I love this little scene because Kolya invites Galina for a walk around this lake for their first date, and despite being in this rather unromantic climate, there’s an ethereal moment they have together.”