Category Archives: Recommendations

Bookmarks Magazine

It’s a special day when my issue of Bookmarks magazine arrives in the mailbox every couple of months. It’s one of the few magazine subscriptions that I have held onto over the years and I can say with certainty that I will keep it as long as they stay in print.

I’m always surprised how many bookish friends are unfamiliar with the magazine. Have you heard of it?

It only comes out 6 times a year, but every issue is dripping with bookish info. At their core, they are a book review aggregator. For every book listed in each issue, they offer a brief synopsis, their collection of snippets from well known newspapers and online book sections, and a brief synopsis rolling up all of those  reviews they read and collected.

I have to say it’s been fun reading the reviews over the years and having a sense of how The NY Times and Washington Post and Huffington Post may differ on genre’s or authors or writing techniques. You really start to get a feel for the people behind the reviews, simply by paying attention to the trends over time.

Every issue always features a Book Club. This is always the first thing I turn to in each issue. It’s fun to read how all of the book clubs got started and how long they’ve been together. It’s also neat to read which books worked and did not work for their group discussions.

Bookmarks magazine also runs features each month. These spend a few pages talking about an author and their work as a whole, going title by title. Or (November/December 2017 issue) they’re focusing on “Books for Library Lovers”, which is a topic I will show up for!

If you keep up with the ‘book space’ then you’ll probably recognize 40% of the names, books, stories, etc. in each issue. I mean, all those books and authors are popular for a reason. But the rest of it is made up of reader-submitted lists, collections, recommendations and of course, the aggregated book review list.

It’s so fun. I’m always looking for other Bookmarks readers to converse with.

Do you read Bookmarks magazine?

Week 2: Book Pairing #nonficnov

This week’s host for Nonfiction November 2017 is Sarah over at Sarah’s Book Shelves. This week all of the participants are to “pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title”. As best as I can tell this is not limited to just books we’ve read in 2017.

So. . . we’re going to dig deep into the blacklists, blow the dust off some covers and recommend two reads that I think most any bibliophile would enjoy reading.

First up is my fiction pick with John Dunning’s BookedTo Die. This book hit store shelves in 1992 (so you can find a cheap paperback these days) and is a mystery read through-and-through. But it’s all about books and first editions and libraries. It’s hard to beat a good bibliomystery and Dunning’s book is a good one. It’s the first in his Cliff Janeway series. Janeway is a Book Scout and spends his days going through book stalls, stores, thrift stores, yard sales, and trash bins trying to find books he buy for a quarter and sell for $200. His eyes are always peeled for that “lost” first edition treasure while he’s appraising people’s private book collections. Lots of fun and solid (real world) facts about book collecting. So if you like Raymond Chandler-ish reads with a twist, you might want to check this one out.

A nice follow up to a bibliomystery about rare first editions is Nabokov’s Butterfly by Rick Gekoski. Gekoski is a real life bookman and makes his living in the world of rare manuscripts and antiquarian books. At under 250 pages, his book is an easy read. It shares some amazing stories about rare editions, publishing lore and backstories on a few famous authors. Many book collector’s and sales folks have written of their journeys, but where Gekoski’s excels is that he focuses more on the books and less on his career. Which is nice. So where Janeway is trying to track down old books, Gekoski has probably bought them, held them and sold them again. It’s a fun peek into a world many of us book lovers don’t get to participate in.

So that’s my pairing, one fiction and nonfiction read for folks who love to read about books.

I’m anxious to click around the blogs and see what other pairings people are putting out there this week.

Books about Books, a short list

‘Books about books’ is my favorite category at the bookstore. It’s often a difficult section to find. Some shops place them in the ‘Collectibles & Antiques’ area. Others in the ‘Essays’ or ‘Reference’ sections. Some of the best book stores will gather all of the books about books under the heading of ‘Literary Non-Fiction’, which seems as appropriate, while the best shops do create a curated “Books About Books” section.

I’ve often wondered why this isn’t the first section every book shop stocks. One can pretty much guarantee that, while not every browsing customer will agree on which hot political book to read or which classic work is the best, every potential customer is someone who appreciates books. Right?

The folks at the LitHub have offered a five-book list The Best Books About Books. I’ve only read Dirda’s Browsings. But I like the sound of Tim Parks’ Where I’m Reading From, so it’s been added to my TBR list.

In hopes that you too are a kindred bookish type, I’d like to offer five books that I think are at the top of the ‘books about books’ category. These are all books I’ve read and continually recommend to folks. On LibraryThing, I keep a running list of the books about books I’ve read and have-yet-to read. My list includes both fiction and non-fiction. Please let me know if you have read a good one that I’ve missed.

Five Fantastic Books About Books

BooksAboutBooks_SMBSo Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance by Gabriel Zaid – This one is only 160 pages and it outlines perfectly many of the challenges that modern publishers and readers face in today’s book world.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_ELEx Libris : Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman – If there were to be one book on everyone’s books about books list I imagine this 162-page book honoring all that’s beautiful about words and books would be it.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_YLBSThe Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee – I can’t quite put my finger on why this book rises so much higher than all the other ‘bookstore memoir’ titles out there, but Buzbee nails just about every feeling and thought I’ve had about bookshops.

 

BooksAboutBooks_LaNThe Library at Night by Alberto Manguel – By far the heaviest and deepest book on my list, Manguel relates the philosophies, histories and importance of book collecting and reading like no one else.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_HwBAt Home with Books : How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries by Estelle Ellis – This is a big coffee table book full of the most gorgeous and inspiring images of home libraries running alongside great interviews with the people who own them.

 

 

National Science Fiction Day 2016

So yesterday was National Science Fiction Day for 2016. It’s not exactly a major holiday… yet… but it’s fun to celebrate nonetheless. An hey – if enough blog posts start mentioning it and the right publishers get behind it we could have us a real holiday one day. Though January 2nd would be a tough sell I have to admit. It’s just a little too close to the Christmas & New Year’s Eve to be of any fun.

But it’s the day that the grand poobah of the galaxy Isaac Asimov was born back in 1920. So it’s probably as good of a day as any to celebrate science fiction writing.

So in honor of Asimov’s awesome encyclopedic legacy, I’d like to share my three favorite science fiction books I read last year. I have to admit that it’s getting harder to figure out what is “science fiction” these days. So many books have elements of the future, time travel, dragons, etc. that science fiction is teetering on becoming mainstream. But that’s a post for another day.

If you’re looking for a good sci-fi read to kick off 2016, then check these out:

TimeSalvagerTime Salvager by Wesley Chu I thought this book was great fun. It does fall in the time travel category. It has a couple of common sense and unique solutions for dealing with many of the common issues with time travel, which I thought clever. Also, it’s the first in a series so it’s a great time to jump on board.

 

 

BoneClocksThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell I finally got around to reading this and so glad I did. While I’m not one for “psychic powers” stuff, the writing is incredible and the way Mitchell loops everything together is almost a superpower. It’s a big book. So if you want to dip your toes then I’d recommend reading Slade House. It’s set in the Bone Clocks universe, but no necessarily a sequel. I think you’ll enjoy Slade House more if you read it second, but no harm in using it as an appetizer to see if it’s for you.

SevenevesSeveneves by Neal Stephensen – this book might very well be the most epic science fiction book I’ve ever read. It is Asimov-like in scope and skill. So very good. There definitely falls in the hard sci-fi column. So expect pages of scientists and engineers debating orbits, trajectories, etc. but you can skim that stuff if your eyes start to gloss over. The story is huge. It tracks humanity thousands of years into the future after the Earth is made uninhabitable.

That’s it! I am a huge fan of science fiction and speculative fiction. So please let me know of any fantastic reads that you’ve found. I’ll add them to my list.

Happy belated National Science Fiction Day!