Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Going to Paris Armed With A Moveable Feast

In 2010, I went to Paris for the first time. I was recovering from a broken heart and, having been on a Hemingway and Fitzgerald kick for as long as I could remember (Dad used to read us Hemingway when my sister and I were kids), I decided Paris was where I needed to be. I knew that I didn’t have some novel that would rival The Great Gatsby in me, nor did I have a life of adventure that would make for a collected work of stories à la Ernest Hemingway, but as a writer, I felt it my duty to go to where the expats called home in the 1920s. The only book I brought with me, since I intended on spending the few months writing, was Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. I had never read it before, but that was the point.

Of all of Hemingway’s works that I had read, loved, obsessed over, practically tearing out my hair wondering why I could never write such prose, I deliberately stayed away from A Moveable Feast. I knew the premise; I knew that within a few pages I’d stumble upon all the greats, living their life of bohemian bliss on the Left Bank; but I also knew I wanted to read it while I was in Paris. The fact that I had not read it, was surprising to everyone I knew, but the way you savor the final bite of a dessert was the way I wanted to experience A Moveable Feast.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

My Real-Life Story Got Made For TV

“Is there a doctor on board the plane?” Little did I know that those words would change the course of my life…and the life of the guy on the plane who was having a heart attack.

It is that story—the one in which I stabilized a Russian gentlemen onboard a flight from NY to LA that ultimately inspired the show Heartbeat on NBC.

I told that story, and others like it, to Universal Studios who ultimately optioned my memoir and later to NBC’s Entertainment President.

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Memoir Giveaway: Braving It

Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to only a handful of people, is a harsh and lonely place. So when James Campbell’s cousin Heimo Korth asked him to spend a summer building a cabin in the rugged Interior, Campbell hesitated about inviting his fifteen-year-old daughter, Aidan, to join him: Would she be able to withstand clouds of mosquitoes, the threat of grizzlies, bathing in an ice-cold river, and hours of grueling labor peeling and hauling logs?

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Falling in Love in Paris

I never intended to fall in love in Paris. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds. Who doesn’t go to Paris without hoping there will be a little bit of love on their itinerary? It is, after all, the whole point of the place.

But when I alighted on the City of Light, I had just endured a protracted break-up in London. Arriving in Paris, I felt like an emotional refugee: fleeing a shattered romance, determined to find a nice little pocket of the world where I didn’t know a soul, where the wine was cheap and I could tend to my broken heart.

I had no interest in love. It only led to heartache. My only intention was to emulate the writers who had come before me, to take a seat at the table of Hemingway’s moveable feast and eat and drink to my heart’s content.

But as it turned out, the city had other plans for me, just as she has had for countless thousands of hopeless romantics before me.

For the fact of the matter is you cannot escape love in Paris. It’s on flagrant display on every street corner.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Why I Hated The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Books are my bread and butter. They’re my meat and potatoes. They’re my dark creamy chocolate. Their smell makes my mind water with anticipation. Their covers make me curiouser than a cat. I love them, everything about them, and I almost never find a work of fiction that I adamantly dislike while reading it.

How is this possible? How can someone not dislike any books? Well, let me equivocate: Sometimes I’ll realize that I didn’t really like a book later, after I finish it and think about it. This happened with all four Twilight books. I was swept up in them as a teenager and read them late into the night, literally staying up until dawn several times before going to sleep (apt for a vampire book, though not for the Twilight vampires, I suppose). Every time I finished one of the books I would look around my dark bedroom (I inevitably seemed to finish them at 3 a.m.) and think, Why did I spend so long reading that? And then I would go snugly to sleep. Still, I clearly enjoyed the books while I was reading them; their redeeming features just all seemed to disappear when I closed them.

The point I’m trying to make is: I really, seriously, super rarely hate books.

But there was this one time…

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Cats, Babies and Two-Bedroom Apartments

According to statistics, the average residential square footage per occupant in Paris is 31 meters, or 333 feet. When I first arrived in Paris as a student, I had already spent two years in a 129 square-foot unit in a student residence in Brittany, and was yearning for a little more space and a little less isolation. I decided to look for a two-bedroom apartment to share with my older sister and a platonic male friend. Two-bedroom apartments seemed to be the most common housing types available for rent in Paris—there were plenty of them in the flat advertisements section of Le Figaro, which was the main research tool for Parisian real estate at the time. Without any particular difficulty that I remember (but of course with the enforceable guarantee of our parents’ names on the lease), we found an affordable 860 square foot flat in the 15th arrondissement. It was located on the ground floor of a newish building, and the living room had windows that opened onto a lawn-filled courtyard. I picked that room for myself, while my roommates settled in the two bedrooms on the street side. My almost-first decision as an adult was to adopt a cat, which my parents had always refused to do, despite my supplications. I decided on a tri-colored female companion, named her “Liouba” after Chekhov, and unscrewed the venting grid of the bathroom so that she could come and go as she pleased, granting her the freedom I was craving for myself.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

It’s April in Paris on Read It Forward!

One of our favorite reads about the power of literature is Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop, about a floating bookstore on the Seine and Monsieur Perdu, the proprietor who prescribes fiction to cure any malady.

To celebrate the international bestseller’s paperback release, we asked Nina George to curate a bookshelf filled with curative novels, aptly titled “20 Books to Cure What Ails You,” reminiscent of Monsieur Perdu’s pearls of wisdom.

And if you like that bookshelf, and want other books to match your mood, check out The Book Apothecary. Simply choose a temperament and wait as we select three books that will pair well with your emotions.

We were so inspired by the book, that we’ve decided to dedicate some of Read It Forward’s content this month to all things French. Expect to see essays about the joys of living la belle vie in Paris, excerpts from magnificent works of historical fiction, delicious and mouth-watering French recipes from chefs like David Lebovitz and Ina Garten and even some free downloadable coloring book pages from Paris Street Style!

Oh, and did we mention we’ll be giving away a trip to Paris?