Archive for June, 2007

Directors of marketing/publicity at the big publishing houses have great jobs. They get to pack and ship books to me all day.

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One thing I’ll say for them, they’ve found some creative ways to avoid saying, “Dear God, it’s not YOU again…”

They’re unfailingly polite. Usually they’re pretty obliging, too.

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Occasionally I will get, “Umm… The ten books I sent you last week weren’t enough?”

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To which I’ll respond with blog statistics, which on my freelance blog are currently topping out at around 4,500 every month. That’s a lot of book buyers looking for advice on what to pick up next.

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So they usually won’t argue the point with me, which I figure justifies me to be pretty doggone grabby. In a polite, obliging way, of course. There’s a lot of turnover in the publishing industry, but a marketing V.P. irritated one day will very possibly be a person I’ll encounter again, working for another publishing group.

I’m pretty respectful of the hand that feeds me, or in this case, enables me to get my hands on the cream of the new book crop before these books hit the stores.

As my daughter said to me just yesterday, watching me rip into the latest padded mailer the FedEx guy dropped off:

“I wish I had your job. I was I was a …. whatever you are.”

My sentiments, exactly.

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I wish I had free time to choose my own reading over the summer, especially considering the truly great line-up of books coming out lately, but with the potential for starting grad school in the fall I’ve decided to complete the theme of “going for broke” and review as many books this summer as I possibly can. I figured I won’t have an awful lot of reviewing time come September, assuming the University of Wisconsin-Madison does relent and accept me for their MLIS program, so I’m thinking I’d better get a lot of this out of my system now, while I still can.

If I did have any reading time that was my own, this is the stuff I would be reading this summer(and if I can beg freebie review copies of these, you better know I will):

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Haruki Murakami won’t be to everyone’s taste. He writes in a very surreal, somewhat dark style that’s reminiscent of Camus. Anything new by him is always very good news to me. If you like this one try The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. If you like that, try Kobo Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes. If you like both of those, you and I have really similar reading tastes, and we should get together for coffee sometime.

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Ondaatje’s The English Patient was brilliant, but I can’t speak to anything else he’s written. As with Murakami, just seeing his name on anything sells me.

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Ian McEwan writes in a similarly dark, psychologically complex style I’d compare to Haruki Murakami, but I’d have to say he’s far less obscure. I went on a McEwan reading spree a couple of years ago, shortly after Doubleday/Talese sent me a copy of Atonement to review,and I fell in love with his style. His first novel, The Cement Garden, is brilliant stuff. It’s really dark and disturbing, which to me is a good thing, but I will forewarn you on that, just in case you aren’t as thick-skinned as I am.

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I’ll disclose I have total prejudice for this book, as I’ve exchanged emails with the author, he’s offered me an interview, and his publisher sent me a copy of his book. I can be swayed by free hardbacks (hint), but I really wouldn’t endorse him if I didn’t think his book had merit. Really!

And he didn’t pay me to say that, either.

The Short Bus is the memoir of a man who struggled his whole life against the stereotype of being “learning disabled,” and how he managed to not just get by, but to succeed, graduating with honors from Brown University with a degree in English literature. His story is inspirational. This is also the one book on this list I know I’ll be reading this summer, because I promised I would.

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Like this one NEEDS any extra publicity help… The Kite Runner was phenomenal. This one is, too, no doubt.

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I’ve decided I’m going to be Joyce Carol Oates in my next life. Is there anyone who publishes more, in more variety, than she does? I can’t decide if I love her or hate her. Depends on the day, I guess.

There are loads more of these truly great reads hot off the presses for the summer, but I’ll stop here for now. Next time I’ll tell you what I actually am reading this summer, what I’ve begged from publishers and had better read or they’ll come after me (or worse, not send me any more books). The list is frighteningly long. I’ll warn you of that so you can shield your eyes if you have a delicate constitution. When it comes time to pay the proverbial piper I may find myself a little sorry I asked for so much. I’m like a kid in a candy store when someone mentions FREE BOOKS, and like a kid who’s imbibed too much I may wind up with a stomach ache. Pity, eh?

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When Salman Rushdie’s name appeared on a list of people Queen Elizabeth II is considering granting knighthood status to, Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister had a few “chilling” comments on that, suggesting the possibility of new threats to safety of the novelist.

See article in The Independent.

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An English woman thinks it’s time to move on, but there’s one condition. She’s selling her book club along with her house.

Check out the article at the BBC website.

The Next Harry Potter

Posted: June 12, 2007 in Hot Book News

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The publisher who first discovered Harry Potter, a wizard you may have heard of, claims to have found the “next big thing.” This time it’s not witches and wizards, but “a classic fantasy tale with a science fiction edge.”

Read more about it in The Independent.

Oh, and if you can get your hands on a few signed UK first editions (publication date July 3, 2007) that probably wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. Just in case.

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Chicago Botanic Gardens

– Photos by Lisa Guidarini (Canon EOS XTi)

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Lincoln Park Conservatory

– Photo by Lisa Guidarini (Canon EOS XTi)