Good for Book Clubs

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Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Home is a Moving Target

Brendan Jones, author of The Alaskan Laundry, wonders if home is something you build, or if it’s something you’re born into.

Home, of course, is a moving target. Coming back east to visit family in New Jersey and Philadelphia—flying over the Navy Yard, picking up a soft pretzel in a brown paper bag in the Philly airport concourse—over the past few years it’s hard not to feel as if, on some level, my wife and I are coming home when we bring our daughter to see her grandparents. Then again, we live on a World War II tugboat in Sitka, Alaska. Our daughter first helped butcher a Sitka black-tailed deer at eight months. She’s definitely an Alaska girl, although we do encourage her Rocky look. Yo, you looking at me?

The conceit of my novel The Alaskan Laundry, which takes place both in Philadelphia and Alaska, is that the 49th state is an industrial-sized washing machine on continuous cycle, allowing all those who come to the last frontier to get clear of their checkered pasts. Such a project is impossible, as I came to discover at the age of 19, when I first arrived in Alaska, and spent nine months living in the woods.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Good News for Book and Chocolate Lovers

I have to admit that, next to books, chocolate is one of my favorite things—especially dark chocolate. Ghirardelli knows I’m not alone in that, so they’ve combined the two in their new Savor the Dark Book Club. This 3-month subscription brings Ghirardelli Intense Dark flavors and great summer reads straight to your doorstep, along with surprise bonus content that isn’t for sale anywhere else.

Here are my five favorite things about this awesome combo:

1. You get to try awesome dark chocolate flavors like Hazelnut Heaven and Cherry Tango and Cabernet Matinee—dark chocolate infused with grape and blackberry.

2. June’s book is appropriately titled June! The third novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is a delicious tale of an unexpected inheritance from a movie star that pulls a young woman into a world of wealth, celebrity and haunting secrets—a read as addictive as cocoa.

3. …

Good for Book Clubs

RIF’s Favorite Reads of April

To be or not to be? To read or not to read? To read, of course. As usual, we spent this month with our noses in books, and we suspect you might have as well. With Willy Shakespeare’s birthday, a legendary musician’s death, and both the Bard and Prince’s connections to poetry (sonnets; lyrics), April has been one packed National Poetry Month. And whether or not you’ve been pranked recently—be it by friends on April 1 or by the fickle spring weather—we’re not fooling with our favorites.

Click on our favorites to buy them, and tell us in the comments which were your best April reads!

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Twice-Told Lists: 13 Books to Get You Stoked About Shakespeare’s Birthday

I know, I know, this is another one of those Shakespeare lists to celebrate his birthday (and his death day), which is estimated to be on April 23rd—it’s like, c’mon, we get it. Shakespeare was the best writer ever. Woo hoo. Who cares? What relevancy can Shakespeare possibly maintain over the course of 400 years?

Well, that’s what I’m here to try to communicate, and to do so I needed to make not one but two lists: one focusing on the richest and most convincing nonfiction books ever written on the Bard, and another highlighting Shakespeare’s profound influence on contemporary fiction. Between the two lists, I think we can understand Shakespeare’s historical legacy and his lasting effect on writers of today.

(NB: neither of these lists even pretends to be authoritative and complete; rather, they represent merely a sampling of myriad books I could have chosen but that necessity forced me to exclude.)

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.


Win a Trip for Two to Paris Inspired by The Little Paris Bookshop

To celebrate the paperback publication of the international bestseller The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, we want you to experience spring in Paris!

The idyllic setting of The Little Paris Bookshop—a floating bookstore on the Seine—inspired Read It Forward to give you the chance to win the ultimate trip to Paris!

One lucky winner and a guest will win a trip to France—the prize includes complimentary round-trip flights, a 4-night hotel stay, a dinner voucher to dine like a Parisian, and more!

The prize pack also includes “The Ultimate French Library”: a collection of French cookbooks, novels, and memoirs to read before your journey. Bring the flavors of France to your own kitchen with a new set of Staub cookware and a Lior spice set. Plan your itinerary with Fodor’s Travel guide to Paris and learn some French with Living Language’s Learn French.

Bon chance from Read It Forward and Tastebook!

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

RIF’s Favorite Reads of March

March is a tricky month—the promise of spring taunts us, but in most of the country, it remains bitterly cold. Daylight Savings brings more evening light, but throws our sleep schedules out of whack. In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, a soothsayer famously warns Caesar before his assassination to “beware the Ides of March,” and we only have St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness to help distract us before April showers start to bring May flowers. So, what is one to do during the not-quite-warm days? Why read, of course! An incredible crop of books were published this month, and while many have a dark edge to them, we guarantee that once you pick these up, you won’t be able to stop reading until spring feels like it’s officially here.